How to Format a Screenplay: Helpful Script Writing Instructions

How to Format a Screenplay: Helpful Script Writing Instructions

If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.

Stanley Kubrick

Do you want your story turn into the finished film? Be prepared to make several steps toward your goal. The first one is to format your scripts the right way. There are certain standard rules all script writers should follow no matter what university or college they are studying at. We have prepared this script formatting guide to make this difficult task easier for you. Keep on reading to learn the distinctive features and peculiarities of screenplay formatting.

4 key reasons why you should format a screenplay properly

It is very important to use the established format of writing the final draft, even if you write the script for the film you are going to direct.

  1. People who can finance your movie often figure out how professional screenplays should look like.
  2. Experienced team members have a clear understanding of how the script should be formatted.
  3. All of the actors definitely know the rules of how a high-quality script should look like.
  4. The properly formatted script will help you when you need to make a plan of filming.

Believe that having the right script format, you will feel self-confident. Fortunately, the software takes most of the effort required to properly format, but you still need to understand what the elements of the script are, and also be aware of the formatting rules.

Script format: The general principles

You are recommended to have these guidelines in front of you when formatting your script:

  • The text of the spec script should come immediately after the title page. No list of characters, a list of scenes, a brief description, budget, wishes for the film team, table of contents, copyright conditions, autobiography, or illustrations.
  • The script is written only in the present tense. Forget about: "He saw. He said. He experienced a flush of joy”. You need to say: "He sees. He says."
  • Scripts are never written in the first person. You should always use the third person. It is not right to say "I'm standing and looking." It must be like this: "He is standing and looking."
  • The page number should be in the upper right corner 1.25 cm from the top edge.
  • The numbering starts from the first page of the script text, and not from the title page.
  • Do not number the scenes until you go to the preparatory stage of filming.
  • Do not specify any dates or type designations "The first variant", if you send the script to professionals.

Screenplay formatting instructions you should follow

Check what standard formatting rules you need to keep in mind when formatting your own script for shooting.

  • Font: Courier New
  • Font size: 12
  • Alignment: Left
  • Bold, italicized and underlined font are never used (even if it is a remark, even if you want to highlight some important detail)
  • Page margins: Top - 2.5 cm, Bottom - 1.25 cm, Left - 3.75 cm, Right - 2.5 cm. The rest should be left unchanged.
  • Parameter "Paragraph" block "Name of the hero": Left - 6.75 cm, the rest is unchanged.
  • Parameter "Paragraph" block called "Cue of the hero": Left - 3.75 cm, Right - 3.75 cm, the rest is unchanged.
  • Paragraph parameter of the "Remarque" block: On the left - 5.5 cm, on the right - 4.5 cm, the rest is unchanged.
  • Heading page. Back off from the top of the page by about a third and write the name in the middle. ( Use capital letters!) Under it, in the middle, write the Name and the Surname. Bottom right or left (there may be options here) write your contacts (or contacts of your agent). There is nothing more to write.
  • Page numbering is placed on the right at the top of the page at 1.29 cm (1/2 ”) from the top edge of the page and 2.54 cm from the right edge).

It’s not hard to format a screen play in accordance with the listed rules. So, just follow them and you won't be taken for an amateur.

More things to keep in mind when formatting a screenplay

Want to look like a professional Hollywood scriptwriter? Then, check some more important things, which will help you to achieve your goal.

  • Scenes. The script is divided into scenes. As a rule, a scene means a single scene. For example, a corridor. Suppose your characters, walk along the corridor and enter the office talking all the time. Despite the fact that time flows here continuously, a new scene begins from the moment they enter the office. Scenes have a title that is separated from the previous scene by double spacing. Include the transition of the character.
  • The title of the scene. It should be written in capital letters. No indent from the left margin. The title begins with an indication of where the action takes place. (Write “Day” or “Night” specifying when the action takes place.
  • Dialogue. A block of dialogue is written under the name of the character (separated by the usual single interval). It starts with an indent from the left margin of 7.62 cm (2.5 ”). The dialogue is a column of text 30–35 characters wide (approximately 2 ”–2.5” from the left margin of the field). After the dialogue, you should always put a double interval.
  • Remark. It is used extremely rarely! It is written immediately under the name of the character, above the dialogue, in brackets. Try not to describe the emotional state of the character. The remarks start at 7.8 cm from the left margin and end at 6.35 cm from the right margin. At the same time, they should not consist of more than 3 words and take up only one line. In the vast majority of cases, remarks are best replaced by a description of the action.
  • No need to include the directions of the camera.

If you do everything as described above, then each page of your script will correspond to an average of 1 minute of your movie. This is not always the case, but it is often close to the truth and has already become the rule in the film production industry.

It is better to create a film that lasts for 90 - 120 minutes. Know why? A film shorter than 90 minutes makes the viewer feel that the film is not worth the money. More than 120 minutes isn't the best variant because it is difficult to watch it without making a break. Sometimes, there may be exceptions. For example, comedies may last shorter, because people do not tend to laugh for a long time while dramas, on the contrary, can last longer.

Final thoughts

Specialists who have read thousands of scripts, as a rule, immediately reject a script that is not written in the proper format and don’t even read it. Their judgments are as follows: if the author does not even know how to format scripts properly, then most likely he or she is not able to write any interesting story. These beliefs are justified in practice. So, hope that you will follow the above-listed guidelines that will help you to achieve great success. Remember that if you lack the necessary time for formatting, you can always entrust this task to professionals who will help you to present a well-formatted script copy.