I was attending a Pro Path Screenwriting webinar a few months ago and the instructors were very insightful with their tips on writing for television and movies.
The most vital part in screenwriting that was discussed is introducing what the film is about, and believe it or not, it only takes ten minutes. That's right, cinema lovers. In the writing of a screenplay, the characters, the world, the stakes, and conflict are introduced in the first ten pages (first ten minutes) of action.
In according to Pro Path instructor Tim Albaugh, one page in a movie script equals one minute of run time. When you write ten pages that's ten minutes. The number of pages in a movie script equals the run-time of a movie. Example: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is 1 hour & 16 minutes long (116 pages).
The crucial part of the first ten pages of a script is to clue in the viewers on who, what, and where.
- Who-The characters in the movie.
- What-The conflict and the stakes
- Where-The setting
For the characters, their goals must be tangible. It's something to establish along with the conflict and stakes. Reason being is that there's something all characters want at the end of the film and not showing real goals would result in your characters being flat or the movie itself.
Be advised that you don't have to spell it out in detail of what your script is about, but it does help to give your viewers at least a general idea of what your film is about. Drawing reference to Set It Up (2018), it introduced two overworked assistants and their bosses (Taye Diggs & Lucy Liu). For the conflict they're dealing with the pressures of meeting the demands of their respective employers, plus they're put on a collision course with each other thanks to a DoorDash mishap. To lay out the stakes in the movie they team up to set their employers on a date with each other in hopes to gain some breathing room for themselves. And the setting of the movie is, you guessed it, New York City.
For the goals of the two overworked assistants, it's not only to keep their jobs, but to gain a moment's peace.
Another film to look at is Prey. The protagonist Naru is introduced as well as the Comanche tribe in 1719 in the Great Plains. Not only is she looking to prove herself as a skilled hunter in her tribe, but she has to protect them from the alien predator that's come to Earth on the hunt for the most dangerous prey. With the antagonist's advanced technology pitted against the protagonist's ingenuity and tracking skills, both are in for a deadly battle of hunters. Taking a closer look here, the characters are introduced. The conflict is Naru versus the Predator with the lives of her tribe at stake, and the setting being 300 years in the past. Naru's goal is to protect her tribe.
And all that is explained in just ten minutes of run-time.
When writing for movies & TV, the first ten pages of your script will be the key factor in hooking whoever is reading your script. Engaging viewers depends on the first ten minutes.
A special thanks to Tim Albaugh and Linda Voorhees of ProPath Screenwriting for their expertise as they hosted Last Saturdays with ProPath. Tim especially for taking the time to answer questions for this blog.
See you at the movies, Critique Circle! Happy Creations!