It’s important to find motivation and inspiration in this process so one of the things are going to discuss is how we get excited as we come up with ideas and log lines and concepts and outlines for low budget scripts. One might think of the low budget at a wall in the way of their creativity, but I’m here to tell you it’s the opposite. We can use constraints and become even more creative by playing with those constraints using them as challenges. This will encourage us as writers to become more creative and ultimately we’re going have a good time.
Watch Movies and Read Scripts
Once you have an idea of the genre and type of script you want to write, watch movies in that genre and read the screenplays of those films. This is a type of market research that will keep you in touch with commercial and marketable writing. Reading the trades, and staying abreast of deals on sites like Variety, or Done Deal Pro, can be helpful, but often, by the time we chase a specific trend it can fade. Keep your ear to the market, but write what you feel strongly about.
Something two know if you’re delving into a specific genre is to make sure to watch a bunch of movies in that genre. Keep the viewing recent (although it never hurts to watch the classics) and read as many scripts in this genre as well. Then you will understand the medium, and the payoffs that audiences expect. If you can’t stand a particular genre, it may not be worth trying it.
Low Budget Movies to Watch for Inspiration:
Paranormal Activity, Rope, Blair Witch, Glengarry Glen Ross, Mariachi, Blood Simple, Clerks:
Pay attention to the number and type of locations and characters, as well as their use of visuals, fight scenes and so forth. Look at minimalist movies – like Room, Carnage (not super low $ but minimal) or the movie Rope, Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch, the Halloween franchises can offer clues to writing for low budgets, even if you’re not working in those genres. Roger Corman and Troma’s Lloyd Kauffman can teach us a lot – them made a ton of movies for very little cash. Overlook the camp and B-movie quality, rather, watch to see how they got it done with clever, funny scripts – sometimes blending genres - horror, gore, satire, and nostalgia, while maintaining a central genre. Check out the first movies of some of your favorite filmmakers, which are often lower budget.
Reading scripts might sound boring. It’s totally not. And it’s very necessary. Here’s one way to make the script reading homework extra fun! (Do it on the treadmill or stationary bike). Think about the genre you want to write in. Google a bit to find the titles of a few successful movies in this genre. (They could be lower budget, that would be helpful, but they don’t have to be.)
Select one of the movies
Find the screenplay for that movie.
Watch the movie
Read the screenplay
Repeat as much as you want
Consider what made the project work and how the writer approached that script
How Reading Scripts Improves Your Writing
There are a few reasons that reading scripts is really a great idea. First you get exposure to marketable writing. These screenplays that you’re reading are mostly likely those from movies that were made. Your eyes and subconscious will start to absorb what good writing looks like on the page, you’ll start to feel the pacing wax and wane, and will get good screenwriting habits under your skin. Good habits can span anywhere from avoiding overused tropes and conventions, as well as mixing up the elements in your script, and writing more visual stories. There are a variety of websites which offer free scripts to download.
One helpful resource is IMSdB, the Internet Movie Screenplay Database, an offshoot of IMDB with information about movies as well as screenplays:
Go Into the Story is the blog of the Blacklist, a screenwriting site that promotes the best of what they believe are some of the best unproduced screenplays.
Drew’s Script-o-Rama has a substantial library with multiple script drafts. The advantage of looking at drafts is that you can see how a script evolved on its way to becoming a film.