Expert Advice Before Your First Time Screenwriting

Welcome to the #365Firsts Podcast and the Expert Advice Before Your First Time Series. The show aims to encourage, prepare, and inspire you to do things you’ve never done before and complete your #365FirstsChallenge list. 

In each episode of this series, we give you tips and advice to set you up for success, for specific firsts and new experiences. The guests and topics are as varied as the options and possibilities of new experiences. 

Whether you’re trying to learn a new skill, improve your health and happiness, work on your self-development, add excitement and adventure to your life, or simply have first times, you’re going to love our podcast.

In This Episode

Now that many of us are working from home, quarantined, and finding ourselves with a lot more time on our hands, quite a few people are watching a lot more movies, and getting the right training they’ve been looking for to write their first screenplay. Are you watching movies thinking…I could’ve come up with that? Or have you always been interested in eventually writing a screenplay?

There’s no time like the present. Especially when creative cogs are starting to turn and you’re seeing your opportunity to work on your creative projects and endeavors – and here at the #365Firsts Podcast, we’re all about helping you do that.

Writing a screenplay might seem like an overwhelming task, especially if you’ve not done it before. It can be hard to know where to start, or how to measure your success. But, with careful planning, patience, and a helpful dose of advice from today’s incredible guest expert, you’ll be on your way to finishing your first screenplay before you know it. 

The Guest Expert

Today, we’re lucky to be joined by Naomi Beaty. Naomi is a professional screenwriter and story consultant, who works with writers, producers and directors of all levels on their intriguing film and TV projects. She has read thousands of scripts, and worked with hundreds of writers throughout her career so far. 

Naomi started off working as a junior development executive, at Madonna and Guy Oseary’s Maverick Films company. Nowadays, she uses her talents to work as a consultant and as a teacher to help others with their projects.

She created the ‘Ideas to Outline’ workshop, and teaches story structure workshops for Save the Cat. Naomi also guest lectures on all things screenwriting and story related for schools and different organizations all across the United States. 

As you can see, she has a wealth of experience in this sector, and plenty of fantastic information to share with those of us who are looking to write a screenplay for the first time.

What You Need To Know About Writing A Screenplay For The First Time

Naomi started off the episode by describing how her first screenplay writing experience was a great learning experience – but noted that not much came out of it other than that. She was inspired by her work in LA, as she was constantly reading scripts and seeing movies come into fruition so she worked with a friend to produce her first comedy script. 

What Type of Story to Tell

To begin with, Naomi looked at how to spot whether an idea is going to be good as a screenplay. She noted the importance of focal characters, a journey with oppositions and a closed ending – similar to the Hero’s Journey concept. When picking a journey and a goal for characters, Naomi mentioned making sure there were lengthy problems to solve, albeit, within an hour and a half or so.

When starting out with an idea, Naomi said clearly identifying your protagonist, antagonist, goal and oppositions is a great place to start. You can then build your story up around these facts and characters.

Naomi noted nothing is 100% unique anymore, and people should try not to get discouraged if they feel their idea is not completely individual. Many people like to see the same style of stories in different formats, so it’s okay to take inspiration from others. Inspiration is absolutely different from directly taking ideas, though. 

The Mechanics and Structure of a Screenplay

In terms of structure and planning, Naomi advised people should try reading screenplays to get a feel for the format whenever possible, although, they can seem very undetailed and barren when reading them at first. There are plenty of books on how to write screenplays, of course, but they can be quite technical. Ultimately, Naomi made it clear and kept stating that the best way to learn about movies is by watching them.

Naomi acknowledged there are some challenges when it comes to writing screenplays. One of the main issues people have to overcome is having to be economical with their words, as there simply is not room for flowery language. It can be a difficult type of writing, and is often compared more to poetry as you have to be able to convey a lot in a little. 

Generally speaking, screenplays are no longer than 120 pages and Naomi advised sticking to the 90-120 range for pages. The industry standard is roughly 85-105 pages, which makes setting the target of 100 pages for newer writers, a worthwhile goal. 

The Process of Writing your First Screenplay

When you start writing on a project, this is where your enthusiasm will be at its highest. Naomi encouraged people to try and capture this wherever possible, and compared it to capturing the DNA of your enthusiasm. Some techniques include making mood boards, movie posters or even writing letters about the idea to yourself. 

In terms of setting yourself deadlines, Naomi advised people to focus on trying to at least finish a draft. However, she also acknowledged that the writing process is much more of a marathon than a sprint, and that having milestones (including breaks) is very positive. Having a reward at each milestone is quite important as well.

Something Naomi mentioned considering is to keep your work to yourself, in order to protect your enthusiasm, ego and overall happiness. Naomi noted that collaborative groups and workshops can be handy, but it can hinder a lot of people. For example, getting feedback on every 5 pages can make the whole process feel demotivating and lengthy.

However, getting feedback on the outline phase is very important. It helps to pick out any problem areas, holes in your plot – it saves you time overall and can serve to find any potential topics or changes to add-in before you start writing. 

Why Write Your First Screenplay

Naomi then went on to discuss why people write screenplays, and noted that different people will have different reasons for writing which all become apparent when reading the work. Some people write for cathartic purposes and some write because they love to create, for example. 

Naomi discussed how she rarely ever sees a screenplay which she outright disagrees with, or one that she thinks can’t be made into a movie. This is encouraging to hear. Even if nothing ends up happening with a screenplay commercially, writing can be an absolutely powerful and healing process. It can give you a huge appreciation for the movie industry, as well. 

Overall, if you’re thinking about writing a screenplay then simply get started on writing it. Commit to finishing your screenplay draft, and then reflect on what you’ve learned from it. Writing can be a wonderfully educational journey, and with Naomi’s advice here, you’re sure to succeed.

Get In Touch With Naomi 

It was great to speak with Naomi about her work, and to record such an inspiring episode with her. You can find her website at www.writeandco.com, and social media links here;

If you want to reach out to her and learn more about what she does, we’re sure that she would be more than happy to speak with you.

How To Reach Us

We’re driven by our community, and are always trying to put out new pieces of content to meet their needs wherever possible. If you’ve got any feedback or suggestions on what we could do with our show to make it better, we’d be more than happy to hear from you. 

Is there something in particular that you want advice on? Are there things that you think we could be doing better as a team? Please feel free to get in touch with a member of our team at contact@365firstschallenge.com today.

What’s Coming Up Next Time?

New episodes of Expert Advice Before Your First Time are released every Thursday, and we’ve got a wonderful roster of guests lined up to give you more expert advice. 

Our next episode will be coming out on the 9th of April, and we’ll be discussingFeng Shui with expert Candice Berlanga, After that on the 16th, we’ll be discussing what you need to know about homebrewing beer with Gary Grass.

You can listen and subscribe on Apple, Google, or Spotify. While you’re there – please leave a review if you can. It really does help us with our work, and every single review is appreciated .

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