Screenplay - Format and Style

Format and Style

The format is structured in a way that one page usually equates to one minute of screen time. In a "shooting script", each scene is numbered, and technical direction may be given. In a "spec" or a "draft" in various stages of development, the scenes are not numbered, and technical direction is at a minimum. The standard font for a screenplay is 12 point, 10 pitch Courier.

The major components are action and dialogue. The "action" is written in the present tense. The "dialogue" are the lines the characters speak. Unique to the screenplay (as opposed to a stage play) is the use of slug lines.

The format consists of three aspects:

  1. The interplay between typeface/font, line spacing and type area, from which the standard of one page of text per one minute of screen time is derived. In the United States letter size paper and Courier 12 point are mandatory; Europe uniformly uses A4 as the standard paper size format, and has no uniform font requirement.
  2. The tab settings of the scene elements (dialogue, scenes headings, transitions, parentheticals, etc.), which constitute the screenplay's layout.
  3. The dialogue must be centered and the names must be capitalized. A script usually begins with "FADE IN:", followed by the first scene description. It might get more specific, e.g. "FADE IN ON AN ECU of Ricky as he explains the divorce to Bob." A script will usually end with "FADE TO BLACK", though there are variables, like "CUT TO BLACK" for abrupt endings.

The style consists of a grammar that is specific to screenplays. This grammar also consists of two aspects:

  1. A prose that is manifestation-oriented, i.e. focuses largely on what is audible and what is visible on screen. This prose may only supply interpretations and explanation (deviate from the manifestation-oriented prose) if clarity would otherwise be adversely affected.
  2. Codified notation of certain technical or dramatic elements, such as scene transitions, changes in narrative perspective, sound effects, emphasis of dramatically relevant objects and characters speaking from outside a scene.

Read more about this topic:  Screenplay

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