The bones of a movie script

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Like a ravenous Lion eating a juicy Wildebeest on the Serengeti, I’m devouring as much information as I can find about how to write movie scripts

This post is not intended to be a tutorial, it is a way to hopefully force what I have learned so far to make a home in my sieve-like brain. I’m aware that the chances of my screenplay ever being held in the excited hands of someone like Guillermo del Toro are slim to Planck length, but if I’m gunna do it, I’m gunna do it right! I’m also a Virgo, which apparently makes me a perfectionist…I’m joking; I like looking at the stars but I don’t believe they pay much attention to my comings and goings. I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent here…I have a tendency to do that…it’s like when…shit, I’m doing it again.

Back to the bones of writing a movie script

This is a little of what I’ve learned about it so far, which, as you are about to find out, is barely scratching the surface. One thing that has become blatantly obvious to me from my research, is that even though there are a set of rules for writing a script that are writ large in stone, there are many stones to stumble over before finding the correct one. So which is the right one? And what is the right way to format a script that will be a delight for any potential film maker to glance an eye at? To be perfectly honest, I have absolutely no damn idea. If you’re reading this hoping to learn how to craft an Oscar-winning screenplay, thanks for dropping by but, as I mentioned above, this is not intended to be a tutorial; you would be better served looking elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you want to read the ramblings of a writer hopelessly trying to make his novel evolve into a film, read on dear friend.

First things first

Learn from the great and good: read as many movie scripts as your eyes and brain can handle. Simply type ‘Movie scripts’ into your search engine of choice and you will soon be confronted with a plethora of creative gold to feast upon, and most of it appears to be free to read through, which is always good. WARNING: Author is about to go off on another tangent again. While checking my use of the word ‘Plethora’ my computer offered the synonym of ‘Superfluity’, what a kiss on the ears the word ‘Superfluity’ is, but as ‘Plethora’ is equally as erotic to my lugholes, I’ll leave it as is.

Tools of the trade

There is various software available to help the budding screenwriter, both paid and for free, but, apart from my trusty pen and paper, I intend to use the same software I use for all my writing: Libreoffice. Another thing that helps the old creative cogs is music; set the mood for the kind of story you are writing. For example: when I wrote Ama I listened to quite an eclectic range of music, from Classical and Celtic tunes for when I wrote emotional and character development scenes, to Hard Rock and Grunge for the action and brutal scenes. It helps the juices to flow, like a good Malbec wine.

The cover page

Centred and in the middle of the page should be the title of the story, and directly below that should be the name of the author. If the script is based on a novel, there should be a couple of blank lines and then the title and author of the novel should be written. The author’s contact details should be written at the bottom right of the page. All of the text on the cover page should be written using the Courier font (Size 12), with absolutely no graphics whatsoever—more about the fun-and-games I had researching fonts lay in the next section.

Page setup

The page size should be set to 8.5 inches by 11 inches. The left margin should be 1.5 inches, and the right, bottom, and top should be 1 inch. The only font that should be used is Courier (Size 12)… Oh my God, what a pain in the arse my font research turned out to be. Only use the Courier font, because if you don’t your bowels will be cut open with a rusty spoon while your screenplay is used to remove your bloody entrails. Of course, Courier New is okay, but not really, but Courier 10 Pitch would be a wiser choice, but you may still succumb to the demons of Hollywood hell. I’m going to use Courier New, because I’m a rebellious type and…my head hurts.

An additional headache I found while trying to stick to the script writing rules for page setup, is line count per page: this should be between 50 and 55 lines, no more and no less. Apparently, if the line count is between 50 and 55, one page of a movie script usually equates to one minute of film time. I can’t get the bloody line count to 50, mine is 45 lines per page, unless I make the top and bottom margins smaller, but if I dare do that, those demons are sure to be loosed upon my quivering flesh. Well, bring it on, you demons of the count, because I’m happy with 45 lines per page.

Page elements and where they go

FADE IN:
The words ‘FADE IN:’ go at the top left of the first scene.

Slug Line (or Scene Heading)
This is the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of it all, and looks something like this:
INT. LILITH’S FOLLY – DAY
or
EXT. LILITH’S FOLLY – NIGHT
The ‘INT.’ and ‘EXT.’ bit means internal or external respectfully. ‘LILITH’S FOLLY’ is the place where the scene is taking place (LILITH’S FOLLY is an example from my script). The ‘DAY’ and ‘NIGHT’ bit is… You guessed it, what time of day it is. The time of day can be more specific than this, for example: MORNING, EVENING, DUSK, DAWN, etc. But don’t go over the top. The slug line is always in capitals and should be left-aligned.

Action

This is a description of what is happening, and to who, and should always be written in the present tense. Be descriptive, but short and to the point. Speaking of which, this post is in danger of turning into an epic, and I have a cup of tea accompanied with a couple of chocolate biscuits in front of me, so I will end it here.

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