Peter Langmead's Blog

Film Director, Screenwriter, Composer, Steadicam operator, Social Documentary Photographer. My latest film is The Borderline, released on December 4, 2019.

Writing Film Scripts 9: Facts of the Matter

Watch lots of films that you like and imitate them. Watch them twice or even three times. Figure out what the films are about and write it down. Look for and note down the inciting incidents and when they happen; find and note the nature of the transitions at end of the first and second acts. Or does it have five acts? Find the midpoint and note the winds of change in story direction. Watching one film once is not watching films. Look for events and observe characters and put them in your film. Do not copy dialogue unless its in the public domain and used as irony, “I’ll be back” famously from Terminator.

Harry Hama, played by Mumba Dixon, with the body and a witness Harry Hama with a witness and body, from 'The Borderline'.

If you are foolishly determined not to read any books on screenwriting, and many are appalling, you will have to do it by watching films. Keep watching. 120 pages is a long way and your first script may take one to two years if it is finished at all. In the first part of these articles I told you it will take about three months to write a film script, and the best way is to sit down, eight hours-a-day and get it done. If you do not do it like this, you may never finish, and you may waste two years of your life doing something you cannot do.

You might as well come out of it with by-products: you should learn to type properly, even if you are a man. Your reading and writing skills will improve just by reading and writing a lot. Even journalists when they emerge from college often cannot read well, write at all and certainly cannot type. Why do you think you are going to sell your first script at all, let alone for your first fortune? Callie Khouri is a legend in screenwriting because, not only did she sell her first script, she also sold to a great film director, Ridley Scott, who then made a great film from it, also not guaranteed.

What is a great film? If you are writing scripts, write to your favourite genre, because you will get it right. In writing, they always say, write what you know about. If you do not know what you are talking about, you can always be a prime minister or president, but if you write, write what you know!

I am formally educated in this business so I know the directors that I am meant to put on my list, like Bresson, Eisenstein, Hitchcock and the flavour-of-the-year greats like Scorsese, Spielberg, Lynch, Nolan and Fincher, and I enjoy some of their films; but I am old enough to know some of this is politics.

A great film is in the eye of the beholder and popularism delivers a competent film because of the money and will continue to do so. Apart from me, the other underrated filmmaker is Guy Richie, who is different from the rest. If you want to sell your script, write in your preferred genre and then sell it to actors and producers of that genre. You can do all the other stuff as well, scriptwriting competitions, circulate to agents, film festivals, but direct sell it to the people who care. Do not think you can reinvent a genre.

Best regards,

Peter Langmead

P.S. Please have a look at my website here, for all sorts of interesting things about my film productions, operas and books on social photography. Remember, if there is no spit on the lens, you are not close enough - I do not know who said that but it is true. Write to me if you have a question.

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The Next Movie

The script is prepared for my next movie and pre-production is in progress. This is the most time-consuming part of filmmaking and production is expected to begin at the end of the year,