Download screenplay format guides and template below (with links to some useful software, free and paid) but first read this:

Is it important to format scripts correctly?

This is more an issue with cinema and feature length TV scripts than with other forms of TV, which tend to be less prescriptive, but the fact is that it is crucially important to use the correct format for any feature length drama script.

Why is it important?

There are a number of possible answers that go around. One is that the specific use of non-proportional courier font and the designated layout makes scripts conform closely to 1 page per minute.

Well, dialogue tends to run faster (2 pages per minute or so) while action can be much, much slower (on Cimino’s Deer Hunter there’s a party described in a couple of lines that runs for over four minutes on its own). And yet it is true that most scripts, if the balance of dialogue and action is about right, tend to work out at a page a minute.  On the other hand, many don’t!

Another, more credible, explanation is that the cinema layout we use gives a good visual balance between description and dialogue, ensuring that if there is too much of either then it shows up in a very obvious way.

The most important reason that you need to know, though, is that any professional in the industry will be very wary of a script that is not in correct format. How unfair and unjust! Perhaps. But look at it this way. There are only two reasons why a script would not be in correct format.

  1. The writer has not been around long enough to know the difference.
  2. The writer is too bolshie (or lazy) to care.

Either way, do you want to work with that writer? Speaking personally, in my entire career I have only come across one incorrectly formatted script that turned out to be worth reading. And that writer turned out to be impossible to work with… My case rests.

FREE DOWNLOADS

Cinema Screenplay Format Guide

Download free professionally formatted sample script for cinema, with extra hints and tips on layout.

PDF Reader

To read this you’ll need a pdf reader. If you don’t have one, download a free reader from Adobe – or if you prefer from Foxit.

Cinema Screenplay Template

Download this free screenplay writing template, for use in MS Word or compatible programs. Correctly set-up paragraph styles, with simple instructions.

Typical TV Script Layout

Typical layout for studio drama, with dialogue on the right and space on the left for camera breakdowns.

SCRIPTWRITING SOFTWARE

Good software will automatically ensure that your screenplay is correctly formatted.

Free

Celtx is popular and permanently free.

Paid/Free Trial

Final Draft is the industry standard, followed closely by
Scrivener is excellent value. Fewer formatting options but by far the strongest outlining and planning features.
They all offer free trials.

2 Comments

  1. Troy said:

    February 5, 2017 at 1:36 am

    Hi Charles…thanks for the great book! I’ve read a few now and there are so many contradictions…..but yours was the most helpful so far. Really constructive, clear and logical…and the templates are a great help!

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