What makes a screenplay stand out?
If you're writing a spec screenplay, what makes it stand out?
Following the formula of the hero's journey or the three-act structure, using a software program to make sure your formatting is correct, and having a script that's the right length are important, but they're just enough to help your script avoid standing out for the wrong reasons.
To stand out for the right reasons, your script has to offer something extraordinary. Here is what Tim Bevan, co-chairman and co-founder of Working Title Films said at a recent interview at the BFI: "Be bold...It's better to fail triumphantly than to be boring. I don't want to see bland movies."
What makes it a bold screenplay?
There are a number of elements that can make a script reader sit up and take notice:
- A topic we haven't seen before, or not often. Example: The Danish Girl
- A new angle on a familiar story. Example: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
- An innovative style of storytelling: Example: Boyhood
Often, we censor ourselves when we think of something different. It seems too risky to try something that hasn't been done or is out of the ordinary. Ironically, those are exactly the elements that might give us the attention a more run-of-the-mill script will not win.
The downside of bold scripts
Bold scripts often don't sell right away, because the uniqueness that may scare you can also scare potential buyers. However, often those people will recognize your talent and will ask you to adapt a novel they own, develop a story for which they don't have a writer, or serve as a script doctor. That can be a great start to your career, even if it doesn't lead to a quick sale.