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Structure Vs Free-Form Script Writing

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 2:07 pm on November 6, 2011

Screenwriters, novice and pro, will inevitably have their own contrasting methodologies for writing a screenplay and you will often hear conflicting rules to adhere to from prominent screenwriting gurus on how to write a script.

So what is the best way to write your movie?

Should you plan every minute detail or simply unlock your mind to a cinematic stream of consciousness and go with the flow?

Well, I would suggest the answer is both!

When I first started out as a screenwriter I would get an idea for a story or sometimes simply the opening scene, a great ending or even a cool set-piece somewhere in the middle of act two and then jump into the script.  I wouldn’t even use a computer but instead write it all down with a pen on a lined pad.  In fact, I wrote my first ever script that way and it was optioned and while it never got produced it did prove to be a great writing sample and clinched my first spec sale and multiple assignments.

Since my first script I have written many without a coherent plan and many with a fully-structured outline – so what have I learned from the experience?  Well, “free-form” script writing typically means many more rewrites because these scripts inevitably need a lot of editing to cut out the flab, and a lot more scene shuffling, because the scene to scene plot progression and character development was not planned at the beginning.  And with the outlined projects?  They of course still require rewrites, but much fewer and the central storyline and character journeys in these screenplays were always much clearer from the start which meant that theme could be expressed through dialogue, action and visuals more instinctively.

With all these lessons learned, and after many development meetings where I had to present my ideas for rewrites, I ultimately invented my own screenwriting software Movie Outline specifically for screenwriters to outline a story before diving head first into a screenplay.  I discovered that free-form screenplay writing without following a proper structure sometimes pays off, and other times it doesn’t.  I also learned that you can still free-form your script during the story planning stage and the scene writing stage and it’s just as satisfying and rewarding.

Outlining and structuring my story is now instinctual for me as a screenwriter and it has made me a better writer.  It has also made developing a script with producers, directors and executives a much easier process, especially when you are trying to communicate your ideas for project changes.  So now, even if I get a great idea for a movie and want to start writing I don’t immediately leap into the script, I let the idea gestate and then start planning the story.  Sometimes I may write a scene if I have to get it out of my head and then plot where that scene can take me but I’ve managed to strike a balance between creativity and methodology and this is the key.. for me.

My advice for first-time screenwriters who are about to launch into their first screenplay is try to find your own balance between free-form writing and a structured approach.  I do recommend outlining your story first but try not to initially get too caught up on the “three-act” blueprint, any particular structural paradigm or too much detail. Allow your story and ideas to flow and then go back to what you’ve written and change it around if necessary.  Cut scenes out, combine scenes, clearly define your act breaks and don’t let formulas hinder your creative juices on the first pass.

This initial process helps you discover your own voice and style, and trust me, it’s better to write something crap on a blank page rather than stare at it all day or plan, plan, plan – sometimes used as an excuse by writers to procrastinate. As you become more accustomed to the screenwriting process, outlining and structuring will become second nature and crucially you will be able identify flaws in your script during the planning stage rather than waiting for someone to point it out to you at the end.

Nuvotech’s Creative Writing Software Now Available from Best Buy and Amazon in Canada

Filed under: Press Releases by admin @ 1:30 pm on October 20, 2011

UK technology company Nuvotech today announced the availability of their popular creative writing software Movie Outline 3 and Script It! to Canadian customers through Best Buy’s Canadian online store.

“We’re very pleased to offer Canadian writers the opportunity to order our software from within their own country with free shipping — and from one of the world’s most trusted brands.” comments Dan Bronzite, produced screenwriter and CEO of Nuvotech.

Visit BestBuy.ca to order Movie Outline 3 or Script It! today and write your own Hollywood Blockbuster!

Movie Outline 3 is also available from Amazon.ca, as is Script It!.

About Best Buy

Best Buy is Canada’s fastest-growing specialty retailer and e-tailer of consumer electronics, personal computers and entertainment software.  Best Buy offers consumers a unique shopping experience with the latest technology and entertainment products, at the right price, with a no-pressure (non-commissioned) sales environment.  The Company is committed to kids and communities, supporting non-profit organizations that help youth develop their skill set, discover their talents and sustain a lasting interest in education.

About Amazon

Amazon.com, Inc.is a multinational electronic commerce company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, United States and is the world’s largest online retailer.

About Nuvotech

Nuvotech Limited is a software and Web 2.0 services company based in London, England. It was founded in 1999 by produced screenwriter and director Dan Bronzite to publish innovative software and services for the creative industry. Its most recognized brands are Movie Outline a cross-platform screenplay development application and Hollywood Script Express a script copying, copyright and delivery service in Los Angeles.

High Concept Movies

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 2:01 pm on October 17, 2011

For some screenwriters, penning an original high concept movie is the holy grail.  And that can be a good thing or a bad thing.  These days, the majority of Hollywood high concept movies seem to focus on the concept and leave out those little things like character development and basic storytelling.  I think the root cause of this boils down to the eternal struggle of many screenwriters which is whether to write for love or write for money.

If we’re fortunate enough to have a well-paid “day job” and this fulfills us then we probably aren’t worrying about paying the bills and so have the freedom to write movies that we want to see or simply embark on stories that we are interested in exploring, without the terms “marketable” or “box office success” influencing us.

But for the vast majority of writers, we do have to pay the bills and so there inevitably comes a time when somebody, perhaps a friend or agent says to us.. why not write something that is going to sell? And they have a point.  Sometimes you have to remember that screenwriting is a business as well as an art form and that people, including you, need to make money.  The problem is, if we set out to write a script purely to sell it, our heart and soul – two key prerequisites for any successful writing endeavor – may not be invested in the project one hundred percent and as such it may ultimately lack passion.

But you can still be interested in writing a commercial film and develop great characters and an original, engaging story without feeling like you have betrayed your artistic integrity.  Perhaps you really want to tell one story that is close to your heart and have shopped the idea around for a while but nobody seems interested.  It doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea or it won’t sell, but maybe you need to make your mark with another project first and then use the success of this to garner interest in your personal project.  It’s also about timing among a multitude of other factors.

The problem is, some writers never think about writing what they know and don’t want to tell personal stories, they just want to make money and become famous.  And most of these writers think that writing a high concept blockbuster is the solution.  Well, good luck to you.  Go for it!  It may work.  But I personally think you should strike a balance in your writing between commerciality and originality.  And when I say originality I don’t mean an original high concept movie I mean an original voice.

So the next time you think about the concept of your next screenplay, think about where you are in your writing career and what may help you get onto the next rung of the ladder. If a high concept movie is the answer then great, write one but approach the genre with respect and don’t just see it as a potential pay check.  The idea is to apply all of the tools of the trade to your high concept project so it includes in-depth character development, clever plot choices and original dialogue.

How’s that for a high concept

Good Screenwriting Means Being Original

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 1:56 pm on September 27, 2011

Sometimes we, as people and writers, get lazy.  It’s only natural.  Life can be tough.  Writing scripts can be hard.  Please.. my heart bleeds.  It’s time to take responsibility for your creative choices or lack thereof.  This laziness normally comes hand in hand with familiarity.  As soon as we become comfortable with the creative writing process, our screenwriter’s voice and all of the tricks, devices and structural paradigms that are involved, we tend to stick to what we know and settle for the easy option.

The good thing about being an experienced writer is that you can normally write your scripts a lot faster than when you first started but both novice writers and pros still make the same mistake, for different reasons, by making obvious choices in their dialogue, characterization and plot construction.  And writing scripts quickly isn’t necessarily a positive thing. Sometimes it’s good to chew over your narrative and really think about what you’ve written.

So with that in mind, from now on, I want to make sure you force yourself to be innovative. Okay, so apparently every story has already been told but don’t let that stop you from trying to add something new to the mix.  When you reach the next major plot twist or turn take a moment to brainstorm as many alternatives as possible, however crazy they may sound.  Don’t settle for clichés or tried-and-tested solutions.  Turn your original idea for the beginning or ending of a scene 180 degrees just to see where it takes you.  It may lead you nowhere or it may give you a great idea for another scene.  The point is that you won’t know without trying.

And the same goes for character development, talking heads and choice of locations. Always go that extra mile by building unique characters that sparkle, situations and dialogue that engage us and worlds we would love to escape to.  Don’t always settle for choosing an obvious character flaw for your protagonist, dig deeper.  Don’t always settle for the first witty retort that pops into your head because there may be a better one.

I’m not saying analyze every single creative choice you make as you write because that would naturally stunt your creative flow but in the moments following your stream of consciousness onto the page or even the next day, re-read the previous day’s work and make sure you have pushed yourself as a writer. You won’t regret it.

Nuvotech teams with the Dysfunctional Screenwriters Society

Filed under: Press Releases by admin @ 10:53 am on September 21, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Dysfunctional Screenwriters Society has teamed with UK technology company Nuvotech, publisher of popular screenwriting software Movie Outline 3, to award winners of Power of the Pitch 3 copies of their story outlining and movie script formatting software Script It!

Power of the Pitch 3 will be held from 6pm-9pm on October 19th 2011, at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Nuvotech is a software and Web 2.0 services company based in London, England. It was founded in 1999 by produced screenwriter Dan Bronzite to publish innovative software and services for the creative industry. Its most recognized brands are Movie Outline a cross-platform screenplay development application and Hollywood Script Express a script  copying and delivery service in Los Angeles. Script It! is based on the same innovative writing methodology of “step-outlining” that has proved so popular with users of Movie Outline. This “sequence” approach allows you to plan the structure of your screen story and professionally format your screenplay step by step.

The Dysfunctional Screenwriters Society was started in 2009 by screenwriter, Keith Chamberlain for the purpose of providing aspiring screenwriters in the Philadelphia area, the opportunity to meet, network, and critique works in progress with other aspiring screenwriters. The Dysfunctional Screenwriters Society has amassed a membership of over 150 screenwriters in the Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware area and its group of participating individuals meet monthly to discuss ideas and exchange professional advice. Power of the Pitch is a biannual event designed to educate screenwriters how to pitch their respective television, film or web projects to directors and producers. The first two Power of the Pitches drew an estimated attendance of 75 people from all over the Tri-State area.

If you would like to attend this event or  join the DSS mailing list please visit The Dysfunctional Screenwriters Society.

To receive more information about Nuvotech products and services please visit Nuvotech.

Movie Outline Gets Thumbs Up From HubPages Review

Filed under: Script Writing Software by admin @ 2:03 pm on September 12, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow hubbers, I’m proud to admit that I’ve just finished my first screenplay.

My third, actually, but with the others I gave up at around page 40 and dumped them in the ‘What was I thinking?’ folder back in the darkest recesses of my laptop.

So what made the difference this time? I can honestly say (and they’re not paying me) that it was Movie Outline Scriptwriting Software, a new-on-the-block screenwriting software system that helps you to build your screenplay step by step.

How is Movie Outline different?

The other screenwriting software systems format your work, so that your dialogue and direction come out in the standard industry format which ensures the felling of a good number trees. Movie Outline does this too, but it does so much more besides…

Click here to read the full review.

Humor in a Dark Place

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 1:51 pm on September 7, 2011

The world we live in isn’t perfect and to be honest, although every day we all strive for perfection in one way or another, our lives would probably be pretty boring if Utopia did exist for us.  The simple truth is, bad things happen all the time and as human beings we are designed to deal with these events in different ways.  We all process information differently depending on our personality and the experiences that have shaped us and as such, not everybody is going to react to bad news in the same way.  Ultimately we are pretty tough creatures and it is our instinct to survive and we’ll do whatever we need to, with some exceptions, to live another day.

An example would be when a close family member or friend dies.  We cry, often uncontrollably.  We mourn.  We remember the good times. We go through all the stages of grief, but hopefully, at some point in time, we are able to move on.  We finally wake up one day without that horrible experience being the first thing on our mind.  We put one foot in front of the other and get on with our life.

Humor is one of those great wonders we are blessed with that can help.  Even in the darkest of places a witty line can suddenly put things into perspective and help to get us through a tough day.  It doesn’t have to be a joke, maybe just a comical observation or random, surreal thought.  Whatever it is, that moment of comedy works like a band aid and helps lift the tension.  This principle is also true when it comes to screenwriting.

Audiences love to laugh.  Now sometimes it may not be appropriate but that could be the best time to insert a subtle gag or some light-hearted comic relief into your script.  Okay, this may not be the greatest of ideas for certain sensitive subjects and scenes but why not give it a try and lighten the mood with a quip. Sarcasm is human nature and wit might lift an otherwise flat moment in your screenplay. Sometimes people laugh uncontrollably simply out of nervousness and not being able to digest the dark information that has just been fed to them.  And this can also create great comedy, especially if someone laughs at an inappropriate moment because this causes conflict and as we all know, conflict is crucial to creating an engaging story and three-dimensional characters.

Does your Story have a Theme?

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 1:48 pm on August 28, 2011

Theme is something writers frequently forget about during the script writing process simply because they are often focused on the other important and often daunting tasks of character development, plot design, act structure and dialogue, but theme is the glue that binds your entire screenplay and must always be well considered.

Many writers like to shoot from the hip and don’t even outline their story before jumping into a full script, and that’s cool, whatever works for you – BUT, that’s no excuse for not sitting down with your completed first draft or even revised second draft and taking the time to analyze it on various storytelling levels with theme being right at the top of the list.

Ideally you would think about it right from the get-go since the theme of a story should permeate through your entire screenplay and influence the shaping of characters, your plot and definitely dialogue.  The truth is, however, that sometimes we, as writers, dot not really know the true theme of our story until the end.  And other times we still do not recognize it and it is up to someone else to point it out to us.  However you discover the theme, make sure you at least try to find it because a story without a theme is like a pastry without egg – you’ll have all the other ingredients which taste great by themselves but you’ll have nothing to bind them together.

Theme can be many things.. Love vs. duty.  The consequences of pride.  Deep-rooted regret from never telling someone how you truly feel.  The atrocities of war and its many forgotten, unsung heroes.  Whatever it is, it is crucial to have a central theme and your story and characters around it.  It is the spine of your script and without it readers and an audience will notice that something is missing or that the characters do not ring true.  Especially important is the dialogue your central characters speak since this should also reflect the theme – through what is said and sometimes more importantly through what is left unspoken.

The great thing about ulteimately pin-pointing your story’s theme, especially if you only stumble upon it late in the day during the first draft, is that sometimes it turns out to be that final element that suddenly puts everything else into place, like the missing piece of a puzzle.  It may be that when you realize your theme, nothing changes.  But more often than not, understanding your theme instantly throws a whole new light on everything you have written and normally leads to some frantic yet exciting rewrites of scenes and dialogue to cement the expression of that theme throughout your screenplay.

Get Into Your Scene Late and Out Early

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 1:46 pm on August 18, 2011

As a screenwriter it is important to remember that while the stories we tell should reflect real-life (or aspects of it) in order to engage an audience and help them identify with the narrative and characters that inhabit the world we create, life is different from movie life.  In real life events occur in chronological order and time passes much, much slower.. even though some days may not feel like it.  If we recounted the story of our day in minute detail minute by minute to our friends over a drink after work, they’d probably shoot themselves or jump off a bridge with suicidal boredom because most of the events that occur are insignificant and uninteresting.

From the moment we are awoken in the morning by our alarm clock to the moment we arrive at work, many, many things have happened.  But put them all in a screenplay and it won’t be a blockbuster, unless of course your entire story is about an hour in the life of an everyday man who gets kidnapped on his way to work due to a case of mistaken identity!

A movie may begin by showing a man waking up, getting ready for work, feeding his dog and jumping into his car, and that’s fine.  It reveals certain things about the character that may be important for us to know before the story unfolds.  Similarly, a scene in the middle of a movie could contain these events, but ONLY if it is important to the character, plot or pacing.  Otherwise, condense those events into a shorter sequence of shorts or cut them altogether.

And that’s where the concept of “getting in and out early” plays its crucial part.  When writing a screenplay, you only have so much time to tell the story and so you must not waste those precious moments on things that don’t matter.  Why not cut from the alarm clock, to his irritated expression in bed and then right to him sitting down at his desk?  It still works, doesn’t it.  Absolutely.  And the great thing is we now have more time to spend on more significant plot and character developments.

I’m not saying go through your script and condense everything to the point that it’s all cut – cut – cut.. that would be equally annoying and give us a headache.  Pace means highs and lows, fast and slow, moments of intense action and lulls for us to contemplate what has passed.  The key is to find an effective balance and part of that is understanding when there is too much “chaff” in your scene to scene progression. So remember to get into your scene as late as possible and out of it as early as possible. This will tighten a flabby script and help focus your audience’s time and attention on the things that really matter.

Create Complex Characters that are not Black and White in Nature

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 1:40 pm on July 29, 2011

How often in life do you meet someone that is flawless?  Conversely, how often do you meet someone that does not have a single good bone in their body?  Never.  It’s impossible.  We human beings are very complex creatures and that’s what makes us so fascinating.  And that’s also what makes good movie characters so interesting.

We, as an audience, or as a reader, are usually not drawn to flat, two-dimensional characters that do what they say they’ll do and practice what they preach.  Most of us try to be good people and do good things but we all have flaws – it’s human nature.  Sometimes our own selfishness, jealousy, preconceptions and prejudice creep into our words and actions and it doesn’t make us bad people.. just human.

The same should be applied to the characters we create in our screenplays and novels. These people may inhabit an imaginary world but that world usually reflects our own, even if it is set on another planet, often there is a common thread of humanity that runs through the narrative.  If there wasn’t then we would find it extremely hard to identify with anyone or anything and the movie wouldn’t engage us on any level.

So the next time you sit down in front of your computer and fire up your screenwriting software, think about your central characters and their psychological make-up.  What makes them tick?  What are their hang-ups?  Are they coffee addicts?  Are they gym freaks?  Do any of their hobbies take over their lives to such a degree that they alienate friends and family?  Do they have bad habits?  Do they lie or cheat?  Do they drink or smoke?  Do they gamble or steal?  It doesn’t have to be a big flaw, even a small flaw can make a character appear more three-dimensional.

The other great thing about introducing flaws, even if they are just for you to know as the writer, is that they give you the opportunity to create comedy and conflict.  And if you use these flaws when developing your character arcs they will subtly influence character actions and their dialogue.  Sometimes creating a backstory for your character can help when deciding on a flaw because it gives you a sound logical reason for their behaviour and choices.

For instance, say your hero was bullied as a kid.  Maybe he was always picked on at the same place, and thus the image of this place was then burned into his/her memory and associated with bad things.  The place could be anywhere.. a hot dog stand, a library, a swimming pool.  The point is, as an adult (in your movie), this character can then have a hang up about eating fast food, reading books, or going swimming.  The hang up could be that he/she comfort eats hot dogs when he/she gets depressed, or throws up if he/she smells fast food.  He/she may have a bizarre hatred for book readers and book clubs, or read so much that he/she doesn’t have a social life.

And remember, the same principle can be used in reverse when writing your antagonist or one of his/her henchman.  Maybe your baddie kills people without a thought but has a love for flowers or pets.  Maybe he/she has a penchant for blades and making people bleed but when he accidentally knocks over a young school girl in his car, he feels bad and takes her to the hosipital and waits by her bedside.  It’s all about layers. Obviously, certain genres require an absolute “baddie” but even then it’s far more interesting to shape your characters using many contradictory layers.  Make them ambiguous in intent so the audience are constantly reassessing their motives and objectives.

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