“Writing Movies and Documentaries, 101”

The Sand Creek Massacre Movie Poster

Writing of any form requires
study and research. The strength
of any type of writing resides in
the application of what one learns
and research, and then, applies it
by writing, writing, and more writing.
Each time one writes something, they
become a better writer.

It is rare a writer is hired to write a
documentary film. Many documentary films
do not have a script. Those that do, are
usually written by the director/producer
of the film. If a documentary script is written,
then you must write a double column script.

In a double column script you write the
visuals/images in the left column and the
audio/sound in the right column. While
the double-column script can help nail
down the exact shots blended with the
sound, the downside is that it places the
filmmaker in a corner. This corner is
a place that can limit the filmmaker’s
creativity, and virtually eliminate a cinema
verite approach to making documentaries.

As for feature films, short films, etc., one
can learn how to write screenplays through a
variety of ways. No approach to learning how
to write screenplays is inscribed in marble. It
is dependent upon the individual writer. Some take
screenwriting classes. Others study screenwriting
books. Some work with a script consultant until
they have their screenplay market ready. And others
wing it. And still others, utilize a combination of all
of the above.

You can determine what works best for you by knowing
who you are, how you best learn, why you want to write
documentaries, features, etc., and what audience you
want to attract with your work, and why. Answering
these questions will give you insight into what to
write and the approach to take in order how to learn
to write. That is the Zen of Writing.

The fine point of it is if you want to write movies
and/or documentaries, be sure you utilize more
than your passion for the subject matter unless
you are writing, simply, for the joy of writing.
Study and research Hollywood box hits. Study
and research successful documentary films.
Make certain you know, before you begin
writing, what you need to do in order to
write a successful script. Otherwise, you
will enter the world of writer who jumps
in with both feet without being aware of
what the reality of the business. In turn, this
can cause you to go on a journey into
insanity.

Donald L. Vasicek
Writer/Filmmaker/Consultant
Olympus Films+, LLC
http://www.donvasicek.com
dvasicek@earthlink.net