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script television screenplay writing

Have you ever sat in front of your television set and thought to yourself, “I could write a better sitcom than that!” If you love to write or you have really creative, cool ideas, why not put them down on paper? Although plenty of people think they have next year's Oscar-winning script ready to jot down on the printed page, it only takes one good script to win.

As a scriptwriter, your number-one responsibility is to tell a story. The writer works closely not only with the film or television show's director, but also with other writers to develop the story and the screenplay or script. Initially, you will do most of your work wherever you feel you write the best: at home sitting at your computer, under a tree at the park, in the café of your favorite bookstore. In other words, first you have to do your writing. If you want your script to be taken seriously, consider enrolling in a course on scriptwriting, check out some books on the subject, and study what several Web sites in this chapter's directory have to say on the matter. You will want to be sure that you are using the correct terminology when you are writing directions for your screenplay. Furthermore, most studios will not even read your script if it is not formatted properly. It must conform to certain guidelines. Look at the formatting program listed in the directory that follows for help in getting your screenplay to look just right. After you have put your fabulous ideas on paper, submit them to the various movie and television studios. You never know. Your idea may be the next big movie or television show!

You have to know how to submit a completed screenplay. Here are the basics. For feature-length motion pictures, the screenplay must be typed in a standard format of about 90 to 110 typed pages. Obviously some features run longer or shorter, so this is just an average to keep in mind when you are writing. If you are writing a script for a low-budget film, you should limit it to about ninety pages.

Lines for actors are typed within the center section of the page. You should use a professional scriptwriting program such as Final Draft or Movie Magic because there are so many guidelines for script submission that the process is difficult to master. These programs are so widely used in the industry that they even make the occasional television appearance—one can see writer Liz Lemon on the sitcom 30 Rock using Final Draft. With the number of revisions your script is likely to undergo, you will want the ability to make changes easily and quickly. Type in a standard font, nothing fancy. (The industry standard is Courier, with 12-point type.) Be sure your paper is standard 8-1/2″ × 11″ letter-size paper. This makes for a familiar blueprint for the director to use.

Once a studio has accepted your idea and begins to turn your screenplay into an actual movie or television show, you may have to spend a lot of time at the studio working on revisions. This will be to your benefit, actually, because you will want to protect the integrity of your script. In other words, if a revision or a change needs to be made, you want to be the one to make it. After all, this is your screenplay. You must realize, however, that a script for a movie or television show is a collaborative effort, and that producers, directors, actors, and even sponsors may request changes.

The writer must be able to write and deliver the script on time. No matter how good a writer you are, if you cannot make your deadlines, someone who can meet deadlines will replace you. After you have delivered your screenplay, it will remain your responsibility to do any necessary rewrites and polish the script.

Another great way to put your writing talent to work is as a studio writer. Rather than submit new scripts to a film or television production company, you will be a regular employee of such a company and will revise the scripts of others. You may produce original scripts in collaboration with members of a writing team for a weekly television show.

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