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Beat Sheets

I’m going to start working on posting some beat sheets to the blog – requests, anyone?

I’ll try to do one film in each genre grouping to start.

And if any reader has some beat sheets they’d like to share, please send them on over!

Thanks!

The Script Reader’s Top 10 Screenplay “Dos”

The following is a very basic list of items that get my attention as a script reader. If your script addresses each of these points, you’re probably doing a good job. I will be excited to read your script.

So, here we go, a list of my top 10 screenplay “dos” when reading:

DO keep your page […]

The Script Reader’s Top 5 Screenplay “Do Nots”

The following is a very basic list of items that do not impress me as a script reader and, more often than not, will get your script a resounding pass. If your script contains any of these points, consider rewriting before sending out.

So, here we go, a list of my top 5 screenplay peeves when […]

How Many Scenes in a Screenplay?

The basic number of scenes within a script will vary with genre. Keep in mind that each page of script represents approximately one minute of screen time, with the average scene not to exceed three pages. Keep in mind that most scripts submitted, also genre dependent, come in between 100-110 pages.

The more talky the […]

Different Stories Call<br>for Different Techniques

My standard technique for approaching story has been pretty static since I studied in private workshop with Syd Field years ago, although was honed at AFI: start with the six beats, write a synopsis, card out my story, create the beat sheet, and then write the script based on my beat sheet.

Now that I’ve […]

If It Doesn’t Buy You Something, Take It Out

The more I write and the more I read, I find I return to this mantra again and again: If it doesn’t buy you something, take it out.

Screenplay beats to me are a commodity. You have to buy the beats in the beginning of your story to cash them in later on in the […]

Screenplay Openings:<br>Most Beginnings are Overwritten

This article follows up on Screenplay: The Importance of the First Five Pages.

In the last batch of scripts I read for one of the screenwriting competitions, I would say about 30% of the screenplays had beginnings that were overwritten. It’s not uncommon. In several cases, the real story didn’t start to pick up until […]

Clarity Above All

There is no shame in being absolutely clear with your beats. In fact, I am that reader who is likely to not get something if it isn’t on the page. You should assume that if it’s not clear on the page, your reader is not going to get it. If you hint at something but […]

Screenplay: The Importance<br>of the First Five Pages

The opening five pages of your screenplay give me a ton of information about the breadth and scope of your project. As with the opening of a novel or any other literary work, the opening of your screenplay should be a microcosm of the world of your script. It’s the first taste – but as […]

What Happened to the Inciting Incident?

You’d be surprised – I have been – but a very high number of scripts I’m reading don’t have inciting incidents. I am getting to page 15, page 20, page 30, and there’s really no defined story. I would say that this is in about 25% of the scripts I’m reading. Obviously, these scripts are […]

Do Your Homework: Watch AFI’s Top 100 List Films

If you’re writing screenplays, it’s very important to know the field. You should be watching movies in the theatre now and also studying previously released films. Here is a wonderful basic list of the great movies, which you should see to have a basic understanding of our industry.

In addition, you should endeavor to […]

Breaking Story: The Six Major Beats

Generally, when people begin the outline process or look more specifically at the structure of any given script, they look closely at the six beats. In film school, it was explained to us that these are the major “tent pole” story points – the major points of story upon which you hang the rest of […]

Breaking Story: The 8 Sequences

I’ve asked my friend Sharon to write a short article about how she outlines, because she plots from character as opposed to story. I wanted to provide you with an alternative means of breaking story and beginning the outline. Ultimately, every writer must find the process that best taps their natural gifts. Here’s what Sharon […]

Screenplay Plotting:<br>Where’s the B Story?

Many of the scripts I’m reading at the competition level are very unsophisticated in the plotting of their B stories. Many don’t have B stories at all. Your A story may be well plotted and the characters may be clearly and succinctly drawn, however, if there aren’t interesting B stories dense with subtext that inform […]

Writing is Rewriting:<br>You Have To Do the Work

For me as a reader, I can tell you that most scripts I read are a sparkling, resounding, operatic voice calling out from the heavens, “PASS!” There’s just nothing in them. Sometimes I wonder why that writer actually wanted to invest the time. What they thought was so interesting in their little project as to […]