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How To Format Your Film Script

How To Format Your Film Script

VideoJug presents the basics of screenwriting to help you lie out and format your future Hollywood blockbuster ready to send to agents and producers. Write a script like a professional screenwriter with VideoJug's help, and learn how to format your film script properly.

Step 1: You Will Need

  • A good idea
  • Good quality white paper.
  • A computer or typewriter
  • A sample of a professional film script
  • Champagne (just in case!)

Step 2: Know Your Format

We're going to take you step-by-step through laying out a script in film format. This format is used for feature films, all TV shot on film, made-for-TV movies and mini-series, plus all American teleplays and sitcoms. There are certain rules you must follow for the sake of clarity - some are flexible, most are not, so before you begin get hold of a professional script and have a good look at it to get an idea of how a properly formatted screenplay should look. If you're struggling, there are software packages available that will do the formatting for you - but they can be expensive.

Step 3: Use the right font

Never submit a hand-written script - it will be automatically rejected. Instead, use a computer or typewriter. You must use Courier font size 12 - it's the industry standard and easy to read. It also helps reader's to gauge the length of your script. Never use italics, bold or any kind of fancy formatting. If you must emphasise something, underline it.

Step 4: Set your margins

Your margins should be set as follows:
- left: 1 and a half inches
- top: 1 to 1 and a half inches
- bottom: 1 inch minimum

All scene headers and action descriptions should follow these margins, and the width of this text should be no more than 6 inches, so set your right-hand margin accordingly - it should an inch at most.

Step 5: Position your dialogue correctly

Dialogue is introduced with a 'character cue', to indicate who is speaking. This is the name of the character, in capitals, positioned approximately 4.2 inches from the left-hand edge of the page. The actual dialogue text appears directly below the character name - there is no need to miss a line. The lines to be spoken should begin 3 inches from the left-hand edge of the page, and each line of dialogue should be no more than 3 inches wide.

Directions for the actors - also known as 'parentheticals' -are generally situated in brackets below their character name, about 0.5 inches to the left of the character name.

For more information on writing dialogue and directions for characters, watch our other scriptwriting films.

Step 6: Page One

The first page of your script is the first page of text - the cover or title page should be added last. Begin your script with the direction "FADE IN:" (with a colon) in the top left-hand corner of your first page, aligned with the narrative and descriptive text. When you finish your script, you should write "FADE OUT" in the bottom right-hand corner.

Step 7: Stick to the rules

A producer or agent will want to know how long your script is - the standard film format allows them to judge this reasonably accurately, because all scripts are laid out in the same way. 1 page of script laid out in film format equals one minute of screen time, so stick to the rules or you'll throw the timings out.

Step 8: Space your work correctly

Dialogue should be single spaced, as should narrative descriptions of on-screen action or 'business', as it is sometimes known. You should leave a double line space between the end of one scene and the start of the next, and a line space between a scene heading and the text that follows.

Step 9: Use Acts if you need them

if you're writing a sitcoms or teleplay for the American market, you may need to write in Acts - check in advance what the requirements of your chosen genre or format are.

Step 10: Use the right paper

All scripts must be typed or printed, and you should use only one side of each sheet of paper. The UK standard is A4 paper, but if you are sending your script to the USA, they prefer paper that is 8.5 in by 11 in (21.5cm by 28 cm).

You should use a good quality paper to minimise wear and tear. On the cover