The Secret Script Writing Formula

The formula for writing a blockbuster movie is quite simple. Your script must be 106 pages long.; it must involve spaceships and trucks that turn into robots. Your script must contain not one but two cross-dressing roles for Adam Sandler and/or Eddie Murphy, and most importantly, on page 47, there must either be a kiss with a vampire and/or an attack on a Soviet nuclear installation!

Follow these guidelines, and you are guaranteed to write a script that makes you money. What's that? Ridiculous, you say. Well, of course, but is it any more ridiculous to write a script according to a 5 act formula created back when Star Wars was released or plot your story with an 87-Part B cheat matrix?

The real secret to writing a screenplay is to stop looking for a secret, a quick fix, a shortcut, or a paradigm. A paradigm is an example serving as a model or pattern, but here's the thing about patterns. Artists rarely use them in the act of creation.

It's only later, when the buzz wears off, and the hangover starts, that critics look at work and say, 'Oh, he's using the old 12-act midpoint Joseph Campbell mythic structure'. They need to include the most fundamental point, cover bands do not rock the world.

Do you know anything about jazz? I'm not a huge jazz fan but with enough red wine, I can get in the mood. Anyway, here's the thing about jazz. If you can play the notes perfectly to a song just like Miles or Monk or Chet Baker, if you can master the form as the Greats did you can end up with a gig at the Tucson Ramada on a Thursday night.

If you can build on what came before you and create something new, something nobody has ever seen or heard of, you can change the world. You can create a new paradigm. So the number one secret to writing a screenplay that doesn't suck will make you money and totally Rock the movie business is this.

Don't worry about secrets; worry about creating interesting characters. Make characters that only you can dream up and put them in impossible situations. Focus on something other than your act to the midpoint, and your act breaks. Think about what really makes you mad and upset. What would you be willing to die for or maybe kill for?

Write about that. Trust me, there's absolute gold there. Now I know what you're saying. This all sounds really nice but what about the structure? What about outlining? What about rising action and plot points?

Okay, here's the best secret I know about that stuff. This is all the structure you really need. Your screenplay needs somebody who must do something they really don't want to do, or else something bad will happen.

So now they have to do something, and it must be the last thing they ever want to do. They only do it because they fear that if they don't do it , something terrible will happen, which will be much worse.

Now somebody told me I have to eat chips and salsa every day for a month, or the Russian mob will kill me, that would not be very hard. First of all, I love chips and salsa. Let's say that the same.

Russian mob says, 'we need you to rob the 7-eleven down the street or we'll kill you'.
This would be a tough choice.

This is a dilemma, and the more difficult you can make the dilemma on your character, the more interested the viewer will be. If you keep working at it, eventually, all the act breaks and plot points you freaked out about will take care of themselves. You've got to have that simple form. You have to have that foundation.

Here's an example. An insurance adjuster is a very conservative guy and the last thing he would ever want to do is shave his head and go to a punk rock festival. That'd be the last thing that he would ever do but what if he did it to find his runaway daughter? Now we're getting somewhere.

Now it's a story; we could play this as a 7th heaven-type family comedy. We could play it as a dark David Fincher-type thriller. We could do it as a musical. The genre doesn't matter. What matters is we have this impossible situation. You could spend a Saturday at Starbucks and in two hours come up with a competent act breakdown of this punk rock dad script.

You could do it because you have a foundation. You must have that foundation. The foundation is that somebody has to do with something they really don't want to do, or a bad thing will happen. That's the formula. You don't need a 7-act, or a 5 act, or a 3-act structure.

You just have to have the basic structure of somebody pushing beyond their comfort zone. There's nothing more attractive to us as viewers to see somebody push themselves past their old. limitations