Back in my ramen days as a young screenwriter, I used to marvel at colleagues’ script libraries, shelves of brass-bradded screenplays generally organized by writer. They were a status symbol. “Oh, you haven’t read POINT BREAK?” they would ask, finger hovering by the title. “You know James Cameron did a rewrite.”
Screenplays were a physical thing to be borrowed and traded and photocopied. Moving from one apartment to another — young Los Angelenos generally relocate annually — meant hauling file boxes of scripts. Reading meant heavy lifting.
Now, of course, in the age of iPads and .pdfs, printed scripts are much less important. A shelf full of old screenplays feels quaint, bordering on out-of-touch, much like boasting about one’s CD collection.
I’ll gladly take convenience over nostalgia.
Still, there are times you do need a printed script. For example, production drafts are increasingly only distributed on paper, in order to reduce the chance of leaking on the internet. Or you may have so many hand-written notes in a script that it’s important to retain the physical draft.
Based on some printed scripts I’ve seen recently, a related skill may be on verge of being lost forever: writing neatly on the spine of a script.
Here’s a quick tutorial.
- Remove any brads or binder clips.
- Hold the script by the top and bottom.
- Slam it hard on its left edge. Do it twice or three times if you need to let out some steam. You want every page to be absolutely flush.
- Put the script near the edge of the table.
- Pushing down with your non-writing hand to keep the pages pressed firmly together, write the title on the edge with a Sharpie. Include date or draft if applicable.
- Restore brads or clips.
If you’re pretty sure a script will go from your hands to the recycling bin, don’t bother labeling it. Any script that is going to be stacked, shelved or filed should be labelled on its spine.
Screenplays are now often printed two-sided, which means they’re half as thick as they used to be. That’s okay. Same technique still works — just write smaller.