THE TOP SHEET
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NAME OF PROJECT: If you do not have a definite title, simply write 'Working Title'.
NAME OF AUTHOR: Take ownership of your work by writing: 'A screenplay for a feature film by …', 'A script for a short film by …' 'A screenplay for a feature film by…' 'A pilot for a TV series'...
GENRE : Be clear about what type of story you are telling. Is it a romance? A thriller? A horror? A contemporary drama? Read more about genre
TAGLINE or CUTLINE: The one-line usually found on posters and covers. The tagline for Roman Polanski's film The Pianist read: 'Music was his passion, survival his masterpiece', or for Alien: 'In Space no one can hear you scream'.
PREMISE/ LOGLINE/ HIGH CONCEPT: Describe your story in 25 words or less. A story is High Concept if it is event and character driven (mostly big budget blockbusters), and Low Concept if purely character driven (mostly Art films or World Cinema). Example: Misery: A disturbed fan kidnaps an injured novelist and forces him to write a novel featuring her favourite heroine.Samoan Wedding: Four 30-something guys must each find a girlfriend before their best friend's wedding - or be left out in the cold.
PARAGRAPH DESCRIPTION Here you can expand on your concept, and include important subplots. Samoan Wedding: Sione is getting married. But there's a problem, well actually, there are four problems - Sione's brother Michael and his three best mates Albert, Stanley and Sefa; the ladies' man, the good boy, the weird one and the party boy. They're 30-something, but they still act as if they're 16. They get drunk, they chase the wrong women and they have a remarkable record of causing chaos at every wedding they attend. But when Sione bans the boys from his wedding, they know something has to change. The boys have one last chance; find girlfriends to take to the wedding or be left out in the cold. Their lives are about to get turned upside down. How hard can it be finding a girl in the world's biggest Polynesian city when you're young, gifted and brown?
STATEMENT OF INTENT: Your reasons for writing the story and what inspired you. A summation and explanation of why you think the story is important . It could be important to emphasise the social relevance and contemporary resonance.
SYNOPSIS: A one page synopsis or 250 words. Tell your story in prose style. Do not add dialogue or clever plot twists and never reveal the ending. A synopsis is generally defined as a one-to-four page narrative description of what happens in your story, told with some sizzle, since it will likely be used as a selling tool -- to entice an agent, publisher or producer to take a look at your manuscript. NEVER reveal your ending! Also, no dialogue. There is a basic structure of writing a synopsis; it should be written in four paragraphs: (1) What is the story about? (2) Who is the story about? (3) How does the story happen? Explain what happens in Act I and II, never tell Act III (4) Why the film falls under the genre you have selected; why the audience will be interested? Why is it funny, or scary or heart-warming?
CHARACTER DESCRIPTION: A brief paragraph description on the primary characters in your story. What does the character look like? How old is the character?
BIOGRAPHY OF WRITER: An informal page on who you are. Do not include your CV but write something that will be relevant to the story you are writing. If you are working on a documentary about animals it might help to write that you are an animal lover. Nobody wants to know how many time you have worked as a waitron.
BUSINESS STATEMENT: The status of your project - have you completed a first draft? Has the script been evaluated? Are you working on a rewrite? f you have spoken to a producer or actor about your project, include the information here, as well as letters from the relevant parties. You can also include letters of permissions related to copyright issues, etc.
OTHER INFORMATION THAT CAN BE INCLUDED: Remember that although your script might be a specific South African story that embraces universal qualities, if read by foreign investors that are not familiar with the background, politics or history of your story, additional information will put them on the same page as the writer.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: If your story deals with a particular event in history and you feel that it might help the reader to understand the background to your story, include a brief (one page at the most) outline.
MAPS: If you feel that a MAP of where the story takes place might allow the reader to become familiar with the world of the characters, include a relevant copy.
FORMAL TREATMENT: A 15 - 20 page document describing your story in present tense, outlining ACT I, II and III. (Act I will be 4 pages, Act II will be 8 pages, and you can write 3 - 4 pages for Act III). You can also write a 3 page treatment, allowing a page per act. This all depends on what the requirements are from producers and organisations such as Sithengi. No dialogue. A treatment is a relatively brief, loosely narrative written pitch of a story for production. The treatment is written in user-friendly, dramatic, but straightforward and highly visual prose, in the present tense. It highlights in broad strokes the story's hook, primary characters, acts and action line, setting, point of view, and most dramatic scenes and turning points. When you begin creating the details of the screenplay, it's easy to lose track of the backbone of the story. The treatment focuses on the story's backbone, allowing it to be seen clearly.
STORY OUTLINE: An outline of your story in narrative form, in present tense, describing what happens in your story from beginning to end. No dialogue. It is important to separate the story events and keep each story event (scene) in its own paragraph. The length and amount of detail can vary, and style need not be a concern unless you plan to show it to others who might not get it. For TV and film scripts that are written on assignment (rather than on spec), the outline will invariably be read by producers and often by non-writers, such as studio or network executives, and should, therefore, be written with such exposure in mind. But if your outline is for your eyes only, the writing can be sketchier. Your outline is where you construct --- and more easily deconstruct and/or reconstruct --- your story.
SCENE OUTLINE: The key scenes in your story; write 2 or 3 lines per scene and justify why the scene is important in your story (the function of your scene as related to your premise, theme and story).
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