I’m excited to introduce a new series of articles where I share advice from award winning writers, directors, producers, editors, cinematographers, and other filmmaking individuals. We kick off with four screenwriters offering the best advice they ever received. Here’s what Doc Benson, Keith Perna, Anthony Hackett, and Sean Paul Murphy had to say.

DocBensonEarly on, a film teacher named Dov SS Simens gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me. He said “The greatest shortcoming of first-timers is their inability to tell the difference between a good script and a great script.” There are many good scripts written every year, but frankly good is not good enough. Your job is to craft a GREAT script: something new, or at least a fun twist on an old theme with several subplots and emotional arcs that take the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotion.

Do you want to know if your screenplay is potentially great? Give it the “Head Test”. Hand it off to a trusted reviewer to read in person (preferably not a close friend), and watch their head movements. If they are drawn into the story and are excited about what might come next, their head and eyes will drop down the page quickly. If the story is a chore to review, the head and eyes will tend to scan left to right over and over as they weed their way through the page. Pass the Head Test and you just might have a page turner worthy of production.

Doc Benson – Seven Deadly Words, The Publication

Christmas Grace premiere picture

I have two if that’s okay.

1. This is more a general piece of writing advice that I’ve heard from multiple sources. Make sure you have a unified message throughout your screenplay. My screenplays tend to have more than one message but there’s always one primary message that the whole script revolves around.

2. This is for us as Christian writer’s and it’s straight out of the Bible. I need to remind myself of this just as much as anyone. Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. This of course applies to all areas of life and no less our call to write screenplays. So as I’m writing and making changes and polishing what I have I always have to ask myself “does this represent God and can he work through this?” If I can’t honestly answer yes to that the script isn’t ready. I’m always seeking him in prayer on that as I go as well.

                                                              Keith Perna – Christmas Grace

Photo by J. Bryan Barnes
Photo by J. Bryan Barnes

I once saw something written on a manager’s website. It said: “Screenwriters have very short careers because after they achieve some success they refuse to make changes.” So true. That’s why I always make the changes.

Sean Paul Murphy – The Encounter, Marriage Retreat, Revelation Road series, Sarah’s Choice, Holyman Undercover, Brother White, Hidden Secrets

anthony

“A powerful message can be lost if shared through a weak story, so make sure your story is just as powerful as your message. If you water down one or the other then you’ve lost the impact you could have on your audience. “

Anthony Hackett – Catastasis

Do you have screenwriting advice to share? We’d love to hear it in the comments section. Thanks!

About the Author Sharon Wilharm

Christian women’s speaker, Sharon Wilharm, is a ministry leader, podcast host, and female filmmaker whose stories have impacted audiences around the globe. An accomplished storyteller, Sharon draws the audience in with humor, engages them with stories, then ties everything together to bring to light spiritual truths. Her heart’s desire is to encourage women in their walk with the Lord, showing them how to find God’s will for their life through prayer and scripture. “God is the Master Storyteller,” says Sharon. “I love helping women see how God is always at work behind the scenes laying the foundation for the glorious future He has in store for us.” Sharon is a firm believer in the power of prayer and has many stories to share of God working in miraculous ways in her own life as well as those around her. She’s passionate about teaching women how to pray and loves engaging with women in personal prayer. Wherever she goes, she finds herself surrounded by women in need of prayer, and she considers it an honor to pray with women whether they’re friends, family, or complete strangers. Sharon has enjoyed a lifelong fascination with women of the Bible and loves applying the biblical stories to modern situations. She teaches a Women Through the Bible study at her church, applying the S.O.A.P. method of scripture study. She especially enjoys delving into lesser known women and discovering encouraging truths for women of today. She recently launched a new podcast where she works her way through the Bible sharing the stories of All God’s Women.

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