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Common Screenwriting Questions

Below are a few of the most common questions on screenwriting that I’m asked on a regular basis.

Q: How do you think of ideas for movies?

A: Good question. It’s pretty much impossible to know where our ideas come from, but it’s important to recognize when you get them. When you get an idea (for pretty much anything), write it down!

As Mitch Hedberg says:

I think of something that’s funny, then I go get a pen and I write it down. Or if the pen’s too far away, I have to convince myself that what I thought of ain’t funny.

If you want to create ideas, often times a good way is to create hypothetical situations: “Wouldn’t it be funny if…”

Then the challenge is sorting out the ideas. “Wouldn’t it be funny if…an Obama supporter and a McCain supporter fell in love? …your keyboard could talk? …Coca-Cola started putting cocaine back in their drinks?” (Not the best ideas, but you get the picture.) Then you have to decide if your idea is a movie, a short film, a novel, an article, a blog entry, a documentary, a joke, or something else.

Q: Are you supposed to number the first page of the screenplay?

A: No. Most screenwriting programs will format your screenplay for you, so you won’t have to worry about stuff like that. But when in doubt, get your hands on some screenplays and read them. Drew’s Script-o-Rama has a few.

Q: Which screenwriting program would you recommend?

A: There is a debate over which is better, Final Draft or Movie Magic. Both programs are way too expensive, but will help you format your script. I’ve used both, but go with Final Draft for two reasons: 1. I’ve never had anyone say “send it over in Movie Magic Format,” but it’s common to say, “send it in Final Draft,” and 2. I’ve used Final Draft a lot more, so I am used to it.

However, the latest versions of FD and MM can convert your script into a PDF, which everyone can open. Will this end the FD vs. MM debate? Only time will tell.

Q: Do I need an agent or manager to sell my script?

A: No, but it helps. Producers will meet with you if you don’t have an agent, but you had better do your homework about who they are and what kind of movies they are looking for. And make sure your script will rock their socks.

Q: I’ve just written a script, how do I get an agent?

A: Woah woah woah. Slow down a second. First, how many times have you rewritten your script? If the answer is less than three, rewrite it. Then rewrite it again. Then have your friends read it and give you notes. Then rewrite it. Then send it to someone impartial (like Script Doctor Eric) and get their notes. Then rewrite it one last time.

Then come back and I’ll tell you how to get an agent.

Q: That sounds harsh, is it really that difficult to get an agent?

A: No, but when you asked how to get an agent I assumed you meant a “good” agent representing your best work. If you don’t want to put in the time and effort, you might get lucky and land an agent with a mediocre script, and might even make a few bucks off it. But then what?

Hope that helps,