From what I gather, it seems to be almost “bad form” to include a list of characters with your screenplay or at the beginning of it. At least it’s something. However, in dense scripts, wouldn’t such a list be helpful?
Seeing a movie on screen has the advantage of visual recognition in a sea of faces ( “Oh, that’s the Joe Pesci character,” “There’s the guy with the red hat again”, etc.), which obviously the written word can’t always convey, except if you go into background or descriptions every time the character shows up.
So is it okay to include a brief list of characters for a particularly complex and character-rich script?
No. Never do this.
The Godfather screenplay doesn’t include a list of characters. Ditto for Lord of the Rings.
If your script is so convoluted that readers won’t be able to remember which characters are which, you need to fundamentally rethink it. A list of character names won’t help.
Yes, in some screenplays it can be tough to recall who’s who. Be nice to your readers. If you have a character who hasn’t shown up for fifty pages, it’s okay to throw a line in the scene description to remind us who he is:
The elevator doors open to reveal Marcel -- Tiff’s obnoxious boyfriend from the race track -- lighting two cigarettes. He hands one to the blonde gamine beside him, who we’ll call FAKE EDIE SEDGWICK.
When I’m reading a script that I’ll need to discuss later, one trick I’ve learned is to write down the major character names on the title page as I’m reading it, like this:
Todd – stockbroker
Brett – meth addict brother
Wallengate – Todd’s boss, narcoleptic
It’s a cheat sheet for myself, based on my reading, and helps me remember the geography of the plot when I meet with the writer. A prebaked character list wouldn’t help the same way.