Step Outline: This is followed by a step outline, which breaks the story down into one-paragraph scenes, concentrating on the dramatic structure. A step outline is a detailed telling of a story intended to be turned into a screenplay for a motion picture. The step outline details every scene and beat of a screenplay's story, and often has indications for dialog and character interactions. The scenes are often numbered for convenience. It is more detailed and specific than either a treatment or an outline. It can also be an extremely useful tool for a writer working on a spec script.
Treatment: Next, a treatment is prepared. This is a 25 to 30 page description of the story, its mood and characters, with little dialog and stage direction, often containing drawings to help visualize the key points. A treatment, or more properly film treatment, is a piece of prose, typically showing the step between scene cards (index cards) and the first draft of a screenplay for a motion picture. It is generally longer and more detailed than an outline (or one page synopsis) and shorter and less detailed than a step outline but it may include details of directorial style that an outline omits. Original Draft Treatment is generally long and detailed. It's compiled of full scene outlines put together.
Presentation Treatment: Generally the scene card descriptions written out in order. These only have the essential and important story events that make up the scenes. It's the full story in its simplest form. Usually starting with the Concept, then the Theme then Character the detailed synopsis of about 4 - 8 pages of master scenes. Treatments are widely used within the motion picture industry as selling documents, whereas outlines are generally produced as part of the development process.
Screenplay: The screenplay is then written over a period of perhaps six months, and will be rewritten several times to improve the dramatization, clarity, structure, characters, dialogue, and overall style. A screenplay or script is a blueprint for producing a motion picture. A screenplay differs from a script in that it is more specifically targeted at the visual, narrative arts, such as film and television, whereas a script can involve a blueprint of "what happens" in a comic, an advertisement, a theatrical play and other "blueprinted" creations. The major components of a screenplay are action and dialogue. The characters, when first introduced in the screenplay, may also be described visually. Screenplays differ from traditional literature conventions in ways described below, and in not involving emotion-related descriptions and other aspects of the story that may not be visually apparent in the end-product. A script for a television program is sometimes called a teleplay. Someone who writes screenplays is a screenwriter. The art of writing a screenplay is known as screenwriting and is dealt with separately.
Film: Motion picture screenplays intended for submission to mainstream studios, whether in the US or elsewhere in the world, are expected to conform to a standard typographical format known widely as studio format which stipulates how elements of the screenplay such as scene headings, action, transitions, dialog, character names, shots and parenthetical matter should be presented on the page, as well as the font size and line spacing. One reason for this is that, when rendered in studio format, most screenplays will transfer onto the screen at the rate of approximately one page per minute. This rule of thumb is widely contested -- a page of dialog usually occupies less screen time than a page of action, for example, and it depends enormously on the literary style of the writer. Most experienced readers of screenplays can judge simply by weight and thickness whether the screenplay is 'too long' or 'too short'.
Television: The main difference for TV shows is that TV scripts have act breaks. Multi-camera sitcoms use a different, specialized format that derives from radio and the stage play. In this format, dialogue is double-spaced, action lines are capitalized, and scene headings are capitalized and underlined. The script format for documentaries and audio-visual presentations which consist largely of voice-over matched to still or moving pictures is different again and uses a two-column format which can be particularly difficult to achieve in standard word processors, at least when it comes to editing.
Physical Format: Screenplays are usually bound with a light card stock cover and back page, often showing the logo of the Production Company or agency submitting the script. Writer's scripts are usually bound in a plain red or blue cover. Increasingly, reading copies of screenplays (that is, those distributed by producers and agencies in the hope of attracting finance or talent) are distributed printed on both sides of the paper to cut down on their bulk, and occasionally they are reduced to half-size to make a small book which is convenient to read or put in a pocket. However, writers should generally submit on single sided, full sized paper and leave the way the script is reproduced up to the agency or producer.
Writing on Spec or Assignment: Screenplays can be written either on "spec" or as assignment. Assignments are commissioned by production companies or studios on the basis of pitches from producers or writers, or literary properties they already own. Most established writers do most of their work on assignment and will only "spec" scripts which they think no-one will pay them to write, or if they cannot find assignment work. An assignment may be for an original screenplay, or for a screenplay based on another work such as a novel, film, short story, magazine article, non-fiction book or, increasingly, computer game. It may also, however, be for a re-write of an existing script, and in fact this is how a large proportion of writers in the modern studio system make their living. Re-writing scripts is an art in itself, and an extremely lucrative one at that.
Re-writing is difficult because executives often have very clear ideas about what is wrong with a script; however, they are usually unable to provide detailed prescriptions for ways it can be fixed. This is not surprising, because screenwriting is not the expertise of the executive, but of the screenwriter. The writer is therefore usually expected to come up with a detailed prescription for how the script can be improved, and then execute this in a timely fashion. During the process of choosing a writer to rewrite a script the executives may ask several writers for their 'take' and choose the one who appears to have the greatest likelihood of moving the script forward to the point where it may be green lit for production.
Spec Scripts: Spec scripts (short for speculative) are written independently by screenwriters in hopes of optioning and eventually outright selling them to producers or studios. The process of 'going out', with a spec script, can be an extremely tense and nerve racking one for a writer. The agent of the writer will identify a number of prospective buyers who may range from small independent producers to executives working in the major studios, and attempt to build up 'heat' under the script. The script is sent out simultaneously to all the prospective buyers, usually to be read over the weekend, in the hope of attracting a bidding war. Within a few days it is abundantly clear whether the script is going to sell or not. If it does, the writer may receive a payment of anything from a few tens of thousands of rupees to a few lakhs. If not, the script is often dead in the water because it is now in the databases of the studios and development executives, and has been marked as having being 'passed' on.
It is almost impossible to get a studio to read a script again which they have already turned down, even if it has been entirely rewritten. A popular vignette has an executive glancing at the title, saying "I read that", and tossing it in the trash. One strategy employed by some writers when resubmitting a script is to change the title, page count and the names of the major characters so that the script is not flagged up when the database is checked. Sample scripts are not (usually) intended for production, but to showcase the writing skills of the screenwriter, in hopes of coaxing an agent to represent the screenwriter or a producer to hire the writer. Very often a spec script which fails to sell goes on to be a sample script.
The Development Process: Once a studio has purchased or commissioned a script, it goes through the process of revisions and rewriting until all stakeholders are satisfied and ready to proceed. It is not uncommon for a script to go through many, many drafts on its journey to production. Very few scripts improve steadily with each draft, and when a certain avenue has been exhausted the writer will often be replaced and another brought in to do a re-write. Occasionally it becomes impossible to satisfy all such parties, and the project enters "development hell".
The Shooting Script: A shooting script is a version of a script from which a movie is actually shot; it includes scene numbers, camera angles and certain directors' notes -- and it is generally fiercely marked up by the script supervisor and other production workers, while the writer's draft is simply the skeleton around which the production is built. Sometimes, it is far more practical and economical to shoot some scenes consecutively on the same day, even though the scenes appear in the original script far apart from each other. In doing so the producer benefits the cost savings related to renting the equipments for only a single day rather than two different days. At other times, the benefit may be that the location for the shoot is only available for a limited time in which all the scenes must be shot, even though they are not consecutive in the original script. Thus, once again, the scenes will be rearranged in the shooting script so that they may be shot consecutively on the same day. This is a main benefit of shooting scripts: they allow the best possible utilization of all available resources.
Once a script is approved for production, and pre-production begins, it is scene-numbered and page-locked. Scenes are numbered for easy reference, and page-locking allows everyone to keep the same copy of the script even if the script changes. Changes are supplied as coloured pages which people involved in production insert in their script, replacing or adding to the pages already there. Since writing often goes on even during production itself, most real shooting scripts are a rainbow of gold, pink, blue, green and other colours.
Transcripts: A screenplay is different from a transcript. A transcript is simply a copy of what dialogue finally appeared onscreen, without regard to the original script, the stage directions or action. A full post-production transcript may also include descriptions of the action on-screen, but since it is generally not written by a professional writer but either a production assistant or a fan, it may not be particularly entertaining to read. Many published screenplays available at booksellers or downloaded from the internet are in fact glorified post-production transcripts rather than shooting scripts.
A film distributor should be contacted at an early stage to assess the likely market and hence financial success of the film. Distributors will adopt a hard-headed business approach and consider factors such as: the film genre, the target audience, the historical success of similar films, the actors who might appear in the film and the potential directors of the film. All these factors imply a certain attraction of the film to a possible audience and hence the number of "bums on seats" during the theatrical release. The movie pitch is then prepared and presented to potential film financiers. If the pitch is successful and the movie is given the "green light" then financial backing is offered, typically from a major film studio, film council or independent investors. A deal is negotiated and contracts are signed.
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