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The Three Act Structure for a Screenplay

How to Properly Format a Screenplay

A Rite of Passage

Formatting a screenplay properly is the very first step into the Agent's or Producer's door. It is the secret knock, that if not properly followed, will have your thrown out on your rear, to the side of the street where amateur screenwriters live. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that your format your screenplay properly. Here are some absolute guidelines to follow -- these are not suggestions!

The Basic Rules of Format

1. The submitted screenplay should be printed on white 8 1/2 x 11 inch, three-holed paper.

Never use colored paper, or legal-sized paper.

2. The font used must be COURIER.

If you are using an industry-standard screenwriting program this is done for you. se Courier 12 point ONLY. Don't be fancy and use any other font anywhere in your screenplay, even for fun or to make a point.Never use colored paper, or legal-sized paper.

3. Simple Cover.

The cover should only contain the following: Title of Screenplay by Your Name, and Contact information.

Title Page of Screenplay

Title Page of Screenplay

4. Bind the Screenplay with Brass Fasteners.

Use Chicago screws or an Acco two-piece fastener. Any office supply store or online store will carry them. Do not, by any means, bind your screenplay any other way! Not like a book, and not with those plastic round thingy's. You might say to yourself, but wait, this is prettier, and more expensive. Don't do it. It screams amateur.

5. First Page of Screenplay Starts... the Screenplay!

Don't list the characters. Don't summarize the plot. Don't place any artwork whatsoever anywhere here or anywhere else in the script. I know you want to show that cool illustration you had an artist render for your amazing universe, but this is not where it goes.

6. A feature film should be no more than 129 pages long

Studios want to distribute films that are between 90 minutes to 2 hours in length. The rule of thumb for film length is that one page equals one minute of screen time. A script that is 130 pages or more would last more than 2 hours, and although there are plenty of films that are over 2 hours in length, I guarantee that they are guaranteed block busters like the Marvel films.

7. Try to refrain from parenthetical directions to Actors

As a screenwriter, your job is to give the characters action and dialogue. It is not your job to tell the actors "how" to deliver their lines. This is the Director's job. It is very distracting to the reader to pause and read (very angrily) or (with a hint of sarcasm) in the dialogue. Even though screenwriting programs have the capability to add parenthetical notes, try at all costs to avoid them.

Parenthetical Directions to Actor

Parenthetical Directions

8. Omit Camera Directions

I've read hundreds of screenplays, and this is without a doubt the most difficult thing to follow. You are the creator of your story -- you have a vision for how it should be filmed. After all, you are not writing a novel. A film is a visual medium. But again, this rule is just as important as all the others: DO NOT SPECIFY SHOTS, like: TRACKING SHOT ON JIM, MEDIUM SHOT ON SALLY, ZOOM IN ON GEORGE. If you want to write the "mood" of the scene, do it in the ACTION. Let the Director interpret how to shoot the film. There are a few instances where you can include camera direction. For example:

Camera Direction in Screenplay

Camera Direction

How to Prepare Your Screenplay

How to Develop a Main Character for Your Screenplay

How to Develop Other Characters for Your Screenplay

Check out our iOS app for developing an outline for your story, StoryO for iOS click here for more information or here for the desktop version.

StoryO for iOS

StoryO for iOS: Available on the App Store



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