How to Write a Found Footage Film
The market for found footage films is an unsteady one at best. Just when you think the fad has gone out of style, promising specs sales such as Glimmer (a found footage time travel script by writer Carter Blanchard) and The Dyatlov Pass Incident by Vikram Weet take on the genre from another angle and prove that not every found footage film on the production slate has to be Paranormal Activity 12.
Because found footage films are cheap to produce, there will always be a demand for found footage scripts that are well-written and approach the genre in a new way.
Here are 4 Tips for Writing a Found Footage Film:
- Concept is Everything. What sets Glimmer apart from the found footage crowd is its clever use of time travel. Sure, any time travel script has some logical flaws, but I found Glimmer to be entertaining and a great new entry to the genre. Remember that found footage films in particular require simple concepts. Glimmer is ‘found footage time travel.’ The Dyatlov Pass Incident is ‘filmmakers investigating an unsolvable mystery.’ Paranormal Activity is ‘a demon that feeds off negative energy haunts a household.’
- Play with Camera Placement. In found footage films, the camera is like a character in itself. In Paranormal Activity 3, the camera is mounted on an oscillating fan, which allows for maximum creepiness as it slowly moves back in forth and things occur both in and out of the frame.
- Keep it Real. Because found footage films often center around implausible (and often paranormal) events, this leaves little to no room for more implausibilities and coincidences when it comes to “oh we just happened to have a camera at this particular point in time.” Give your characters real motivation for keeping a camera out all the time. In both The Dyatlov Pass Incident and Paranormal Activity 3, one or more of the characters are filmmakers, which explains their penchant for recording everything.
- Jeopardize the Camera. In nearly every Paranormal Activity, there is at least one character who is trying to get the other character to shut the camera off. This creates several layers of conflict. First, there is the conflict between the two characters themselves, and then there’s the conflict between the audience and the character who is jeopardizing our entry into the story. Putting the camera right in the midst of the action also helps immerse the audience into what’s going on.