What Makes A Great Script

Indie Tips via Indie Film Club Miami

images-1A wise professor once told me when making a film, you can take risks on one of these three elements: the director, the script, or the cast. The other two elements should be solid.

Here is Indie Film Club’s advice on how to make a solid script!

1. Create a well-developed protagonist with a goal.


When making narrative films, the protagonist is the engine in which the greater message of the film is channelled through. The protagonist does not always have to be so clear if it supports the themes of the film, and it does not always have to be one person. However, audiences are always going to look for that one person to relate or root for; the guiding post for the world in which you create on screen.

The basis of human suffering and happiness is mostly desire; suffering from not getting what we want in life, and ecstatic happiness when we do. The character must learn the price in acquiring their sought after desires, because such is life. Spend some time exploring the protagonist’s entire psychology, physicality, and the reason for their desires. Draw them, sculpt them, make them as real to you as possible so once you sit down and write their story, you can encapsulate their entire being and motivation genuinely and fruitfully.

2. Create a compelling obstacle to achieve said goal.


The basis of every story is the protagonist overcoming some adversity or challenge to their life, well-being, community, etc. The obstacle does not always have to be some grandiose affair, it could be something as simple as getting to work on time, but the journey in which the character either conquers or is defeated by the obstacle must unveil the hidden truths behind the character’s psyche, which sometimes may require the character to abandon the initial goal entirely and instead of pursuing what they want, they get what they really need in life.

Thusly, the movie is able to breach into the human subconscious because through their decisions, we get a greater understanding of human desire and motive in which everyone can tap into on a personal level, and that is what is going to keep people enthralled in seeing your character fail or succeed.

3. Establish antagonizing forces.


The antagonizing forces can be embodied through a single antagonizing character, an internal idea, a body, an institution, etc. This is the force in which the main character experiences growth and change, a pivotal step to overcoming the obstacle in place. It is more often than not something in which the character lacks or is afraid of, so by facing it head on and being open to change from their initial ways, the climax of the film is reached.

4. Climax & Resolution


The climax is the “fight or flight” response from the character. Are they going to fight their antagonist and succeed? Or are the going to fly from the challenges placed by the antagonist and fail to change? The range in which this can fall into goes from the classical notion of the character living or dying to the more modern notion of the character finding or failing to find purpose in life.

5. Your Personal Touch


These are just the building blocks. By subverting or manipulating one or more of these elements to fit the story is what can bring your script from just “okay” to something really worth reading. Every story is a quest to find meaning in life and within ourselves, it is the way in which you craft this quest and subvert our expectations that forges an audience to ask themselves the same questions posited in the film.

6. Get to Writing!

Want to practice writing a script first hand? Sign up for our SCREENWRITING LAB here.

IFCM’s Screenwriters lab is a three month program that takes place on the first and third Tuesday of each month and is designed to assist screenwriters to discover their voice, improve their craft in screenwriting and enable them to complete their scripts. During the lab, the screenwriters are mentored and coached by the Miami Dade instructor Rolando Viñas, as well as receiving feedback from their fellow writers.