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Key Concepts

Lesson 3 from: Screenwriting for Film and Television: How to Begin

Julio Vincent Gambuto

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Lesson Info

3. Key Concepts

In this lesson, we’ll focus on the key distinction between structure and formula so that you can best utilize the tools in this course.
Next Lesson: Analyzing Stories

Lesson Info

Key Concepts

Yeah. Now let's jump into some key concepts. We established the power storytelling. Now, I want you to understand some five key concepts that are at the core of writing a good script, right? Understanding that script as a tool. And as a document, the first one is structure versus formula. So what do I mean? There's a difference between structure and formula and I want you to think about it this way a formula says you have to do A. Then you have to do B then you have to do see, it has to look like this, it has to be in this quantity etcetera. A recipe is a formula, right? If you don't mix those things at those proportions and that bowl before you put it in the baking pan and at that certain temperature, you're not going to get a cake right? You can make certain adjustments and modifications obviously and bakers throughout their own touch in dot dot dot. But at its core a recipe is a formula. This is the formula to follow if you want to bake a cake structure is about structural elements,...

structure says a house is made up of a door, so you can get in it a window, so you can get light in a roof so you don't get rained on and you can put those structural elements anywhere you want to make a house. So you've got Gothic architecture, Tudor architecture, modern architecture. These all look really different. A center hall, colonial looks different than an apartment building. They're all dwellings. They're all houses really right, but they use their structural elements differently. So today and you know, as we move forward, we're gonna talk about structural fundamentals of storytelling and screenplays. And it's important to remember that all the things that I'm communicating to you our structure, you don't have to introduce your setting first and then go to your hero in the second scene. In fact, some movies wait and hold that to reveal who your main character is, right? You can move these things around and that's where you come in. That's where your personal creativity comes in. That's where your writer's voice comes in. How do you want to use these structural elements? So once you understand that as a concept, there's a difference between structure and formula. Screenwriting is not paint by numbers. It's an art, right? And I want you to understand the structural elements which we'll get into secondly, the script as a blueprint. You know, it's really so there's a W. G. A library in Los Angeles is an incredible resource for those of you who are on the west Coast. And it's a library that you can go to the writers guild of America and anyone can sign in. You don't have to be a member. And it's the most beautiful cool place in the world because you go in and you have to check your backpack in a locker and you can bring your laptop if you want. And it's super quiet and then you can look up any movie or tv show ever made. And the librarian will bring you the script, it's gorgeous. It's really fun and I highly recommend it if you're nearby. But um reading and sitting around reading a screenplay is wonderful and it can be joyful and it can be engaging and it can be captivating and it should be all of those things. But it is a blueprint for something else right? It is a technical draft like an architect for the other thing you're gonna build which is a Tv show or a film. So you've got to think of your script as a real blueprint for that right? For the movie it's not just about sitting around reading it and enjoying it and then putting it away. It's not a book, it's an active working production document. So let's take a look at this. I want to show this is a scene from a movie that I'm writing right now. Um and I want to walk through it that you can sort of see what I'm talking about. This is a document which is a blueprint for how the movie is to be made. Right? So interior, like a weatherman on this green screen interior Freddie's bedroom interior says to our production team this is going to be an interior space. I'm gonna call it Freddie's bedroom. And then I'm gonna say what time of day it occurs, right? That's information for the entire production team. The set designer, the production designer, uh the cinematographer has to know that it's day we have to know it's an interior space for the A. D. The assistant director to schedule it. There's an incredible amount of information in just that Slugline it's called the Slugline. That top line there a crystal heart pendant sits in a heart shaped box. Now I capitalized crystal heart pendant because it's super important. It's the first image that the movie opens on. This is a movie about heartbreak. And so I believe you want your first image to be really representative of the theme of the movie. So this opens on a crystal heart pendant. The movie is about love. Okay, so a crystal heart pendant capitalized because it's important and because it's the first image you see sits in a heart shaped box. Why does it need to be a heart shaped box? Because the production designer, their team, the art team needs to know what kind of box to put it in. Right? The director might see this and say I don't want a heart shaped box. I want a square box, that's fine. But the writer is painting images in your head as you read and giving a blueprint to a production team to go make this movie. It sparkles catching the light perfectly. Who needs that information? The cinematographer right? This thing needs to sparkle and obviously the director is going to direct the cinematographer to do that but you're painting the picture for your audience who's reading it and then you're using it as a blueprint for actually making that moment happen on screen Freddy main character protagonist. He's the first one that may meet. We don't necessarily know that he's the protagonist the way that this is written. But since he's the first person we meet in the movie, our brain says I should pay attention to this guy. I always put the age in parentheses there some people do it with commas Either way always capitalize a character when you introduce them acute high school sophomore cute high school sophomore information for casting in the requisite cool high school jacket information for your wardrobe team closes the box and heads to the door information for the actor. Where should I move now? You don't want to do too much directing on the page, right? You don't want to say like cut to this. The angle moves here, then we go wide. Those are a lot of jargon which are obviously super important and meaningful. But when you're reading that document, you don't want to be the director, you're the writer, tell the story and images don't do the job of the director. The director will read this and he'll know or she'll know the angles that they need but make sure that your writing is at least laying the groundwork for them to do that work heads to the door and oversized bouquet of flowers in his hand. Production design team prop team needs to know that they need an oversized bouquet of flowers, plus all of these things are clearly images in your head, right? You see the crystal heart pendant, you see the jacket he has on, you know what cute high school sophomore looks like in your brain, your version of it. You understand the box, you understand the bouquet of flowers, right? We're painting images and then we're using it as a blueprint to go make it Freddie in voiceover. You hear his voice? I've always been a fan of love, Freddy stops at the mirror where he fixes his hair, toss toss, you could even say that I'm super in love with love etcetera etcetera. Back to my point, it's a blueprint, third key concept film versus tv. Now we're gonna dive into this a little bit more in our tv section, but a proposal of the conversation, we just had us with respect to the medium. I want you to think hard about whether you're writing a film, show, a film or a tv show. They have different formats in the actual script. So in this class we're going to talk primarily about the film format, but um, I can provide some examples and you'll have some examples on your bonus materials of sample tv scripts. The thing to keep in mind too, is that when you're writing a film script and pitching a film script, the script, which is called a spec script. If no one's paid you to write it, it's called Spec or Speculative that spec script and maybe a power point presentation about the movie and what it might look like or the package that you would pitch with right? You go to production companies, you go to studios, you walk in the room and say I have a movie. This is what it looks and feels like and what it's about. And here's the script with a Tv show. You've got to have those pitch materials lined up as a power point which basically outlines the Tv show. And I can give you some examples of that too. Plus the pilot script and then what's called a show bible. The show bible really lays out, okay what's gonna happen in episode +23456789 10. What's gonna happen in season +2345 how do I as a Tv network engage and invest and um and get hooked on this story. Doesn't have legs. Is it going to last for five seasons on on television and four concept for Movies and TV are emotional experiences right? In two ways your characters are having an emotional experiences and the audience therefore has an emotional experience. Now you've got some film and TV which lays hard into one emotion. This movie is all about despair. This movie is all about sadness and it's 90 minutes of sadness. Well the writer chose the emotion, the director chose that emotion along with them or her and they made a movie about sadness or you've got other movies where you see the characters go through a range of emotions, right? The clearer you are about the emotions that the character is experiencing, the more clarity you can give to the reader and ultimately the viewer about the emotions that wink, wink he or she should feel as well. So you're creating a document. That's the technical document, right? To go shoot a movie. But it also is an emotional document because you are charting and following the emotional journey of your character or characters. And um, and don't forget that, right. Make sure, you know, the difference between depressed and upset choose your words wisely. You always want to progress those emotions as well. And we'll talk more about that in the emotion section. But just know that the script itself is an emotional experience that your readers gonna have and ultimately that your audience is going to have. And five the key concept, this is a reflection of you. If you want your writing to stand out. If you want your writing to jump off the page. If you want an executive to pick it up and say, we've got to make this, we've got to buy this. We've got to make sure that this goes on the screen. It's got to be a reflection of you stop writing other people's stories, right? I was in film school with a guy who kept writing rape stories. He's never been raped. He's never known anyone who's been raped. He has no experience of this event at all. Why is he the expert on this subject matter? And I don't mean to be too sensitive, but this is a real person who was really struggling with all of his stories. Were about this, write what, you know, you've heard that adage all the time, right? In the voices. You hear the voices, you know, well, write about the things that matter to you. The more that script is a reflection of you as a human being and you as a writer, the more you're gonna stand out.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Case Study Films
Story Analysis Template.xlsx
Sample TV Scripts
Story Design Worksheet
Story Fundamentals Worksheet
Seed to Script Process

Ratings and Reviews

Carlos Sandoval

Just a great way to start on your path to screenwriting. A clear and concise class with a friendly tone and humor. I think it is important that a teacher has actually worked in the field. Kudos.


Perfect for a beginner or actors who need a better understanding of what is and why is. Info packed and FUN too!

Asem Nurkina

I took this class last year. And after one year of working with presented tools (story design worksheet, story fundamentals workseet, seed to script process) on different projects I can say that it is very powerful and useful course I ever taken. I can strongly recommend this detailed screenwriting guidance by Julio Vincent Gambuto.

Student Work