Script Format

"Get black on white."

—Guy de Maupassant

When you submit a script to an agent, movie company or network, it must be written in script format. The first sign of an amateur is when he or she submits a script with the improper format. In a script there are basic rudiments, specific number of pages, certain line spacing for your script format.

Your script format is a blueprint developed by you that demonstrates to other people what's being seen and heard. It includes the dialogue, the description of characters and location of the shots and directions for the characters' actions. This format is totally different from any other type of fictional writing and prose.

You should never submit any script unless you know the rules for script format. That is one rule that must never be broken. It is essential that you have the correct format or your script won't even get read. Your script should read like any well-written piece of writing. Make it flow and involve the reader, so he or she won't want to put it down.

One way to ensure the smooth flow of work is not to include camera angles and directions. You are the writer. Let the director or the cameraman decide on the camera shots and angles they want to use. If you include camera angles it will lessen the impact of your story and slow down the action of your script. It will distract your reader rather than attract him to want to continue reading.

There are terrific computer programs such as Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter that will format your screenplay in a professional manner. These programs make it easy for you to correctly format your script without being bogged down in worrying about margins and style. If you don't have these programs the following example is the standard for formatting. Here are the correct script format specifications:

At the opening of your script put the words FADE IN: written in capital letters, which is referred to as CAPS. It is positioned in the upper left hand corner of your page. It means curtain rises. At the end of your script type the words FADE OUT in the lower right hand corner of your page. It is also in caps and means fade to black. These are the only times you ever use these terms. After writing FADE IN: skip two lines and write whether the shot will be an inside or outside shot; the location being shot; and the time of day or night.

This is referred to as the SLUGLINE. It's written in all caps and introduces each new scene. Write INT. for interior shot, EXT. for exterior shot, the location and the time. For example:


These are written in caps and are always used to indicate when there is a new location and starting a new shot. After the slugline double space and begin to write the necessary description of the restaurant or the street. Only write the essential description that will be shot by the cameraman. Don't write a lot of description, but use an economy of words, describing just what must be seen. The description or directions are written in single space, upper and lower case, just like sentence structure.

Besides description you also write the action in the same way, in upper and lower case and in prose, with active -verbs, short and to the point. Use the best type of prose you can write. When you introduce a character for the first time, always use capital letters for the first and last name and a brief description of the character. "SALLY JOHNS, early 30's, blond hair, and beautiful smile," could be enough descrip tion. Don't get too detailed with a character's description unless it is necessary for your story to have a specific type of character.

The dialogue is written in upper and lower case directly under the character's name. It is centered below the characters name from 35-65. Parenthetical is written in lower case in parenthesis and places beneath the character's name, on a line that's separate form the dialogue. In the directions always capitalize any camera shots or sound effects.

Some other directions you need to know are the following:

PO.V. (Point of View) If you want to have a shot from the same perspective a character is seeing it, write SUSAN'S PO.V The camera is behind the character and sees what the character sees.

V.O. (Voice Over) is used when you hear a character's voice but you don't see him. This is used a lot when one character talks on the phone and we hear the voice over the phone but don't see the other character. It is also used when someone is talking over a scene that is being shot, but the character talking is not in the scene. When you see shots of a car traveling down the highway and you hear a voice narrating over the scene, that is considered a voice over.

O.S. (Off Screen) is used in the directions when we hear a sound coming from another room. It could be written in caps as the following: O.S. MUSIC FROM RADIO or O.S. SLAMMING OF CAR DOOR.

B.G. (Background) is usually part of the description.

Transitions include CUT TO:, DISSOLVE TO:, MATCH CUT TO:. They are justified on the right margin, and are written all in caps. Use with discretion, because a it is obvious when you start a new scene, since you have a slugline such as:


CUT TO: is used at the end of a scene when you want to quickly cut from one scene to another.

DISSOLVE TO: is used at the end of a scene when you want a slow change from one place to another.

MATCH CUT TO: is used when you are showing a person or object and you suddenly have the same person or object, but you cut to a different scene.

INSERT is used when you need to show a close-up of an object inserted into the scene. Insert is used a lot in mysteries to plant a clue or red herring.

If you are using a computer the outer margins of your script are 15 and 75. Use these margins to write your description and your directions. Action scenes are long descriptions of what your characters are doing. When you're ready to have a character speak, double space and capitalize the character's name and center it in the middle of the page at 45 margin. Write the dialogue directly under the name and centered at 35 to 65. Any directions written in the dialogue are centered at 40 with parenthesis around the directions (angry). When you want to write more description or longer directions, double space and write it from margin to margin (15 to 75).

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