10 traits of a great script

TheTakes Film Production

Up to 100.000 scripts are submitted in USA every year. But on average no more than just 12 are bought by each major studio and only about 3 or 4 make it to pre-production. This is the harsh truth of film business. So for your script to stand a chance of getting on a big screen it’s absolutely necessary to follow the rules listed below. Anyway, if you cross-check them with the movies we all know and love, you’ll see - the majority of them meet the most of these requirements. So here are the traits that any great script must possess:

1. Properly formatted

Producers hire professional readers to save their time. Imagine how many scripts they receive and have to go through!

Scripts that are not formatted according to guild standards don’t even stand a chance of getting past a reader.

That’s why a font of 12 Courier and all that goes along is a must. Proper scriptwriting software - makes a writer’s life a lot easier and helps concentrate on the creative part.

2. Fresh concept

It doesn’t have to be a high concept script, meaning it tells a story never ever told before. But it has to be a fresh take on the existing concept if you want to catch a reader’s attention. A great plot can be pitched in a few sentences and leave the audience craving for more.

3. Gripping

After all, it’s all about the story.

A good screenplay catches your attention from the very beginning and doesn’t let go till the very end.

It always has a hook - something that keeps you guessing why this or that happened and what is going to happen next. It is well paced, constantly surprising, with sudden plot turns along with a satisfying and unpredictable ending

4. Visual

"Show not tell” - they say this to students in all the film schools for a reason. Yet most rookie films tend to plunge into unnecessary ranting. This, of course, can’t be said about movies based on a solid script. Remember - one good piece of action can replace a thousand words. And action doesn’t necessarily mean the kind of stuff you encounter in any Michael Bay movie.

5. Strong main character

It’s key to have a person who drives the story forward, someone all can root for. All great scripts have them - guys that are easy to relate to, likeable (but not necessarily luscious), with their weaknesses and, most importantly, a goal.

A well-written character has a so-called arc - the development we can percieve in him while he’s overcoming his flaws.

Raising the stakes of him losing gives the story even more power.

6. Escalating conflict

The path to the goal for a hero can never be too easy - otherwise all his efforts will be in vain and leave the audience unimpressed. There must be obstacles that prevent the main character from doing what he needs to do - up to the point of rendering it completely unrealistic.

7. Snappy dialogue

When a script is visual and action-packed, the dialogue is freed from the burden of explaining the events. Here’s where the characters step up and burst with cracking lines that keep the audience entertained. An experienced writer always puts opposing personalities in a confined space, makes them interact and sees what happens.

8. Fat free

An exemplary script is brief and concise. It stays within 90 to 120 pages and doesn’t try to test the audience’s patience. It’s a rule of thumb to convey the idea of what the character is after by the 20-th page and bring the story to resolution no later than page 110. It’s usually a result of not being too attached to every word and following the golden principle:

Writing is rewriting

Сutting out the unnecessary is essential - and it’s amazing how much fat can actually be trimmed!

9. Realistic

Writers who delve too carelessly into their imagination sometimes forget about such a prosy thing as a potential film’s budget. It’s generally a good idea to stay pragmatic and write scripts with achievable production values. And that’s usually what all the succesful filmmakers did before reaching their well-earned glory.

10. X factor

This one as the hardest of all to grasp, because without it even the purest scripts that stay true to the rules above can badly fail. It’s almost impossible to explain, but you’ll see it in every acclaimed movie - something magical, that makes it special. Be it talent, or luck, or years of hard work - this last one is for you to find out. Good luck!

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