How To Write A 3D Screenplay That Makes An Awesome Movie

Some time ago, I was asked what a 3D script should look like and how it differed from a regular one. Does a 3D movie simply relate to the way it’s shot, or does it influence the storytelling? 3D films are an ENHANCEMENT of the visual medium, much like CGI. It amplifies the entertainment experience.

The same rules of drama apply to 3D and CGI movies as any other film. However, the VISUALIZATION and SCOPE of these stories are different. You have ultimate creative freedom because your world doesn’t need to be real. It shouldn’t be. It’s a total indulgence of fantasy.

Consider Sony’s “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs” or Steve Carell’s summer animated film “Despicable Me” about a man who tries to steal the moon. Such concepts do not easily lend themselves to live action, or if they did, they would lack the wonderment, imagination and joy of the animated versions.

CGI normally serves to enhance live action films, but is technically an animation process. Think of it as the Photoshop of Cinema. It can be as subtle as removing blemishes or as obvious as recolorizing an image or creating unnatural movement. Examples include the flying leaves in “The Lovely Bones” or the frog rain in “Magnolia”. CGI is also a staple of fanstasy/sci fi movies like “Lord Of The Rings” and horror (particularly creature features).

Adding life to normally inanimate objects adds a physical dimension films. Consider the talking animals in Disney films. The experience is totally different to the CGI-heavy “Beverly Hills Chihuaha” or the live action sixties sitcom “Mr Ed” about a talking horse. Spoiler ahead: They actually gave Ed apples to munch on during shooting so he didn’t really talk. The lip syncing was totally off.

I wrote an animated short film script eons ago about a colony set in a Hawaiian Shirt. I can’t remember what it was called, but there were hula dancers, dancing pineapples, surfing strawberries and bongo drums. I also wrote a pilot called “Fridgeville” about a dastardly community inside a refrigerator. The latter got me some meetings, but ultimately it was too hard a sell.

Back to the topic of how does a 3D movie script differ from a 2D one. Given the unabated tsunami of 3D movies vying for screen time, they deserve special mention. They are generally extensions of live action films rather than the magical, make-believe world of animation. However, rather than visualizing a story within the constraints of a frame (length and width), you now have to consider volume (or depth), the third dimension.

“Final Destination III” is the best 3D movie I’ve seen to date in terms of visual experience. I still remember ducking axes and blood squirts. These are considerations when writing set pieces in a 3D film. It appears that 3D movies currently lend themselves to action, adventure and horror films. Saw 7, My Bloody Valentine (remake) and Resident Evil- Afterlife were or will be shot on 3D.

Since 3D is an audience immersion experience, your script should embrace the intimacy that 2D lacks. There is more interaction, richness and activity since audiences are no longer partaking in a passive movie-going experience. Will 3D movies of the future require their audience to stand and move around like a video game? Who knows?

How might a horror sequence look in a 3D script? The flying axe might begin by cracking open a ribcage and washing the audience with bloodied organs. Nice. A totally inclusive experience for your audience. You don’t want a repeat of the scandalous scenario of “Clash Of The Titans” which was shot in 2D and converted to a knock-off 3D version.

The World Cup was broadcast in 3D in some markets. Watch that ball fly over the players (I can see it already), into the audience making them swerve, and finally into the net.

Some studios are discussing a 3D romantic comedy. Personally, I can’t see it, because by definition, audience need some distance as they watch the onscreen boy meets girl antics. There is a thing as too close for comfort. Time will tell if the box office agrees.

And now for the ultimate cinema experience; IMAX in 3D. Prepare for movie sensory overload.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Gideon Omoruyi says:

    Nice, that helped clear some fog in the back of my head. Though what I am wondering is how would a screenwriter go about writing a script for an action 3d/ CGI movie, ei “Final Fantasy Advent Children” or “How to Train Your Dragon”
    -Does it cost more to make movies like that?
    -Would it be a good choice for new screenwriters?
    -Would selling scripts of that nature be hard?
    -What Movie Studio’s (besides Pixar) make CGI.

    P.S ironically my name is Gideon to.

    1. It used to cost more to make animation but the costs have come down.
      Write what you like, but if you write animation you’re limiting your choice of buyers. There are more live action production companies out there.
      Selling any script is hard. Animation studios are usually looking for franchisable material.
      Pixar, Disney, Sony and Fox are the key animation studios in the USA


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