Screenplay

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Sample from a screenplay, showing dialogue and action descriptions Screenplay example.svg
Sample from a screenplay, showing dialogue and action descriptions

A screenplay, or script, is a written work by screenwriters for a film, television program or video game. These screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing pieces of writing. In them, the movement, actions, expression and dialogues of the characters are also narrated. A screenplay written for television is also known as a teleplay.

Screenwriter writer who writes for TV, films, comics and games

A screenplay writer, scriptwriter or scenarist, is a writer who practices the craft of screenwriting, writing screenplays on which mass media, such as films, television programs and video games, are based.

Film sequence of images that give the impression of movement

A film, also called a movie, motion picture, moving picture, or photoplay, is a series of still images that, when shown on a screen, create the illusion of moving images. This optical illusion causes the audience to perceive continuous motion between separate objects viewed in rapid succession. The process of filmmaking is both an art and an industry. A film is created by photographing actual scenes with a motion-picture camera, by photographing drawings or miniature models using traditional animation techniques, by means of CGI and computer animation, or by a combination of some or all of these techniques, and other visual effects.

Television show picture and sound segment of content intended for broadcast on television

A television show is any content produced for broadcast via over-the-air, satellite, cable, or internet and typically viewed on a television set, excluding breaking news, advertisements, or trailers that are typically placed between shows. Television shows are most often scheduled well ahead of time and appear on electronic guides or other TV listings.

Contents

Format and style

The format is structured so that one page equates to roughly one minute of screen time, though this is only used as a ballpark estimate and often bears little resemblance to the running time of the final movie. [1] The standard font is 12 point, 10 pitch Courier Typeface. [2]

Courier (typeface) canonical monospaced serif font

Courier is a monospaced slab serif typeface. The typeface was designed by Howard "Bud" Kettler (1919-1999). Initially created for IBM's typewriters, it has been adapted for use as a computer font and versions of it are installed on most desktop computers.

The major components are action (sometimes called "screen direction") and dialogue. The action is written in the present tense and is limited to what can be heard or seen by the audience, for example descriptions of settings, character movements, or sound effects. The dialogue is the words the characters speak, and is written in a center column.

Dialogue is a written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people, and a literary and theatrical form that depicts such an exchange. As a narrative, philosophical or didactic device, it is chiefly associated in the West with the Socratic dialogue as developed by Plato, but antecedents are also found in other traditions including Indian literature.

The present tense is a grammatical tense whose principal function is to locate a situation or event in the present time. The present tense is used for actions in a time which are happening now. In order to explain and understand present tense, it is useful to imagine time as a line on which the past tense, the present and the future tense are positioned. The term present tense is usually used in descriptions of specific languages to refer to a particular grammatical form or set of forms; these may have a variety of uses, not all of which will necessarily refer to present time. For example, in the English sentence "My train leaves tomorrow morning", the verb form leaves is said to be in the present tense, even though in this particular context it refers to an event in future time. Similarly, in the historical present, the present tense is used to narrate events that occurred in the past.

Unique to the screenplay (as opposed to a stage play) is the use of slug lines. A slug line, also called a master scene heading, occurs at the start of every scene and typically contains three pieces of information: whether the scene is set inside (interior/INT.) or outside (exterior/EXT.), the specific location, and the time of day. Each slug line begins a new scene. In a "shooting script" the slug lines are numbered consecutively for ease of reference.

A shooting script is the version of a screenplay used during the production of a motion picture. Shooting scripts are distinct from spec scripts in that they make use of scene numbers, and they follow a well defined set of procedures specifying how script revisions should be implemented and circulated.

Physical format

American screenplays are printed single-sided on three-hole-punched paper using the standard American letter size (8.5 x 11 inch). They are then held together with two brass brads in the top and bottom hole. The middle hole is left empty as it would otherwise make it harder to quickly read the script.

Paper size standard size of paper

Many paper size standards conventions have existed at different times and in different countries. Today, the A and B series of ISO 216, which includes the commonly used A4 size, are the international standard used by almost every country. However, in many countries in the Americas as well as in the Philippines, the North American series of paper sizes such as 'Letter' and 'Legal' is more prevalent.

Brass fastener

A brass fastener, brad, paper fastener or split pin is a stationery item used for securing multiple sheets of paper together. A patent of the fastener was issued in 1866 to George W McGill. The fastener is inserted into punched holes in the stack of paper, and the leaves, or tines, of the legs are separated and bent over to secure the paper. This holds the pin in place and the sheets of paper together. For few sheets of paper, holes can be made using the sharp end of the fastener.

In the United Kingdom, double-hole-punched A4 paper is normally used, which is slightly taller and narrower than US letter size. Some UK writers format the scripts for use in the US letter size, especially when their scripts are to be read by American producers, since the pages would otherwise be cropped when printed on US paper. Because each country's standard paper size is difficult to obtain in the other country, British writers often send an electronic copy to American producers, or crop the A4 size to US letter.

A British script may be bound by a single brad at the top left hand side of the page, making flicking through the paper easier during script meetings. Screenplays are usually bound with a light card stock cover and back page, often showing the logo of the production company or agency submitting the script, covers are there to protect the script during handling which can reduce the strength of the paper. This is especially important if the script is likely to pass through the hands of several people or through the post.

Increasingly, reading copies of screenplays (that is, those distributed by producers and agencies in the hope of attracting finance or talent) are distributed printed on both sides of the paper (often professionally bound) to reduce paper waste. Occasionally they are reduced to half-size to make a small book which is convenient to read or put in a pocket; this is generally for use by the director or production crew during shooting.

Although most writing contracts continue to stipulate physical delivery of three or more copies of a finished script, it is common for scripts to be delivered electronically via email.

Screenplay formats

Screenplays and teleplays use a set of standardizations, beginning with proper formatting. These rules are in part to serve the practical purpose of making scripts uniformly readable "blueprints" of movies, and also to serve as a way of distinguishing a professional from an amateur.

Feature film

Screenplay for The Godfather Part II, Turin, Italy The Godfather Screenplay.JPG
Screenplay for The Godfather Part II , Turin, Italy

Motion picture screenplays intended for submission to mainstream studios, whether in the US or elsewhere in the world, are expected to conform to a standard typographical style known widely as the studio format which stipulates how elements of the screenplay such as scene headings, action, transitions, dialog, character names, shots and parenthetical matter should be presented on the page, as well as font size and line spacing.

One reason for this is that, when rendered in studio format, most screenplays will transfer onto the screen at the rate of approximately one page per minute. This rule of thumb is widely contested a page of dialogue usually occupies less screen time than a page of action, for example, and it depends enormously on the literary style of the writer and yet it continues to hold sway in modern Hollywood.

There is no single standard for studio format. Some studios have definitions of the required format written into the rubric of their writer's contract. The Nicholl Fellowship, a screenwriting competition run under the auspices of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has a guide to screenplay format. [3] A more detailed reference is The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats. [4]

Spec screenplay

A "spec script" or speculative screenplay is a script written to be sold on the open market with no upfront payment, or promise of payment. The content is usually invented solely by the screenwriter, though spec screenplays can also be based on established works, or real people and events. [5]

Television

For American TV shows, the format rules for hour-long dramas and single-camera sitcoms are essentially the same as for motion pictures. The main difference is that TV scripts have act breaks. Multi-camera sitcoms use a different, specialized format that derives from stage plays and radio. In this format, dialogue is double-spaced, action lines are capitalized, and scene headings, character entrances and exits, and sound effects are capitalized and underlined.

Drama series and sitcoms are no longer the only formats that require the skills of a writer. With reality-based programming crossing genres to create various hybrid programs, many of the so-called "reality" programs are in a large part scripted in format. That is, the overall skeleton of the show and its episodes are written to dictate the content and direction of the program. The Writers Guild of America has identified this as a legitimate writer's medium, so much so that they have lobbied to impose jurisdiction over writers and producers who "format" reality-based productions. Creating reality show formats involves storytelling structure similar to screenwriting, but much more condensed and boiled down to specific plot points or actions related to the overall concept and story.

Documentaries

The script format for documentaries and audio-visual presentations which consist largely of voice-over matched to still or moving pictures is different again and uses a two-column format which can be particularly difficult to achieve in standard word processors, at least when it comes to editing or rewriting. Many script-editing software programs include templates for documentary formats.

Screenwriting software

Various screenwriting software packages are available to help screenwriters adhere to the strict formatting conventions. Detailed computer programs are designed specifically to format screenplays, teleplays, and stage plays. Such packages include BPC-Screenplay, Celtx, Fade In, Final Draft, FiveSprockets, Montage, Movie Magic Screenwriter, Movie Outline 3.0, Scrivener, Movie Draft SE and Zhura. Software is also available as web applications, accessible from any computer, and on mobile devices, such as Fade In Mobile and Scripts Pro.

The first screenwriting software was SmartKey, a macro program that sent strings of commands to existing word processing programs, such as WordStar, WordPerfect and Microsoft Word. SmartKey was popular with screenwriters from 1982 to 1987, after which word processing programs had their own macro features.

Script coverage

Script coverage is a filmmaking term for the analysis and grading of screenplays, often within the script-development department of a production company. While coverage may remain entirely verbal, it usually takes the form of a written report, guided by a rubric that varies from company to company. The original idea behind coverage was that a producer's assistant could read a script and then give their producer a breakdown of the project and suggest whether they should consider producing the screenplay or not. [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

A teleplay is a screenplay or script used in the production of a scripted television program or series. In general usage, the term is most commonly seen in reference to a standalone production, such as a television film, a television play or an episode of an anthology series; in internal industry usage, however, all television scripts are teleplays, although a "teleplay" credit may be subsumed into a "written by" credit depending on the circumstances of its creation.

Script breakdown

A script breakdown is an intermediate step in the production of a play, film, comic book, or any other work that is originally planned using a script.

Screenwriting, also called scriptwriting, is the art and craft of writing scripts for mass media such as feature films, television productions or video games. It is often a freelance profession.

WGA screenwriting credit system

In the United States, writing credit for motion pictures and television programs written under the jurisdiction of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) and the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) is determined by the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which is composed of members of the WGAE and the WGAW. Since 1941, the WGA has been the final arbiter of who receives credit for writing a theatrical, television or new media motion picture written under the WGA's jurisdiction. A production company that signs the WGA Theatrical and Television Basic Agreement ("MBA") must comply with the WGA rules on writing credits.

William Froug was an American television writer and producer. His producing credits included the series The Twilight Zone, Gilligan's Island, and Bewitched. He was a writer for such shows as Adventures in Paradise, The Dick Powell Show, Charlie's Angels, and The New Twilight Zone. He authored numerous books on screenwriting, including Screenwriting Tricks of the Trade, Zen and the Art of Screenwriting I and II, The Screenwriter Looks at The Screenwriter, and How I Escaped from Gilligan's Island: Adventures of a Hollywood Writer-Producer, published in 2005 by the University of Wisconsin Press.

A script is a document describing the narrative and dialogue of a comic book in detail. It is the comic book equivalent of a television program teleplay or a film screenplay.

Movie Magic Screenwriter

Movie Magic Screenwriter is a word processing program sold by Write Brothers to format screenplays, teleplays and novels.

Script coverage is a filmmaking term for the analysis and grading of screenplays, often within the "script development" department of a production company. While coverage may remain entirely verbal, it usually takes the form of a written report, guided by a rubric that varies from company to company. Criteria include, but are not limited to:

A spec script, also known as a speculative screenplay, is a non-commissioned and unsolicited screenplay. It is usually written by a screenwriter who hopes to have the script optioned and eventually purchased by a producer, production company, or studio.

Screenwriting software are word processors specialized to the task of writing screenplays.

A scriptment is a written work by a movie or television screenwriter that combines elements of a script and treatment, especially the dialogue elements, which are formatted the same as in a screenplay. It is a more elaborate document than a standard draft treatment. Some films have been shot using only a scriptment.

<i>Dreams on Spec</i> 2007 film by Daniel J. Snyder

Dreams on Spec is a 2007 American documentary film that profiles the struggles and triumphs of emerging Hollywood screenwriters. It was written and directed by Daniel J. Snyder, who learned first-hand about the screenwriter's travails in the late 1980s when he was a teenager working alongside aspiring writer/directors Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary in the famed Video Archives video store in Manhattan Beach, California.

Page 2 Stage is screenwriting software designed expressly for people writing screenplays, scripts, and plays. The formatting required for writing movie and TV Script is very specific and general Word processors are more difficult to use for such tasks. Page 2 Stage supports the common script formats.

Zhura

Zhura, merged with screenwriting competitor Scripped as of March 28, 2010, is a free web-based screenwriting software application for writing and formatting screenplays to the film industry standard, as well as other formats. Zhura allows users to collaborate on scripts in public or in private groups and used Creative Commons Licensing for all work in the public workspace.

Scripped

Scripped was an online screenplay services company offering three services: script writing, script registration, and script coverage. Scripped did not facilitate collaboration among screenwriters. It combined with Zhura in 2010. According to Techcrunch, Scripped had more than 60,000 writers as of March 2010.

Movie Outline is a word processing program to step outline a cinematic story and format a screenplay. It was created by Dan Bronzite, a produced UK screenwriter. It was released in 2004 as an outliner but has expanded its features in later releases.

Blake Snyder was an American screenwriter, consultant, author and educator based in Los Angeles who, through his Save The Cat trilogy of books on screenwriting and story structures, became one of the most popular writing mentors in the film industry. Snyder led international seminars and workshops for writers in various disciplines, as well as consultation sessions for some of Hollywood's largest studios.

Fade In (software) screenwriting software

Fade In Professional Screenwriting Software is screenwriting software for writing screenplays in the professional, industry standard format used in Hollywood and elsewhere. It can also be used for teleplays, stage plays, radio plays, multimedia, graphic novels, and other similar script formats.

References

  1. JohnAugust.com "How accurate is the page-per-minute rule?
  2. JohnAugust.com "Hollywood Standard Formatting"
  3. Guide to screenplay format from the website of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  4. The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats (2002) Cole and Haag, SCB Distributors, ISBN   0-929583-00-0.
  5. "Spec Script". Act Four Screenplays. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  6. "What is Script Coverage?". WeScreenplay. Retrieved 5 July 2016.

Further reading