by Andrew Slater
This tutorial is designed for the non-writer in order to write a short StarWars fanfilm. The emphasis is on no-budget films that are easy to film, but also have in depth storylines and characters. Have fun!
Choose a setting that is accessible to you. Do not try to find a setting for a script unless you have a large budget to travel. If you live in Los Angeles, don't use a snowfield. If you live in Iowa, don't use the ocean. If you live in Oklahoma, don't use mountains. Use a setting that is close to where you live.
Choose one or two that is easily accessible to you and your crew. No one likes to drive a few hours for a day of filming.
Now that you know your film is going to take place in the forest, and you know you will be filming in "Big Basin" - the Redwood forests 20 minutes from your home that were used for Return of the Jedi, you're ready to build a character.
Choose the gender. If you are going to play the character choose your own gender. To make things easier, cast the film BEFORE writing it, so that you don't have to worry about finding the "right" person for the part after you have your script.
Choose a background for the character. Write out a two-page detailed history of your hero. This will make the hero more believable and will allow you to relate to the character more.
During this process, decide on one or two major weaknesses that your character has. Emotiona weaknesses are more powerful, but physical ones will work. To do this well, watch one of your favorite dramatic pictures and steal some weaknesses that the main characters have. (Braveheart. Mel Gibson's character has two main weaknesses Ð Women and Revenge. Both of these lead to his downfall.)
Now that you know your character, William Wallace the Jedi, you can proceed to figure out who the villain will be. This character, the villain, should be the opposite of the hero. Opposites attract, so these two are bound to meet.
In Braveheart the villain was the king of England. William Wallace was a peasant from Scotland. The mass opposition of the two characters creates a natural fight. They both want something. allace wants a free Scotland and the King wants Scotland to be part of England.
Choose a villain in the same way you chose your hero, making him or her opposite of your hero. Once you know that your villain is the evil Darth Longshanks, you can continue on to the next step. Don't forget to write Darth Longshanks history as well.
The main situation of your film is very important. It must lend itself to the setting you chose, and must be realistic enough to be believable. Almost all "situations" have a start point. The start point is the point at which the hero begins to act, and begins to change himself in order to perform a task. In Braveheart the start point was the murder of Wallaces wife. At this point William starts his trail of revenge. Before this point the character was motionless in the world - never moving, never changing.
Ok, so your basic situational plot is that Darth Longshanks kills Master Wallace's girlfriend. Great. So what happens next?
The obvious choice would be to have Master Wallace confront Darth Lognshanks and kill him in an amazing lightsaber battle where the evil Longshakes has a double bladed lightsaber. But if this happened then your story would be two-dimensional. It would be flat, and people wouldn't look at it as anything more than an FX Test with a story.
In order to create a three dimensional plot you need conflict.
We already have a main plot, conflict and reason. But good guy beats up bad guy is boring. Choose two or three roadblocks for your character. These roadblocks must be conflicts that offer a challenge to the hero. And they must be so important that the hero would risk everything in order to defeat it, and progress in his quest. They also must be necessary in order for the hero journey to be completed.
There are a few main types of conflicts:
Man vs. Man
A simple fight is man vs. man. It is purely physical. It is the weakest conflict, but it is also
the most widely used one.
Man vs. Machine
What's that? Your hero must get to work but his car won't start? That's man vs. machine. Your hero accidentally washed his lightsaber with his clothes and now it only extents 5 inches? That's man vs. machine.
Man vs. Nature
There's an earthquake. A rainstorm. A huge mountain. A snowstorm. It's cold. It's hot. All of a sudden after Master Wallace walks on the wrong floor tile a huge boulder starts coming after him. Man vs. nature Ð a natural thing that affects us all. The movie Twister was a giant Man vs. Nature conflict.
Man vs. Society
What's that? No one wants to help Master Wallace in his fight for revenge? He must stand alone and try to convince the members of his personal "society" to help him, or worse yet, to not stop him? Man vs. Society is a very common conflict, and we can all relate to it.
Man vs. Self
The most powerful conflict arises when a character must overcome a part of themselves to reach their goal. It could be part of their history or a fear. Vertigo for instance revolves around a Man vs. Self conflict.
Choose three obstacles for your character, and make sure you understand the conflicts in the obstacles.
One choice could be that Master Wallace must borrow his friends bicycle in order to travel the great distance between his home and the forest where Darth Longshanks is hiding. But his friend doesn't feel that it's a worthy enough cause for the danger of losing his bike (Man vs. Society). Add to that that Master Wallace must learn to ride the bike (Man vs. Machine) and you have a full on conflict.
Without overcoming this, our hero cannot complete his quest. Once he gets to the forest he realizes that it is getting dark. He must navigate the forest in the dark (Man vs. Nature). Even worse, he has a weakness! A fear of the dark! He must overcome this
fear in order to proceed. Perhaps at one point he slips and cuts himself on a rock (Man vs. Nature). Finally he decides to go to bed, and wait until morning. Uh Oh! A robber! He must fight the robber in order to keep his precious maps and items that he needs in order to defeat Darth Longshanks. (Man vs. Man)
Finally he is at the hideout and he confronts Longshanks. (Man vs. Man) But then Longshanks says, "William, I am your father." Uh oh. This throws everything for a loop because now William has a Man vs. Self conflict. Should he really kill his father? Perhaps there is some good left in him? You're hero has a weakness - he loves his family values.
The ending is up to you, but now you have three huge hurdles for your hero to jump over. And it is very important that you have these in your film because by having them you create a third dimension for your viewers. Through these conflicts they come to know and to understand the hero. They will relate to his fears and to his problems. They will begin to cheer him on.
Lastly you need a short resolution to the story. Perhaps after he defeats Darth Longshanks Master Wallace finds that his girlfriend was never killed and they are reunited. Or perhaps he returns the bike to his friend and falls in love with his friend's daughter, living happily ever after. Or maybe your resolution is a simple scene where Darth Longshankes apologies and give Master Wallace the keys to his hideout.
Now write the script. Keep in mind your resources. If you don't know many people to act in it, don't write many characters. In the situation I just talked about you really only need five characters: your hero, your villain, the hero's girlfriend and his friend with the bike, and a robber.
Before you write a scene make sure you have a location. Unlike Hollywood movies we can not afford to scout for locations. This takes time and resources. Keep it simple from the start.
Be sure to follow your guidelines with the conflicts and characters. However if you change one or two things, that is perfectly fine. Do not neglect to give a personal conflict or two to your villain. Only Disney creates movies where the villain says, "I'm evil and I know it. I do bad things just because I'm like that." Even Dr. Evil had reasons behind his actions.
Once you have your short script written, read it out loud to yourself. If any line sounds "corny" or unrealistic, change it until it sounds realistic. Bad dialogue can destroy a fanfilm faster than a lawyer with LFL copyrights. Once you approve, have your actors read it and make additional changes if needed.
You now have a full blown Fan Film script starting with a situation, following a hero through multiple conflicts leading towards a final confrontation and a final resolution.
A Last Word
The characters, their weaknesses and the conflicts are what keep movies strong. If each one was a block of wood lined up in a row, it would be relatively easy to break them in half. But if you were to nail them together - the conflicts with the weaknesses with the characters to the conflicts it would be nearly impossible to break it apart.