How I Got My Script Turned Into a Movie

It Wasn't that Hard, Really.

I’m a writer. Usually I write about real stuff that I know something about, but sometimes I like to just make stuff up. Lots of writers do this. Some writers make quite a good living making stuff up. Even if you don’t make a living at it, though, you too can get your work turned into something that people (other than your family and friends, that is) will see. This is the story of how I was able to write a screenplay and get it turned into an actual short film that people have seen in a theater, in spite of having no knowledge of the filmmaking process.

Step One: Write Something!

Other, cleverer folks than I have said that the biggest obstacle in most writers’ paths is the fact that they haven’t actually written anything. If you want to get a book published or a movie made, you need to write it first, all the way through, from beginning to middle to end. Finish it, proofread and edit it, and then stop fiddling with it. Call it finished. Well done! Maybe your script’s not that great, but you’re already ahead of 90% of everybody who wants to make a movie. Now that you’ve got your script finished, you need to get it turned into a movie. This can be incredibly difficult. It can also be as easy as … a really easy thing.

Some of the Folks Who Made the Film

The night zOm-B-gOn debuted.  This was the first time I met the cast and crew face-to-face. Image Credit: Jaime Lynn Boatwright
The night zOm-B-gOn debuted. This was the first time I met the cast and crew face-to-face. Image Credit: Jaime Lynn Boatwright

Step Two: Find People to Help You.

I mentioned that before my movie was made, I had no filmmaking skills at all. I still don’t. Does this mean my movie is crap? Nope, it’s really good, though I say it myself. What’s my secret? I found some people who knew what they were doing, convinced them that shooting my script was a good idea, and got the heck out of their way. Easy. If you want to make a movie and you don’t know how, this is probably the best way to go about it.

Of course, it helped that I already knew some people in the local independent filmmaking community. I put the word out that I had a script and was looking for someone who could help me turn it into a finished film. The fellow who ended up in charge of the project turned out to be a guy I’d never actually met. We knew each other only by reputation. But after a phone conversation, we were comfortable enough with each other that I felt good about having him work on my script, and he was confident that I wouldn’t interfere too much with his work.

Oh, you don’t know people who make movies? Well, dust off those social skills and go make some friends. Go to film festivals. Find out where folks are getting together afterward for snacks and drinks. Find out who directed your favorite films and introduce yourself to them. Ask them questions about their films. Get to know them. I’m not saying suck up to people just so they’ll make your movie (more often than not, this will backfire on you), but rather you should genuinely make friends with people in your local film scene. Once you know a few people, mention that you’ve got a script. Even if your new friends are busy with their own projects (and filmmakers are often busy with their own projects) they might know someone who’s looking for a script.

Step Three: Learn to Let Go.

Look, as a writer, especially one with no filmmaking skills of your own, you’re going to have to turn your work over to someone who isn’t you, and you’re just going to have to trust them enough to make a good film out of your script. The script will get changed. No, it’s not “probably” going to get changed. It will get changed. Deal with that. It’s part of the filmmaking process. The director might have a cool idea that he wants to get in. An actor may bust out with a really funny ad-lib. Budget constraints, time constraints, or the location's physical layout may drive some of the changes. It doesn’t really matter, because the end result is the same: the final product will not match the film you saw in your head. That’s okay.

No, really. It’s fine. You’re going to have to tell yourself this over and over again until you believe it. In any case, the only way you’ll be able to get your concept from script to screen with no alterations is to be George Lucas. And you saw ep1*, right? Anyway, there will be change. Embrace the change. Let the folks who know what they’re doing make the movie. They've paid you a very high compliment by taking your words from the page to the screen. They deserve your trust. Give it.

*George, if you're reading this, I'm incredibly grateful to you for Star Wars and Indiana Jones and all that. But really, Jar-Jar?

The Source of that Quote

Playing the Moldovans at Tennis
Playing the Moldovans at Tennis

Things can be done. Even if they're very strange things.

 

But Suppose I Want to do it Myself?

Oh, you can go ahead and do it on your own. I’m a big believer in the do-it-yourself spirit. To quote author Tony Hawks, “Things can be done. The people who get them done are the ones who know that. The rest is everyone else.” But making a movie is an expensive undertaking. Unless you have some experience or training, figure on maybe tripling the budget (in both time and money) for your film, since you’ll need to re-do everything several times, and will probably have to occasionally stop production for a while to replace the folks who’ve gotten frustrated with you and walked out. So yeah, you can shoot a movie with no training or skill, but if you try, you'll need to get your how-to advice from someone else. I just write stuff down. Writing is cheap and easy. Filmmaking? That's hard.

Some Related Reading

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

The story of the coming Zombie Apocalypse

 
Filmmaking For Dummies
Filmmaking For Dummies

Or you could read this and make your movie. How hard could it be, right?

 

Update: Here's the Film!

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Comments 15 comments

Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

I've allways found the movie-making process highly interesting as so your Hub...


Daniel Carter profile image

Daniel Carter 6 years ago from Western US

This is a very concise, helpful hub, Jeff. The same principles and insights apply to the music business in most cases. Songwriters *will* be edited and changed, and in many cases, additional collaborators *will* be added to the list of creators. Actually, a smart songwriter will welcome seasoned input and contribution to his/her work in refining their craft.

It sounds like the same is true in large part in the writing industry as well. I do enjoy working with good lyricists/script writers, and you're exactly right: IF any of us who *want* to create have a finished project, it seems to be more uncommon than common. The "I'm gonna..." phrase is used a lot.

Thanks again. Always a good read from you.


sligobay profile image

sligobay 6 years ago from east of the equator

Jeff-as a new follower, I appreciate your simple and concise style and your speaking with the voice of experience. First, write something, is the advice that I needed to hear. I have put pen to paper finally for something other than poetry. Thank you and cheers.


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

Congrats! I have a friend who is writing for tv shows - I will be sure to email him your Hub.


Jonathan T 6 years ago

Interesting read, but it's very 'broad view' advice that a lot of people give. "Write something, know people, do it"... kinda looking for something a little more specific.


Jeff Berndt profile image

Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan Author

Hi, Jonathan T,

Well, I'm sorry you didn't find this advice useful. All I know is, it worked for me. Also, perhaps a better summary would be, "Write something good, find skilled people willing to turn it into a movie, get our of their way and let them work."

Sometimes, it's okay to not do it yourself.

Cheers,

JB


Rossimobis profile image

Rossimobis 5 years ago from Biafra

I found this very educative as i am pursing a project right now which is actually a low budget project and is based on the do it yourself spirit.

Honestly, i was motivated to keep walking after reading this hub.

Voted up!


Enlydia Listener profile image

Enlydia Listener 4 years ago from trailer in the country

There are a lot of indi-film makers in our area...my daugher and grandson even appeared in one that was shown at the Guggenheim Art Museum in New York.


Jeff Berndt profile image

Jeff Berndt 4 years ago from Southeast Michigan Author

Hi, Enlydia,

A lot of folks assume that there's no indie film scene near them, but there are filmmakers all over the place. All you have to do is look for them.


cathy 4 years ago

Hi Jeff, I have the perfect movie ideal and it is a true story, my problem is that I am not good at the writing stuff, I just dont have the time or patients..but I just don't know any other way to get my ideal out there..any advice would be great.


Jeff Berndt profile image

Jeff Berndt 4 years ago from Southeast Michigan Author

Well, the best advice for anybody with a true story that they want to tell, be it via movie, or novel, or opera, is this: even if it really happened, that doesn't necessarily mean that your audience will find it compelling or believable.

I can't tell you how many times someone in a class or workshop has heard the group tell them, "I'm not sure this story really works" (or similar feedback), and the writer says, "But this really happened!"

Sure, it may have really happened, but it's still not a believable story. So the writer has a choice: fiddle with the story a bit to make it work, or abandon it and make up something new. Or they can insist that their 'true story' is great, and everyone in the workshop is wrong. Stranger things have happened.

This might not be the case with your story; I obviously haven't read it. But I thought it might be useful for you to know, just so you don't fall into the trap of thinking that a true story is automatically a good story (for people who weren't there).

However, no writing advice will be very useful for you unless you're willing to sit down and get the writing done. There are zillions of ideas floating around out there, and some of them are probably great ones--even better than ones that became multi-million-dollar blockbusters. But if those ideas never become scripts, then they'll never earn a dime for the people who came up with them. Ideas are cheap. Heck, scripts are cheap, too, but they're way more valuable than mere ideas.


Catherine Cubinar 4 years ago

Hi. Whoever the writer is, can you add me up on Facebook? I'm currently writing a movie script. It's a story of a Flight Attendant, it may seem not interesting to you, or I don't know, but.. I want to be your friend on Facebook. Same name. :)


Jeff Berndt profile image

Jeff Berndt 4 years ago from Southeast Michigan Author

Hi, Catherine,

Thanks for stopping by. The writer is me, and the story of a flight attendant sounds all kinds of interesting to me.

I'm on the facebook as well, same name. Drop me a FB message and we can become friends.

Cheers,

JB


Rschauhan profile image

Rschauhan 4 years ago from Himachal Pradesh

Hi jeff , I am a new follower of your hub. These hub is good one for the people who are just entered in writing world. The word you use "write something" is quiet impressive for the starter like me. Can you please give me some more tips


MarkAnthony2010 profile image

MarkAnthony2010 4 years ago from At "home"

Thanks a lot for this Hub, Jeff. It is undoubtedly both, helpful and inspirational. I'm striving to achieve this very goal right now, although I haven't even gotten out of that initial 90% category you mentioned. For now, you've given me peace with not getting too far ahead of myself. Thank you much!

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