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Writing A Screenplay
By Gurmeet Mattu
Screenwriting appeals to many writers not only because it can be extremely lucrative but also because
cinema is the most powerful entertainment medium of out time. This may at some time in the future be
superseded by the internet or other digital media but whatever form may appear, the writer is always going
to be required to create drama to entertain an audience.
This short guide is written for people with some experience of writing, but not in the screen trade. You
should be comfortable with the concepts of the protagonist and antagonist, the conflict and complications,
and classic three act structure.
This is the merest dip of the toes into the ocean of screenwriting. Because it is so lucrative it has spawned a
veritable industry dedicated to teaching the craft, from screenwriting gurus to university courses, but the
reality is that only so many scripts are bought and only so many films are made, so don’t go in with high
expectations. The other side of the coin is that producers and Hollywood moguls are not Gods, they
frequently get it wrong. Otherwise there would be no movie flops or straight-to-DVD classics.
If you want to stretch yourself as a writer I would suggest that you at least attempt a screenplay, because the
discipline is interesting in itself. You can submit it to various websites to get feedback and that’s always
There are many other books and guides, written by screenwriting gurus, available on this craft and most of
them are contradictory. Find them and read them, if only to get a flavour of why there seems to be so much
conflict in the screenwriting world. (I once followed a heated debate about the number of brads a screenplay
should be fastened with, on an internet forum, but that was just for the hell of it.)
There is more nonsense talked about screenwriting than any other art form, with so-called experts claiming
that their 8 point plan is the only way to succeed, whereas some other masters demand that we follow their
95 element program.
This guide doesn’t deal with such frippery, just the basics.
As a screenwriter it will be your task to create a sequence of images, shots and scenes that generate a
particular emotional response in the audience. That’s the job in a nutshell , but it’s not easy and the
screenwriter must master many disciplines to be successful.
Screenplays, even more than novels, need to be carefully planned and crafted to achieve the desired result.
Screenwriting is therefore a process of writing and rewriting - sometimes for what seems like forever.
Nothing is ever finalised until the camera rolls and only then is the writer’s job done.