Wednesday, 28 January 2009


This is a post I didn't expect to write. There are so many screenwriting books, websites, sample scripts available. But writers it seems are still getting formatting wrong!

Let me be clear so as not to offend. When I wrote my first ever screenplay, a 30 minute short about 7/8 years ago, my formatting was completely wrong. The first person I showed it to, a tutor on a short course, put me straight, and that was that. I bought Final Draft and that did the rest. Young and innocent, I had the 60 odd quid to splash on it! But even if you don't, there is free software out there, like scriptsmart via the Beeb, that is more than capable of doing the job.

So as a reminder, the industry font standard is Courier 12 point. The original reason for this, yonks ago, is I think because it is most reminiscent of the old typewriters that were used back in the day! But whatever the reason, it is the way it is and everyone has to get on board.

Because nothing screams amateur louder than a script in the wrong format. And low and behold, I got one the other day. Now, it was not through my own Script Reading on the Blog service from a complete newbie. If that was the case I would've had a gentle word about what was the correct form and I assume that would've been the end of it. No, this script came via a company I read for.

I couldn't believe it because from what I could work out, the writers were experienced enough and should've known better. It's not easy getting a production company to even look at your work, the competition is so fierce. So if you do, you want to stand out for good reasons, not cos you look like an amateur.

I know this all sounds really pedantic, but there are actually valid reasons things are the way they are. I read the whole script, because that's what I get paid to do, but the more experience you have, the more you get a feel for certain things. So for experiments sake I converted the script from the font it was in, into courier 12 point. And it was a good 10 pages longer! I wasn't surprised because it felt overwritten, but what this meant was that the writers either knew this, and tried to disguise it by using a smaller font (rather than being bothered to actually cut the overwriting in the script!) or they didn't - in which case it throws up concerns about their writing in terms of structure and pacing.

Don't get me wrong, like I said I read the whole script. And if it had been fantastic, I certainly would not have let formatting problems stand in the way of me recommending it. But it's so easy to get the basics right, I was extremely surprised this landed in my inbox. Writing top notch screenplays is very difficult. There are so many things that need to be spot on. Plot, Characters, Theme - all the tough stuff. So lets do everyone, all writers, a favour and not make the easy stuff make us look like we don't know what we're doing.

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