Script writing format: How to Format a Screenplay?

Script writing format is the key to let the script stay in the hands of the reader for couple of more minutes. Hard to believe and the bitter truth, 8 out of the 10 reason, production company reject a script because it is not following the industry standard script format. Script format is not only document for the writer to tell the story, but also an important document for each and every department of Film Production Company.

Script writing format: How to Format a Screenplay?
Read: Best Screenwriting Software available for free in 2019

Read: Step by Step process of a movie production in 2019

History of Script writing format in Bollywood Film Industry

One or two decades back in Indian Film Industry, there were no scripts. It is hard to digest, how could it be possible to make a film with out proper scripts!! This information is partially true. If we visit library, then we would easily get the script of “Devdas”, 1955 film directed by Bimol Roy. There were lots of films which maintained a proper industry standard script format where as others did not maintain the exact script format which we see frequently today. But still there were documents to proceed and make films. In general in such films (where there were no script), the director used to carry a story and scene by scene narration.

The dialogue writer used to develop dialogues depending upon the scenes the director narrated him just before the shoot. Most of the time, the dialogues were written just before the shoot, or one day before shoot. And on the other side, songs were treated as separate phase in film making. Songs were choreographed, directed by the Choreographers. (Which means they were the decision makers in the song picturisation phase and even it exists still today). No wonder, why most of the media in those time and even today claim, choreographers are the best potential film directors.

Contemporary screenwriting and Script writing Format:

Today, every visual story medium, whether its tv series, whether its webseries, or film, all follow the industry standard format. The major departments of film production company strictly depend upon the script. Therefore, any film production company before proceeding, locks the script which is commonly known as bound script. Todays date film production unit begins their project with bound script. So we must follow the industry standard format.

Industry standard format of screenplay / script

A movie script or screenplay consists of movie scene. Each movie scene has following important parts.

  1. Slug line or Scene heading
  2. Action
  3. Character cue
  4. Parenthetical
  5. Dialogue
  6. Transition

Slugline or scene heading

Indent: Left: 0.0" Right: 0.0" Width: 6.0"

It informs the reader about the actions location and the time of happening of the actions.

Example: INT. HOTEL ROOM – DAY

The above slugline tells us, the location is hotel room, it is happening in the day time and it is an interior location. This will help cinematographer to arrange the lights accordingly. It will help actors to visualise the scene accordingly.

Action

Indent: Left: 0.0" Right: 0.0" Width: 6.0"

Action are the visual details which audience are going to watch on the cinema screen. It helps film director to break down in to shots.

Character cue

Indent: Left: 2.0" Right: 0.0" Width: 4.0"

If there are any dialogues, then character cue helps actors to improvise and set a tone to deliver the dialogue in certain way.

Parenthetical

Indent: Left: 1.5" Right: 2.0" Width: 2.5"

If any specific instruction the screen writer wants to instruct the actor to deliver the dialogue in certain way, then such instructions are written in this format.

Dialgoue

Indent: Left: 1.0" Right: 1.5" Width: 3.5"

The sayings of the characters. It helps actor to preplan to deliver the verbal words in certain cinematic way.

Transition

Indent: Left: 4.0" Right: 0.0" Width: 2.0"

The passage of time from one scene to another.

Common Transitions are:
  1. Cut to
  2. Cut back to
  3. Flashback
  4. Dissolve to
  5. Smash cut

Every movie script should restrict to the above mentioned industry standard script format

If you are using a text editor such as MS Word or Wordpad, then you have to follow the above mentioned format and adjust the text accordingly. But if you are using screenwriting software then you dont have to bother for the format. The format guidelines are in build.

If you are eager to know some of the popular screenwriting software which are available for free, then read following article: