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Export a perfectly formatted traditional script.
Today's kids consume a lot of media from many different sources. When there's YouTube and TikTok to watch, do kids still care about television and movies? Yes, and you'd be amazed how many kids want to learn to write screenplays for TV and film. I've been lucky enough to teach kids of varying ages about screenwriting, and they all became quite enamored with it! Most screenwriting books are aimed at the professional writer or more experienced adult, so instead, use these six steps to introduce kids to screenwriting, and they'll be writing their own scripts in no time!
Export a perfectly formatted traditional script.
When teaching kids screenwriting techniques, I always ask what shows or movies interest them. Their answers might include Marvel movies, animated movies, or older movies their parents like. It's essential to understand what content they respond to and explore why that is. Why do they like the shows and movies they do? Are there things they don't like about their favorite show? What's a movie they don't like and why? Getting them to voice these opinions helps them think critically about what makes a strong character, how to use a three-act structure, and the elements that make up compelling stories. Knowing what they like and don't like can guide them to improve their own creative skills.
Our popular culture today is very much still influenced by movies and television. Kids and teenagers have an excellent understanding of pop culture and therefore have a great understanding of movies and TV shows, even if they don't realize it.
Just talking to kids about their favorite shows and movies can demonstrate a strong understanding of story structure. They can tell the difference between poorly developed characters vs. well-developed characters. They understand the elements that make up a believable make-believe world. These ideas just come second nature to kids, so you have to make them aware that they already know these things when teaching screenwriting.
Making them aware that they already understand the basic principles of storytelling and screenwriting empowers them to believe that they can tell their own stories. Kids can then brainstorm and create scripts about issues, characters, or ideas that they want to see represented on screen.
The idea that screenwriting is a visual medium is something kids both understand and struggle with. All new screenwriters struggle with this concept, even early-career writers! If you're new to the medium, it can be hard to practice the adage of "show, don't tell." Your brain has to adapt to a different way of writing. It can help to read from a section of a script, show the accompanying storyboard for that scene, and then show the filmed version of the scene. This can help kids understand how what they write would be translated to a storyboard and then filmed into a scene. They'll gain a greater appreciation of describing actions and scenes with specificity.
Every scene needs a heading, and to write your heading, you need to know three things:
Is the scene happening indoors or outdoors?
Where is the location of the scene?
Is the scene happening during day or night?
When they answer these questions, they can then write their heading. Have them write INT. for interior scenes or EXT. for exterior scenes, then have them write the specific location the scene is set in and follow that up with either DAY or NIGHT.
Below their scene heading, have them describe what's happening in that scene. Remind them that they want to think visually, like how scenes were written in the screenplay and accompanying movie examples you showed them.
Below their description, you can introduce them to the concept of dialogue. What type of conversation are the people in the scene having? Encourage them to think about how they talk to their friends in real life. Or, if the scene has a specific character like a cowboy, he might have a particular way of talking, like saying, "Howdy!" Try to demonstrate that characters can have unique ways of speaking.
After you introduce them to the basic elements of a screenplay, tell them to start writing! Ideally, you'd have screenwriting software and a computer for each child. Then every kid can independently write their own short. If that's not the case, you can write have them write shorts out by hand mimicking the typed format, or write together as a group with the instructor typing.
SoCreate Screenwriting Software will be a fantastic tool for kids who want to write screenplays. It's going to help kids let their imaginations run wild! You can sign up here to be notified when SoCreate becomes publicly available.
Depending on the age and interest of the children, you can do more activities to get them used to thinking visually for the purposes of screenwriting. You can play games to encourage their storytelling or watch movies to inspire them. You can focus more on the technical skills needed to be a successful screenwriter for older children.
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Kids are great storytellers, and I love seeing what kind of ideas they come up with. When adults become professional screenwriters, they only wish they could tap into the imagination of children, so it is terrific if you can start your child on this writing path early in life. Even if they don't want a screenwriting career, creative writing is excellent for a child's development. Hopefully, this blog gave you some ideas on teaching screenwriting to kids!