Using a Screenwriting Template

Latest posts by Liya Swift (see all)

Perhaps more than any other creative submission, a screenplay needs to be written a certain way. Manuscripts, novellas, and other written works and need to follow certain guidelines (spelling, grammar and so on), but none are nearly as in-depth as a script.

“‘Twas a dark and stormy night” is enough to start a book. When writing a screenplay, it might look something like this:

Example of a movie script format

It’s the same scene but with much more direction. The book lets us set our own scene. When it comes to making movies that can cost more than $200 million to make, there needs to be a little more focus.

Before any script gets the green light, however, it needs to be read. To get a script read, it needs to be submitted in a very distinct and correct manner. Look at the fictional opening above. Knowing when to use all caps, when to center or indent a line, and even how to space the left margin are all elements of a properly formatted screenplay. While getting to know the format might not sound like fun, scripts need to be done in a specific way in order to be readable, and hence, contenders in the field.

Technical Aspects of a Template

Remember those high school papers you had to write? Double-spaced, proper margins, and the like? It’s time to channel that inner sophomore and adjust the setting of your screenplay document. There aren’t a lot of parameters, but if they aren’t followed, your script may end up in the recycling bin before being read.

Why? Because the decision-maker might not be able to read it! While all other margins are a customary 1-inch, make sure the left margin is set at 1.5 inches. This allows the screenplay to be bound without covering up any of the text.

The industry-standard font for screenplays is 12 pt Courier. Why do screenplays use Courier? Consistency. If the screenplay is in a proper format, each page equates to roughly one minute of screen time. Courier is a fixed font, meaning that every letter and every space will be equal.

That means an “i” takes up as much room as a “W.” Courier has been the staple font for decades. It reads the same, no matter the operating system (PC or MAC). As one of the first widely used fonts, it could even be found on the original operating system – the typewriter.

That might be another reason Courier is used. Maybe writers and other Hollywood folks like to think back to a time when an old Remington typewriter was how to write a script, ashtray to the right and a bottle on the left. Or maybe that’s just the way it’s always been done.

Side Note: You may have seen screenplays written in a different font or size, such as in book form or some other reproduction. That’s fine because it’s for mass consumption. And some screenwriters – such as the Coen Brothers – are also the producer, director, and editor of their films. They can do whatever they want! For beginners, a shooting script or spec script formats need to be consistent.

Other mechanical parts of a screenplay include page numbers in the upper right-hand corner of the page (starting after the title page), scene headings containing locations and time of day, ALL CAPS for character names, and so on. There are several screenwriting templates available online so you won’t have to remember how many inches from the left margin dialogue need to be.

First Impressions

Because scripts can look so “ho-hum,” you might be thinking about adding a fun cover or even a clear report cover. DON’T! That’s a clear-cut sign you’re new to the business, haven’t done your research, or still have a lot to learn. It also means you’ve bought a one-way ticket to the “Pass” pile. Show your creativity in the script, not the title page.

There’s a reason screenplays have looked the same for decades. It works! Your title page should have the title of your work and your name centered on the page and the date in the lower right-hand corner. Use brass paper fasteners with washers to hold the pages together and send it in.

Boring? Yes. Will it stand out? No. Is there anything you can do to give yourself an edge? Yes! Write a “Killer Script.” Chances are, the first person to read your submission won’t be a producer, director, or major star. It could be an assistant or someone further down the food change.

In most cases, they are instructed to reject anything out of the norm. So keep the look consistent and be sure that the first few pages of your screenplay have the power to grab whomever reads it. If you keep them interested, chances are your script will move up the ranks. But how do you write the kind of scripts that keep people reading?

Film Connection has a few ideas about that.

Pro Tips for Killer Scripts

With the Film Connection Screenwriting Workshop, you’ll learn how to write great dialogue, develop your characters, and set a scene. By working with a mentor remotely, our externs get feedback weekly from established writers in the field. Learning the difference between genre and theme, understanding how a three-act structure works, and writing action lines that keep audiences thirsting for more.

All of which goes into the Killer Script. As we discussed before, formatting the screenplay is important for getting past the first few pages. What you fill the following one hundred pages with is what gets a movie made. Using screenwriting software like Celtx will simplify the process while making sure margins, single-spaced lines, and indents are all used properly.

Even after the final draft is ready, Film Connection will show you how to get it in front of a decision-maker. It can take writers years to produce a Killer Script. With the Film Connection, you will have a finished script, learn how to sell it, and even how to secure an agent to help you to the finish line in less than one year.

Is that a guarantee your script will be made into a movie? Absolutely not. But it’s not unheard of. We have successful graduates who have seen their projects turned into shorts, TV shows, documentaries, and feature-length films. All it takes is one “YES!” to get your script made – are you willing to do what it takes to find that one? Then apply to Film Connection today.

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