One day in April, 2011, Kate Chaplin and Veronica Diaz from Karmic Courage Productions sat down to discuss screenwriting.
In this episode Chaplin and Diaz break down screenplay to it’s 7 formatting elements and the do’s and don’t for each element.
Tips Mentioned in this Episode:
- Look into screenwriting programs/software such as Celtx, Final Draft, Montage (for Mac), Movie Magic, Storyist, and Movie Outline.
- There is a format for a reason. Screenplays are a blue print for production. A series of reports for various craft people are generated from the scripts format using software. Click Here for an Example of a shooting schedule using EP Scheduler.
- The 7 elements in script format are: transitions, scene headings/slug lines, action lines, character, parentheticals, dialogue, and scene numbers.
- Transitions are right justified, in all caps and are followed by a colon. Examples are FADE IN:, FADE TO BLACK:, INTERCUT:, CUT TO:, MATCH CUT; SMASH CUT:
- Decide of you are going to use CUT TO: between each scene heading and be consistent.
- Scene headings/slug lines are in all caps and describe where the scene is taking place. They start with INT. or EXT. to represent of the scene takes place in the Interior or Exterior. Be specific in your slug lines, INT. WILLIAM’S BEDROOM – DAY vs. INT. BEDROOM – DAY. After the location only use; MORNING, DUSK, DAY or NIGHT. Again reports are generated from the time of day they are the color codes used in #3 example of a shooting schedule.
- Add CONTINUOUS, MOMENTS LATER, DAYS LATER to your slug line when applicable. It helps the reader know how the new scene is in relation to the previous scene. Example of this would be INT. WILLIAM’S BEDROOM – DAY – MOMENTS LATER
- Action lines follow your slug line and briefly describe the scene. If the character doesn’t do it, say it, or wear it, it doesn’t belong in the script.
- Don’t write camera directions. That is up to the director.
- Use practical and relevant descriptions for example “T he blood drained from his face due to embarrassment” is a bit much for an actor to do on cue.
- First time a character is mentioned their name is in ALL CAPS. This for casting, reports, DP to set up an introductory shot and for the reader to notice that someone new is entering the mix.
- Dialogue is left justified 2.5 margin from the left and 2.5 margin from the right. Dialogue is not center justified.
- Know the difference between ellipses and em-dashes. An ellipse is 3 periods with 3 spaces “. . .” it is to mark when a character is not finishing their thought and trailing off. An em-dash is two hash marks next to each other “–” and that is to show when a character is being cut off. Examples: “I don’t remember when I first. . .” “This place is about to–“
- Learn to use (beat) effectively. A beat is a pause in dialogue to add conflict, express emotion or put emphasis on something important.
- Scene Numbers are for shooting scripts only.
- A physical script sent to an agent or producer should be ; 3 hole punched, two strong brads on the top and bottom, blank card stock on the front and back, followed by a cover page.
- Example of a Blank Cover Page
- Register your material with the Writers Guild of America or the Library of Congress.
Links Mentioned in this Episode:
- Celtx – free screenwriting software
- Final Draft – industry standard screenwriting software
- WGA screenplay registration
- Library of Congress registration
Helpful Books/Links Related to this Episode
- Simply Scripts glossary of terms (website link)
- Script Frenzy formating tips (website link)
- Elements of Style for Screenwriters by Paul Argentini (Amazon listing)
- Elements of Screenwriting by Irwin R. Blacker (Amazon listing)
- How to Not Write a Screenplay by Dennis Martin Flinn (Amazon listing)