A Working Blueprint

There are many different kinds of script used in making film and television programmes. Indeed, some people make holiday movies without any written notes whatsoever.
But if you’re more than a one man band, you soon learn that the more preparation and organisation you do before the shoot, the easier and better life is later.

You wouldn’t start to build a house without a detailed set of plans; don’t try to build a blockbuster movie without the same sort of planning. So you need to be able to read a script and understand it.

Even more important, if you’re writing a script make sure it’s in the format an agent or producer expects. If it isn’t even the best script will end up in the ‘pass’ tray.

Everything on the script – as much as you can

Most big location stories are put together one shot at a time. So the script can contain every bit of information needed to get each shot.

The standard layout is called the ‘Hollywood style’. Click to see an example; it should load into a separate page so you can look at it side by side with this.

Although everybody now uses word processors to write, variants on a ‘typewriter’ font seem to make the script feel familiar.

  1. The name of the production. Often this is a working title. It’s usually on the top of every page, and often on the bottom as well.
  2. The scene number. If a scene goes over a page, most people put this line again, but with (continued).
  3. Exterior or Interior. Vital information for lighting.
  4. The actual location.
  5. Continuous action from the last scene. If action isn’t continuous, indicate where we are in time, especially the time of day.
  6. Writers usually indicate the important element in each shot of a scene by using capital letters. So this will almost certainly end up as a three shot.
  7. A new person, animal or thing is usually indicated with capitals depending on its importance to the plot.
  8. Who speaks and what she says. Names are usually in upper case, bold, centre justified. Dialogue text is usually half or one third the width of descriptive text.
  9. Stage instructions in the middle of text are in parentheses. Some people like to use capitals. Some people use capitals for all descriptive text and stage directions.

There are many different script layouts, but if you study this, you should be able to follow any you find.

But have a look at Storyboards as well – very useful for planning a shoot.