The Fun of Writing Screenplays by Michael Allen

Author Michael AllenI can’t speak for other writers. But when I write, it’s with the big screen in mind. When I’m writing a novel, I’m actually picturing it as a movie. So, it was only a matter of time before I started learning the art of writing screenplays.

My first screenplay was for a Walt Disney internship. I wrote a story about a writer. How novel! Anyway, I didn’t get the internship. But, I did get launched into a whole new writing direction. I have written over ten screenplays now and I can’t say that my journey is the best way to go about getting there, but it makes all the sense in the world.

Where to Look

It seemed like nothing I wrote was ever going to be made. I couldn’t get past the gatekeepers to save my life. Breaking into the industry as far as I’ve been able to get simply landed on my lap from a producer out of Maryland. He has a contract with a cable network and was seeking a writer to make a movie out of his concept.

There are different places to find opportunities like that one. The first place I would tell you to look is on You can also find opportunities on if you participate on the forums. Normally though, people are looking for screenplays. If they have funding for a project, they want a screenplay that is already written.

A Few Writing Tips

I will share with you a template that I put together that helps me write screenplays. It’s formatted so that with a few commands, the screenplay properly formats itself in terms of slug, body, character, dialog and parentheses. So, it makes it easy to write a screenplay as you learn the commands and you don’t have to purchase expensive software.

Having said that, there are still some things to cover on how to write a screenplay. First, you have to forget all the writing you’ve learned up to this point. If this is your first screenplay, it is going to be very different than anything else you’ve ever written.

You only write about what the audience can see or hear. There is no lengthy description about how a tree makes you feel connected to the world. There is no touchy feely essay on what is going through the character’s mind unless it’s in a Voice Over (V.O.).

But the major tip I can give is to stay off of the director’s turf. Don’t try to tell the director how to angle the camera or when to zoom in on the scene. Just simply write your screenplay from what you imagine the audience seeing and hearing. Then, leave the rest up to the director’s interpretation.


Answers on length of screenplay vary. But, I just find it logical that 90 to 120 pages is a reliable estimate. The way a screenplay is formatted, each page is equivalent to a minute of airtime. So, movies that run 90 minutes are about average. Movies that run 120 minutes are at the maximum of our attention span unless they are incredibly interesting.

Get Practice

I know plenty of writers who just want to jump in both feet first and get started. If that’s you, go for it. Far be it for me to hold anyone back. But, I would suggest getting some practice first. Write at least one screenplay and then look it over a few times to make sure it’s ready to go. Register it online at the and then go on the hunt.

When you find an opportunity and you think you’re ready, you’ll have a sample screenplay to provide. Plus, you never know what you might find while you are looking for opportunities. You just might find a director looking for the screenplay you wrote. Now, all you have to do is put together a pitch.

The Pitch

Most pitches include a synopsis and a logline. In the industry, you’ll hear the term “treatment” as well. So to clarify the difference, a synopsis is something a writer would first get down quickly so that the initial details of the story are captured. Then, the synopsis serves as a guide to write the screenplay and is refined once the screenplay is finished so that it can be used to pitch your screenplay idea.

A treatment has been used historically as a producer’s tool to capture the essence of a manuscript and see how a writer might “treat” it as if it were a screenplay. Some treatments, as in Superman Returns, have been longer than the screenplays themselves. But, that’s not normally the case. A treatment doesn’t have to be that long. But it is much longer than a synopsis, and most industry experts would consider the treatment to be a tool a writer uses to pitch a screenplay idea that hasn’t been written yet.

Therefore, a synopsis is a one to two page brief of a screenplay that has been written. A logline is generally a two sentence description of your screenplay. If you were to write a commercial about your screenplay and were only given two sentences to make it as interesting as you possibly could, that would be your logline.

When a lady is found dead in an alley, it’s going to take the intuitive skill of investigators and the advanced technology of forensics to figure out what happened. Too bad our team doesn’t have either.

That’s the logline for The C3I, a reverent spoof on a top crime investigation television show. The screenplay is registered with the WGA and is being considered right now by a production company. That logline is enough to explain exactly what the screenplay is about, no beating around the bush. It gains your interest. Now, you want to see the screenplay. That’s how you write loglines.

Being Realistic

Come to terms with rejection. It’s a major part of the game and you should never quit. But, the industry can make you feel like it sometimes. Don’t let it push you down. You might get a thousand rejections before you get one acceptance. But, that’s all it takes! One acceptance is all you need.

Turn rejections into positive construction. If a person takes the time to get back to you about your pitch and let you know that it is not what they want, take notes of what they tell you. You have to decide if any suggestions they make jeopardize your art. But, industry experts can often give you the guidance you need to put together a remarkable pitch the next time.

Doing it Yourself

This day and age is phenomenal. You can do it yourself if you get tired of rejection! One blueprint you can use is to start a thread on Linkedin in one of the filmmaking groups and see if there are indies who are willing to help you.

Once you’ve found your staff, put in a proposal at Use your staff for ideas on the best way to propose and get funding. Each member of your staff is now a part of a team. Use them wisely and you’ll be on your way to having your screenplay on the big screen.

Make a few trailers along the way and let them go viral. You just might find yourself sitting in front of the big guys with a contract in your face. Take your team with you. After all, if they were good enough to put together a trailer that perked someone’s interest, they are good enough to work in cooperation with industry experts and let the water lift the boat.

There are books about screenwriting tips. Might not be a bad idea to purchase a few. If this is something you really want to do, then it’s worth it to study up on it a bit. You can’t get to it if you don’t go through it!

Michael Allen is the author of When You Miss Me and A Danger to Society. The former is a children’s book with a powerful message for children who are going through divorce. The latter is a fiction novel, the hysterical account of a man with a very bad case of mistaken identity. But Michael Allen has also written over ten screenplays, most of which have been by assignment. To get your free copy of the Screenwriting Template he promises, please visit Michael Allen’s Screenplay Cove.



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5 thoughts on “The Fun of Writing Screenplays by Michael Allen”

  1. "When I’m writing a novel, I’m actually picturing it as a movie."

    I think this is true for many writers today. I think about the older writers–Austen, Dickens, Trollope, and Dumas–their style is slower to unfold. Maybe not so much a movie as a daytime drama!

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