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What Are The Rules To Format A Movie Screenplay?

By Dan Bronzite

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Previous Article: How Screenwriting Software Can Help You Write Better Scripts

The basic script formatting rules which all screenplay software adhere to are down to using a standard sized font (Courier 12pt) and a script with between 90 and 120 pages, where each page translates to approximately one minute of screen time. You divide your story up into "scenes" and format them and the dialogue and action that takes place within them in a specific way (line spacing, margins, indents etc) so that it is easier to read than if your story was just typed out as a huge bunch of text.. such as in a novel. But don't worry, screenwriting software like Movie Outline takes care of this for you as you type through auto-complete, auto-pagination and keyboard shortcuts.

The other major factor you have to understand is that films are all about visuals and sound, unlike novels. With novels you give the reader a huge amount of information in the prose and let them dream up the rest.. why?

Because you have the time to and that's how this medium works. But with screenplays time is money and everything has to be spelled out, so you usually have to keep your prose (descriptions of characters, locations and action) to a minimum and be succinct.
Movie Outline Takes Care Of Script Formatting

And when it comes to dialogue, you can't just waffle on preaching your own opinions, you have to write from the perspective of the character speaking (even if their opinions directly oppose your own) and only make them speak when necessary in order to progress the story or develop their character or relationship with other characters.

The final rule of thumb is "get in late and get out early". That means, start each scene at the most interesting point and end it in the same manner, sometimes on a hook. There's no point writing about a guy who pulls into a bar car lot, gets out, locks his car, walks up to the door, enters, orders a beer, sits down in a booth, reads a book for thirty minutes, goes for a pee, returns to his booth.. AND THEN his friend enters and they talk. Unless it's crucial to your story or character you can cut the waste of time story-telling at the beginning or instead use a visual clue to the fact that he'd been waiting a long time such as a cross-fade on a close-up of a clock, or just show his table full of empty beer bottles and make him angry at his friend for being late. Get it? Good.

Next Article: Can Screenplay Software Help Structure My Story & Film Script?

About Dan Bronzite

Dan is a produced screenwriter, CEO of Nuvotech and creator of Movie Outline 3 screenwriting software. He has written numerous specs and commissioned feature scripts including screenplay adaptations of Andrea Badenoch's Driven and Irvine Welsh's gritty and darkly comic novel Filth. Dan is a contributor to Script Magazine and has also directed two award-winning short films Finders, Keepers... (1995) and Absolution (2001) which have played the international festival circuit. His most notable feature to date is Long Time Dead, a supernatural horror for Working Title Films starring Lukas Haas, Marsha Thomason, Lara Belmont, Alec Newman and Joe Absolom. His spec horror Do or Die was recently sold to Qwerty Films and he is in the process of developing his directorial feature debut and various US and UK projects.

Screenwriting Article by Dan Bronzite

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