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How Has Screenwriting Changed Over the Years?

Updated: Feb 14

Scripts have been one of the most important aspects of a film since their inception. Even when the more traditional sense of a script wasn’t in the mainstream, other methods were used in their place.


Once the emergence of the digital world came to life, more scripts and screenwriters began to be created in the world of entertainment. This is extremely important to note in the artform of screenwriting because of how much it has changed since the early stages of it.


Early Stages

Although no one is 100-percent positive of what the first “script” was, many note George Melies’ 1902 film “A Trip to the Moon” to be the first one. Although it was a silent film, the script was very similar to how modern-day scripts are, with scene direction, characters, and much more.


Prior to "A Trip the Moon", early versions of scripts were referred to as scenarios. Scenarios gave a brief plot summary and highlighted important aspects for marketing purposes. However, a lot of the films that were created with scenarios were only a couple of minutes long.


Thus, the reasoning why scripts began to be more popular in the early 1900s as films started to be longer.

Photo credit: Kozaksclassiccinema.com


Standard Formatting

Once screenplays became more commonly used in the 1900s, they began to have a certain standard to them. Standards we see today, such as action, dialogue, and scene direction, have been used since early scripts.


Eventually, the proper formatting of a script began to come into play. Aspects such as a minute equalling a page, font, spacing, and so on, all started to be implemented into every script.


Other than the formatting, the three-act structure and the hero’s journey method of writing began to take-over as to how a screenplay should be told, highlighting the fact that just about any mainstream film can be thrown into those two kinds of structures.


Modern Techniques

As noted, the digital landscape of the world completely changed the world of screenwriting, making it easier for writers to create, complete, and execute their scripts. Prior to the digital world, scripts had to be written on a typewriter, which made it more difficult for writers. Modern-day technology has birthed more writers, created more art and made it more affordable and accessible for writers who don’t have a lot of money.


The internet has provided countless workshops, lessons, and examples of scripts for screenwriters to learn from. Making writers more knowledgeable on the subject, and creating more confident and better writers for the entire field.


Today, Final Draft is the standard program for screenwriting. However, because of its price, beginner screenwriters will look to free screenwriting programs such as CeltX or WriterDuet as a temporary solution.


Conclusion

Screenwriting is a form of writing that’ll never go away because of its importance in the film, television, commercial, and theatre industry. The knowledge on what makes a bad or good script will continue to grow as information surrounding the subject continues to grow and becomes available to the public. Meaning that there will continue to be more films, television series, plays, and commercials because of it.