• Joseph Morganti

Writing A Musical: Things to Keep in Mind

With the upcoming release of West Side Story slotted for late 2021, musicals have come and gone and been a significant part of the world of cinema. An exciting genre in and of itself, a musical tends not to be a severe discussion to novice screenwriters. Thus, those interested in the matter struggle to find the resources they need to get their script to fruition.


Thankfully, the modern era and the internet have allowed it, so practically every genre, no matter how niche, has a slew of information online at all times. Nevertheless, if you’re interested in writing a musical, continue reading as we discuss the critical components and things to keep in mind with the subject. Let’s take a look!

Still from 'La La Land'. Photo credit: Quora


Setting and Musical Style


Whenever someone discusses a musical they like, it’s not just a matter of the music in the film. The setting and musical style are heavy focuses in the film, primarily since the setting births the music in the film. While writing your script, you should develop a general outline and focus on where your musical takes place.


Is it a modern era musical that can rely on modern tracks for the film? Or is it a throwback to the past where modern tracks wouldn’t necessarily work? All of that leads to the point of deciding the setting. The setting should be decided before you get to work on your characters and main plot.


The setting and timeframe of a musical help outline the story ahead. Besides the setting, you also need to be aware of the musical style of the musical. The style can mean many things, but it generally refers to how songs are performed. Is the entire film in the music setting? Is the music used as a component of the film? Or is the music a separate part of the film? Below are the two main styles to consider:


All Sung - The ideal example of the all sung format is Les Miserables. This format is where all of the dialogue is conveyed through music. There are exact melodic numbers inside, yet even the exchange in the middle is explained through music.


Integrated - The integrated configuration is the format most musicals use. La La Land, Frozen, and Beauty and the Beast are great examples. Musical numbers are coordinated with dialogue and are regularly yet not in every case part of the film’s general plot.


Creativity


Like anything else, creativity is the driving force of any great script. The creativity of a musical is especially imperative since it helps the success of the music and plot itself. When writing your musical, you should think of ways to separate your musical from previous popular musicals.


It’s widespread for professionals to compare and contrast work, but this is even more real with musicals. There are so many classics in the genre that people can’t help but compare them to one in the past. There is also the point of developing a script that’ll interest any studio since musicals aren’t as prevalent as other genres.


Technique


Your musical’s technique heavily depends on the musical type you go with. If you choose to have an all-sung format, then you’ll have a lot of work ahead of you. Writing a full-length script that’s entirely in a sung format can take a long time. However, the challenge can pay off since it’ll stick your script out from other musicals.


Presentation


Similar to the technique of your musical, you should be aware of how you present it. It may help to have rough demos of the songs when pitching, so whoever is hearing it can get a rough idea. You should also be aware of the plot since a musical is more than just music in the story.


Musical Script Format


Musical scripts are organized just like how we format a standard screenplay besides the musical numbers. It’s all about placing the musical numbers, with each musical varying with how common the song sections are. As for how the musical numbers should appear, you can either bolden or italicize them. Other than that, format it as you would with any other script.


Where Do The Songs Go?


Whenever someone mentions a musical, there comes the point where the songs go. If your songs are solely there to enhance the story, you can find a decent rhythm to insert the tracks. On the other hand, if the songs are a detailed part of the script, they can become a finite method of inserting the musical numbers.


Music and a Great Plot


The most significant point to make while writing a musical is understanding that a musical isn’t just about music. It’s about having a great plot with music. Les Miserables is about love; La La Land is about chasing your dreams; Frozen is about not being afraid to be yourself, etc. Take a look at any great musical; they aren’t solely music numbers but have a deepened plot behind them.