Pre-Production: How To Write a Script

A script can be hard to crank out. Translating your ideas onto the page takes a lot of skill and practice. On top of that, there are some established conventions that you will need to worry about. Any script not written in the proper screenplay format will not receive a second glance.

Step 1: Font

The proper screenplay will need to be written in Courier 12 point font. There is a reason for this. The rule of thumb is that one page of script will equal a minute of screen time. This is not a perfect assumption, but changing the font will make it completely useless.

Step 2: Front Page

Your front page should be very simple. In the center, you should have the title followed by the draft number. Remember to keep all your drafts. Below this, note your name as the writer. At the bottom of your title page, list your contact information to the right.

Step 3: Page Layout

Page one of your script should not have a page number on it. After that, page numbers should be listed in the upper right hand corner of each page. The top and bottom margins should be 1/2". The right and left margins should be 1" for descriptions. This should leave a total of 60 lines per page.

Step 4: Slug Lines

At the top of each scene, you need to give a basic setting. These lines should be in all capital characters. First note whether this is inside or outside, abbreviate interior as INT and exterior as EXT. Add a period then write out the name of the location. Insert a hyphen then list the time of day. DAY or NIGHT is sufficient unless you have a good reason to be more specific. This should amount to: INT. MARTHA'S LIVING ROOM - NIGHT

Step 5: Descriptions

You will then write a short paragraph describing the scene (emphasis on short). Only provide key information and never give camera direction. When writing the names of new characters, key props or important actions, use all capital characters.

Step 6: Dialogue

Dialogue should be written with bigger margins. First write the name of the speaking character on one line in all capitals 4.1" from the left side of the page. You may then want to add a brief note about the dialogue. Write this in parentheses below the character name for example: (to Jake) or (apologetically). These details should be between 3.4" from the left edge of the page and 3.1" from the right. Then write the dialogue on the next line between 2.7" from the left and 2.4" from the right.

Step 7: Spanning Pages

When a scene spans multiple pages, you should write "(CONTINUED)" at the bottom right of the page. Then on the next page, on the line below the page number, write "CONTINUED:" on the left. If a character's dialogue is broken by the page, write "(MORE)" at the bottom of their dialogue on the first page with a 4.1" margin. Then before their dialogue on the next page, re-slug their name and write "(CONT'D)" beside it.

Script writing comes with more work than mere creativity. Though many of these conventions could be annoying, they are important.

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