Screenplay Format

There are some basic conventions regarding a screenplay format that have to be adhered to. To a novice, these rules may seem strange but as he begins to learn the ropes, they become an essential part of the trade. The style of formatting differs between a spec script and a shooting script. A shooting script is what the crew uses while the teleplay a movie is under production and generally follows a more stringent style of formatting. This is because a larger number of crew members are going to be using it, requiring a standard platform for understanding, utilization or making revisions if need be. Accepted styles for screenplay format may vary from one country to another.

A typical screenplay format follows certain rules governing its:

1. Slug line or scene heading
2. Action
3. Name of the character
4. Dialogue

In general, the script is so structured that one page of it equates to one minute on the screen. The font used in a screenplay format is 12 point, Courier.

Slug line – Every time the scene changes, it calls for a new slug line. A slug line includes description of whether the scene is indoors (INT.) or outdoors (EXT.), its location and time of the day. A hyphen is used to separate the location and the time.

Action – This describes what the characters do. It is always written in present tense. The pace of the action should be reflected in the selection of words.

Name and dialogue – This consists of who speaks what and how. The name of the main character is always written in capitals and is 3.7 inches from the left. Dialogues are to be placed 6 inches from the left edge of the page. Parenthesis in a screenplay format is used to tell the reader what the character is doing simultaneously as he speaks.

Cover page – In a screenplay format, the cover page should have the name of your script in caps and centrally aligned, leave double space, write “by” and your name. The size of the paper is important, being 8.5 x 11 inches always with a margin of 1.5 inches at the left and the other three of 1 inch each.

Between a character’s name and dialogue there is single spacing while double spacing is used for everything else. Never number the scenes or try to include directions for the crew members or the characters. CONT’D is used when a scene ends but the same character continues to speak or act. The covers must be left blank. The entire script is bound together with #5 ACCO brass fasteners or screw brads.

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