Every film starts with a script. While there are some exceptions to this rule, the vast majority of films start with a screenplay. Whether you are a writer-director or a director in search of a script, choosing the right screenplay is your first step toward making a successful film.
Chances are if you are looking to shoot an independent film, you are working with a very limited budget. While this isn’t always the case, your film’s budget does have an impact on the types of stories you are able to tell well. This is the key to choosing or writing the script that will become your feature film. While big-budgeted Hollywood films can rely on special effects and expensive stars to sell their products, you must rely on a story and your abilities to tell that story. Working with a limited budget is not a limitation on your ability to tell a story, but rather, it does limit the types of stories you can effectively tell. This means a focus on story as opposed to spectacle. This also means focusing on those things that you can do well, and these elements must be present in the script you choose to shoot.
Ideal low-budget scripts feature many similar characteristics. They tend to be story-driven character pieces. Action scripts, laden with special effects are difficult to shoot for most low budget filmmakers. Hollywood just does these better than just about any place on Earth. Stunts and explosions are expensive to shoot, requiring multiple cameras or CG effects that are just out of range for most low budget films, and an ideal low budget script should keep these elements to a minimum. This doesn’t mean they should be avoided entirely, but just avoid anything that will end up looking cheesy on the screen.
An ideal script will have a limited number of locations. The fewer locations that need to be prepped, the better. This doesn’t mean that the script should have long sequences in the same location, but rather that the same locations should be spread throughout the production. This will give the completed film the feeling of having a bigger budget than it actually does.
Another aspect of an ideal low budget script is that it should limit the number of scenes that take place in a moving car. These scenes are difficult to rig and difficult to fake convincingly. If you do have a number of scenes in moving vehicles, set them at night, which is easier to simulate, or make the moving sequences MOS.
For any script to become a success has to be made with open heart and mind where the characters have to be fleshed out in such a way that the actors on screen do complete justice to them. Also the character development has to be the basic premise for the main protagonists so that the audience identify themselves with him and make it a hit, so much so that people frequent the site Watch 123movies for repeated viewings.
The ideal script should have a strong story hook. You are relying on your ability to tell an intriguing story to sell your movie. His puts added pressure on every aspect of the story, but none more that the concept and hook of your script. Does this script engage the audience right from the opening frame then keep the audience going along just on the strength of the story alone? If so, you may have found the idea script.
The script should not call for a lot of weather effects. Rain and snow are expensive to duplicate effectively. Although you can achieve these effects if the characters are not exposed to these elements, try not to make them integral to the story. The idea here is what can I do onscreen that will rival anything Hollywood can do. It is better to limit what you do in the script to what you can do well, then to try to achieve story elements that you can’t pull off convincingly.
The ideal script should have strong, vibrant and identifiable characters. We don’t have to like these characters, but we must be able to empathize with them. When writing or reading the script you want to shoot, ask your self who the audience will root for. Even in the darkest of stories, there is usually one character the audience can latch onto. If your script does not have this, pick a different script.
An ideal script will have a limited number of characters and extras. Scenes with crowds tend to be problematic. The extras need to be fed, corralled, paid, etc.. all of which costs you money. In addition, big ensemble pieces tie up a larger number of actors for a long amount of time. This too can be problematic as actors get better paying jobs, or have other commitments. Keep the principle roles in the film to a minimum to avoid these issues.
Finally, the ideal script should tell a great story. If it’s a comedy, it should be outrageously funny. If it’s a horror film, it should really deliver the scares. If it’s a tearjerker, people better have a whole box of tissues before they come to see it. The idea here is that the story should be so good, people and distributors will be willing to overlook your lack of effects and stars. As a matter of fact, they will be so wrapped up in your story that they won’t even notice these things. Ultimately this makes the ideal script for low-budget films.
The main selling point for your independent film is the story you tell. By avoiding things in the script that will pull viewers out of the story, you give yourself the opportunity to captivate them. Anytime a viewer sees a cheesy effect, a rubber monster, and the like, they are reminded that they are watching a low-budget movie that’s just one step above something they could have made themselves with a camcorder. By choosing a script with a powerful story that you can tell well, you are taking your weaknesses and turning them into strengths. The Blair Witch Project did this with spectacular results.
However you approach your independent feature, try to limit yourself to only those things that will make your film look good. If you can do CG effects that look convincing, by all means include them in the script. If you cannot, or don’t have the budget to hire professionals, why tell a story that relies on them? Ultimately the one thing that will sell your story, is simple – it’s your story and your ability to tell it.