When you ask a person where they see their future career, they usually go for something cool like a Director or Marine Biologist. The other cool one is screenwriter! Now unless cold, harsh reality has knocked that dream out of you. Then before you can even pitch to potential TV and Film studios, you need a script (then outline.) And if you've looked at a script, the layout is confusing. And you then procrastinate and spend five hours on Steam.
I'm about to impart what I learned in my creative writing degree to you to write your next movie or tv show quickly.
Which screenwriting programme?
Before you can start writing the script, because of how precise the layout and format of a script is, you'll need a programme specially designed to the correct format for you to use.
Many industry professionals use Celtx (the scriptwriting app, not the one for video games.) However, it isn't free anymore! And if you can't pay £10.80 for it monthly, you will struggle to get your script together!
But don't threat! There are other options. If you use Google Docs, then if you go into add ons. You'll find an extension called 'Screenplay Formatter' and download it. And then, when you use it for documents, it'll create the layout for time, location, dialogue, angles and SFX. Then you don't have to worry about the format too much.
And if you are struggling to get a screenwriting format-ter. Then you'll have to do it manually, and that's a nightmare!
No matter what program you choose, you still need to be generally aware of what goes where.
Pages Per Minute and other script things to remember!
In screenwriting, one thing to remember is that one page of a script equals one minute of screen time.
So a forty-five-minute tv show is equal to forty-five pages of a script. If it's a film you are writing and the run time for those are 120 minutes long. You'll need one hundred and twenty pages of a script ready to go.
Other things to remember include A title page with your name in the centre under the title. And in the left and left-hand bottom corner are your name, address, phone number and email (or your agents.)
Then after the title page, you start numbering the pages on the bottom left corner. Don't forget it- it's industry standard, and your script might not get picked up otherwise.
Time for the formatting
So in a script, you have several elements.
Time/location: time of day and where the next scene is set
Character description: description of a character. Include names, age and what they're wearing before they talk
Dialogue: what characters say
Stage direction: What you want an actor to perform or do in a particular scene. Either during dialogue or outside it.
Cuts and SFX shots: How you want a scene to transition to the other. And whether you want any Special Effects, i.e. lasters in a scene.
How the time/location marker looks
Before every new scene, you will have the time of the shooting and where and then briefly describe the scene. It will look like this in courier new font:
MORNING EXT. BUS STOP
Always have this when you change location or time. And always mention whether it's an internal or external (INT or EXT) scene.
Then after you briefly describe the scene and a character if they are in the scene:
MORNING EXT. BUS STOP
SANDRA 30 is waiting at a bus stop which is empty except for her. She's wearing a typical pencil skirt and shirt combo, shuffling about as she waits for the bus.
How dialogue and stage direction works
Now dialogue has the characters name in the middle of the page with semicolons after it and then the speech. Any directions you want to give the actor are in brackets when inside speech. And any directions outside of speech are normal.
(running up to reception, breathless)
Hiya, I'm here for the interview. At 10:30.
I'm not too late, am I?
Sandra looks at the receptionist desperately.
SFX and cuts:
Now when you want a scene to cut to transition to another, we call that a cut. If it's just a regular hard cut you want, you don't need to mention it in your script. However, sometimes you might want a cut earlier than normal, or a specialist one like a fade, and you write it like this.
FADE TO: Or you write it as CUT TO: it all depends on the cut you want! Now, if you want special effects in a particular scene, then write.
SFX: lasers shooting out of guns in a staggered pattern
So the editor and production team know what goes where and set the scene.
One last tip
If you want to see how a proper script looks. I suggest googling the shooting script for your favourite movie and downloading it. There are tons of ones you can find with a quick Google search. Or you can look in places like the BBC Writers Room, which has tons of scripts for their shows.
I recommend reading other scripts to understand other writers' processes. And how it looks all together and not how it is in this blog post.
Once you've understood the script writing format, it gets easier to put together. Now you need a plot and characters!
Thanks for reading this article:
Hopefully, you found this article helpful and as always our wer8 family is always available to help you on your content journey. If you haven't already, please also download any one of our FREE ebooks to help you with your online presence.
Share, Leave a comment, and tell us what you think, we always love to hear from you...
Sign up to our newsletter for regular articles like these!