Screenplay formation or script is a written draft or blueprint crafted for a movie, video game, or TV show. Scriptwriters write an original screenplay or use adaptations of previously published content. These individuals work as storytellers and describe characters’ dialogues, expressions, actions, and movements in the script.
While screenplay writing may sound like a simple task, it requires incorporating much depth and detail into it. Scriptwriters construct a screenplay, build characters, and develop a strong bonding between the audience and the story, which is quite an art, requiring excellent writing skills and powerful imagination.
The in-depth drafting process of a screenplay requires you to be open-minded about critique and to devise your piece of writing over and over. Understanding and working on some skills are the essentials of formatting a screenplay. They include learning the proper formation of the document, forming ideas, and fleshing it out.
Screenplay formation accompanies its set of industry norms. It is slightly different from the screenplay writing style for a shooting script, which is a more precise formation of the pre-production script used to transform the screenplay into a film. Scriptwriters can include transitions, music cues, and camera directions in this formation.
Steps of Proper Screenplay Formation
Although it is not uncommon to use scriptwriting software to format your screenplays automatically, understanding the proper formation of your work is a must. Once you learn how to format the script, screenplay writing can develop into a subsequent temperament.
Script formation is a relatively simple process, though it is one of those aspects that can seem daunting until you have learned how to go about it. Scriptwriting formation has several fundamentals that a scriptwriter needs to understand and practice. These include:
1. Character Names
Introducing characters in a screenplay can be best done by using all-capital letters for the character’s name followed by a reference to their age and information about their personality and traits. However, scriptwriters use other ways to introduce their characters, though using the abovementioned way is the most production-friendly one to introduce characters.
2. Dialogue Descriptions
Screenwriters should centralize descriptions of dialogue delivery of a character in a parenthetical above the dialogue. It will allow you to show small actions or a shift in the character’s mood without jumping out to the action line.
While dialogue has a straightforward formatting standpoint, it tends to be the most complex part of scriptwriting. Use capital letters to write the name of the character speaking in the center of the page and indent it 3.7 inches from the left margin of the page. Set the lines of dialogue underneath the character’s name to which you want to assign them. Ideally, the indention of each set 2.5 inches from the left margin of the page will meet the norms.
4. Action Lines
Action lines describe the audible and visual actions that happen on screen. The screenwriter will write these descriptions in the present tense and use the left margin of the page to describe each character’s action.
5. Camera Angles
Screenplay writers do not include camera angles in the script draft. However, it may become necessary to add camera angles to your script to unfold a scene, allowing the delivery of a big secret or a joke. It is professional to suggest camera angles without writing in the shot, though you can describe a particular camera angle in your script and format it like a subheading. It allows the reader to understand how to set a shot from the writer’s perspective.
6. Scene Headings
Scene headings or sluglines appear at the top of new scenes. They help break up physical spaces. It allows the reader or the production team to have an idea of the geography of the story. Use EXT. for exterior setup or INT. for interior locations, followed by a description of the space and time of the day. Some movie screenplays require filming in different sites on the globe, demanding the scriptwriter to use multiple hyphens to detail the scene headings. It will help them avoid highlighting the geographical location in the action lines, save space to give more detail about the story, keeping the readers engaged in the screenplay.
7. Title Page
As the first impression usually works as the last impression, professional formatting of the title page is an art. The title page of your screenplay should only have the title of the movie or television show, the scriptwriter’s name, and their contact detail. You may add a representation of the script to the title page where needed.
Many screenplay formation writers begin their scripts with a transition, which includes BLACK SCREEN, FADE IN, or FADE OUT, in capital letters on the right side of the page. Some scripts may have these transitions in the top left of the page, whereas others begin with scene headings or subheadings of descriptions.
Screenwriters will always write V.O. in caps to signify wherever voiceover is necessary. Make sure to write it beside the name of the character who will speak in the scene.
10. Off-camera or Off-screen
A screenplay draft for a film should read O.S. (off-screen) for the characters you want to be heard off-screen. Mention O.C. (off-camera) for the characters who will speak off-screen in television scripts.
A professional script formatting always uses the words “INT” for interior locations and “EXT” for external sites. Make sure these words come first before the scene headings.
Professional scriptwriters meet the industry-standard norms to format a screenplay. Use Courier font to make a proper movie script formation.
13. Page Margins
Use a 1½-inch margin on the left alignment of the page for your script formation. Likewise, a 1-inch margin on the right side and 1-inch white space on the page’s top and bottom will work.
14. Page Numbers
One page of a screenplay typically means one minute of screen time. Professional script formatting includes page numbers given on each page, except for the first page.