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A script's format allows busy professionals to find the information they need at a glance. A producer estimating a budget can look at a 110-page script in 12-pt. Courier font and know he's dealing with a 110-minute film. An actor can flip through the script and quickly find his lines. A director can count up the number of night shots needed. The conventions of script formatting make it all possible.
Proper formatting is an absolute must for any serious screenwriter. Sloppy formatting screams "amateur" and will get your script tossed in the reject pile faster than you can say, "But you didn't even read the story!" Screenwriting software, such as Final Draft or Movie Maker, makes the task easier, but you still need to understand the conventions.
Below are the bare-bone basics, but if you're writing your very first script you'll need to learn more. One of the best overviews of formatting that I've come across is in chapter two of Screenplay, Writing the Picture by Robin U. Russin and William Missouri Downs.
• 90-120 pages, but 100-110 is considered ideal.
• 12-pt. Courier font.
• Top, bottom, and right margins: 1".
• Leave a larger (1.5") left margin for binding.
Scene Headings (Slug Lines):
• No indent.
• Start the slug line with INT. or EXT. to indicate whether the shot is indoors (in a room, a car, or a tent) or outdoors.
• Give the location: DAVID'S APARTMENT.
• Type a dash and indicate if it's DAY or NIGHT. Don't specify what time (noon, twighlight, etc.). Example: INT. DAVID'S APARTMENT – DAY
• No indent.
• Action, scenery, and character descriptions go here.
• Keep blocks of text short (3-5 lines).
• Use CAPS for all character headings and the first time a character is introduced.
• Indent character headings at 3.5."
• Directly follows a character heading.
• Start at 2.5," end at 5.5."
• Avoid using them. It's the actor's job to interpret your lines. But if you must use them:
• Follow a character's name on the next line.
• Indicate how the dialogue is delivered: (angry), (nervous).
• Start at 3" and end at 5.5."
Camera Angles and Transitions:
• Don't use them. This is the director's job.
• Single space your script, but double space between scenes.
• Leave lots of white space on the page by limiting your text and dialogue blocks to 3-5 lines.
• US letter-sized 8.5 x 11 inches, plain white.
• 3-hole punched.
• Use ACCO No. 5 or 6.
• Use two brads, not three (on the top and bottom holes).
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