The Rules (or, the Paradox of the Outlier)

John and Craig discuss this year’s screenplay Oscar winners, including the success of Birdman’s outside-the-box approach and Graham Moore’s speech.

Is automatic (cont’d) a bug or a feature?

In some cases, you’ll absolutely want to use (cont’d) to indicate a character is still speaking. But it’s not always the right choice, which is why we don’t do it automatically in Highland.

Screenplays on the Kindle, 2015 edition

A screenwriter friend just emailed me to ask how she could get one of her scripts to look good on the Kindle. You can’t. It’s the wrong tool for the job.

How to Write a Photoplay

Today’s one awesome thing comes from the Internet Archive: Herbert Case Hoagland’s 1912 book How to Write a Photoplay: To write a photoplay requires no skill as a writer, but it does require a “constructionist.” It requires the ability to grasp an idea and graft (please use in the botanical sense) a series of causes […]

The Deal with the Deal

John and Craig talk with WGA President Chris Keyser about the tentative deal reached between writers and the studios, and why it’s more groundbreaking than it might appear at first glance.

How to convert a PDF to Final Draft

Screenwriters often find themselves with PDF of a screenplay when they actually need a Final Draft (.fdx) file that they can edit. Here are three ways to convert from PDF to fdx, ranging from painful to sublime.

Ugly children and cigarettes

Has a statistician cracked the code on successful screenplay formulas? John and Craig cast a skeptical eye at a New York Times article on Vinny Bruzzese, who claims to have done exactly that.

Taking notes

Craig leads the discussion on how to survive a notes meeting. As screenwriters, our instinct is to defend, deny and debate — but these are almost always the wrong choice. By reframing the discussion about the movie rather than the script, you can often end up at a better place.

The Next 117 Pages

John and Craig talk about everything that comes after the oft-discussed First Three Pages, speculating on the kinds of issues they’d spot if they were looking at full scripts.

Observations on the evolution of screenwriting based upon reading one script from 1974

For work this afternoon, I needed to read a screenplay written in the early 1970s. I think it’s the earliest-dated script I’ve read that wasn’t reprinted in a book.

Intercutting within a musical sequence

Musical numbers are a lot like action sequences: you’re trying to convey how it’s going to feel in the final movie, not beat out every little moment.

Formatting notes in a screenplay

Only very rarely do you have to do a full dead stop to explain something to readers. I’ve probably done it twice in 40+ scripts.

Formatting an interview montage

If you’re staying in one location — or a series of similar locations — you don’t need individual sluglines.

Outlines, treatments and numbered pages

To me, an outline tends to be less prose-y and feature more bullet points, but there is no common consensus in Hollywood about what’s what. We use “treatment” and “outline” interchangeably.

Okay to use bold for scene headers?

You can use bold sluglines in your screenplay. It’s just a matter of personal preference.

Talking over a black screen

A black screen is a black screen. It’s not INT. or EXT. Whether you start the film with a black screen, or you create one mid-way with a CUT TO BLACK, you can simply have your characters speak over it.

Handling IMs in screenplays

How do you go about formatting IMs and text messages in your scripts?

One dash, two dashes

One hyphen, two hyphens or none at all?

Are parentheticals overused, cont’d

An ambitious reader crunches the numbers to find how many parentheticals successful screenwriters are actually using.

Angles, spacing and monikers

Three quick answers on writing camera angles, formatting TV scripts and choosing a pen name.

What belongs on a title page?

Check through any of the .pdfs in the Library, and you’ll see that title pages are kept minimal: the name of the script, your name, based on (if any), and the date.

Stressing out in dialogue

If you have a line that only makes sense one way — and it’s not the first way someone would read it — you have a couple of choices.

Formatting the faux-documentary

How to format the script for faux-documentaries like “The Office.”

Numbers in dialogue

For dialogue, use as few numbers as possible, and write them out unless it’s cumbersome to do so.

When two characters are played by the same actor

If it would be obvious to the viewer, make it obvious to the reader.