Successful Screenplay Format And Style

1. Font - screenplays are written in 12-pt. Courier font. Upon occasion, should you need to "cheat" by making it look like you've got 120 pages when you really have 130, you can try to fool everyone by using Times New Roman instead of Courier. You aren't really fooling anyone but yourself, however; and are better off trying to cut down on all those words.

2. Spacing - feature length screenplays are single spaced, with double space between scenes, between narrative paragraphs within scenes, and between narrative paragraphs and dialogue.

Single space - dialogue, action (narrative)

Double space - between scenes, between dialogue by different characters, between dialogue and action (narrative) paragraphs, between scene and camera directions such as FADE IN, FADE OUT, CUT TO, DISSOLVE TO, MONTAGE.

If this sounds confusing, take another look at the sample pages of script at the end of the book.

3. Margins - the approximate margins are as follows; when in doubt, leave more white space. Screenwriting software sets the margins automatically, and even gives you an opportunity to "cheat" slightly, if you're trying to cut down on the number of pages in an overly long script. All margins are in inches, intended for 8 x 11" paper, the American standard. For those using A4 paper, just make sure there's plenty of white space. But if you can find American stationery, please do.

Bottom - 1.5" - 2" Left - 1.5" Right - 1"

Dialogue - Character name begins approximately 4.2" from the left margin.

Dialogue text, under the character's name, begins approximately 3" from the left margin, and ends approximately 2.5" from the right margin.

4. UPPER CASE - upper case is used for slug lines (also called the scene heading), characters' name when they are first introduced, character's name above dialogue, camera directions (such as CUT TO), scene transition notations, sound effects, animals. So, for example:

TONY, 14, trailing sullenly behind the rest of his CLASS, stops to taunt the GORILLA in his exhibit. As Tony beats his chest, the gorilla rises up, beating his chest, and let's out an EARSPLITTING HOWL.

This gives you the basic parameters of what a scene might look like on the page. Now let's get into what actually goes into a scene.

5. FADE-IN, FADE-OUT - It is customary to start your screenplay with the words FADE-IN, or FADE-IN ON: on the top left; and FADE-OUT, at the end of the screenplay, on the bottom right. Fade-in isn't strictly necessary, being pretty much taken for granted. Do use fade-out, however, since it tells the reader that this is the end, and that they're not missing a page.

6. A SCENE in a screenplay is a new and distinct location, inclusive enough to show everything occurring in the nearby surroundings, but not so inclusive as to make it

impossible to shoot with a camera - this is going to be a movie, remember? It starts with a SLUGLINE, also called a scene heading, which indicates whether this is an interior (INT.) or exterior (EXT.) scene, where it's located, and the time of day (day/night/dawn/ dusk).

So, for example, if your scene is on a street in Cleveland in the afternoon, you wouldn't write:

EXT. CLEVELAND - AFTERNOON You would write:

EXT. CLEVELAND STREET - DAY

If the above seems unnaturally abrupt, it is, because it's intended to act as shorthand for: (1) the producer, who counts the number of exterior and interior scenes, distinct locations, and day and night shots, in order to both budget and schedule the film shoot; (2) the location scout, for obvious reasons; (3) the director, who, in conjunction with the D.P. (director of photography), will decide on how to shoot that particular scene; (4) the production designer, who will, in conjunction with the director, the set designer and the lighting technician, put together the visual components of this scene.

So the slug line is essentially a "master scene" shot, rather than a description of the detail within the scene. What you don't write is:

EXT. BARE TREES STAND IN FRONT OF WORKING CLASS NEIGHBORHOOD BUILDINGS, CLEVELAND, OHIO - LATE AFTERNOON SUN

If you want to let us know what kind of neighborhood we're in, which should only be included if it's important to the story, then you should include that in -

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Responses

  • ellis
    Is it okat to double space between scenes in a screenplay?
    8 years ago

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