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FORMAT GUIDE

From trilane.com
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Table of Contents

measurements

typeface
margins and tabs
page numbers

scenes

master scene headings


secondary scene headings
montage, series of shots
flashbacks, flashback sequences, quick flashes
dreams, daydreams, imaginings, visions, animation and sequences thereof
establishing shots
spacing between scenes
spacing between lines
scene transitions, MATCH CUT

characters

character introductions
character names
character cues

narrative and action

character introductions
SUPER, SCROLL, words on TV
INSERT
sounds, MOS
special effects (FX, SPFX, SFX)
POV, CLOSE UP, PULL BACK
slow motion
music, music lyrics
movie clips
unseen characters, phantom POV
action stacking
then we see ...

dialog

actor’s instructions (a.k.a. wrylies)


(O.S.) and (V.O.)
MORE and CONT’D / CONTINUED
telephone conversations
o INTERCUT
overlapping dialog
computer conversations
foreign languages
telepathic dialog
mute dialog
(beat)
--
...

miscellaneous

the title page


the first page
credits and titles
the last page
author’s intrusions
notes
Screenplay Measurements
typeface

must be 12 point Courier or 12 point Courier New - everything from the title page to the
last page of the script
(if you use still a typewriter - use PICA font)
no bold print, no italics
can be underlined in very rare cases
o when you really need to emphasize a word
(as every single word in the script should be important, I wonder when you might
have to use this option)

margins and tabs

margins:

left: 1.5 in or 3.8 cm


right: 0.5 - 1.25 in or 1.3 cm - 3.2 cm
top: 1.0 in or 2.5 cm
bottom: 1.0 in or 2.5 cm
tabs:
o dialog: 2.5 inches (or 1.0 inch from the left margin)
o actor‟s instructions: 3.1 inches (or 1.6 inches from left margin)
o character cues: 3.7 inches (or 2.2 inches from left margin)
o scene transitions: flushed right
o if you use it - FADE IN: left margin, FADE OUT: flushed right

dialog must not exceed 3.5 inches in width, that means it must not extend more than
6.0 inches from the left side of the page.

Many writers use only a width of 3.0 inches for dialog and 1.9 inches for actor‟s
instructions.

page numbers appear in the upper right corner of the page, 0.5 in from the top, flushed
to the right margin

page numbers

counting starts with 1


the cover page is not counted
a page number is followed by a dot (example: 57.)
no page number appears on the first page of a script (the one following the cover page).
Thus, numbers start with 2. on the second page
spacing between scenes

one line recommended (= two returns, a.k.a line feeds)


two lines okay

Master Scene Headings


<Camera Location>. <Scene Location> - [<Time of Day> - [<Clarification>] ]

or

<Camera Location>. <Scene Location> - [<Time of Day>] [(<Clarification>)]

Items in [ ] are optional.

<Camera Location>:

EXT. for outside


INT. for inside
EXT./INT. and INT./EXT. are reserved for cars. If you think you need them
elsewhere consider Secondary Scene Headings.

<Scene Location>:

This must be a location (not an event)

[<Time of Day>]:

Stick to DAY or NIGHT


Occasionally you might use CONTINUOUS

[<Clarification>]:

This can be anything. For example, a specific date, a time of day etc. - if it is really
important to the plot.

Here a few valid examples:

EXT. SHERWOOD FOREST - DAY

EXT. SHERWOOD FOREST - DAY (DREAM)


EXT. SHERWOOD FOREST - DAY (JULY 1788)

INT. BOILER ROOM

INT. ROOM 101 (FLASHBACK)

INT. MARY’S KITCHEN - DAY

EXT. SIBERIAN TAIGA - DAY (JULY 30, 1908, 7:00 AM)

Remarks:
Scene Headings are also called sluglines or slugs. Master scene headings are often
referred to as primary slugs, secondary headings as secondary slugs.

Secondary Scene Headings


<location>:

this must be a location - it‟s really as simple as that


they have to use the same camera direction as the corresponding master scene
heading - the cannot move from EXT. to INT. or vice versa.

The interesting part is how and when to use them:

If you used a master scene heading to establish a location, you can use secondary
headings to move around within the area defined by the master scene heading.
Secondary headings thus break up a potentially large scene into smaller scenes.

Example:

INT. ANDY’S HOUSE - DAY

KITCHEN

Action or dialog in the kitchen


...

LIVING ROOM

Action or dialog in the living room


...

HALLWAY
etc. ...

The Screenwriter‟s Bible mentions ways of breaking these rules that you might get
away with:

If it improves the flow of the scene you can alternate between INT. and EXT.
locations.

Example:

INT. KITCHEN - NIGHT

Through the window Jake notices light flickering in the tool


shed across the lawn.

He steps into the hallway.

HALLWAY

He walks to the backdoor. Sweat appears on his forehead.

Beside the exit stands a baseball bat. He takes it. Hesitantly


he opens the door.

LAWN

Careful to not cause any noise he walks to the shed.

TOOL SHED

He listens at the window. Inside he can hear faint rhythmic


sounds.

He sneaks to the entrance, opens the door, enters.

INSIDE THE TOOL SHED

etc.

That said, you can also break the rules by using names as secondary slugs.

Here an example from Kill Bill, Volume 1 (imdb link), written by Quentin Tarantino:

They land hard on the floor covered in broken glass, locked


in grapple, each trying to get the best of the other one,...
When The Housewife headbutts The Bride in the nose

THE HOUSEWIFE

hops off The Bride, runs into the kitchen, opens a drawer
and comes out with a huge butcher knife.

THE BRIDE

rises from the floor, and whips out a knife in a sheath


hanging from her belt.

The Bride backs up into the mess of the now totally


demolished living room.

Note: The original text contains elements that are not recommended for spec scripts (author‟s
intrusions, liberal use of capitals etc.) which have been modified to match the recommendations in the
Screenwriter‟s Bible.

LATER

Another possibility of breaking the rules and getting away with it is the proper use of LATER. For ex
HANK’S KITCHEN - LATER could be condensed into a simple secondary heading LATER, if w
„later‟ happens in the same place.

Special Headings
This page shows the formatting of special headings for montages and series of
shots. They are not needed often. Their presence in a script does not
automatically increase its quality.

Montage
A montage is a sequence of brief shots that express the same or a similar idea.

MONTAGE - <montage title>

-- <brief shot>

-- <brief shot>

etc.
BACK TO SCENE or END MONTAGE

If the montage is short, a new master scene heading is sufficient to indicate the
end. See the example below.

<montage title>

short description of what the montage is about (need not be an event)

<brief shot>

very few lines of action or dialog or both

Here and example adapted from Braveheart (imdb link), screenplay by Randall
Wallace:

MONTAGE - RAIDING ENGLISH TROOPS

-- Troops ride through the countryside, intimidating and


questioning civilians; all refuse to talk.

-- Wallace’s house burns, as soldiers dig up the graves of


his father and brother, and scatter their bones to dogs.

-- The English search through the woods, finding nothing.

EXT. WALLACE LANDS - NIGHT

...

There is more than one acceptable way to format a montage. The following
approaches will raise no eyebrows either:

MONTAGE - <montage title>

-- <location> - action / dialog

-- <location> - action/dialog

etc.

or

MONTAGE - <montage title>


-- <master scene heading> -- action / dialog

-- <master scene heading> -- action / dialog

etc.

Just as the first version these are terminated with and END MONTAGE or BACK
TO SCENE or - if the montage is short - just with a new master scene heading.
Some more examples further down on this page.

Series of Shots
The Series of Shots can be used to bundle a few shots with more diverse pieces of
action that have a less obvious underlying theme. The boundaries are soft,
however, and a montage is often used here, too.

The formula:

SERIES OF SHOTS - <series title>

A) <brief shot>

B) <brief shot>

C) <brief shot>

etc.

with

<series title>

some brief comment, description of the shots

<brief shot>

very few lines of action or dialog or both

Here an example adapted from from Castaway (imdb link), screenplay by William
Broyles, Jr.:

SERIES OF SHOTS - CHUCK DOES BUSINESS IN ST. PETERSBURG

A) A surprised Yuri stands with the attractive assistant as


Chuck takes his clipboard away.

B) An even more surprised Lev stands by his truck as Chuck


hands the clipboard to him.

C) Chuck and the loaders clean off the graffiti.

D) Working alongside the sorters as the packages come in,


Chuck points out how to organize the inflow.

E) Chuck and Lev go over large maps of St. Petersburg with


the drivers.

However, nobody will blame you if you use a montage here, too:

MONTAGE - CHUCK DOES BUSINESS IN ST. PETERSBURG

-- INT. FREIGHT AREA -- A surprised Yuri stands with the


attractive assistant as Chuck takes his clipboard away.

-- INT. FREIGHT AREA -- An even more surprised Lev stands


by his truck as Chuck hands the clipboard to him.

-- EXT. TRUCK PARKING LOT - DAY -- Chuck and the loaders


clean off the graffiti.

-- INT. FREIGHT CENTER -- Working alongside the sorters as


the packages come in, Chuck points out how to organize the
inflow.

-- INT. MEETING ROOM -- Chuck and Lev go ober large maps of


St. Petersburg with the drivers.
Special Headings
This page shows the formatting for flashbacks, flashback sequences and quick
flashes. They are not used very often. Their presence in a script does not
automatically increase its quality.

Flashback
A flashback is used to jump to an earlier point in time. There are several accepted
ways to write one:

FLASHBACK - <explanation>

or

FLASHBACK - <master scene heading>

or

<master scene heading> - FLASHBACK

or

<master scene heading> (FLASHBACK)

<explanation>

doesn‟t have to be a location, just an explanation. For example: TRAIN


ACCIDENT works, too.

A picture says more than a thousand words, so here follow a few examples.

This one is adapted from The Sixth Sense (imdb link), screenplay by M. Night
Shyamalan:

FLASHBACK - CROWE RESIDENCE

Violent gun shots ring through the bedroom.

Anna rushes across the room to a crumpled Malcolm laying on


the floor. Malcolms hands are clutched at his side.

etc.

INT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT - PRESENT DAY

MALCOLM
(screaming)
Anna!

From Constantine (imdb link), screenplay by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Capello:

FLASHBACK - EXT. STREET - DAY

A TEN-YEAR-OLD John comes out of a corner store with milk in


a bag. He slows, eyes a MAN at a mailbox.

JOHN (V.O.)
Things I wasn't supposed to.

The man looks right at young John as he passes. His face is


distorted and his feet have sprouted roots which are dug into
the ground.

WAITRESS (O.S.)
Coffee?

Young John looks up toward the voice --


INT. DINER - NIGHT - PRESENT DAY

John looks up ...

You could just as well write:

EXT. STREET - DAY - FLASHBACK

A TEN-YEAR-OLD John comes out of a corner store


...

INT. DINER - NIGHT - PRESENT DAY

John looks up ...

or

EXT. STREET - DAY - TWENTY YEARS EARLIER (FLASHBACK)

A TEN-YEAR-OLD John comes out of a corner store


...

INT. DINER - NIGHT (PRESENT DAY)

John looks up ...

or

EXT. STREET - DAY (FLASHBACK)

A TEN-YEAR-OLD John comes out of a corner store


...

INT. DINER - NIGHT (PRESENT DAY)

John looks up ...

Given this plethora of options it‟s hard to believe that one might need an even other way
to write a flashback scene.

Before dealing with sequences of flashbacks, dreams etc. I‟d like to mention that I made
mixed experiences when purely applying Trottier‟s suggestions. Almost every reader -
peer reviewer or professional - took offense that the format confused them. Only after I
sandwiched the sequence between a BEGIN/END FLASHBACK SEQUENCE-pair did
the confusion end. Within the sandwich then everything was sufficiently clear.

Example:

BEGIN FLASHBACK SEQUENCE:

EXT. STREET - DAY - TWENTY YEARS EARLIER (FLASHBACK)

A TEN-YEAR-OLD John comes out of a corner store


...

INT. CORNER STORE - DAY (FLASHBACK)

...

...

END FLASHBACK SEQUENCE.

The END FLASHBACK SEQUENCE. should be flush to the right margin.

This remark also applies to all the other sequences like DREAM SEQUENCE, VISION
SEQUENCE etc.

Here now Trottier‟s „official‟ recommendations:

Flashback Sequence
A flashback that extends over several scenes can be handled with a flashback sequence:

<master scene heading> - FLASHBACK SEQUENCE

<master scene heading> - FLASHBACK SEQUENCE

<master scene heading> - FLASHBACK SEQUENCE

... as many as necessary

Then conclude the sequence with PRESENT DAY at the end or the next master
scene heading:

<master scene heading> - PRESENT DAY


The following method is equivalent:

<master scene heading> (FLASHBACK SEQUENCE)

etc.

<master scene heading> (PRESENT DAY)

Putting the FLASHBACK SEQUENCE at the beginning of the line isn‟t such a great idea,
because it moves the more vital scene location half way across the page.

Whatever you decide, it‟s good advice to be consistent in the use of these patterns.

Quick Flashes
A situation where a character recalls a series of quick flashbacks should be handled in the
same fashion as a montage or series of shots. That gives us four ways of doing it:

QUICK FLASHES - <explanation>

-- <brief shot>

-- <brief shot>

etc.

or

QUICK FLASHES - <explanation>

-- <location> - <brief shot>

-- <location> - <brief shot>

etc.

or

QUICK FLASHES - <explanation>

-- <master scene heading> - <brief shot>

-- <master scene heading> - <brief shot>


etc.

or

QUICK FLASHES - <explanation>

A) <brief shot>

B) <brief shot>

etc.

with

<explanation>

short description of what the montage is about (need not be a location)

<brief shot>

very few lines of action and/or dialog

Then end the sequence with END QUICK FLASHES or BACK TO SCENE. If the
sequence is short a PRESENT DAY at the end of the following master scene heading will
suffice.

Needless to say: quick flashes are used very rarely.

Special Headings
This page shows the formatting for dreams,
daydreams, visions and animations. They
are not used very often. Their presence in a
script does not automatically increase its
quality.

The Screenwriter‟s Bible simply says that


“all the conventions that apply to
FLASHBACKs also applys to DREAMs,
DAYDREAMs, IMAGININGs and VISIONs.

It is safe to assume that includes the use of


sequences which then are to be handled
like the FLASHBACK SEQUENCE.
Dreams
DREAM - <location or event>

DREAM - <master scene heading>

<master scene heading> - DREAM

<master scene heading> (DREAM)

The remarks concerning flashback


sequences also apply here: to avoid
unnecessary confusion, sandwich the
scenes of a sequence between a
BEGIN/END <type>SEQUENCE-pair and
use Trottier‟s recommendations in between.

Here an example of a dream sequence:

BEGIN DREAM SEQUENCE:

EXT. HILLTOP - DAY - DREAM

...

EXT. ANCIENT CITY - NIGHT - DREAM

...

INT. ROOM IN THE PALACE - DREAM

...

END DREAM SEQUENCE.

Here now follow Trottier‟s recommendation for the other sequences:

Dream Sequences
<master scene heading> - DREAM SEQUENCE

<master scene heading> (DREAM SEQUENCE)

The following example is adapted from Kundun (imdb link), screenplay by Melissa
Mathison:

DREAM - HILLTOP AT DAWN

The body of the Dalai Lama’s Father lies on a flat boulder.

Incense smoke curls into the air. Prayer wheels are turned,
hand drums are played - the burial men stand off to one
side, their hatchets and knives in view.

PRESENT DAY - EXT. TIBET - NIGHT

...

Daydream
By now you got the pattern ...

DAYDREAM - <location or event>

DAYDREAM - <master scene heading>

<master scene heading> - DAYDREAM

<master scene heading> (DAYDREAM)

Daydream Sequences
<master scene heading> - DAYDREAM SEQUENCE

<master scene heading> (DAYDREAM SEQUENCE)

Imaginings
IMAGINING - <location or event>

IMAGINING - <master scene heading>

<master scene heading> - IMAGINING

<master scene heading> (IMAGINING)

Visions
VISION - <location or event>

VISION - <master scene heading>

<master scene heading> - VISION

<master scene heading> (VISION)

Vision Sequences
<master scene heading> - DREAM SEQUENCE

<master scene heading> (DREAM SEQUENCE)

The Screenwriter‟s Bible finally mentions an animated scene and it makes the
following two suggestions to handle that.

Animation
ANIMATION - <location or event>

or

<master scene heading> - ANIMATION

Will people judge you for using the following rules?


ANIMATION - <master scene heading>

<master scene heading> (ANIMATION)

<master scene heading> - ANIMATION SEQUENCE

<master scene heading> (ANIMATION SEQUENCE)

It probably depends on whether they take the Screenwriter‟s Bible literal or not.
Whatever you decide - be consistent in the use of the pattern you choose.

Establishing Shots
An establishing shot sets up the environment of a scene, normally at the beginning of
that scene.

Examples are a shot of the outside of a building followed by a scene inside the building,
or showing details of a room before turning to conversations between individuals in that
room.

They give an idea of the location and the mood of the environment where the action
takes place.

That said, the mentioning of ESTABLISHING SHOT or ESTABLISHING in the scene


heading is considered obsolete.

Here an example of an establishing shot which doesn‟t say so in the slugline (adapted
from Men in Black (imdb link), screenplay by Ed Solomon):

EXT. ROAD - NIGHT (TEXAS/MEXICO BORDER)

A million stars wink in the night desert. ...

Spacing Between Scenes


The Screenwriter‟s Bible recommends one free line before and after any kind of
heading, primary or secondary.

However, “if you have a driving desire to triple-space before each new master
scene heading, that‟s okay.” (The Screenwriter‟s Bible)
Spacing between Lines
A script page should contain about 54 to 55 lines - plus two for the page number
and the empty line following the page number.

Scene Transitions
The Screenwriter‟s Bible recommends to not use DISSOLVEs, CUT TOs etc. and
vehemently discourages the use of camera angles.

It does, however, mention the MATCH CUT:

MATCH CUT
A match cut is used when the beginning of a scene picks up an image from the end
of the previous scene. Here is the example from The Screenwriter‟s Bible:

The dean chortles. Calcutta smiles, then SLAMS the receiver.

INT. CLASSROOM - DAY

The professor’s hand slams the receiver of his demonstrator


phone.

...

The previous scene ends with Calcutta, who is in a telephone call with the
professor, slamming the receiver of her phone. The next scene starts with the
professor slamming his receiver on his phone.

It‟s obvious what happens here, but if it weren‟t then this is how a MATCH CUT
would be used:

The dean chortles. Calcutta smiles, then SLAMS the receiver.

MATCH CUT:

INT. CLASSROOM - DAY

The professor SLAMS the phone receiver.


Now, of course, I wonder: Is there a situation where the MATCH CUT is really
required in a spec script? Where it‟s not obvious what‟s happening and where it is
important to the plot?

Don‟t hesitate to email an example, if you have one.

Characters
Character Introductions
When a character first appears in the script, you can take this opportunity to briefly
suggest relevant aspects of his personality - for example by describing how he/she
dresses, moves, reacts at that moment. The main characters should definitely be given
a few lines of description. This is your opportunity to establish him as the good or bad
guy, clumsy or refined, dashing or cautious etc. Lesser characters need less words,
some can live without any introduction at all.

At the time of his/her first mentioning in the narrative of a script the character‟s name
appears in capital letters - like ROCKY, SAM, OLD MAN or PROFESSOR. All following
mentionings are done with only the first letter(s) capitalized: Rocky, Sam, Old Man,
Professor.

If a character name‟s first appearance is in a dialog then it is not capitalized. This is a


good way to handle that case:

MIKE
What about Jack? I haven’t seen
him all morning.

JACK (O.S.)
Who mentioned my name?

All eyes turn to the entrance.

JACK (early 30s) - messily dressed, unshaved but


jovial, smashingly handsome - strides to the front and
takes the stand.

JACK
Good morning, everyone. This is
what we’ll do.

You might also choose to


replace the first JACK with
MALE VOICE:
MIKE
What about Jack? I haven’t seen
him all morning.

MALE VOICE (O.S.)


Who mentioned my name?

Jack (early 30s) - messily dressed ...

This is not
recommended::

MIKE
What about JACK? I haven’t seen
him all morning.

JACK (O.S.)
Who mentioned my name?

Jack (early 30s) - messily dressed ...

Character
Names
Names must be given to
the major characters and
the important minor
characters. Characters that
appear only shortly may be
given names, too. Not
giving a name to a
character signals the
reader to not focus on
them. If the function of a
character is more
important than their
individual identity that
function can be used to
name them:
TECHNICIAN, COP 1,
COP 2, PROFESSOR etc.

If a character changes his


name in the course of the
script or if there is a case
of mistaken identity the
most important issue is to
not confuse the reader (
audience = reader ). One
way to handle this is to use
both names after the
change, like in
JAKE/BILL or JAKE
(BILL).

However, if it is clear to the


reader it might be a good
idea to use the true name
of the character throughout
even if he acts under a
different name. The
Screenwriter‟s Bible
quotes the script of „North
by Northwest‟ to make that
point.

Character
Cues
These are the character
names that precede the
dialog lines, like JACK and
MIKE in the examples
above.

They are written with all


capital letters of size 12
Courier or Courier New
fonts.

As specified on the page


on screenplay
measurements, character
cues must start 3.7 inches
from the left side of the
paper that is 2.7 inches to
the right of the left margin
(which 1.0 inch from the
left side of the paper).

Action Lines and Narrative


There is a lot to be said about narrative and action that does not fall into the
realm of formatting and thus will not be mentioned here. However, the
Screenwriter‟s Bible recommends to write lean, to describe only what we
can see and hear, to use specific words and action words, show don‟t tell.
All this is handled in a multitude of books on screenwriting.

Screenwriting is visual storytelling. Thus, one recurrent theme is to write


only what can be seen and filmed. Look for example at the related articles
on the site Mystery Man on Film to get an idea how that translates into
movie scripts.

Character Introductions
This issue is being dealt with on the page on characters. Here a short
summary: A character introduction consists of a few words up to a few lines
of description that suggests something about the character. Normally the
character‟s name appears for the first time as part of the character
description. In that one case the name is capitalized. Following the
introduction the character‟s name is not capitalized except for the character
cues, which are always in caps.

This site dedicates an area for script analysis - or better script dissection
where we list character description taken from scripts of produced movies.
Go there to read a few and see how it‟s done in scripts of well known
movies. Careful though, many scripts available on the internet are shooting
scripts not spec scripts. When it comes to formatting your spec script, the
Screenwriter‟s Bible is a well accepted authority.

Sounds
Sounds can be capitalized in the narrative, but don‟t have to. Some writers
only put important sounds in caps.

MOS
MOS stands for „Mit Out Sound‟ and it means „without sound‟. It allegedly
traces back to German director Eric von Stroheim, who used to say things
like “Ve‟ll shoot dis mid out sound.”

Here an example from the Screenwriter‟s Bible:


The two lovers flirt MOS in the balcony.

On the other hand, you could just write it into the narrative:

The two lover flirt in the balcony. Their words cannot be


heard.

Special Effects
The Screenwriter‟s Bible advises against announcing special effects in a spec script. The
movie may require them but there is no point advertising them, as they are expensive to
implement.

It‟s up to a production crew to comb through the script and find what actions require
special effects.

That said - should you read FX, SPFX or SFX in a script this is what they mean:

FX and SPFX both mean the same - special effects.

SFX means sound effects.

Camera directions
(POV, CLOSE UP, PULL BACK etc.)
Don‟t use them. Period.

Okay, the Screenwriter‟s Bible says that sometimes the POV is used for story reasons,
but it doesn‟t make a single case for an instance where the POV or another camera
direction is indispensable for the script.

On the other hand it disturbs the flow of reading, so better don‟t use them. Take it as a
creative challenge for your writing to make clear what‟s going on without using POVs,
CLOSE UPs and all the good things that directly control the camera.

Keep in mind, that every single word you write has to be filmable and will end up on
screen once the movie is made. So, you are directing the director anyway with every
word of your script. Read the article „Write the shots‟ to see how that should be done in a
spec script.
Another professional way to suggest a point of view are secondary slugs.

INSERT
INSERT is used to bring something very small into full frame, for example a letter, a
newspaper ad, a sign, a box of chocolates. It is not used to insert quick shots into the
action and also not for bigger objects like a television. An INSERT should be followed
with a BACK TO SCENE unless a master scene heading or a secondary headings
follows anyway.

Directions like INSERT disturb the flow of reading so it is good advice to use them
sparingly. For example, the following INSERT is not such a good idea:

INSERT - COLT .45 AUTOMATIC ON THE TABLE

BACK TO SCENE

This works just the same:

A colt .45 automatic lies on the table.

Here are two examples of INSERTs. The first is from Witness ( imdb link),
screenplay by Earl W. Wallace, William Kelley, Pamela Wallace:

INSERT WATCHFACE

It reads 4:30 a. m.

BACK TO BOOK

as he stares at it in disbelief.

The next is from An Officer and Gentleman (imdb link), screenplay by Douglas Day
Stewart:

INSERT - THE OLD PHOTO

is of a handsome, young flight candidate in uniform, with a


stylish little moustache and dark bedroom eyes.
BACK TO SCENE

Action that happens on television could be simply described in the narrative. In


oreder to draw special attention to the TV you could use a secondary heading. Here
an example adapted from the shooting script of Poltergeist (imdb link), screenplay
by Steven Spielberg:

She turns on her side. And her eyes open surreally. Ever so
slowly, she turns her head fully facing the TV. Carol Anne
smiles. A smile much too sophisticated for five-years-old
child.

TV SCREEN

The snow mixes with new imagery. Forms. Vague but luminous.
Always mingling. Impressionistic. Never hard-lined.
...

SUPER and SCROLL


SUPER stands for „superimpose‟ or „superimposition‟. It is used to indicate writing
that is supposed to appear on screen on top of the images. The are normally used
to inform the audience of time and place.

For example:

SUPER: “Two years later”

The words to be superimposed always appear between quotation marks. They can
also be capitalized and/or indented. Thus, the following three versions are
equivalent to the one above:

SUPER: “TWO YEARS LATER”

SUPER:
“TWO YEARS LATER”
SUPER:
“Two years later”

The indented versions are normally used for longer text, but it‟s okay to use them
like above.

If you want the words to scroll across the screen you should use the term SCROLL
instead.

If you want to superimpose a quote on the screen before the movie begins the
Screenwriter‟s Bible recommends this way:

BLACK SCREEN:

SUPER:

“Death is one moment, and life is so


many of them.” (Tennessee Williams)

FADE IN:

...

Words on TV
You should not use SUPER when a character watches TV and the words appear
on the TV screen. In that case better use a secondary heading to focus on the TV
and write the words that appear there into the narrative.

Example:

Karen enters the room.

Nick’s eyes are fixed on the

TELEVISION

where the sun rises behind a triangularly shaped hill


covered with thick vegetation. A line “The Bosnian Pyramids”
appears at the bottom of the screen.
Action Stacking
If you have a lot of short, concise, one line paragraphs, you may choose to
stack these paragraphs by leaving out one line feed (hard return):

Karen enters the room.


Nick’s eyes are fixed on the television.
Under the kitchen door smoke creeps into the room.
Karen is stunned. Her eyes assess the situation.
The word “BACKDRAFT” appears on the screen.

Every line in the example above contains a separate visual image and thus
belongs into its own paragraph. If these paragraphs don‟t exceed one line, you can
use this kind of action stacking.

The Screenwriter‟s Bible doesn‟t encourage it‟s use, saying that most readers are
used to the traditional way.

It should go without saying that if you decide to do it, you should use it consistently
throughout your script.

Slow Motion
If you read the other pages, this goes without saying: Don‟t use slow motion just
because you think it‟s cool. Use it only if it is important to the plot. That said - if you
have a story related reason then the Screenwriter‟s Bible suggests a format similar
to the montage:

INT. JANE’S OFFICE

Jane presses a button. The film progresses in slow motion:

TIME LAPSE

-- Richard pulls his gun from the holster, points it at Jake

-- Richard is hit in the chest, a red spot forms on his shirt


INT. CRIME SCENE

Jane and Frank at the crime scene. Frank takes the position of
Richard when he was shot. ...

You get the idea:

TIME LAPSE

-- <first shot>

-- <second shot>

-- etc.

Here the time lapse sequence is terminated by the next master scene heading. If
you want the action to continue within the same scene after the time lapse, then a
BACK TO SCENE should do the job.

Music
Refer to music only if it is relevant for the story. If it is, this is a way to do it:

Jake awakes to a HEAVY-METAL RIFF and instantly presses both


hands on his ears.

Because music is sound, you could also describe it as such - putting the sound in
caps, if you want:

The radio BLASTS heavy-metal music into the quiet neighborhood.


A cat runs for shelter.

As explained in the section on sounds, the caps in „BLASTS‟ are optional.

Do NOT indicate specific songs unless you own the rights. If you know how much
the rights for „Sympathy for the Devil‟ cost the makers of Fallen (imdb), a 1998
movie written by Nicholas Kazan then don‟t hesitate to email. They certainly came
at a considerable fee.
Music Lyrics
The same as for music goes for music lyrics: If you don‟t own the rights, then don‟t
include them in your script.

In all other cases, for example if the song is in the public domain („Jingle Bells‟, ...),
a character sings nonsense or you create the lyrics yourself (in which case you own
the rights) then these example from The Screenwriter‟s Bible suggests how to do it:

McKAY
“Well, you take the high road
And I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland before you.”

Alternatively you can use slashes instead of the line breaks - may save space
occasionally:

McKAY
“Well, you take the high road/and
I’ll take the low road/and I’ll
be in Scotland before you.”

Movie Clips
It all boils down to the rights - do you own them or not. If you don‟t own the rights
then don‟t make your script dependent on a specific movie or movie clip.

However, you can briefly refer to other movies. The Screenwriter‟s Bible quotes
„Sleepless in Seattle‟ (imdb link) (story by Jeff Arch, screenplay by Nora Ephron),
which has this passage:

Annie is watching "An Affair to Remember" on television,


tears pouring down her face. Cary Grant is saying: "Are
you in love with him?" Deborah Kerr replies: "I'm not now."

On the other hand, The Screenwriter‟s Bible advises not write ”He turned on the TV
and the sinking scene from TITANIC was showing.”
Balance these two suggestions in your mind and heart.

When in doubt, don‟t write it.

Unseen Characters
If you follow the rule to write only what can be seen on the screen then why
bother with unseen characters?

You do it when these unseen characters affect what’s seen on the screen. Here an example from
The Screenwriter’s Bible:

EXT. PUBLIC BUILDING - DAY

James Connors hurries up the cement stairs.

An unseen person clicks the shutter of a 35mm camera.


Another click. And again as James rushes into the building.

It could easily be argued that only the click is relevant here, even if the unseen
person is introduced later. Thus you might settle for the following:

EXT. PUBLIC BUILDING - DAY

James Connors hurries up the cement stairs.

A click is heard - like from the shutter of a camera.


Another click. And again as James rushes into the building.

The next section provides an example where mentioning an unseen character


definitely makes sense:

Phantom POV
Sometimes the movie shows the scene from the point of view of an unseen
character. That could include a change of color, use of a filter etc. like in
Predator. Or it could simply mean that the camera takes the perspective of a
character that doesn‟t appear in the scene at this time.

The Screenwriter‟s Bible makes an example using a monster in the lake.


First and attempt at writing the scene without the reference to the unseen
monster:

EXT. LAKE SHORE - DAY

The children form a circle by the lake.

EXT. UNDERWATER - CONTINUOUS

While the others dance, Pam peers down into the lake.

Here the approach including the unseen character - the monster:

EXT. LAKE SHORE - DAY

The children form a circle by the lake.

EXT. UNDERWATER - CONTINUOUS

An unseen lake monster watches the dancing children. Pam


peers down into the lake.

To understand what‟s happening here note the scene heading of the second scene:
EXT. UNDERWATER.

That means the camera looks at the beach from below the water. In both cases we
see the same events, but the second version prepares the reader for the monster
which undoubtedly will appear rather sooner than later.

then we see ...


There are lengthy, often emotional discussions going on as to whether you could or
should use „we see‟ in your script or not. Read this blog article if you want to see some of
the arguments: Top Ten Format Mistakes.

Those that are against it say it‟s a weak way of describing what happens. And that it‟s
redundant, because you anyway should write only what can be filmed and then seen. So,
of course, we see - why mention it.

Indeed, often „we see‟ can simply be dropped from the narrative without causing any
damage:

We see a huge, white bird fly across the complex and settle
on the temple.
Or you could write:

A huge, white bird flies across the complex and settles on


the temple.

The second version actually feels a bit more dynamic. Right? And it‟s a few letters
shorter, so not using „we see‟ might even save you a line every now and then.

Does this settle the issue? Not really.

The fact is that many people love to write it, don‟t mind to read it, some studios
allegedly insist that writers use it. Another fact is that a lot of professional scripts
use „we see‟, sometimes extensively.

What now? It seems simple: some professional readers don‟t seem to mind, but
some others may flag your script „unprofessional‟ when they find a „we see‟.

So, if you don‟t have a name in the industry yet and depend on the approval of a
reader, the best advice is: No matter what they tell you, avoid it like the plague. If
somebody requests it, use it enthusiastically.

Similar arguments are brought against the word „then‟. Indeed it seems to weaken
the description. Or not:

Jake takes the bat from the locker, then dashes out the
door.

„Then‟ is not required, because the context makes the sequence of events obvious.
What about the following?

Jake takes the bat from the locker, dashes out the door.

The second version lacks nothing that the first one has and it‟s even shorter. Space
is important, too.

Whatever you decide, keep in mind that The Screenwriter‟s Bible advises against
the use of „we see‟ and „then‟.

I feel similar about words that push what should be obvious from the context, like
„suddenly‟, for example. But maybe that‟s just me.
Dialog
In the vast majority of cases your dialog will consist of a character cue followed by
one or two lines of what that character says. (One line is better.)

Like this:

JACK
Helen, say something.

JACK is the character cue (or character name). It should start 3.7 inches from the
left physical border of the page or 2.2 inches to the right of the left margin which is
1.5 inches from the left of the page. See the page on measurements for details.

Actor’s Instructions (wrylies)


Actor‟s instructions are an element that you should use sparingly. They are also
called „wrylies‟ - allegedly because they are used often to tell the actor that the
character talks wryly.

Wrylies are put into parentheses. In your script they are to start 3.1 inches from the
left physical border of the page (1.6 inches from the left margin which is located
1.5 inches from the left of the page):

JACK
(to Helen)
You talk too much.

Use actor‟s instructions to clarify in case of need. In the example above the wryly
makes it clear that Jack is addressing Helen.

Use them sparingly. Professional actor‟s don‟t like to be instructed by the


screenwriter.

(O.S.) - off screen


When a character talks (O.S.) that means that he is on site and part of the
scene but not seen on the screen while he/she speaks.
(V.O.) - voice over
When a character talks (V.O.) it means that he is not physically part of the scene.
Strictly speaking he/she doesn‟t even have to be on site if her voice only appears as
voice over in the scene.

Even if he is in the scene and hears his own voice but his lips don‟t move - that‟s
still a voice over.

Moreover, the Screenwriter‟s Bible says that any kind of narration is a (V.O) - no
matter whether the character who talks appears physically in the scene or not.

For example, if a character explains something about pages in a book and the
camera shows the pages or images while he is talking - that‟s a voice over. It
doesn‟t matter whether he closes the book later in the scene and goes on talking.
Of course, the direct talk after closing the book will be neither (V.O) not (O.S), but
just ordinary dialog.

MORE and CONT’D / CONTINUED


There is only one situation where you should use the MORE/CONTINUED
construct. That is when a character‟s dialog lines are interrupted by the end of the
page and continue at the top of the following page:

JACK
No, I’m right. No way this could
work. It’s a pipe dream. People
tried it and failed. Of course, I
don’t mean it could never work. I’m
not perfect. I can make mistakes.
(MORE)

and then on top of the next page:

28.

JACK (CONT’D)
Like two years ago, when for two
minutes I thought I was wrong.

Of course, as your dialog won‟t often exceed a line or two, situations like this won‟t
come up often, if ever. Even then it‟s worthwhile to consider adding a few line feeds
and move the entire dialog section to the next page.

The (MORE) and (CONT’D) can also appear in all lower-case letters: (more),
(cont’d).

It is no longer necessary to use CONT’D when the speech of a character is


interrupted by action lines:

JACK
No, I’m right. I’m absolutely
sure. There is no way it could
work that way. It’s a pipe
dream. People tried it and
failed.

Helen grabs a full bottle of wine and takes aim.

JACK
Of course, I don’t mean it
could never work. I’m not
perfect. I can make mistakes.

Helen slowly lowers the bottle but remains suspicious.

JACK
Like two years ago, when for two
minutes I thought I was wrong.

Obviously, shorter dialogs make for more dynamic. The central question now is:
Does Helen throw the bottle, do they both break into laughter or does only Helen
laugh while Jack wonders why?

Whatever happens - a CONT’D should not be used here.

Telephone Conversations
Dialog on the telephone is a bit of a challenge because at least one of the
participating characters on not physically present.

There are three possibilities to handle this:

1. The audience neither sees nor hears the other party. The content of the
conversation is reflected in what the one character says.
2. The audience sees one character and hears the other one - or several - on
the phone.
3. The movie switches back and forth between two (or more) characters as the
conversation proceeds.

Method 1: Audience sees only one party

In this case the responses of the other (unseen) party are implied by what the
visible character says and does:

HELEN
Hello, Jack ... Are you sure?
... Do you have her number?

She searches her pockets, finds a pen. She looks around,


searching.

HELEN
Once more please.

She starts writing on her hand.

HELEN
Three-Seven-One ... Five-Five-
One-Eight.

Surprised, she stares at what she wrote, the writing


already smeared by sweat.

HELEN
That’s Cory’s number.

Method 2: One party seen, the other party heard

In this case the remote character(s) appears voiced over:

HELEN
Hello, Jack!

JACK (V.O.)
Hello, I got a call from Kate.
She’s back in the country.

HELEN
Are you sure?
JACK (V.O.)
Of course, I’m sure. She wouldn’t
lie to me.

HELEN
Do you have her number?

She searches her pockets, finds a pen. She looks around,


searching.

...

Method 3: Both parties are seen alternately.

If both parties should show up on screen you have several options to handle this
situation. Two involve using INTERCUT:

Method 3A: Simple INTERCUT

INTERCUT: HELEN’S KITCHEN / JACK’S CAR

HELEN
Hello, Jack!

JACK (V.O.)
Hello, I got a call from Kate.
She’s back in the country.

HELEN
Are you sure?

JACK (V.O.)
Of course, I’m sure. She wouldn’t
lie to me.

HELEN
Do you have her number?

She searches her pockets, finds a pen. She looks around,


searching.

...
Method 3B: INTERCUT with details

INT. HELEN’S KITCHEN - DAY

Helen walks through the door, dressed in workout gear, panting.

The telephone rings.

INT. JACK’S CAR

Jack holds his cell phone.

INTERCUT - TELEPHONE CONVERSATION

HELEN
Hello, Jack!

JACK (V.O.)
Hello, I got a call from Kate.
She’s back in the country.

HELEN
Are you sure?

JACK (V.O.)
Of course, I’m sure. She wouldn’t
lie to me.

HELEN
Do you have her number?

She searches her pockets, finds a pen. She looks around,


searching.

...

Both methods using INTERCUT give the director complete freedom when to switch
between the locations (Helen‟s kitchen and Jack‟s car). Directors are said to like
freedom.

If you need more control over the change then you should use master scene
headings:

Method 3C: Use master scene headings


EXT. HELEN’s HOUSE - DAY

Helen comes jogging up the driveway, enters the side door.

INT. JACK’S CAR

Jack drives his Corvette on the freeway. He searches his


pockets.

JACK
Where is my phone?

A woman’s hand presents him with a cell phone from the


passenger seat.

Jack dials. It rings on the other end.

INT. HELEN’S KITCHEN - DAY

Helen enters, panting.

The telephone rings.

HELEN
Hello.

JACK (V.O.)
Hello, this is Jack. I got a call
from Kate. She’s back in the country.

HELEN
Are you sure?

JACK (V.O.)
Of course, I’m sure. She wouldn’t
lie to me.

HELEN
Do you have her number?

She searches her pockets, finds a pen. She looks around,


searching.

HELEN
Once more please.

She starts writing on her hand.

HELEN
Three-Seven-One ... Five-Five-
One-Eight.

INT. JACK’S CAR - DAY

On the passenger seat sits Cory.

She checks a gun, charges it and hides it between the


pages of a folded newspaper.

INT. HELEN’S KITCHEN - DAY

Surprised, she stares at what she wrote, the writing


already smeared by sweat.

HELEN
That’s Cory’s number.

If you decide to spread a telephone call over an entire page like in the last example
above, then make sure it pays off. Follow Trottier‟s advice: “If you describe how a
character drinks a cup of coffee, then the coffee better be poisoned.”

Another method of showing both parties of a phone call is to use a split screen. It
appears to be gaining popularity. However, the pages here are a reference to the
recommendations in The Screenwriter‟s Bible and split screens aren‟t mentioned
there.

Overlapping Dialog
Occasionally you may want to have two or more characters speak at the same time. The
Screenwriter‟s Bible describes four ways for handling that situation:

JACK AND HELEN


What?

To make it crystal clear:

JACK AND HELEN


(simultaneously)
What?

A little less space efficient:

JACK
What?

HELEN
(overlapping)
What?

And finally:

JACK HELEN
What? What?

The latter two options also work well when the two characters don‟t say the same
thing:

JACK HELEN
Frank, you must be out Get out of here.
out of your mind.

Computer Conversations
One might think that conversations by email or in chat rooms should be considered
dialog, but they aren‟t. Only spoken words should appear as dialog.

If words of a conversation appear on a computer screen then the Screenwriter‟s


Bible suggests creating a derivative of the insert, like ON THE MONITOR.

Here an example:

Frank’s eyes are fixed on the monitor.

ON THE MONITOR
Karen’s words appear:

“I think I’m being watched.”

BACK TO FRANK

who types

ON THE MONITOR

Frank’s words appear:

“Where are you? I will pick you up


immediately.”

BACK TO FRANK

who watches nervously.

ON THE MONITOR

Karen’s words appear:

“55, South We...”

BACK TO FRANK

Frank waits for a moment. Nothing happens.

FRANK
I know where that is?

He takes his gun from the drawer, runs out the room.

The lines „Karen’s words appear:‟ and „Frank’s words appear:‟ can
be omitted if what happens is obvious.

In another situation you could also have a character read out loud the words that he
reads on the monitor. That case would, of course, be handled like ordinary dialog.

Note that The Screenwriter‟s Bible did not suggest to use INSERT, which is used
for small items, like letters, newspaper articles, paper clips etc.

You should not use a camera direction here. This is not an opportunity for using
POV.
Foreign Languages
A major fact to remember in writing scripts is: Audience = Reader.

With that in mind it‟s clear - if you confuse the reader the script stands little chance to
become a movie. Thus, whenever possible write in the language of the eventual reader.

In case that it‟s important that the characters speak in a foreign language, there are a
number of options:

Option 1: Parenthetical
Use a wryly (parenthetical) to clarify that the actor will speak in another language:

LEE
(in Chinese)
How are you?

Option 2: Make a statement in the narrative


If characters speak in a foreign language throughout an entire scene, make an
intitial remark at the beginning of that scene which language the actors will use and
then write the dialog in English - or more correctly: the language of the eventual
reader.

INT. CHINESE HEALTH FOOD STORE - DAY

(NOTE: THE CHARACTERS SPEAK CHINESE THROUGHOUT THE SCENE.)

Steven looks at the shelves, takes a package of green tea.

Chang enters from a back room, happy to see him.

CHANG
Long time no see.

STEVEN
I was busy.

CHANG
How can I help you today?

STEVEN
I need two Mk 48 and plenty of ammo.
Chang disappears into the backroom and returns with the guns.
He takes ammo from a metal cabinet and puts it on the
counter.

CHANG
Cash or charge?

STEVEN
Cash as usual.

Steven puts the tea on the counter.

CHANG
The tea is on the house.

STEVEN
I really appreciate that.

Steven puts a bundle of cash on the counter.

The main issue still is: How will the movie audience understand what‟s being said?

If you think what happens on the screen will speak for itself, then go for

Option 3: Use the original language

That‟s only a good idea if the dialog is short. Here an example from Trottier:

Tarzan shouts at the charging elephant.

TARZAN
On-gow-ah!

The elephant turns and stampedes in the opposite direction.

A derivative of this approach - sometimes seen in movies, but not mentioned by


Trottier - is that characters start talking in a foreign language and after a few
sentences switch to English, or whatever the audience‟s language is.

That gets also the point across nicely:

INT. CHINESE HEALTH FOOD STORE - DAY


Steven looks at the shelves, takes a package of green tea.

Chang enters from a back room, happy to see him.

CHANG
Hao jiao bu jian.

STEVEN
Wo hen mang.

CHANG
What do you need this time?

STEVEN
Two Mk 48 and plenty of ammo.

Chang disappears into the backroom and returns with the guns.
He takes ammo from a metal cabinet and puts it on the
counter.

CHANG
Cash or charge?

STEVEN
Cash as usual.

Steven puts the tea on the counter.

CHANG
The tea is on the house.

STEVEN
I really appreciate that.

Steven drops a bundle of cash on the counter.

Option 4: Subtitles

If characters speak a foreign language throughout the scene and you want the
dialog to be subtitled, it‟s best to mention that in the note at the start of the scene.
Then go on and write the dialog in English.

INT. CHINESE HEALTH FOOD STORE - DAY


(NOTE: THE DIALOG IN THIS SCENE IS SPOKEN IN CHINESE AND IS
SUBTITLED IN ENGLISH.)

Steven looks at the shelves, takes a package of green tea.

Chang enters from a back room, happy to see him.

CHANG
Long time no see.

etc.

etc.

etc.

Steven drops a bundle of cash on the counter.

END OF SUBTITLES

It‟s wise to end the scene with the remark END OF SUBTITLES. Readers tend to
forget.

Option 4: Parenthetical again

Useful if only a few sentences are spoken in a foreign language, rather than an
entire scene:

PAK
I will rip your heart out alive,
fry it and eat it.

Option 5: Parallel dialog

If the sound of the foreign words is important you can use a format that is
reminiscent of that for simultaneously spoken dialog:

CHEN SUBTITLE
Obo-obo ada-ada. You are out of your
mind.
Telepathic Dialog
The main question here is: How is the audience going to know the contents of
telepathic dialog?

The script has to describe what can be seen on screen. There are two ways to
handle it.

If the audience hears something but nobody speaks - no lips are moving - then
that‟s a voice over (V.O.)- either of a narrator or of the character whose
thoughts are being communicated.

Another way is to just have the recipient - the one who reads/hears/senses the
thoughts - speak them out loud. That‟s ordinary dialog.

Mute Dialog
A character may be mute and communicate using sign language. As the general public is
not familiar with sign language the meaning must be communicated somehow - either
orally or by subtitles.

The character - even though mute - could speak while he signs:

MUTE PERSON
(while signing)
Do you understand me?

If the dialog is written in subtitles, this should be mentioned in the parenthesis:

MUTE PERSON
(while signing; in subtitles)
Do you understand me?

If the mute character is a major character, it might suffice to mention his/her


muteness once in the narrative instead of every time he/she speaks.

Another option would be to just have the character sign without speaking, in the
hope that the audience will get the meaning. Trottier doesn‟t mention this option, but
this is a common approach to communication when silence is important, for
example in the usual military scenarios.

Dialog Punctuation
--
The double dash indicates interruption: a sudden shift or break in thought, for
example when one character interrupts another, a character is interrupted by an
event (sound, action), the character interrupts himself by shifting his thought or he
speaks interrupted. Trottier also mentions using the -- when the character speaks
with sudden emphasis.

VIVIAN
I’m sorry you had to wait --

JIM
I’m tired of your excuses.

...
The ellipsis is used to indicate continuity. A character starts speaking, pauses and
continues to speak. Also when a character finishes another character‟s sentence
the ellipsis is used.

VIVIAN
On second thought ... I’m not
that sorry.

(beat)

Title Page
If you follow the recommendations in The Screenwriter‟s Bible, your title page will be
almost empty.

It should contain the title of your script, optionally followed by the word „by‟ or the words
„Screenplay by‟, followed by your name. You may decide to make a comment about
copyright in the lower left hand corner, but it‟s not really common. All of this in ordinary
size 12 Courier or Courier New font.

Somehow very close to this:

We’ll see

by

John Smith

wgaw# XXXXXXXXX
Plain size 12 Courier or Courier New font.

No other fonts, no italics, no bold letters or digits. Nothing like that. Nowhere. Never.

The First Page


No page number on page one.

You may put the title of your script at the top of page one, but not on any of the following
pages. If you decide to put it on page one, it must be centered, capped and underscored.

You should begin with FADE IN: flush at the left margin. Almost all screenplays do that.
Some readers take this very serious.

It follows a master scene heading or narrative description.

You may alternatively start your screenplay with BLACK SCREEN followed by words to be
superimposed on the black screen. That will look this way:

BLACK SCREEN

SUPER:

“These are the adventures of the


Starship Enterprise ...”

FADE IN:

INT. ENTERPRISE COMMAND BRIDGE - DAY

...

Note: No page number at the top right corner. Numbering of the pages of the script thus
begins with 2. on the third page if you include the title page which would be page number
0.
Credits and Titles
Don‟t worry about these. If you feel you absolutely need them The Screenwriter‟s Bible
suggests something like ROLL CREDITS or BEGIN CREDITS. In that case end with
END CREDITS. You could also use TITLES instead of CREDITS.

The Last Page


If you started the script with FADE IN: (suggested), the last line of the last page of the
script must be FADE OUT. or a FADE TO BLACK. flush to the right margin:

NARRATOR
And they lived happily ever after.

FADE OUT.

Like all pages except for the title page and page one, the last page must have a page
number in the top right corner, of course.

Notes
You shouldn‟t write anything that‟s only meant for the reader. Every line of narrative
should translate into shots that end up on the screen. Don‟t write what people think or
feel, don‟t talk about the past. In the narrative avoid smart terms that only a few readers
may understand.

That said, you might encounter a situation where you have to tell the reader something -
or you think you really have to in that particular situation.

In this case Trottier suggests to write the note in a separate paragraph. Here the example
he gives:

(NOTE: This scene is shot in BLACK AND WHITE. It should


appear old and scratched as if it originated from a 1950’s
publiuc information library. There are intentional JUMP
CUTS.)
Even here the question arises: Why demand BLACK AND WHITE. Does the story
really depend on it? But we‟re not going to argue with Trottier here, right?

To give you an idea what you may experience when you decide to write a note to
the reader, here an example I made myself with professional feedback.

In my script something was happening in the middle of several characters present


in the scene. However only one of them could see it. I constructed the narrative so
that from the visuals that should be clear. However, I just wanted to make sure the
reader gets it and thus wrote this:

(NOTE: Only Janet sees the light.)

Reader‟s comments: How will the audience know this? Need to have her reference
it in order to make it clear, because audience won’t have the privilege of this note.

The reader is correct. The note‟s purpose cannot be to tell the reader something
the audience also needs to know and has no way of getting it otherwise. But her
referencing (mentioning) it wasn‟t practical and after checking the narrative again I
found that it was clear enough. So the next time I wrote this:

(NOTE: As the visuals suggest, only Janet sees the light.)

This time the same reader suggested to append „which only she can see.‟
to the narrative and scratch the note.

However, another reader said: “If the visuals suggest it, you don‟t need to write it.‟

Great. You can‟t win, I guess.

Whatever, all this won‟t kill your script. If things like this happen to you I suggest
picking one option or drop the note entirely and then focusing on the story. That‟s
what really will make or break your screenplay.