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By Michael Schilf · January 31, 2010
Just like every car has four wheels and two axles, each screenplay has the same basic structural parts – the nuts and bolts – to make it work. However, there is a huge difference between a two passenger Smart Car and a ‘64 Cobra 289. Both will get you to your final destination, but the ride will be a completely different experience.
Screenwriting is like car building. It’s a trade. It uses a very specific format, follows a universal structure, and must meet audience expectations. To do otherwise, is suicide.
Imagine the automobile industry installing wheels on the roof of cars. Nobody wants to drive upside down. Screenwriting works the same way. There is a blueprint – structured through acts, sequences, and plot points – that almost every movie follows. This is the science of the screenplay, the dramaturgy, but science is only a part of cinematic story telling.
Of course every great screenplay must have a solid structural foundation, but it is also essential to write with an original voice and have a powerful, and hopefully topical, concept with incredibly interesting, flawed, and empathetic characters – and all of this must be in proper screenplay form.
To think of The Formula as a recipe to write your great Hollywood screenplay using structure alone would be shortsighted. Structure without character, character without story, story without voice, and voice without form… it simply doesn’t work. The Formula is only as strong as it’s weakest link, so in order for you to be a successful screenwriter, you must achieve all five parts: CHARACTER, STORY, STRUCTURE, VOICE, and FORM.
The Formula: Introduction to Screenwriting provides the essential pieces you need to construct a sellable screenplay, regardless of genre. But it is essential to understand that The Formula is never about being formulaic. There is nothing conventional about creating interesting, believable, and unique characters, nor is there any paint-by-number directions to germinate and develop an original story, and even though three act structure has rules to guide you, it’s all very flexible. Nothing is set in stone.
So whether this is your first screenplay or you’ve been writing for years, you’ve come the right place. This online version of The Formula: Introduction to Screenwriting, was built as completely searchable resource to guide you through journey of building a screenplay from the beginning, or answer specific questions that might pop up during the development process.
Enjoy, Good Luck, and Get Started!