The best way to learn screenwriting is to read scripts – as many as possible, by many writers in many genres and dealing with many mediums.
Screenwriting is the art of telling stories, and every single one of us has been touched by a story. It’s no wonder a lot of people want to turn their hand to screenwriting. To get started, all you need is a software like CeltX (check out our guide) and inspiration. The best way of learning isn’t going on a college course, as odd as that sounds: instead, the Internet can educate you and entertain you – if you know where to look.
The Daddy of online script libraries.
The BBC’s Writer’s Room was set up to inspire the next generation of screenwriters. The majority of scripts are just for TV and radio, but there are a few small-scale films in their extensive catalogue. With so many different writers of varying styles, you can’t help but enjoy the ride. The acclaimed — Luther, Death in Paradise, Sherlock, Ripper Street — mix with shows that have a cult following (Father Brown; Dennis the Menace and Gnasher; Doctors; Welcome to our Village, Please Invade Carefully).
What’s more, they also offer a series of guides to writing in each format, as well as regular opportunities to get your work judged. Death in Paradise, for instance, was picked up through an opportunity listed on the Writer’s Room and is now one of British TV’s biggest crime dramas.
Print off a script or read it as a PDF and you’ll soon wonder where the time has gone.
This site includes all sorts: from TV to theatre, musicals to anime, Simply Scripts even offers you non-English scripts, so if you ever fancied reading Pan’s Labyrinth in its original Spanish form, this is the place to be.
The wealth of mediums is virtually unrivaled and it’s especially good if you want to learn how to write treatments; synopses that read more like short stories. Check out our guide to yWriter if you want to write your own treatment.
But it’s basically a conglomerate of links to other sites’ scripts. It works well, but a few of the links are now dead and you have to be wary of transcripts, i.e. someone taking dictation and guessing what the original script might have said. Mind you, that’s the type of thing that mars many script libraries.
It’s quite a challenge to update a blog every single day, let alone adding an entire script, but Daily Script manages it. As such, there’s a wealth of inspiration here.
You can only refine your search to either movie or TV scripts, but it’s an enviable collection that doesn’t just include final scripts that have been filmed but also earlier drafts. It’s important to see that progression: if you’re not happy with your own first drafts, it tells you not to worry; that change is as inevitable as death and taxes.
And if you are happy, it teaches you not to get precious about anything. Kill your darlings, as they say.
Alternatively, there’s The Weekly Script, which also offers radio scripts alongside TV and film. It doesn’t have the same range, but it’s still a great resource that offers some of the classic movies and treasured television, including One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Due South, No Country for Old Men and Deadwood. You could easily get in on the ground floor and get your regular fix every Friday.
Steadily updated, with nearly 30 scripts have been added this year already. It doesn’t have the same range as many, but there’s a strong list regardless. The homepage is boring – very vanilla – but it does its job admirably and when reading a script, the interface is no problem whatsoever.
One particular advantage is that it contains scripts that have been deleted elsewhere. When Doctor Who showrunner 2005-09, Russell T. Davies, was publicising The Writer’s Tale, his wonderful book about working on the show, he uploaded the shooting scripts for his Series 4 episodes and the following year’s specials. Fans rejoiced. Then the site was replaced.
But here they are again – and accompanied by further scripts for 1989’s Ghost Light; the first episode, 1963’s An Unearthly Child; and early reports on sci-fi on the BBC! It’s these added extras that make Lee Thomson’s site special.
You know a deadline is imminent when you spend time doing something other than what you’re meant to be doing. As Douglas Adams said, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” I’m a bit annoyed at Screenplays For You because it tempted me with the script for Airplane!, and suddenly it was a few hours (and many laughs) later, way past lunchtime, and the washing was still out in the rain.
If there’s a film you love, you’ll probably find the script (or one by the same writer) here. Whether you’re after comic book adaptations (The Mask; V For Vendetta), classics (The Godfather; It’s A Wonderful Life), or favourite childhood films (The Goonies; Who Framed Roger Rabbit), there’s an ample amount to get stuck into.
Die Hard is next on my list.
The design is plain but efficient; however, once again, you have to look out for transcripts, which, whilst good in their own right, can never truly match the genius of original scripts.
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Getting started with screenwriting is one of the hardest things you have to do. Plenty of websites out there can help relieve writer’s block, but the best thing to do, at least in my experience, is to get inspiration. There are enough tools and resources for the aspiring screenwriter too. There’s nothing like staring at beautiful words on a page and thinking, ‘I want to do that.’
I hope these script libraries will inspire, educate and entertain. Screenwriters are vital. As Irving Thalberg, legendary MGM producer, reportedly said: “writers are the most important people in Hollywood. And we must never let them know it.”
Image Credits: Michael Hughes Via Wikimedia Commons