Monday, July 24, 2006

Need to know about screenplay format?

Use these guides:

These are the best books:

The Hollywood Standard, Riley - the most up to date guide, by the former head of the WB script processing dept.

The Screenwriter's Bible, Trottier - good and widely used, choose the latest edition.

The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats, Cole and Haag - the format rulebook of old Hollywood, useful, but dated.

Do you have to buy formatting software? If you're sure this is what you want to do, and you can easily afford two hundred bucks, go ahead and buy Final Draft or Movie Magic. FD and MM are the industry standards. FD rules in TV work, MM has a lot of users in the feature world.

If you're not sure, or your budget's tight, try these freeware solutions:

Work your way through all of the format guides using the software. Then, get ahold of these cheap paperbacks:

Film Scenes for Actors, Karton

Film Scenes for Actors Vol. II, Karton

99 Film Scenes for Actors, Nicholas

Type up every scene with your formatting software. For extra credit, do the same with the first ten or so pages of each script in these three books:

Best American Screenplays, Vols I, II, and III

Format is one of the foundations of screenwriting. Format, as in standard screenplay format, is needed because feature films are made by big groups of people working together. Everyone has to understand what everyone else is doing. The basic information that crew and cast members need to do their jobs is in the screenplay. Who is in the story, what happens, how, where, and when.

Because the format is standard, the same type of information is always in the same place. The filmmakers can then use the script as a basis for planning, scheduling, and budgeting. The moneymakers can use the script as a basis for comparing one potential movie to another to see which one might make the most money. Or lose the least.

The format guides you've mentioned disagree on several points. How do we know which way is right?
Use your best judgement. Find a style that's simple, clear, and doesn't seem to confuse anyone.

One of the many reasons why it's crucial to read many, many scripts.
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