Your scriptwriting program will cover many of the formatting issues. Have you picked yours? And are you comfortable with it?
- Celtx - freemium
- Final Draft - pricey
- Trelby - free
- Writer Duet -
- Scrivener -
- Fountain | Highland - my favourite
- Other writing apps
This is a page from The Avengers and a sample of proper script format.
1 page = 1 minute of screen time.
Bonus Material: The Origins and Formatting of Modern Screenplays, from Filmmaker IQ
Elements of a Screenplay
There four major elements of a script are: Scene headings (or slug lines), narrative descriptions, dialogue, and the title page.
Scene Headings (or Sluglines)
Used whenever introducing a new location or a new time. Composed of:
- Camera location: INT. or EXT.
- Scene location: CHUCK’S BEDROOM
- Time of Day: DAY or NIGHT
Special Notations for dream sequences:
- SARAH’S DREAM
- INT. HOUSE - DAY - SARAH’S DREAM
- INT. HOUSE - DAY (SARAH’S DREAM)
Special Notation for flashbacks:
- EXT. BUDAPEST - DAY (5 YEARS AGO)
Other Special Sluglines
French scenes (Secondary Sluglines)
Use these when focusing on several smaller locations in a large location.
For example in Casablanca, there is INT. RICK’S CAFE, but inside of it there is AT THE BAR or GAMING ROOM or RICK’S TABLE.
Notice that you don’t need to add interior or time.
If you don’t have an opening master slug-line (INT. RICK'S CAFE - DAY), then you need to add it first before transitioning to the French scenes.
You can also use it to focus on characters:
More info is available in your book.
INSERTs are similar to French Scenes:
This is a variation of the INSERT.
The typed words are indented like dialogue and in quotations marks.
A more readable style could be:
You can also add location slug lines in here as well.
You can find more in the book.
- Contains actions, settings, characters, sounds, and transitions.
- Write only what you can see and hear. No thoughts, smells, backstories, etc.
- Written active voice, present tense — this is IMPORTANT!
- Characters are UPPER CASE on first introduction, then in normal Capitalization afterwards.
- Brevity - short descriptions and only a few lines of action per paragraph. White space is important. 1 page = 1 minute of screen time.
- Capitalize important SOUNDS, IMPORTANT and UNIQUE MOMENTS. But don’t abuse. Do not capitalize props.
- No camera directions.
- No transitions, except "FADE OUT." at the very of the script on the right hand side.
Example of Telephone Conversation
At the end of conversation, you will return to one of their scenes, so treat it like as such and use a SLUGLINE.
Example of Montage
Three main parts:
- Character Cues - ALL CAPS.
- If a character is off screen but in the scene, use (O.S.) and if they aren't in the scene use (V.O.).
- Parentheticals: Try not to use, unless if absolutely necessary. Adding Wrylies (e.g. sarcastically, angrily) is discouraged and most actors and directors will ignore your directions.
- Dialogue. Treat it like an action and keep it short. Be sure to write clearly, not like a comic book, or forced accents.
- Most writing programs will do the work for you.
- Title is CAPITALIZED.
- Name in a bottom corner (often right)
- No DRAFT designations.
At the end of your script, you need to let the reader know there are no more pages. You have three choices:
- Right aligned (like a transition) - FADE OUT.
- Right aligned - FADE TO BLACK.
- Centered - THE END.
Make sure it is written correctly on your assignment.
A few Last (but important) Rules:
In this class, always show the story unfolding:
- Never direct it.
- Never write “we see” or camera directions (“the camera pans to…”)
- Keep us in the fictional space of the story.
Write a 2-3 page scene that uses proper formatting (respect those page counts). The scene must include:
- One use of montage
- One telephone conversation
- Written in active, present tense.
- Proper screenplay format (including sluglines; parenthesis, ALL CAPS on introduction of character)
- Includes a title page that uses proper format.
- Only 5 errors allowed on each page.
Due: Sunday Sept. 6 at midnight (Saskatchewan time).
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