Demystifying Format

Screenplay format breaks down into five easy pieces:

1. The scene heading or slug line

2. The narrative description of the action

3. The name of the character speaking

4. The parenthetical directions and dialogue

5. Transitions

More and more, my students are using screenplay software (me, too). Talk about easy. In most people's opinion, it's worth every penny, but it can be pricey (I've listed different software names and phone numbers in the Appendix so you can check on the price and computer compatibility; if you're a student, say so, because they usually offer substantial discounts). It is possible to create a professional-looking screenplay format yourself. To that end, the TAB settings are:

1" Left margin

2.6" Dialogue

3.3" Parenthetical

3.9" Character name (ALL CAPS)

5.9" Transitions

7.5" Right margin (turn off justification)

In either case, use 12-point Courier type, justify your left margin but not your right, leave one-inch margins all around, limit the number of lines per page to 54, number your pages (with a period after the number) in the upper right corner of each page—except for the title page and the first page of dialogue—but don't number individual scenes.

Your title page should be simple—the title in caps, centered, one-third down the page, with "by (your name)" a few spaces beneath it, also centered, or "by" double-spaced and centered beneath it and "your name" double-spaced and centered below that. You can put contact information in the bottom left-hand or right-hand corner.

It's most useful to see how each part appears on the page, so here's the opening scene of The Making of "Killer Kite" (the complete script is in Part III of the book):

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