Question: How does one get started with a screenplay? What are the first steps involved in writing a script?
Short answer: There are no hard and fast rules.
But there are a few aspects of a screenplay one usually works out closer to the beginning of the journey. In my case the first thing that usually occurs when I am writing a screenplay (one that is completely my own, i.e. no one else contracted me and gave me an idea to work off of) is that I get the idea from somewhere. Sounds pretty obvious, but if you don't have an idea, there's about the same chance of completing a script as clicking your heels together and teleporting back to Kansas.
There's a million quadrillion sources for ideas for a script. You can get ideas from other movies, from TV shows, from the news, from people you know or stories you heard from a friend. You can get an idea from a magazine article or from a Facebook selfie you just liked!
But assuming you have an idea, what do you do next? For me, there's a few things I try to work out first up, starting with a basic premise. The premise is the idea for the story stated succinctly.
Here's an example of a premise: What would happen if a careless alcoholic had to take care of his niece for a year in order to earn his inheritance? This would be the premise and basic idea for the story.
The premise includes:
Once I had my premise formulated as above, the next thing I would do is start working out Act 1 of the screenplay. You could call this setting the stage for the story:
If you were able to work out the basic premise/idea for your story and then also work out these aspects of Act 1 of your script, you would be well on your way to developing the whole dang thing.
As a side note, I've often found it pretty easy to come up with a premise and work out Act 1. For me the toughest of the 3 acts is the middle section - Act 2. But let's leave that for another time.
Another interesting thing to note is that often I will actually do a kind of reverse order in how I develop the script and its structure. First I will work out the premise, then I will work out (for the most part) what happens in Act 1. But then - surprise, surprise - I will work out Act 3 and the ending before I venture into Act 2 in any detail.
Each person has their own approach and techniques, so if any of what I've written here doesn't gel with you, don't worry. Do what works for you.
Wishing you all the best in your screenwriting adventures!