How do words in a screenplay become a film?

Why exactly is screenwriting such an important part of the process of film-making?


Some argue that the backbone of movies is the script. After all, it’s the beginning foundation for the long road ahead of turning it into a silver screen picture. Screenplays follow a very distinct and often firmly held format. The iconic courier font, and distinct indentation and spacing style make for a very straightforward read. But why exactly is screenwriting such an important part of the process of film-making?

There is a very interesting cyclical process that a film undergoes through its various stages of production. Often, a film begins as a vision within the mind of the screenwriter, director, producer, or some combination of those. This vision consists of some solid visual images and elements correlated with a story. Then, spurred by the interest of this story, the person goes on to translate these images into words- a screenplay. Then, these words are translated back into images by means of small pictorial sketches called storyboards, or any other pre-production illustrations. After that, the storyboards are transformed once again into words by means of shot list. Then, this shot list is used to convert the words back into images on the set, where they are finally captured. The hope of the filmmakers throughout all of this is to maintain the power of the images and story intended at the beginning, to keep that clicking energy that made them fall in love with the story in the first place. I feel that most stories, and films for that matter, begin with very good intention, but are not translated well through these many processes. The filmmakers may begin to see this, and just fill in the cracks with old conventions.

Dispute among writers and directors exists about how rigidly the film must stay to the script. Debates over the importance of spontaneity and improvisation arise, as well as arguments over intention and credit. It has been my observation that writers are often the most under-appreciated of the main creators of film. Because of this, their deprecated value has caused the value of good, original writing to decrease. Sure, some films don’t really need much writing, like a major action film. Though the bulk of creation happens on a sound stage, it still takes good writing to deal with pacing, structure, and the characters within. Then again, why are most major movie scripts available easily and free online? Because the studios known that those don’t satisfy like a good movie does, so there is still some interesting dissidence between the two.

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Pay attention to the dialogue within a film- often the first few lines are the most meticulously written. Good writing is veiled; its beauty weaves the story quietly while you watch. Usually, people notice the script when it is bad, when its jarring unauthentic words jumps out of the mouths of the actors like rocks, awkwardly pelting your ears. This is why writing, though mostly unsung, must remain the less known of the cinematic arts, to prolong the way a screenplay silently makes a film what it is.


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