Screenwriting and storyboarding for a complete newbie
July 21, 2013 8:32 AM   Subscribe

I am interested in joining a local film screenwriting contest. I have not tried writing a screenplay before but I've read several dozens of scripts in the past so I have some ideas on how to go about the writing. What stumps me is this line in the guidelines: Contestants must supply four (4) hard copies of their scripts, director’s proposal for a full-length documentary, or storyboard, whichever may apply. It must also include a storyline. Uhm, what?

I'm confused. How long and how detailed should a storyline for a genre movie script be? What exactly do you mean by "director's proposal for a full-length documentary"? The proposal and the storyboard sound optional but are they really? Do I have to submit a storyboard for the whole film? I have zero talent in drawing and from what I understand, creating a storyboard is a time-consuming task. Paying someone else to create a storyboard does not sit well with me because it's only for a contest, not an actual movie deal. Submission is via snail mail only and deadline is on September. Any explanations and tips from screenwriters and movie artists on what I should do about the storyline, director's proposal, and storyboard?
posted by slashee to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Docs aren't scripted before shooting, usually. So, instead, there's a very complete proposal. Here's some guidelines--google around, and you can probably find others.
If you're not submitting a documentary, you don't need to write the proposal. Without seeing the exact requirements, I can't really tell if they mean in addition to or instead of for the storyboard. Seems a bit much to ask for a script AND a storyboard.
Storyline is the narrative arc of the film--what happens to whom. Some films have multiple, interlacing storylines.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:43 AM on July 21, 2013

"Storyline" is probably a 3-4 paragraph synopsis of the plot. But it may be a one line "logline".
posted by sammyo at 8:59 AM on July 21, 2013

It sounds to me like those are separate ideas for different types of projects, except for the storyline thing.

My guess is that if you're writing a feature-length fiction screenplay, you should just submit four hard copies of your screenplay and the "storyline".

The director's proposal for documentary is if you're submitting a documentary, and I guess maybe the storyboard is for animated stuff?

In live action film storyboards aren't really comparable to scripts, they're just a visual aid to help the director communicate what the shots will look like to various departments -- such as camera, art, and special effects -- who need to know these things in advance. Usually the whole film isn't storyboarded, just visually important sequences like action or big effects. Typically storyboards are done either in the late stages of pre-production (long after the script has been written), or as the production approaches the date for shooting a big complicated sequence that needs to be storyboarded. So in a lot of cases there are no storyboards until the crew is literally out shooting the thing.

This is probably different for animation, where it's all based on drawn characters and environments, and EVERYONE will need to visual aids on the look of the film.

As far as the "storyline", I would submit a one page synopsis of the plot. They probably just want an aid to knowing what the projects are about, either for easy classification or so that they can dismiss the really bad ones out of hand without reading them.
posted by Sara C. at 10:13 AM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree that a story-line will only be around 5 pages. Slightly different from a treatment which would probably run to around 30-40 pages for a 2 hour film. A storyboard is complete overkill for a competition imo.

On that note, I might mention that before you send off your scripts, at the minimum send a copy via registered post to yourself so that you have a recorded date of having written the work. You know, just in case there's something hinky about the deal. I'm not saying there is, but there's something peculiar about the terms of the contest doesn't pass the smell-test for me.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 3:50 PM on July 21, 2013

Thank you for your answers. The scriptwriting contest is for full-length genre movies and based on your answers, I'm beginning to think whoever wrote the guidelines just recycled guidelines they used in a previous contest (which included documentaries).

I feel confident now to just skip the storyboarding thingie.

@urbanwhaleshark Thanks for the concern. Fortunately, the organizers require the entries to be notarized.
posted by slashee at 11:12 AM on July 23, 2013

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