When you have a great idea for a movie, where do you start writing? It can seem daunting to start writing a movie. But we’re here to help. One of the best ways to get started is to have a good understanding of the screenplay format.

Screenwriting format serves as a great tool when writing to keep your ideas clear and your script cohesive. Writing with proper formatting also gives your script legitimacy, and it lets people reading it know that you know what you’re doing. In this blog, we’ll talk about the basics of formatting, offer some resources for screenwriting, and talk about how to write a screenplay.

If you’re looking to fund a project, whether you’ve written the screenplay or not, submit a one-sentence pitch to our funding opportunities for the chance to win up to $10,000 and other prizes.

Resources

Screenplay Resources

Software

The easiest way to write with perfect formatting is to have the right tools. Screenwriting software can be a very helpful tool because it can keep your formatting correct as you write.

If you don’t mind paying for it, Final Draft is the industry-standard screenplay software and very easy to get the hang of. If you’re a student, you’re in luck: Final Draft offers a semester-long free trial, which is a great way to learn the tools and format at a competitive industry level.

If you’re looking for free screenwriting software Scrivener, Manuskript, and Celtx are all great options. This post offers some more great free software.

Books

Screenwriting Books

Books about screenwriting are also great resources because you can go back to them again and again for help when you’re writing. Books also have plenty of screenplay examples and excerpt samples from screenplays.

Scriptwriting books can also be a great resource for writing a screenplay outline and in general offer great screenplay format examples.

Some of the best books for writing screenplays and the best screenwriting books for beginners are available here. You can find some great screenwriting books on Amazon. 

Courses

Lastly, a great resource is a screenwriting course. Especially in quarantine when things are moved largely online, an online screenwriting course could be very beneficial for your writing. Getting feedback from other writers and industry creatives can be very beneficial for your work. Courses can also teach how to write something specific like a screenplay treatment, which is a one-page summary of your script.

A step further would be entering a screenwriting fellowship, which we would recommend if you’re really serious about screenwriting as a career. The Writer’s Guild Foundations has a great list of fellowships for the coming year.

Writing

Writing the Title Page

Title Page

The first step to writing with perfect formatting is the title page. Any good screenplay has to start with the title. The screenplay title page is very important to the professionalism of your script. The title of your story should be centered on the page in the official screenplay font, which is Courier New, and under the title should be By [Your Name Here].

Title page for The Irishman.

In the bottom left corner, it is also important to add your contact information so if someone reading it likes your work, they can get in touch with you. You can also add your copyright information here once you choose to copyright (although that’s a bit of a different blog post). Now that you’re set-up, you’re ready to write with perfect formatting.

Scene Headings

The other important convention of formatting is how the script begins and how each new scene is introduced. Every screenplay, even famous ones like the Pulp Fiction screenplay, start with FADE IN: and then a sparse description of the scene.

Example of scene headings in Knives Out.

Establish whether or not the scene is indoors or outdoors with either INT or EXT for interior or exterior, and then give a one-word description of the location. Like OFFICE, PARK, GARAGE.

The last thing the opening line of a screenplay needs is a time of day. Establish this with a dash—either DAY or NIGHT. If you’re continuing a scene from a different location without interruption in time (such as characters exiting a room, walking into a restaurant, etc.), you can use the word CONTINUOUS.

With just three words, the scene is set in proper screenwriting format. A screenplay format example of this might look like.

FADE IN:

INT. COTTAGE — DAY.

Dialogue

Recording Dialouge

The way dialogue is written in screenplay formatting is unique and has important formatting conventions. There are no qualifiers like “she said” in screenplays. Instead, in a script, the line of dialogue is written under the speaker’s name in all caps, as MAX followed below by the line of dialogue. Screenplays also don’t use quotation marks for dialogue.

By giving each new line of dialogue its own new line of the page, the pacing of the scene can be determined from a read-through, and the page looks relatively clean with ample white space.

Example of dialogue from Parasite.

White space is important for the reader. A screenplay submission that is formatted incorrectly and has long blocks of text will not be considered because it is too hard to read.

White space makes reading easier on the eyes and is metric studios use to sort through scripts. Don’t write more than three or four lines without a line break, as this will be too hard on the reader’s eyes. It will also help the pacing of your script.

For a better understanding of how this looks, you can find free screenplays for several famous movies online with just a quick Google search. Reading other screenplays can be very beneficial for writing your own.

This is the script for Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, and this is the script for Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, and Marc Forster’s Stranger Than Fiction just to name a few examples you can check out.

After You’ve Written

After Writing

So what do you do when you’ve figured out how to end the screenplay and it’s done? There are lots of different ways you can go about becoming a screenwriter and getting your script out there.

Screenplay competitions and screenplay contests are a great way to get other people to look at your work and get some good feedback. Here are some of the best screenwriting competitions according to Studio Binder.

If you’re looking for a more traditional Hollywood route to get your script noticed, you can get a screenwriting agent. An agent helps advocate for you and your script to studios and Hollywood executives.

Whichever way you go about getting your script noticed, it’s important that it is properly formatted, otherwise, the people reading it won’t take it seriously. Perfect formatting lets your readers know that you’re a professional.

If you have a script you need to be produced, or if you want to pitch an idea before you’ve written a script, submit to our funding opportunities today for a chance to receive up to $10,000 and other prizes to make your film.

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