Ask A Ghostwriter – Proper Screenplay Formatting

Apr 8, 2020 | Ghostwriting, Screenplays and Screenwriting

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Bringing your vision to the big screen sounds like an absolute dream for most writers. Becoming a bit of Hollywood lore. Seeing your name up in lights. Reaching audiences all over the world. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Well, that whole dream begins with screenplay formatting.

If you have ever written a story or a letter or even a report for the boss at your day job, you understand every document comes with its proper formatting. What do I mean by that? Well, a story usually begins by introducing the character and setting. A letter starts with an introduction and ends with a salutation.

If you work for a big company, they probably use a template for reports that ensure that your boss sees what they need to see before their next round of golf.

Screenplays fit into that category, too. A time-honored set of formatting rules applies whenever you write a screenplay and you have to master them in order to get your project seen by the kinds of people that can get your movie made.

Let’s take a look under the hood of what that means.

Why Does Screenplay Formatting Matter?

There is one obvious reason why the screenplay formatting matters. Your document, when it is done, is the blueprint for movie production.

Once your project is greenlit into production, your screenplay is given out to the entire film crew. Everyone needs those pages to understand the movie they are making. The Producer needs to understand what locations to secure. The Director needs to know where scenes begin and end so they can dream up the shots. Actors will pour over your screenplay because the dialog is something they’re going to perform for the camera.

With so many people counting on your document to understand how to do their jobs, formatting is critical. Imagine if your actor had to scour the script, through scenes they weren’t even in looking for dialog?

What if the Director had to read over and over in order to figure out where a particular scene happened? Production would be an absolute mess. Screenplay formatting helps streamline the eventual production.

Screenplay Formatting And Different Mediums

You’re probably thinking, where does television fit into the equation? Good question. We live in the golden age of television. Movies used to carry considerably more prestige than it’s small screen sibling, but now the tables have turned.

People go to movies. But they talk about television.

If your dream project is a television series, you’ve arrived in the right market. Television is hot and yes, it comes with its own unique challenges with regards to format. Very similar to screenplay formatting, television’s particular demands deserve attention.

Before writing your television script, be sure you’re looking at those specific demands. 

Screenplay Formatting Made Easy

As a screenplay ghostwriter, I enjoy formatting. There is something comforting for me in how streamlined a screenplay comes out. Only having to write what you see on the screen. The cleanliness of how dialog sets.

For me, it is the most efficient way to tell a story.

Using the right software is key to writing a proper screenplay. However comfortable I might be, I would never try to format a screenplay without help. For a relatively small amount of money (ranging from free up to roughly $200) a new writer can purchase a professional grade program like Final Draft or Celtx or Writer Duet and watch how easily the document comes together.

Going into a screenwriting project without software can be dicey. I know a lot of writers that try using Word or Scrivener to format their screenplays and they get mixed results. The software I’ve shared here do all of that work for you, making properly formatted screenplays easy.