“I could be just a writer very easily. I am not a writer. I am a screenwriter, which is half a filmmaker….But it is not an art form, because screenplays are not works of art. They are invitations to others to collaborate on a work of art.” -Paul Schrader

Screenwriters are responsible for fabricating the core of a film; the hours spent writing stories on their notepad, typewriter, or laptop create thrilling entertainment. 

Nevertheless, it is important to mention that it is the joint collaboration and efforts of film actors, directors, set designers, costume designers, sound editors, sound mixers, cinematographers, and producers that help transform a screenwriter's story from ordinary to inspiring.

For example, the wonderful scripts of The Godfather and The Godfather Part II would not have reached the same effect if it wasn't for Francis Ford Coppola's masterful directing and Nino Rota's powerful score.

Therefore, it is necessary to mention that the filmmaking experience involves teamwork from everyone participating. 

However, for those who want to specialise in the writing aspect of filmmaking, it is essential to master the art of screenwriting. Therefore, without further ado, we will consider essential elements of a feature film screenplay, a guide on how to write a screenplay, and the best screenwriters of all-time to provide newbies with inspiration.

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Essential Elements of a Film Screenplay

pulp fiction
There are many important elements involved in writing a script. (Source: Elements of Cinema)

Have you ever wondered what the fundamental aspects featured on a film screenplay are? Look no further, Superprof has got you covered. It is critical to state that just like a recipe to make delicious cookies, there are many elements needed to create a wonderful screenplay. 

The following are some important elements featured throughout the pages of a feature film screenplay that make up its unique format:

  • Scene Heading, 
  • Subheader, 
  • Action, 
  • Character, 
  • Dialogue, 
  • Parenthetical,
  • Extension, 
  • Transition, 
  • Shot. 

Screenplay software systems that have been recently developed will automatically update and include these previously mentioned aspects; nonetheless, it is of the utmost importance that all screenwriters be familiar with these elements. 

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A Step by Step Guide to Write a Feature Film Screenplay

the best screenwriters
Editing and re-editing a screenplay can make a dud a masterpiece. (Source: pixabay)

Do you want to have actors speak the words you've penned? Do you want to be responsible for crafting a movie that makes a difference? Do you enjoy the movie-making experience?

If you answered yes to the above-mentioned questions, a career as a screenwriter is meant for you! 

It's important to state that you won't become a Paul Schrader, Paddy Chayefsky, or Christopher Nolan overnight; much time and effort is needed to hone talent and skills to become a recognised screenwriter.

Even some of the best screenplay writers have suffered duds in their careers! 

Therefore, without further ado, the following are some guidelines to help amateur screenwriters write the next Casablanca: 

  • Create a Brief Summary: before the main idea can be executed, screenwriters generally write a short summary of the main ideas. For example, a two to five-page summary would include the thematic statement of the story, the list of main and minor characters, and a short synopsis. In the synopsis, the writer should include the primary ideas, the turning points, and the desired end result.
  • Develop the Story's Characters: without sympathetic and interesting characters, a screenplay has no life and might be considered a dud to many people. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to write about characters that must answer the main questions of your story and have personal struggles that make them easier to understand to the audience. There are many character worksheets online that prove to be very helpful.
  • Work on the Plot: there are many distinct techniques that screenwriters use to plot out their story; find the way that works best for you! For instance, some screenplay writers use software systems that are designed to aid screenwriters. On the other hand, some use a board to visualise important plot elements or a notebook or flashcards. It's important to mention that the more detailed your outline, the less time you'll waste down the road on your outline.
  • Write the First Draft: your first outline is critical to the success and overall understanding of your screenplay. The first draft should be treated as a final draft since it is highly recommended to write your script scene by scene with all dialogue and descriptive language included. We highly recommend that the first ten pages be masterfully written to directly grab the attention of producers. It is essential to remember that readers look to see if all the proper elements have been included in the screenplay; all descriptive words must be in the present tense. If you're looking to make a career out of screenwriting, consider investing in a modern screenwriting software that brilliantly formats your work.
  • Edit, Edit, and Re-Edit: a popular interpretation of Alexander Pope's quote states, "to err is human; to edit, divine." There is no doubt about it, editing a story, article, or screenplay is essential to create a masterpiece. For example, Woody Allen's Annie Hall became a classic in the editing room. Therefore, after your first draft has been completed it is essential to go over your script to tighten its dialogue, refine the action, and edit the overall quality of the story.

By following the previously mentioned tips, amateur screenwriters sharpen their skills to eventually acquire attention from studio producers and readers. 

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The Best Film Screenplay Writers Throughout History

the joys of the cinema
The movie-going experience begins with a script written by a talented screenwriter. (Source: Unsplash)

"Scriptwriting is the toughest part of the whole racket…the least understood and the least noticed.” -Frank Capra

When common folk think about the glitz and glamour of the movie industry movie stars, directors, costume designers, and producers come to mind; there is rarely any thought about the writer.

Nevertheless, scriptwriting is an essential part of movie-making since without a script there isn't a story. And, everyone knows that without a story there will be no actors willing to sign-on and no director attached to the project. Therefore, let us never forget the hard-working efforts of screenwriters who dedicate their lives fabricating stories that inform and entertain audiences all over the planet.

But who are the best screenwriters of all time? 

In every domain, there are people who outperform others and the same is true amongst screenwriters. For examples, there are some who write meaningless words for directors like Dennis Dugan and Michael Bay. While on the other end of the spectrum, there are some who write masterpieces; we're talking about you Diablo Cody, Jason Reitman, Charlie Kauffman, and James Ivory!

Therefore, without further ado, we shall focus on the brilliance of the following few screenwriters who have contributed to movie magic:

  • Woody Allen: regarded by many media outlets and film critics as the best screenwriter of all time, Woody Allen has suffered much scrutiny in recent years for his personal life yet his screenplays have stood the test of time and are still regarded as masterpieces. What would the genre of film comedy be without the works of Allen such as Hannah and Her Sisters, Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, and Husbands and Wives? Also, it is worth mentioning that Allen has received the most nominations at the Academy Awards for screenwriting with a whopping 16 and ultimately winning three.
  • Billy Wilder: honest, clear, fun, and simple, Billy Wilder's screenwriting credits are beloved all over the world. Wilder's knack for comedy and creating likeable characters is something that current screenwriters have imitated. Some of his best works, Sunset Boulevard, Sabrina, The Apartment and Some Like it Hot, have been regarded as some of the best screenplays of all time. He has won six Academy Awards and is still considered a Hollywood treasure.
  • Paul Thomas Anderson: known by many of his peers as the greatest director working in Hollywood today, PTA has worked with some of the most accomplished actors such as Amy Adams, Joaquin Phoenix, Daniel Day-Lewis, and the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman to create memorable characters in some of the 21st century's best films. After There, Will Be Blood came out in 2007, Thomas Anderson became a legend. His artistry is unique and his talent is unrivalled. He is best known for making movies that are long yet at the same time cause the viewer to think about themes such as greed, desperation, and loneliness.
  • Ethan and Joel Cohen: our favourite dynamic duo of screenwriters is without a doubt the Coen brothers. Ethan and Joel's wonderful screenplays include O, Brother Where Art Thou?, Burn After Reading, No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man, True Grit, and Inside Llewyn Davis. Known for their unique style of writing and frequent collaborators, the Coen brothers have gained the reputation of being some of the best screenwriters working today.

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Other notable screenwriters that are not featured above include Quentin Tarantino, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Towne, William Goldman, Nora Ephron, and Nicole Holofcener. 

Screenwriters who are new to the game should carefully study the examples of experienced filmmakers to become skilled at their craft. Remember, the fame, the glory, and the accolades do not matter, the most important thing to remember is to stay true to the art form and create meaningful stories; that is a success in the film industry!

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