When a student’s dream is to create the next blockbuster, there are quite a few steps they need to take.
Graduation is merely an initial step on this journey.
Following graduation, the student needs to consider working on their first piece.
Simply having an idea for a movie is not enough.
Before a film can be produced, the writer needs to go through a number of steps.
From writing a script to using the correct format for the screenplay document.
By the end, a good screenplay is needed.
We take a closer look at the importance of a screenplay, share some tips for setting up the initial layout, and other vital factors regarding the document.
What Is A Screenplay?
Before attempting screenwriting, it is crucial for the author to understand what a screenplay is.
Some people would only begin writing without fully understanding the screenwriting format.
The screenplay is the document that is used for the production of a show.
When writing a screenplay, however, there is more than just dialogue to be written.
The person also needs to write instructions for each of the clips, specify which character should speak with each line of dialogue, and more.
Screenwriting can be used to set up an original script.
Alternatively, screenplays are sometimes also used as a way to create adaptations of existing stories.
Kierra Daniels, a writer at PapersOwl, explains: “A screenplay should be considered a series of instructions related to the production of a movie.
At the same time, the dialogue and journey that unfolds are, in fact, a piece of art”.
Why Is Screenplay Important?
There are a number of reasons why screenwriting and using the correct screenplay format should be taken into consideration.
The writing of a standard screenplay should contain multiple factors.
Apart from the correct format, it is vital to understand that the screenplay becomes the foundation of the movie.
It is an important element in each and every phase of the process.
With the correct format, screenwriting helps every person involved in the process understand what to do, what should happen next, and stick to a proper plan.
This avoids unnecessary delays and proper script formatting also contributes to a more successful finished film.
Some of the people who will rely on the document throughout the process include:
- Producers need this document to ensure environments are properly built to comply with the theme of every scene.
- Directors use the document to ensure each character performs their role as expected, and that the right environment is used in each of the scenes.
- The actors need a copy of the shooting script to ensure they can learn their lines. This ensures the actors can portray their roles effectively – making the movie more realistic in the process.
- The production crew also needs access to the document. The crew members will use the narrative and dialogue to identify their own roles in the process. Every page may not be provided to the crew. Instead, the page received by a crew member will usually be related to their specific role. A particular word or dialogue is not provided on the page, as these individuals are not common in a scene when the product is complete.
There are also a few crucial factors that need to be included in screenplays. Each of these factors plays its own role in ensuring the film can be produced without error and confusion.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the vital elements that screenplays should include – especially in the final draft:
- The complete narrative is contained in the screenplay. The screenplay includes all parts from the beginning up to the ending of the film. The structure is divided in multiple scene headings to help with organization.
- An action line is used to help the directors understand specific actions that should be done. Even with a short film, these action lines provide enhanced efficiency in the making process.
- Details on screen time for each of the characters that are involved in the film can be found too. This helps to determine how much each individual will be shown – and also ensures a more accurate proposal can be made for the actors.
- A complete dialogue for the characters can be found too.This includes every word that characters are expected to say. Multiple lines are found for every character in the movie. Everything from a fight scene to other types of action lines requires some type of dialogue. The characters should be able to understand what they need to say at every moment of the shooting process.
Tips For Setting Up A Screenplay Script
We know that a screenplay script should be properly formatted and go through a series of processes.
While it is not hard for writers to identify the role that these scripts play, it can be quite a challenge to get your first one up.
After a while, writing scripts does become easier.
We share a couple of tips to help writers understand every action they should take.
These are practical tips that will also make the process of editing the script easier for the editors.
Start writing your first tale using these tips.
1. Understand The Journey And Flow Of The Story
When writing a screenplay, it is vital for the author to understand the flow of the tale itself.
Some people would set up a narrative first – and have as many details as possible.
This can be a great way to set up separate scenes for each section of the film.
It also ensures every action can be specified based on what is happening at that point of the tale.
Taking a piece of paper or a new document and plotting down the entire journey is an excellent way to get started.
You’re going to have to understand how the adventure flows from beginning to end.
This helps with the structuring, and the writer will have an easier time writing the dialogue later on.
2. Consider Ideal Fits For The Hero
Some people do prefer to set up a tale that has universal fits for every hero or character that is a part of the script.
Unfortunately, this can make it difficult to develop personalities for each of the actors.
You may find that considering the right fits for each character in the film will help with setting up appropriate personalities.
This can significantly add to the overall character displayed by the video.
Whether set on this world, in space, or in a fantasy setting – consider which movie star would be the right fit for the main hero first.
Write all lines around the personality of this actor.
Sure, the author of the script might not be able to get this actor to play in the movie, but it still allows for the development of specific behavior, tone, and other factors.
During the recruitment process, the author can then keep the “ideal fit” in consideration while seeing who best fits the role.
3. Start With The Outline
When the main narrative itself has been written, the screenplay still requires the right structure.
Setting up a screenplay should not be done without careful consideration and planning.
Any mistakes or incorrect terms can cause a disruption in the process.
Thus, always begin with an initial outline.
The front page of the screenplay will generally consist of vital information regarding the video, purpose, and expected duration.
Inside, each scene should get its own space – whether that is a page or a complete section in the script.
Screenplays that begin with an outline are also easier to complete.
Write out information for each scene on a different page.
Then, start at the beginning and write the scenes as they flow throughout the tale.
4. Keep The Audience In Mind
When creating screenplays, it is always crucial to ensure the audience is taken into consideration.
Every type of movie has a specific audience that it will target.
Some people prefer comedy movies, while others rather watch shows that display horror characteristics.
With this in mind, it is always key to ensure the screenplay is written for the audience.
Consider elements that the audience enjoys watching, and avoid adding things that could cause confusion or frustration among those who will be the main watchers.
Some initial target market research can be exceptionally helpful in these scenarios.
Throughout the writing process, the author could even consider shooting some small scenes.
The author then hires a video editor to do some minor edits and shares the result with the potential audience.
Ask people to provide their opinion on the short trailer that was released.
This gives the author more insight into the audience – and also allows them to determine specific elements that may still be lacking.
5. Find Inspiration If Needed
Writer’s block is not only something that happens to people who write books.
Those who specialize in setting up a screenplay for movies can experience similar issues.
When hit by these issues, it is of major importance for the author to avoid giving up or adding too much of a delay to the screenplay.
Instead, the author should consider sources of inspiration.
One idea is to pay a visit to the cinemas. Take a look at the latest movies that are showing.
Book a ticket and watch the movie.
Take note of every element in the movie – the dialogue, actions performed by the actors, and how the scenery flows throughout different scenes.
A person can also choose to watch a few videos at home.
TV shows and movies can all be used as inspiration – just as long as the writer does not copy elements of these shows.
For those who are very new to setting up the screenplay, try sitting in front of an episode on TV and write down the script.
This can be a great way to train and get some practice.
The experience gathered here could then later be used when continuing with the script the author is busy with.
Through this method, it is also easy to get a hang of how the format should be.
The person also learns more about creating scenery and backgrounds that match the atmosphere of the current events.
6. Prioritize The Opening
Even just a small problem with the opening of a movie could deter people from continuing to watch.
In fact, many producers consider the opening of a movie to be the most crucial part.
During the writing process, it is always vital to ensure the movie will open with a “bang”.
The opening should quickly draw interest from the audience, which will ensure the individuals will continue to watch.
While the opening is an essential factor, writing an interesting story throughout the entire video is just as crucial.
The ending should also be great, which ensures the person will feel interested in any future productions from the author.
7. Use The Right Sluglines
Slug Lines are part of the screenplay script that is handed over to the producers and director.
There are several sluglines that should be used throughout the document.
Fail to use the right sluglines and the risk of errors and mistakes would be greatly enhanced.
With this in mind, a person should ensure they use appropriate slug lines while writing the narrative.
These are also sometimes referred to as actions.
The slugline will usually be at the top of a new scene.
The line specifies the particular location where the scene takes place. A time is also provided alongside the slugline.
The line is also given an affix – which can be either INT. for an internal scene or EXT. for an outdoor scene.
The suffix should state the time of the day in which the scene takes place.
This could be day or night, for example.
Some people go into more details by specifying a more specific time, such as an early morning or late afternoon.
The slugline can also contain additional information.
“Moments Later” is often used to refer to a scene that happens only a few minutes after the previous.
“Continuous” is an addition to a slugline that specifies the fact that the scene carries on from the previous one.
8. Use A Screenplay Template
To format a screenplay script, many would turn to a template to help them. There are many templates available – and some can even be accessed for free.
Similar to templates offered for a program like Premiere Pro, if the author is writing the tale on a screenplay software, they should ensure compatibility with the application.
Microsoft Office is sometimes used for this purpose too. The author can download a document from this application easily.
9. Avoid Delaying And Self-Doubt
One of the biggest reasons some people are never able to achieve their dream of releasing a movie – self-doubt and, in the process, quitting.
A lot of people begin with a basic structure.
As they continue with the writing, they eventually begin to doubt themselves.
Perhaps they are not sure if they have the right format, for example.
This self-doubt then causes the person to give up on their efforts in the process.
It is essential to just continue writing. An author has full control over the movie.
It is crucial to keep this in mind.
When in doubt, consider the fact that the document is not written to satisfy a major Hollywood producer – but instead written to comply with the desires of the author themselves.
10. Know How To Use Parentheticals And Extensions
As a last tip, always ensure parentheticals and extensions are properly used throughout the document.
Extensions are generally used to refer to specific elements of the film. When formatting a screenplay document, extensions can be added as follows:
- V.O. is used to refer to a voice-over in the dialogue.
- O.S. is an abbreviation that shows something should happen off-screen, but still, be obvious to the audience.
- INTO DEVICES is used to tell when a person should speak into a smartphone, for example.
- PRE-LAP tells the producers that a dialogue that plays in the next scene should begin while a previous scene is still being played.
Screenplay Template Format
When setting up a screenplay document, it is crucial to get the formatting right.
These documents will usually begin with some details about the author. A name for the project matters just as much.
If the person wants to learn more about templates or spend less time on the formatting, they can use screenwriting software.
The software is great for setting up a final draft as well, which can then be processed into the shooting screenplay.
A number of additional factors are also mentioned regarding the video.
This includes the concept, purpose, and approach. Composition is mentioned on the initial page, along with the expected duration.
Interior pages consist of dialogue. Throughout these pages, action lines are also specified.
These lines can refer to actions such as someone picking up a phone, for example.
Each page should also contain adequate details of the scene in which the part should be filed.
This can include details such as whether it is an interior or exterior scene, and what backdrop should be used.
Understanding screenplay format is a critical factor for writers who want to get a movie produced.
Starting with a draft and proper outlining is a key factor in the project.
The correct format should be used in the finished document as well. Screenplay formatting helps a crew understand character movement, and makes the writing process a bit easier.
Cristian Stanciu is a freelance video editor, owner, and post-production coordinator of Veedyou Media – a company offering video editing services to videographers, marketing agencies, video production studios, or brands all over the globe.