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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Screenwriting Discussion    Screenwriting Class  ›  Screenwriting exercises for beginners? Moderators: George Willson
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  Author    Screenwriting exercises for beginners?   (currently 1165 views)
Zoe
Posted: September 30th, 2019, 4:07pm Report to Moderator
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What are the best screenwriting exercises ( besides reading scripts) for a beginner like me that I can apply to( while I am) writing my first draft?

ie. I am writing a screenplay which I am using as a learning process.
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_ghostwriters
Posted: September 30th, 2019, 10:56pm Report to Moderator
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Watch lots movies!  I'm not joking; Nope. Nada.  Nein. No.  It's a good exercise.

Here it is; reverse engineer a scene:  Steal a scene from a movie you know, but have never read the script itself.  Watch it over and over.  While doing so, put pen to paper, jot down what you see - redo it.  Figure out what's necessary to tell the story - what needs to be there. Then compare your version to the original - what was in there that you left out? What did you include that wasn't in the script?

Hopefully this is a little more enticing then just reading screenplays.   Best of luck!-Andrea



"When I dive... I go deep, only to surface the hub when necessary."

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Matthew Taylor
Posted: October 1st, 2019, 3:27am Report to Moderator
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Writing shorts is the best exercise for me. Compressing an entire story into a few pages, plot, theme, story arc, and character development. Then, getting feedback on the short is really helpful (you are more likely to get feedback here on shorts than you are features)



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Zoe
Posted: October 1st, 2019, 6:34am Report to Moderator
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Thanks Mathew for the tip. I wasn't sure if I should use my screenplay to practise writing a short or feature but shorts look like a good starting point.
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AnthonyCawood
Posted: October 1st, 2019, 5:04pm Report to Moderator
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I agree with Matt - shorts are great practice.


Anthony Cawood - Award winning screenwriter
Available Short screenplays - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/short-scripts
Available Feature screenplays - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/feature-film-scripts/
Screenwriting articles - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/articles
IMDB Link - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6495672/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
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Lon
Posted: October 1st, 2019, 8:29pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from _ghostwriters
...reverse engineer a scene:  Steal a scene from a movie you know, but have never read the script itself.  Watch it over and over.  While doing so, put pen to paper, jot down what you see - redo it.  Figure out what's necessary to tell the story - what needs to be there. Then compare your version to the original - what was in there that you left out? What did you include that wasn't in the script?

Hopefully this is a little more enticing then just reading screenplays.   Best of luck!-Andrea



Great advice.  I actually started this way, putting on a favorite movie and writing everything I saw and heard on the screen into a screenplay.  This was in the late '90s, before screenwriting sites and script depositories/sharing sites were really a thing, and the only way the average shmuck could get his hands on a script was if he bought the published screenplay.  Eventually I realized the whole process would go by a lot quicker if I stopped writing EVERYTHING I saw, and only wrote down the bare essentials.  Later, when I read my first screenwriting book and realized that's actually what the writer is supposed to do, I felt kind of proud: I'd figured out on my own, with no outside help, exactly how to do it like the pros do lol

Anyway, yes, I think this is a very valuable exercise, and one that more aspiring writers should give a shot.
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eldave1
Posted: October 1st, 2019, 8:53pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from _ghostwriters
Watch lots movies!  I'm not joking; Nope. Nada.  Nein. No.  It's a good exercise.

Here it is; reverse engineer a scene:  Steal a scene from a movie you know, but have never read the script itself.  Watch it over and over.  While doing so, put pen to paper, jot down what you see - redo it.  Figure out what's necessary to tell the story - what needs to be there. Then compare your version to the original - what was in there that you left out? What did you include that wasn't in the script?
Solid advice
Hopefully this is a little more enticing then just reading screenplays.   Best of luck!-Andrea





My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Demento
Posted: October 2nd, 2019, 5:11am Report to Moderator
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ReneC
Posted: October 2nd, 2019, 9:28am Report to Moderator
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Writing shorts doesn't just help you learn the format and structure, it helps you develop how to tell a good story. If you can craft a good story for a short, you can do it for a feature. It's easier if you're already a storyteller, but screenwriting is a visual medium and it takes practice for prose writers to adjust.

A feature is a different animal though. The structure is more complex. You get into subplots. The pace and consistency of tone become more difficult. On the flip side, you get to tell a larger story, you get to dive deeper into characters, you can have more locations and more characters (depending on the story), and you get many more scenes. Screenwriting is scene writing.

Don't worry about budget, write whatever you want. Write shorts, write a feature if you really want to tackle that, or write just a scene. The key is to write, and then write something else, and write some more. A feature is a major accomplishment, it takes a lot to finish and I promise it will suck. It gets easier after that though.


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MarkItZero
Posted: October 3rd, 2019, 5:44pm Report to Moderator
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As others have said, I think writing shorts helps a lot. You can write them faster, experiment with different things, and get invaluable feedback.

And of course read lots of screenplays and novels.

Not sure about specific exercises but others have mentioned some interesting ideas.

There's lots of material on this site worth reading too. You might find a nugget of wisdom in the screenwriting class thread or even a ten year old OWC thread.


That rug really tied the room together.
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Demento
Posted: October 3rd, 2019, 6:38pm Report to Moderator
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I don't think writing shorts helps.

Watch a lot of movies, read a lot of screenplays. Different eras, different genres, different countries. Accumulate knowledge, then deduce. Most important thing, in my opinion, is to get a feel for narrative structure. How stories develop in feature films. See different approaches, different types of paces. For dialogue, that's more a talent thing, if you have the ear for it.
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BillMcSwain
Posted: October 11th, 2019, 6:02pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from _ghostwriters
Watch lots movies!  I'm not joking; Nope. Nada.  Nein. No.  It's a good exercise.

Here it is; reverse engineer a scene:  Steal a scene from a movie you know, but have never read the script itself.  Watch it over and over.  While doing so, put pen to paper, jot down what you see - redo it.  Figure out what's necessary to tell the story - what needs to be there. Then compare your version to the original - what was in there that you left out? What did you include that wasn't in the script?

Hopefully this is a little more enticing then just reading screenplays.   Best of luck!-Andrea



Great advice! Thank you!
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JustinWeaver
Posted: October 22nd, 2019, 7:16am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Zoe
What are the best screenwriting exercises ( besides reading scripts) for a beginner like me that I can apply to( while I am) writing my first draft?

ie. I am writing a screenplay which I am using as a learning process.


Lots of possible exercises. One I find useful is identifying an arc and following it to see how it is rolled out.
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Dreamscale
Posted: October 23rd, 2019, 6:34pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Demento
I don't think writing shorts helps.

Watch a lot of movies, read a lot of screenplays. Different eras, different genres, different countries. Accumulate knowledge, then deduce. Most important thing, in my opinion, is to get a feel for narrative structure. How stories develop in feature films. See different approaches, different types of paces. For dialogue, that's more a talent thing, if you have the ear for it.


I actually agree here almost 100%.

I wouldn't worry about foreign films at this point.  I really wouldn't even worry so much about "story" while you're watching.  Pay attention,l of course, but focus more on what you're seeing, and think about how it works, how it doesn't work, or how it may be better.

For the writing part, I always say to peeps, just concentrate on a scene or series of scenes.  Story can be nonexistent, but focus on writing whatever scene you come up with, the very best you can, including technical things, grammar, visual writing, and mood.  Mood is important.  Most don' have a clue what that really is or how to write it.



To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
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MarkRenshaw
Posted: October 30th, 2019, 3:17am Report to Moderator
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WHen I decided I was going to have a serious go at writing screenplays back in around 2014, I threw away everything I thought I knew about writing, read "How Not to Write a Screenplay: 101 Common Mistakes Most Screenwriters Make" by Denny Martin Flinn, used that to write a short and then posted it here on Simply Scripts.

It got ripped apart, but I learned a lot from it. I continued doing that until people actually started giving good comments on the scirpts I posted. It is a fantastic learning process as long as you can take constructive critisicm and learn to dismiss the rest.


For more of my scripts, stories, produced movies and the ocassional blog, check out my new website. CLICK
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