Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Standard Screenplay Format

Because Malone is an educational institution, and the OPEN FRAME is an educational program, we're always interested in resourcing students for the things they may do after they graduate.

While script formats vary from medium to medium, one of the most important part of learning the craft of screenwriting (or any kind of scriptwriting) is learning to write within the formatting specs shared by professionals.

Standard formats help readers identify important elements of the script more quickly, they help producers organize pre-production and production more efficiently and they help everyone involved in the script have a more clear and shared sense of the vision, length, tone and dynamics of a script.

There are many excellent books on screenwriting. Most of them include a chapter or at least a section on formatting.

The best way to learn formatting, though, in my mind is:

1. read professional scripts, and

2. use professional screenwriting software to write your first script.

I strongly recommend using CELTX - a free software available for download at celtx.com - for the beginning scriptwriter this software and its support materials offer a wealth of helpful resources. I also use Final Draft, an industry standard software. Final Draft is impressive in its updates, its resources, its ease of navigation...and the price? Well, it reflects the top-of-the-line status.

While standard screenplay format is essential (if you don't have it -- it's a deal breaker), it's not enough. Your main focus as a writer should be story. So try to balance learning the craft *and* building your storytelling muscles.

The best way to build your storytelling muscles is:

1. watch great short films,

2. write scripts!