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December 2009
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Writing the Screenplay

Comedy is a popular film genre. There are several types of comedy for film, such as a romantic comedy, black comedy, and screwball comedy. The comedy film begins with an idea. This idea is expanded into a screenplay. The screenplay is written to be watched as a film rather than read as literature. Essentially, it is the blueprint of the comedy film.

This article explains why the screenplay is important, identifies the main types of comedy films, and provides some tips on how to write a screenplay.


The Screenplay

Hollywood wouldn’t exist without writers who could write scripts that sell movies. A good script is why popular directors and actors agree to do the film. A director can create a bad film from a good script, but the director cannot create a good film from a bad script.

A screenplay or script is the written work for a film. It is the blueprint of the movie. It is the written story of the film. It is what the director will use to shoot the film.

A script requires certain basic elements, including:

  • An idea. The script must be based on a good idea. This idea needs to be popular to the audience and accepted by the film industry. Some ideas aren’t popular with Hollywood, so they are used by the independent film industry.
  • Scene heading. Each scene has a heading that describes the scene and indicates whether the scene takes place inside or outside.
  • Inciting incident. This is the main event that gets the story moving, a significant event that changes the life or situation of the protagonist.
  • Action. The script describes what is happening in the scene.
  • Character’s names and description. The script includes the name of each character and a description of them.
  • Plot structure. It refers to the main events that make up the story.
  • Dialogue. Without dialogue, there is no script. Dialogue is the spoken words of each character. It needs to be realistic.
  • Rising action. The plot requires conflict and obstacle by which the protagonist must overcome.
  • Climax. The plot requires a turning point. For instance, the protagonist confronts the villain.
  • Resolution. Loose ends are tied up and all unanswered questions are answered.

 A good screenplay is based on the three act structure. It begins with a setup (characters are identified, setting is described, and inciting incident takes place.) In the second act, there is conflict and obstacles by which the protagonist must overcome. In the final act, there is resolution—the climax occurs and all loose ends are tied up.

There are several good books on how to write a screenplay. One of the best books is “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” by Sid Fields. If you study it, you will learn all you need to know how to write a screenplay. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, you can order it online at .


 Types of Comedy Films

There are several types of comedy films. The most popular are:

  • Romantic Comedy. Deals with humour that revolves around a love story. Often there is an argument or disagreement between the man and woman, which motivates one of them to leave the situation. Then one party realizes their love for the other, and engages in a romantic pursuit to regain their attention, with the intention of declaring their love. The romantic comedy always ends happily. Popular romantic comedies include “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Pretty Woman”, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, and “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” 
  • Black Comedy. Deals with unpleasant events with the intention of making light of serious subject matter, such as death, drug abuse, crime, and war. For instance, the film “Dr.Strangelove” dealt with the threat of nuclear war.
  • Screwball Comedy. Involves characters who behave in unexpected ways within absurd or ridiculous situations. The situation is often romantic. The characters engage in fast-talking, witty repartee. There is often mistaken identity, and facts are kept secret. This type of comedy was popular in the 30s and 40s. Popular screwball comedy films include “The Party”, staring Peter Sellers; “O’Brother, Where Art Thou, and “Burn after Reading”, two films directed by the Cohen brothers.
  • Slapstick. Involves physical violence, chases, collisions, practical jokes, and absurd situations. Buster Keaton was famous for his slapstick films.
  • Parody or Spoof. Mocks or ridicules another film genre. Often the characters, style, iconic images, and conventions of the genre are ridiculed. For instance, “Blazing Saddles”, a popular parody film that was produced in the 70s, mocks the western.


 Tips on Writing a Screenplay

Writing a screenplay that sells is a difficult task. You need all the advice and help you can get. Here are a few tips on how to create your masterpiece spec script for a comedy film:

  1. Learn how to write a screenplay. You can learn on your own. An excellent book to read is “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” by Sid Fields
  2. Learn and use the correct script format. To find out more, read “The Screenwriter’s Bible” by David Trottier.
  3. Make sure your script has a beginning, middle, and end. It needs to have three acts. In the first act, provide the setup (setting, central characters, situation). In the second act, create the confrontation and obstacles that the protagonist must overcome. In act three, create the climax and resolve the story.
  4. Learn the elements of storytelling, such as setting, plot, character development, conflict, dialogue, rising action, climax, resolution.
  5. Enrol in a screenwriting course. A good course will teach you all you need to know to write a screenplay, from writing, to formatting, to selling.
  6. Read other aspiring writer’s scripts. You can find finished scripts on the Web. A good place to start is at The Writer’s Room.  ( )
  7. Read good books on “how to write a screenplay.” Three excellent books are:
  • “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” by Sid Fields
  • “The Screenwriter’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Screenplay” by David Trottier
  • “How to Write a Screenplay” by Christopher Keane.

8. Read the industry trade publications to stay current. A few magazines that you ought to read are:

   9.Watch as many comedy films as you can.  Study the types of comedy you want to write. By watching, you will learn the elements of a good comedy film.

The screenwriter’s goal is to create a compelling, original, and well-written script. He or she can do this by learning to write well, by uncovering a good idea for a film, by reading a few good books on how to write a screenplay, and by learning the script writing format. Then the writer can begin writing a memorable screenplay.

Good luck!

If you have any questions or suggestions, please post them to this blog.


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