Script Formatting Tips

Thursday June 6, 2013.

You don’t need an expensive or special software to write a proper script with the proper font and formatting. Of course, some of these software format the script for you, so you save time, but you can easily format it while proof reading it and you don’t spend that much more time than necessary on formatting it. It also saves you money as it can easily be done with Microsoft Word.

Font. The most commonly used font is COURRIER. Not Courrier New, there’s a difference. I used to gets mixed up with the two at first. Size 12. A good trick is to keep your alignment to LEFT, select COURRIER 12 and write out your rough/working script from here.

It’s important to remember that CHARACTER NAMES are capitalized and the dialogue is  one Enter below.  You can use 1.5 line spacing for dialogue if you prefer. But the standard is single line. Usually one page of script means 1 minute of recorded video in a final edit. I however use the 1.5 lines to calculate extra time during shoot just in case we go over time. This is a personal preference.

There is no indentation when writing descriptive text, actions, etc. When introducing a new character, one can either write a new sentence or paragraph that describes this character or have it be an insert between commas or brackets. For example: 1)  A young woman enters the room scowling. This is Rosetta, tall and blonde, with tanned skin.  2) A young woman (Rosetta: tall, blonde, tan skin) enters the room scowling.

New actions are new paragraphs generally.

The fun thing about scripts is that you don’t have to write out the fight scenes. You can put key actions of the fight in the script, but the details are down to the fight coordinator. If you wanted to, you could simply write: “They fight.”

New scenes are underlined always. And the locations underlined and bold. The location must include whether it is interior or exterior, the time of day (day, night, afternoon, etc.) and the location/room where the scene is taking place. This must also be capitalized. As such: EXT. MORNING – FOREST VALLEY

Now, it’s important to note, as much as there are these key formatting “rules”, it does not mean that one cannot play around with Italics for visual purposes. If you’re like me and have a short attention span, or are dyslexic, you might prefer making your paragraphs Italic and your Scene numbers Italic as well. This makes it a bit easier to follow and much easier for the eyes. It does not take away from the professional look your script needs to have. What you can also do, if you want to play it safe if you need to send a copy in to a professional, is make a duplicate of the document once everything is “final” in the script and take off all Italics from that duplicate. That way you have YOUR copy for you and your cast and crew, and the “official” copy. Note that I put quotation marks on “final” only because a script is never truly final, even on set there are last minute changes, ad libs and in editing we could switch a reply from another if it seems better.

Now, if you look up script formatting, most sites will talk about a number of inches from the left or from the right with points here and points there, but in Word, 0.9 does not exist. If you observe the Word rulers, you will see 7 lines before the next number, numbers increase from the left. Why the need to count backwards! Word rulers show 3 lines, a middle, 3 lines and new number, so I will be using the . for these lines.

Here are the formatting numbers you need to remember when using Word. Note that I mention only those that need special indentations, otherwise, everything is on the left, no indentation at all. Always use the left side indentation marker, except for dialogue which needs both left and right markers.

Character names: 3.1

Dialogue: 1.6 and 5.1

In-dialogue action/voice-over indication: 2.3 for the left.

Simple. Make sure to number your pages. In your header, include company name, name of copyright owner and/or the screenplay writer on the left, and the title of the project and if it’s the script or working script, etc., on the right. At size 10.

Title page: all should be centered. I like to put some titles in a different font, to be fancy, but it must be in bold and bigger, underlined and included a couple lines down, the screenplay writer. Also include if it’s an adaptation, or if there is a creator for the story. If the screenplay writer and the writer of the story is the same, then only put “Screenplay by (your name)”.

I made a short video that shows a bit what I explain here for a better understanding. Hope it helps. Note that the scripts shown herein are Copyright property of Binky Productions. And remember, BinkyProd offers coaching and tips for pre-prod and production (script being one of them). for more information or a quote.

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