How to Make a Film Script?
How to Make a Script for a Film?
- Formatting of your Film Script
- Do you have all parts of your script
- What to do when your film script is complete
When making a film script these are 3 important areas that can help your film script get noticed. Learning how to write a film script or short film that keeps your audience engaged and stands out to film industry pros can be challenging. If you want production companies and producers to take you seriously these tips can help you stand out.
1. Formatting the Film Script
There’s a bit of a joke–okay, maybe a huge joke–that all Hollywood produces anymore are sequels, prequels, and reimaginations of past movies. And you can probably add superhero movies to the list, too. But if they weren’t successful, and people didn’t go to see them, they wouldn’t be made, right?
There’s one more aspect of filmmaking that production companies won’t be changing any time soon: script and screenplay formatting. Like a college professor demanding you use proper writing styles on your term papers, there are absolutes when writing and submitting scripts to be sold.
This isn’t just punctuation, either. The font style, font size, margins, and other parts of a script have been pretty standard for close to a century. There are a few reasons for this, but the main one is it’s worked for nearly that long. But these guidelines also provide consistency.
According to the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA), they receive upwards of 50,000 scripts annually for registration with the union. Compare that to the number of movies being made for theaters, straight to video, and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime–anywhere from 100-200 a year.
That’s a lot of screenplays to go through. If a film script doesn’t follow the specific format, it’s usually not given a second chance. Why waste time on a screenwriter who can’t even be bothered with following pretty straightforward rules? Speed is the name of the game and this format helps on two fronts.
Length of the Film
This is where the fonts and spacing come into play. Courier 12-point is the industry standard because it’s been around so long. On a standard 8.5×11 sheet of paper, that font equals one minute of screen time. If there were a bunch of different fonts and a bunch of different sizes it would be impossible to know the scope of the movie.
So if a director, actor, producer, or whoever has a 200-page film script, they’re looking at a three-hour epic (most feature films are between 90 and 120 pages). That alone may scare off some potential buyers. Courier is used over other fonts because that was the predominant typewriter font way back when. It just so happened to have the right size, spacing and kerning.
You’ll also want to increase the left-side margin on the page from a standard 1-inch margin to 1.5 inches from the left. The reasoning for this is a little more straightforward: When binding your script, that expanded left margin allows the reader to easily see all the words on the page.
In fact, much of the formatting for a film script is designed to give visual cues via indents, parentheses, bolding, caps, and more. For better or worse, most scripts aren’t read all the way through on first viewing. So these formats allow for quick skimming of movie scripts.
2. Do You Have All Parts of Your Script
Title Page – Title page content is centered, both vertically and horizontally, and contains the following on separate lines:
- Title – All caps and bolded
- written by – all lowercase
- Writer’s name
- based on (if necessary)
- Date – located in the bottom right-hand corner of the page
If this is a spec script, contact information should be included opposite the date at the bottom of the page. TV show title pages include the episode name, number, director, which draft it is, and shoot/air dates if available. Like the rest of the script, title pages use a 12-point courier.
Scene Headings – Left justified, all caps, bold. Used to set the scene for the reader, both with location and time of day. An example could be INT. ART MUSEUM – NOON.
Action Lines – Used to describe what’s happening in the story, supplying visual or audio cues. Written in third person and present tense, action lines explain what’s happening between areas of dialogue.
Transitions – Right justified and all caps. Common transitions include FADE IN and CUT TO, although many transitional phrases have been phased out.
Dialogue – Indented again from the rest of the text, the dialogue begins 2.5 inches from the left side of the paper. The block is placed under the character’s name, which is indented 3.7 inches from the left side of the page. The name of the character is in all caps. Extensions are used with the character’s name in parenthesis to explain where the character is if they aren’t seen, such as narration.
Page numbers – Top right of the page, indented half an inch from the right-hand side of the paper. Page numbers always use a period (to differentiate them from scene numbers in shooting scripts). The first page does not have a number.
There are plenty of screenplay writing templates available online to help write your script, too. Even with the built-in formatting elements of screenwriting software, you’ll still want to make sure you’re putting the right directions in the right spots.
3. What to do When Your Film Script is Finished?
After you write a movie script, or even just completed an outline, treatment, or just start to write a screenplay, make sure you send your idea to the Writer’s Guild of America. This will protect your original idea for five years. Once you start shopping your script, this ensures some unscrupulous person doesn’t try to take your idea and pass it off as their own.
Of course, you can’t register “mystery whodunit in New England” or “cowboy shoot-em-up” as your idea. So make sure you have a fully-fleshed idea that makes the film script your own. Registering your idea or script with the WGA is the industry standard when it comes to protecting your intellectual property.
However, it doesn’t mean you actually own your idea–it just shows that you were the author of the idea (and you understand how the industry works). At some point, you probably want to consider copyrighting your materials with the U.S. government. Copyrighting your script protects your work for your lifetime plus 70 years.
So why do both? For starters, it’s not very expensive: registering with the WGA will cost $10 if you’re a member and $20 if you aren’t. It will run you $40 to copyright your material with the government. So money shouldn’t be an issue when it comes to choosing one or the other.
When you register with the WGA, you basically show you understand how the industry operates and you could be taken a little more seriously. A copyright will protect you if any legal questions come up surrounding the ownership of the work and could help you secure a settlement. In other words, WGA for show and copyright for dough.
Learn How to Write a Film Script with a Pro
The Film Connection Screenwriting course offers one-on-one remote training with a mentor that writes treatments, outlines, scripts, and screenplays for a living. They will help you develop the three-act structure, discuss tips and tricks of the trade, and guide you through the completion of your film script.