What Are You Trying to Do?

This is the way many people write a screenplay. They buy a screenplay formatting program like Final Draft then start writing. This is like buying a new car and driving without any idea or plan on where you want to go or what you want to do. Screenwriting can be like that too.

When writing your screenplay, stop and ask yourself what you’re trying to do. When George Lucas created “Star Wars,” he wanted to recreate the excitement of space operas of Flash Gordon. When he created Indiana Jones, he wanted to recreate the feel of cliff-hangers from old movies that relied on lots of action and exotic adventure.

So what do you want to accomplish with your screenplay? Sylvester Stallone wanted to recreate the Muhammad Ali fight where an unknown, Chuck Wepner, knocked Ali down and nearly went the distance in going the full 15 rounds. Quentin Taratino likes recreating the spaghetti westerns like “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” except in different settings such as in “Pulp Fiction,” “Kill Bill,” and “Inglorious Basterds.”

Watch any bad movie and you have to wonder what the writer and director were trying to accomplish. Watch “Jonah Hex” and even though it’s based on a cartoon character that few people really know about, the movie lacks a clear sense of focus and direction.

Watch “The Last Airbender” and unless you’re already familiar with the cartoon series, you may see the same lack of focus and direction.

What are you trying to do? When you can answer that question, you’ll be able to see what needs to go into your screenplay and what needs to stay out. Just knowing what you’re trying to do will help keep your screenplay focused so it behaves as a coherent whole, rather than a random series of action separated by long periods of exposition.

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