A script is the basis for every movie. However, the writing process and the form differs significantly from that of a book text. Scripts must fulfill several tasks at once. Which are these and how you step by step to your own script, we explain to you below.
Scripts are a slightly more complex text and have to be many things at the same time. They have to include dialogues, scene descriptions, some annotations for the director, comments on mood and atmosphere, and much more. In addition to the actors, screenplays are also read by the director, the producers or, for example, by the prop. All readers must be able to imagine the film well through the read. Also, be aware: you write the script not for the ordinary reading consumption, but for a visual medium. It serves as a template for everything that should be implemented in the film.
The idea for the script
The idea of a film has to fit in two sentences. If that is not the case, the story is too boring or too complicated. To practice exactly how to pack a movie idea into a sentence or two, practice with blockbusters or your favorite movies. So you get a sense of how a good movie idea works. Here are a few examples of movies that you are aware of.
The Lord of the Rings: A mythical creature tries to rid the world of a wicked ruler. The power of the ruler is bundled in a ring that must be destroyed by the mythical creature.
Star Wars: A boy fights his spaceship against a great power that threatens the entire universe.
The exposé for a screenplay
The synopsis is like the first concrete step towards the screenplay. It’s a quick summary of the idea. The length of an Exposé is in the rules one to two pages and comes first without dialogues or exact scene descriptions. In principle, you can understand it as the synopsis of your movie. Above all, the synopsis is important because production companies or film promoters decide on the basis of the synopsis whether to finance or produce the film.
Writing style of a screenplay
For the writing style you can orient yourself, as with many other texts, on a supreme premise. Short and clear sentences. In addition, the script should always be written in the present tense. Avoid too many stage directions and above all unnecessary information that has nothing to do with the story and the scene.
Layout of a screenplay
Of course, there is no fixed standard for a screenplay. Nevertheless, with the years in the scene have set some standards, because the scripts are indeed designed to be clear and therefore easy to read. The following formatting suggestion might be very suitable for your screenplay.
- Format, orientation: A4, portrait format
- Font: Courier or Courier New or similar non-proportional fonts
- Font size: 12pt
- Line spacing: simple
- Margins: each 3.0 cm
- Tabstop 1 at 3.0 cm: Scene titles (in capital letters), description of the plot; z. B. INSIDE / OFFICE / NIGHT or TOM startle when it knocks on the door.
- Tabstop 2 at 4.5 cm: Description of the dialog (in brackets); z. B. (anxious)
- Tabstop 3 at 5.5 cm: name of the speaking role or source of the voice in capital letters; z. B. TOM
- Tabstop 4 at 16.0 cm: Scene transitions in capital letters; z. For example, SHOW to Scene or Dismount
- The page number is usually in the upper right corner of each page. But you also have leeway.
The cover page of the script should say:
- Author (s)
If you prefer to work differently, you can also use different software. There are of course paid offers, such as Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter with many good features. For the narrow Taler but are also free programs such as Fountain, Trelby and celtx.
Instructions in the script
Each script must inevitably contain instructions for the director, the actors and the different trades of a film production, what to do on the set. Everybody knows how the idea should be implemented and what kind of images and situations the author has in mind. Although these instructions do not guarantee that the idea will be turned the same way, they are indispensable.
The scene header is one of the most important pieces of information in a script. Here not only the name of the scene is named, but also the scene itself is described. So before it comes to the concrete action, you have to describe where (inside or outside and the concrete place) and when (day, night, noon and so on) the action takes place. The scene title is always divided into three parts and is usually written completely capitalized. Here is an example of a possible heading.
Example: INSIDE OFFICE NIGHT
The instruction comes in the script directly after the scene heading. Be as brief as possible. Write succinctly and in the present tense and avoid superfluous phrases. Each of the instructions should be relevant to the action being played. When a person appears for the first time, the name of the person should be written completely capitalized. Here is an example of a typical instruction.
Example: TOM sits in his office chair in front of his computer and looks nervously at his watch again and again. There is a knock on the office door. Tom starts and stays motionless.
The dialogue is of course one of the most important parts of a script, because after all, you do not want to make a silent movie. Again, more or less norms have been adopted as a dialogue is written in a screenplay. A dialogue is usually divided into three parts. First, the name of the speaker, as mentioned above. Of course, in the first appearance in capital letters. In the second part you describe how the scene is spoken. In the third part you then write the actual dialogue of the persons in normal spelling.
Tom? Are you in there?
Yes I am here. What do you want from me?
Camera instructions should not be written into a script. Technical instructions also for other involved in the film trades, such as lighting or Setrunner can be found in a separate technical treatment. Nevertheless, you can incorporate certain camera settings in the scene description. So you can make even clearer, how the individual scenes should be structured dramatically. Here are a few examples how camera instructions look like.
Example: T = total, N = near, POV = point of view, CU = close up
Of course, every script has at least one, but usually a variety of characters. To give readers an understanding of the protagonists’ character and appearance, they are usually described as one or two sentences at the beginning of a scene in which they appear for the first time. Here mention only the essential things for the role and the scene and omit everything superfluous.
TOM sits crookedly in front of his PC. He taps nervously on his keyboard. Tom is a small man with thinning blond hair and a slight belly. He always wears a light blue tank top.
Many steps for writing a screenplay
Basically, the formal structure of a screenplay is of course the basis for it to be read reasonably. Nevertheless, it should be clear to everyone that a good script requires many more work steps that have not been described here. These include, for example, an exciting, moving, sad or in other words interesting story. A long preliminary work, with a lot of research on locations, characters and story is therefore always necessary. For this reason, it is logical that the clear, outward form is just one of many steps to your own screenplay.