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Film Outlines

How to write a film outline

Your outline will consist of about 50 - 100 lines, each of which describe the particular scenes within your script. While an outline is often not as long as a treatment, it is a very good thing to create before you start writing your script. This is because while the treatment provides a great opportunity to talk about the general ideas, settings and characters in an easy to read format, the outline on the other hand, is a little more technical and will allow you to see the story you are creating scene by scene. In an outline you don't need to include each small scene, but you will use your outline to identify the larger scenes. For example look at the following outline.

Location: Bedroom - Establish the relationship of young daughter and mother
Location: School - Show daughter's dialogue about her mothers lack of care
Location: Party - Establish shots that show the young girl's mother being irresponsible and partying late while her daughter is home alone.

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Message by: Lights Film School
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As you can see, if you described your larger scenes in this format it would be much easier to create your script. This allows you to analyze each scene and how they connect to each other before you start writing the dialogue.

An outline is a 1-2 page, point form snap-shot of your screenplay and can help ensure your screenplay is cohesive and logical. Changing around the items in your outline is much easier to do than changing around entire scenes in the actual script.

As an amateur screenwriter you must create both a treatment and an outline. The reason being that poor organization is one of the primary causes for screenplays to fail. Often, beginner writers will go off on tangents and will lead their readers along pointless or dead end adventures that don't pull the story forward according to the overall goal / concept of the film.

There are no hard and fast rules for the number of scenes in a film but a good guideline to keep in mind is that each page of your screenplay represents about 1 minute of footage and scenes should be approximately 2 pages each. If you're film is going to be 90 minutes long then you'll have about 45 different scenes. Again, this is just to be used as a guideline. Some of your scenes may be longer and some shorter.

Many new filmmakers want a set of mechanical guidelines (i.e. how many scenes per film, how long should each shot be etc). These mechanical rules simply do not exist. We will try our best to provide "ranges" for you but remember, filmmaking is an art and you'll have a lot of freedom to experiment.
 

Continue Below...

Film Ideas
Film Treatments
Film Outlines
Using Index Cards
The 3 Act Structure
The Beginning
The Middle & End
How to create subplots

 

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