Script Formatting

By Kristen
Updated on July 28, 2007

When writing a script that you intend to sell to the entertainment industry, there are some formatting rules that you need to follow. If you don't follow the rules, your script won't even get a second glance.

Spec Scripts vs. Shooting Scripts

A spec script is the first submission draft (not your first draft). The shooting script is the script that the director, producer, etc. use when shooting the film (these are often the scripts that you see when you read scripts of movies that have already been produced). They are very similar, but there are some differences. The producer and director are responsible for figuring out camera angles, transitions, numbering scenes, etc. Unless you are personally directing and producing your film (or have a relationship with an exec who trusts your directing ability), make sure that you don't copy the format of a shooting script when setting up the format for your spec script.

It's Very Plain

I know you want to add some visual art to your script. I know you want to add in some pretty fonts, highlight points in bold or italic, and make it stand out from the rest of the crowd. Unfortunately, your audience isn't going to see those pretty fonts and graphics, so if your story needs them stand out from the rest of the crowd, then it's probably not a great story.

You also have to remember that entertainment executives see dozens of scripts a day. A single person simply doesn't have time to read every single stack of papers that lands on his desk, so they need consistency to help things move along faster. They need to know exactly where to look to get the information they want, so we always put that information in the same place. They need to know how long the story is just by counting the number of pages, so we need to make sure that we all use the same fonts, same line spacing, same margins, and same indents to make the number of pages per minute of film consistent from script to script.

Save the pretty formatting for desktop publishing.

Paper Size

8.5 (8 1/2) inches x 11 inches

3 hole punched

Font

Everything needs to be in 12-pt Courier or Courier New.

Title Page

Header: None

Title: Centered horizontally and vertically, One empty line space after title

Written by: "Written by" centered under the title (no quotes), One empty line space after written by, Writers name centered under "Written by"

Contact information: bottom right corner, aligned to the right margin

Registration information: bottom left corner, aligned to the left margin

Margins

Left Margin: 1.5 inches

Right Margin: 1 inch, ragged (not justified)

Top Margin: 1 inch

Bottom Margin: 1 inch

Header

Page number followed by a period, 0.5 inch from the top of the page, aligned with the right margin. (Don't put anything else in the header, not even titles or draft information.)

Footer

Completely empty.

Scene Heading

Aligned: Left

Left Indent: None

Right Indent: None

Capitalization: ALL CAPITALIZED

Line Spacing: Single spaced, one empty line after the heading

Contents: INT. or EXT. (interior or exterior camera placement), LOCATION -- TIME (EXTRA INFO)

Example: INT. JOHN'S BEDROOM -- MORNING (DEC 25, 1965)

Special Note: Do not number your scenes in a spec script.

Shots (if used)

Aligned: Left

Left Indent: None

Right Indent: None

Capitalization: ALL CAPITALIZED

Line Spacing: Single spaced, one empty line after the heading

Example: THROUGH THE WINDOW

Example: INSERT -- THE TREASURE MAP

Special Note: Avoid using shots in spec scripts unless the shot is necessary for the story. Shot heading may also be used to indicate dream states, flashbacks, changes in visual style (like black-and-white to color), inserts, superimposes, and montages.

Action

Aligned: Left

Left Indent: None

Right Indent: None

Capitalization: First letter of each sentence capitalized.

Line Spacing: Single spaced, one empty line after the action description

Special Note: The first time a character appears, CAPITALIZE his/her name in the action description. Also, describe characters the first time they appear. This is not necessary for groups of people, extras, etc.

Character Name

Aligned: Left (not centered)

Left Indent: 2 inches (or 2.7 inches) from the left margin

Right Indent: None

Capitalization: ALL CAPITALIZED

Line Spacing: Single spaced, one empty line after the character name

Parenthetical

Aligned: Left (not centered)

Left Indent: 1.5 inches (or 1.6 inches) from the left margin

Right Indent: 2.5 inches from the right margin

Capitalization: First letter of each sentence capitalized.

Line Spacing: Single spaced, one empty line after the parenthetical

Dialogue

Aligned: Left (not centered)

Left Indent: 1 inch from left margin

Right Indent: 1.5 inches from the right margin

Capitalization: First letter of each sentence capitalized.

Line Spacing: Single spaced, one empty line after the dialogue

Transition

Aligned: Right (except for "FADE IN:" which is aligned left)

Left Indent: None

Right Indent: None

Capitalization: ALL CAPITALIZED

Line Spacing: Single spaced, one empty line after the transition

Misc.

Don't put the date anywhere on your script.

Don't write what draft it is (working draft, first draft, final draft, etc.) anywhere on your script.

Don't include any suggestions for actors, expected budget, suggested locations, etc. in any communication unless specifically requested to do so.