Screenplay Format  

Posted by jeffige

If you really want to start up the screenplay mountain, you have to learn correct screenplay format. Or do you?

Before I started to write my first screenplay, I had to spend hours upon hours learning the correct way to format a script. I wrote my first screenplay on an old typewriter. Hearing the keys click – clack as the words spilled out onto the page before my eyes was inspiring. It was a task lugging the old ball and chain down to the local coffee shop. -- The typewriter, not my wife. I wasn’t married at that time. But, it was worth it. To sit outside having a cup of joe while life continued around me... awesome. The only problem was it took what seemed like forever to write just a few pages. My thoughts would float back to the formatting aspect, instead of staying with the story aspect.

Today, folks can keep their minds on the story, instead of being worried about margins, line spacing and exactly how much space goes before the first line and the last on the page. Unless, you still write with a typewriter. And if you do, God Bless you. I won’t dwell on screenplay format for one very good reason. There is an abundance of software that will put your mind at ease when it comes to the formatting. From Screenwriter 6 --which I use -- and Final Draft 8, to online programs like Scripped Writer or Five Sprockets. You can shell out hundreds of dollars, or not shell out a dime. These programs do just about the same thing: keep your mind on your story.

Writing a fundamentally good screenplay is a daunting task. Not only do you have to worry about the story you want to tell, you have to think about things like plot, your protagonist, antagonist, the hook, the ending, turning points, structure, and that’s just to name a few. Do you actually need something else to worry about? Didn’t think so.

Below are links to some screenwriting programs that will help keep your supply of aspirin where it should be. In the bottle.

Boxed Software

Free Download Software

Free Online Software

A final note on formatting. You would be wise to invest in a little book that a lot of screenwriters swear by, including this one. The Screenwriter’s Bible by Dave Trottier. Within the pages you will find all aspects of screenplay format, and a lot more. It is worth its weight in gold for aspiring scribes.

Also, read a helluva lot of screenplays. Read the titles that scored big at the box office, and the ones that didn’t. Read scripts from the movies that you’ve seen. Watch a movie while you read the script. What ever you do – guess what? That’s right – READ SCRIPTS.

Below are links to a few places that you can download free movie scripts. Just be warned: Some of the screenplays are SHOOTING SCRIPTS. They are written with camera directions. DO NOT! write camera directions into your screenplay.


One final order: WRITE. WRITE. WRITE.

If it walks like a duck...  

Posted by jeffige in

I once read a somewhere, "Anyone can be taught how to write a screenplay". At first, I was pissed. I mean, come on. That's crap. After I threw the book in the trash, took a hot shower and drank a cold Bass, I realized. They were right.

On September 10, 1993 a film directed by Tony Scott and Penned by Quentin Tarantino debuted. Although it starred a plethora of great actors, it only grossed 12 million. I was blown away by this flick. Yes, I've seen a lot of great movies before this one came out. But, this one... There was something about it that tickled my creativity.

I started a debate among friends on just how good this movie was. Most just called me crazy. While we were debating and doing what Brad Pitt did best on the screen, a man I've only met a few times before tapped my brain. "You should read the script," he said. So, I set forth on a journey to find a way to get my eyes on this script thing. Two weeks and $15 later, I was hooked. Needless to say... I am a procrastinator.

I started my first screenplay two years later. And finished one three years after that. A friend read it and told me it was awesome. I read it and thought it was crap. A good chunk of my paycheck went to buying books on the subject of screenwriting. Syd Field was the first. I started reading shooting scripts shortly after. I was bummed. There's no way I could write this good. Then, I learned the scripts I was reading were not the originals. No. These were the polished scripts. I felt a bit better.

Over the years I must have read over a hundred hit movie scripts. While doing research, I read an order. Read as many scripts as you can get your hands on. Read scripts from movies that have made it big at the box office. Did that! Read scripts that have bombed at the box office. Didn't do that. Why would I want to read a screenplay from a movie that sucked? To learn...

"Anyone can be taught how to write a screenplay". That is the truth! Anyone can. But, not everyone can be taught how to write a good script. Anyone can be taught how to drive. Not everyone can be taught how to drive like Jimmie Johnson. Or throw a football like Dan Marino. Or throw a temper like John McEnroe. Not all screenplays are created equal. But, why not? because, not all screenwriters are created equal. I could spend the rest of my life trying to paint like Picasso. Hell I could probably forge one of his paintings. But, I will never be able to paint my own masterpiece. I just don't have it in me. Just as most people don't have it in them to scribe a good script. Much less a great one.

Anyone can put words to paper, punch a few keys, place an INT. or an EXT. along the left margin. Anyone can describe a scene, a character, a chase scene. But, not everyone can do it well enough to keep the reader reading, and the audience watching. This is one reason why I have decided to start this blog. To learn how to walk and quack like a duck. And maybe along the way. I can teach a person or two how to waddle.