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Movie Script Format – The Basics

Author: Joshua Cohen

Movie script format is very important if you are a new screenwriter.  As it usually goes, you are likely excited to see some of the ideas that have been spinning around in your head be put down on paper. However, while you feel the creative juices flowing with characters and plots, you also may be unsure of how to put it all down in an understandable way. There is a correct format for movie scripts and if you don’t know it, your scripts will be passed over by directors for that reason alone. They can’t make a movie if they can’t understand what the author intended.

It’s All in the Details

In order for your movie script to be understood by both the actors and directors, every aspect of the script needs to be separated and formatted. This includes everything from scene numbers and directions, to characters and dialogue, all the way to the action portions of the story. If this isn’t done properly, it will affect your marketability, no matter how good your plot line. Even as an amateur or beginner, you should always begin the process correctly, especially if you plan to move up in this career. While you can start with software that does much of this for you, it’s also important to understand and recognize errors which may harm your movie script format efforts.

Margins Are Important

One of the main techniques that makes movie scripts readable is the difference in the margins. For example, action and stage directions are usually placed towards the left hand margin, while characters and their dialogue and action sit towards the center of the page.

Capitalize and Punctuate Correctly

Certain things in your movie script should always be placed in capital letters. These most certainly include the names of all of the characters involved in your script. However, you should also capitalize action words. For example, if you want the scene to include a sentence indicating that a mirror will break, you would capitalize the action word. In this case, that would be “BREAK”. This lets the actors and directors easily pick out what is actually supposed to be happening in a scene. Also, dialogue does not need to be placed in quotation marks in a movie script. It is already distinguishable with proper movie script formatting. You should, however, punctuate the dialogue sentences correctly.

Page Breaks

Whenever you’re writing a movie script, you are limited to the space on each page. Throughout the script, it’s inevitable that you will end up moving to another page in the middle of dialogue or action. If this happens, you should let the reader know that the event isn’t finished. When flow is interrupted by a page break, this should be indicated by (more).  On the beginning of the following page, include (cont’d).

Obviously, there is much more to think about to be sure that you are getting it all right. However, the more you practice and study scripts, the more familiar you will be with the process. If you have any questions or are uncertain of what the most correct format is, you should always err on the side of caution and look up examples of the proper movie script format.

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