Paul Chitlik. Rewrite. Studio City, Ca.: Michael Wiese Productions, 2008.
Rewriting is an important, indeed major, part of creating a screenplay. Many scripts go through ten to thirty rewrites. Many screenwriters work with other writers, producers, agents, managers, and film developers in creating revised scripts.
When rewriting, it is advised that screenwriters look to recreate dialogue that can produce a double impact upon the audience. This means the dialogue conveys both plot information as well as revealing a characteristic about the speaker.
The author explains the one rule of screenwriting is the lack of any rules. There are many guidelines and conventions, but no set rules.
Paul Chitlik recommends a screenwriter to first review the clarity of the movie’s story and how the structure of the story impacts the viewer. The three act structure is the most common structure. The story is the plot, which moves a character towards a goal while demonstrating the obstacles in reaching that goal. Most scripts start with strong characters and then demonstrate the motivation of a character towards obtaining the goal. Paul Chitlik suggests focusing first on how character is intermixed with structure.
Paul Chitlik recommends a script contain seven basic points. The first is “ordinary life”. This is what lets the audience learn the characteristics and especially the flaws of the main character.
The second point is the “inciting incident” that permanently changes the main character’s life. This event should be so major that the main character must react to it and it will create a goal that the character must seek.
The third point is the “end of act one”. This is where the character creates a plan for handling the changes and goods caused by the inciting incident. Often other events cause the character to respond and focus on the goal. The author suggests this usually happens around pages 25 and 35 of a script.
The fourth point is the “midpoint” or “turning point”. This is where the action in the script takes a sudden twist that could change the goal or allow the character to recognize a flaw. Often this is where the character realizes that needs triumphs wants.
The fifth point is the “low point”. This is where the obstacles have brought the character to that character’s low point from which obtaining the goal appears the most difficult. This is usually at the end of the second act.
The sixth point is the “final challenge” that the character must face before achieving the goal.
The seventh point is the “return to (the now-changed-forever) normal life”. This usually takes two to three pages.
Paul Chitlik recommends for a screenplay to establish who a main character is and then produce the inciting incident as quickly as possible.
Chitlik advises, while a writer is reviewing a screenplay, to consider these seven points. He then suggests determining if the story needs more balance or if there are points missing. A writer will reexamine the beatsheet or treatment and change scenes, by adding, deleting, or shifting them accordingly. Most scripts have 30 to 75 scenes.
The author recommends analyzing and improving the subplots. Then the wrier could examine ways the story could be improved upon by increasing the stakes in the need in order to reach the goal. This can be accomplished by looking at what the character is risking by not gaining the goal and discovering ways to increase the risks. The story should be examined for ways the barriers could be increased. The barriers should result from the main character’s flaws. The script should have a hero, which is the main character, solving the barriers and reaching the goals by the main character’s own actions. The hero cannot be saved by another, or else the audience will feel disappointed in the result.
Most films have one main dominant character. The main character can have a buddy. Very few successful films have an ensemble of characters with no one dominating. Paul Chitlik advises that the main aspect a story needs to learn is what this main character wants, or perhaps later discovers instead, needs. The premise, or central theme, or message has to be a correct fit for the main character. The character has to have the correct physiological, sociological, and psychological construction for that premise to work. A protagonist should be shown with an endearing quality. Characters should be multidimensional, which makes them more captivating to audiences.
Every scene should advance the story. The scenes should flow in sequence. Each scene should have its own inciting incident and turning point. Conflict should occur in each scene.
Screenplay descriptions within the script should be kept short and are written in the present tense.
The supporting characters should have their own arcs.
Screenplays should be 110 to 120 pages.
Dialogue should be suitable to each character.
After rewriting, the writer should conduct a Script Status Report. This checks the script’s premise, the main character and the main character’s goals, obstacles to the goals, the main character’s flaws that make the obstacles enormous, supporting characters and their needs, the genre, the characteristics of the protagonist, the inciting incident, the end of Act One, the midpoint, that a low point end of Act Two is reached, that a final challenge occurs, how the main character is forever changed and what in the screenplay works, what doesn’t work, and what must be changed.
A screenplay should not contain any camera directions.
A screenplay should be paced with ups and downs, scene to scene, sequence to sequence, with rising actions and rest. The rest can use comedic relief.
The first five pages of a screenplay are critical. They determine whether or not the movie will grab the audience’s attention. The last five pages are critical as they are the scene the audience will most remember.
Less than 5% of scripts sold to studios are made into movies.