• Screenplay Formatting
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    • Screenplay Formatting
      26/01/2017

      What is a Screenplay?

      A screenplay can be an original piece, or based on a true story or previously written piece, like a novel, stage play or newspaper article. At its heart, a screenplay is a blueprint for the film it will one day become. Professionals on the set including the producer, director, set designer and actors all translate the screenwriter's vision using their individual talents. Since the creation of a film is ultimately a collaborative art, the screenwriter must be aware of each person's role and as such, the script should reflect the writer's knowledge.

      More sources about Screenwriting Fundamentals:

      Cinematic Storytelling - Screenwriting Fundamentals

      For example, it's crucial to remember that film is primarily a visual medium. As a screenwriter, you must show what's happening in a story, rather than tell. A 2-page inner monologue may work well for a novel, but is the kiss of death in a script. The very nature of screenwriting is based on how to show a story on a screen, and pivotal moments can be conveyed through something as simple as a look on an actor's face. Let's take a look at what a screenplay's structure looks like.

      In the most basic terms, a screenplay is a 90-120 page document written in Courier 12pt font on 8 1/2" x 11" bright white three-hole punched paper. Wondering why Courier font is used? It's a timing issue. One formatted script page in Courier font equals roughly one minute of screen time. That's why the average page count of a screenplay should come in between 90 and 120 pages. Comedies tend to be on the shorter side (90 pages, or 1 ½ hours) while Dramas run longer (120 pages, or 2 hours).

      Screenplay Formatting Software

      Screenwriting software makes producing an Industry-standard script simple and straightforward. Programs like Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter put your words into proper screenplay format as you type, letting you focus on a well-told story rather than the chore of margins and spacing.

      There’s also a wide spectrum of outlining and development software at the ready to help you get your thoughts together before you begin writing. Popular story development software includes Dramatica Pro, a step-by-step guide to the storytelling process, Contour, a character-based structuring system, and Save the Cat!, a program centered on successful screenwriter Blake Snyder’s own proven methods.

       


       

      And if you want a program that combines story development and formatting? Check out Movie Outline, an all-in-one development package that uses step outlining to build your story, scene-by-scene, and Montage, which includes both outline and submission tracking functions.

      More sources about Using Film & TV Script Editors:

      Using Celtx Film & TV Script Editor

      More sources about Screenpaly formatting:

      Screenplay Formatting: Part 1

      Screenplay Formatting: Part 2

      Screenplay Elements
      Below is a list of items (with definitions) that make up the screenplay format, along with indenting information. Again, screenplay software will automatically format all these elements, but a screenwriter must have a working knowledge of the definitions to know when to use each one.

      Scene Heading
      A scene heading is a one-line description of the location and time of day of a scene, also known as a "slugline." It should always be in CAPS.

      Example:
      EXT. WRITERS STORE - DAY reveals that the action takes place outside The Writers Store during the daytime.

      Subheader
      When a new scene heading is not necessary, but some distinction needs to be made in the action, you can use a subheader. But be sure to use these sparingly, as a script full of subheaders is generally frowned upon. A good example is when there are a series of quick cuts between two locations, you would use the term INTERCUT and the scene locations.

      Action
      The narrative description of the events of a scene, written in the present tense. Also less commonly known as direction, visual exposition, blackstuff, description or scene direction.

      Remember:
      only things that can be seen and heard should be included in the action.

      Character
      When a character is introduced, his name should be capitalized within the action. For example: The door opens and in walks LIAM, a thirty-something hipster with attitude to spare.

      A character's name is CAPPED and always listed above his lines of dialogue. Minor characters may be listed without names, for example "TAXI DRIVER" or "CUSTOMER."

      Dialogue
      Lines of speech for each character. Dialogue format is used anytime a character is heard speaking, even for off-screen and voice-overs.

      Parenthetical
      A parenthetical is direction for the character, that is either attitude or action-oriented. With roots in the playwriting genre, today, parentheticals are used very rarely, and only if absolutely necessary. Why? Two reasons.

      First, if you need to use a parenthetical to convey what's going on with your dialogue, then it probably just needs a good re-write. Second, it's the director's job to instruct an actor on how to deliver a line, and everyone knows not to encroach on the director's turf!

      Extension
      Placed after the character's name, in parentheses. An abbreviated technical note placed after the character's name to indicate how the voice will be heard onscreen, for example, if the character is speaking as a voice-over, it would appear as LIAM (V.O.).

      Transition
      Transitions are film editing instructions, and generally only appear in a shooting script. Transition verbiage includes:

      CUT TO:
      DISSOLVE TO:
      SMASH CUT:
      QUICK CUT:
      FADE TO:

      As a spec script writer, you should avoid using a transition unless there is no other way to indicate a story element. For example, you might need to use DISSOLVE TO: to indicate that a large amount of time has passed.

      Shot
      A shot tells the reader the focal point within a scene has changed. Like a transition, there's rarely a time when a spec screenwriter should insert shot directions. Once again, that's the director's job.

      Examples of Shots:
      ANGLE ON
      EXTREME CLOSE UP
      PAN TO
      LIAM'S POV


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