Screenplay Operation and Control

Creative Commons Image on Flickr by mikesaidso

Just creating amazing characters in a memorable world who are struggling to obtain a goal(s) and writing the story with an original voicestill isn’t enough to start a screenplay. A novel, maybe, but not a script. The prose writer has freedom to use anything, go anywhere, use any tense, and explore any point of view. The screenwriter, however, is bound by form – not formula.

Screenplays have a very specific form, and if you ignore that form, it will not serve you, your story, or your audience, and it will definitely not help your screenplay. In fact, disregarding form will inevitably snuff out your script. And it will be a slow, painful death, essentially guiding the reader not to read.

So what’s the lesson learned? If you’re going to do something, do it right. Screenplay form is distinct and precise, and a script lacking this form almost always finds a home… right in the trash. 

Screenwriting is essentially filmmaking on paper. It is a visual storytelling after all, and the screenwriter must write in PRESENT TENSE – only what the audience can SEE and HEAR. The screenwriter must always use the Three C’s: being CLEAR and CONCISE, yet still CREATIVE. Both in description and dialogue, creative brevity is the screenwriter’s steadfast ally and most powerful weapon.

The screenwriter does not have time to explore the story through long-winded, soul searching monologues, and the script can’t be bogged down with the subtle intricacies of every little detail. There is no time for that, and the screenwriter must be concerned with time – Always! When writing a script, you only have between 90 and 120 minutes to tell your story. That’s not a lot of time, so script economy becomes something the screenwriter must strive for. If it does not illustrate character or moving the story forward, kill it.

In this section, you will learn how to be more economical with your scenes as well as to avoid common pitfalls such as directing on the page. You will see the importance of the white space, learning to steer away from “I” pages and block pages. And detailed templates for film features, TV dramas, and sitcoms are provided to help you demonstrate the practical use of the many different elements of proper screenplay form. –

Terms and Concepts


  1. Create a  blog post titled, Screenwriting Operation and Control
    • Create headings for:
      • Summary
      • Timeline
      • Project Skills Evidence
      • What I Learned
  2. Create a blog post Character Archetypes
  3. Create a blog post Trope Talk
  4. Create a blog post What is Arch Plot and Classic Design?
  5. Create a blog post titled Every Story is The Same
  6. Create a blog post titled Screenplay and Story Form
  7. Create a blog post titled Screenplay Structure: The Five Plot Points
  8. Create a blog post titled Screenplay Structure: Sequences
  9. Create a  blog post titled Script Tip: Five Essential Elements
  10. Create a blog post titled Script Tip: Creating An Unforgettable Protagonist
  11. Create a blog post titled The Dark Knight — Creating the Ultimate Antagonist
  12. Create a blog post titled American Beauty – The Art of Character
  13. Create a blog post titled American Beauty (Part 2) — The Missing 27 Pages
  14. Create a blog post titled Whiplash vs. Black Swan — The Anatomy of the Obsessed Artist
  15. Create a blog post titled What Makes A Good Story?
  16. Review formatting for a script
  17. Watch an overview of Adobe Story – Writing a Simple Script – Free Version
  18. Write a script for a film about basic story structure operations include all terms and concepts to be included in your short film
    • The point of the film is to demonstrate what you have learned about blocking operations as a reference for yourself in your blog
  19. Mark the screenplay
  20. Storyboard each shot
    • Storyboard template
  21. Block each shot
  22. Create the shot list for the project
  23. Create an equipment list
  24. Practice each shot, update script, as needed
  25. Gather equipment; camera, lens, shotgun mic, lights, bounce, diffuser, etc.
  26. Create a shot log
  27. Shoot each scene
  28. Catalog shots
  29. Edit shots in Adobe Premiere



  • Adobe Story
    • This tool with guide you through the screenplay development process and has extra features for commenting and collaboration
  • (Free)
    • This program also manages the whole film making process, including screenplay development
      • Each person on the production team tracks their work within the system so the producer can manage the project
  • Free Word Document for two column AV format

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