How Do You Format a Screenplay – ‘Screenplay Formatting 101’

How to Format a Screenplay?

Ever read screenplays?

If you have, then you might have noticed that every screenplay uses the same format. Even spacing the character is done according to the standard. Having a standard in screenwriting is quite important for producers and directors and all the casts and crews to go through the scripts.

Firstly, it all starts with a scene.

INT. LIBRARY – DAY

Here, it’s essential to describe the scene where the action is taking place – it provides the information for the crews to work on their part. For example, location scouts can search for the location mentioned in the scene (‘library’ in this case).

INT. – means Interior

EXT. – means Exterior

After that comes the place where all the action is about to happen. You can be as specific as you can in this context. Here I wrote the library but it could be more specific than that – for instance, if it’s the library of a university or a public library.

After the ‘-‘ (dash) sign comes the time of the day. Whether it’s day, or morning, or dawn or midnight – whenever the action takes place.

Secondly, describe the action.

Remember that the film is a visual medium. Everything you describe should be something that can be seen (or at least be heard) in the screen. It’s not necessary to write the feelings that goes on into the character’s head – you can describe his expressions and reactions though.

Here’s an example:

SAGAR, a 25-year-old man searches for the book as he goes through the piles of the books – seems in a hurry. He goes through the ‘Psychology’ section. And then picks up a book and searches for a place in the corner to read the book.

As you continue writing, there will be characters having conversations with each other.

Whenever you introduce a character for the first time in the script, you have to CAPITALIZE the name so that the reader understands the entry of the character. Next up is dialogue.

RAJIT:

(speaks in a soft voice)

Hey !! How are you doing?

The dialogue starts with the name of the character aligned at the center. (You don’t need to know exactly how many inches from the left side – use a screenwriting software for that). The character speaking is always CAPITALIZED.

The phrase in the parenthetical refers to the guide for the actor to perform – these are not necessary until and unless the character demands it.

Dialogue and Action

Dialogue and Action are going to fill the most parts of your script. Movies are mostly action and dialogue. Most of the times, novice screenwriters try to add a lot of things to the script that is not part of the story. As a professional, please try to avoid that habit. As a screenwriter, you’re not writing a shooting script – you ‘re writing a script for the producers, directors, actors and other crew members to read.

As far as possible, write in plain English (without jargon s)

Here’s the best advice anyone can provide you when writing the screenplay – move forward your story.

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Posted by Rajit Chaulagain

Rajit Chaulagain (Chief Executive Officer @ Swopna Digital) writes about SEO, Filmmaking, Blogging, Animation, VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality), and many other exciting fields.