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Formatting

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.

(cont’d) vs. CONTINUOUS

You may notice several variations on “continued” in screenplays.

Last looks

I handed in a script today, and thought it might be helpful to talk through my best practices when finishing up a draft.

Variant cover artwork

Since you released “The Variant” independently, how’d you get the nifty cover art?

How to format an on-screen note

First, avoid it if possible. But if you have to, here’s how.

How to include sign language

Italics are a good choice for sign language.

Are glossaries a good idea?

Generally, no. Try to make terms understandable in context.

The Kindle is not good for screenplays

Kindle 2: great for books, but not ready for screenplays.

Can I go beyond DAY and NIGHT?

Sluglines can be more specific, but only when it’s important for the reader.

Comic book grammar

Great lesson in how comic books distinguish action, dialogue, and all the rest.