screenplay or script is a written work by screenwriters for a movie , video game or television program . These screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing pieces of writing. In them, the movement, actions, expression and dialogues of the characters are also narrated. A screenplay written for television is also known as a teleplay .

Format and style

The format is structured so that one page equates to roughly one minute of screen time, but this is only used as a ballpark estimate and often bears little resemblance to the running time of the final movie. [1] The standard font is 12 point, 10 pitch Courier Typeface. [2]

The major components are action (sometimes called “screen direction”) and dialogue . The action is written in the present tense and is limited to what can be heard or seen by the audience, for example descriptions of settings, character movements, or sound effects. The dialogue is the words the characters speak, and is written in a center column.

Unique to the screenplay is the use of slug lines. A slug line , also called a master scene heading , appears on the beginning of each scene and usually contains three pieces of information: whether the scene is set inside (inside / INT.) Or outside (exterior / EXT.), The specific location , and the time of day. Each slug line begins a new scene. In a ” shooting script ” the slug lines are numbered consecutively for ease of reference.

Physical format

American screenplays are printed on three-hole-punched paper using the standard American letter size (8.5 x 11 inch). They are then held together with two brass brads in the top and bottom hole. The middle hole is left empty as soon as possible.

In the United Kingdom, double-hole-punched A4 paper is normally used, which is slightly taller than US letter size. Some UK writers make the scripts for use in the US letter size, especially when their scripts are to be read by American producers, since the pages would otherwise be cropped when printed on US paper. Because each country’s standard paper size is difficult to obtain in the other country, British writers often send an electronic copy to American producers, or the A4 size to US letter.

A British script may be bound by a single brad at the top of the page, making flicking through the paper easier during script meetings. Screenplays are usually bound with a light card and are often used as a back-up to the back cover of the paper. This is especially important if the script is likely to pass through the hands of several people or through the post.

Increasingly, reading copies of screenplays (that is, those distributed by producers and agencies in the hope of attracting finance or talent) are distributed on the sides of paper (often professionally bound) to reduce paper waste. Occasionally they are reduced to half-size to make a small book which is convenient to read or put in a pocket; this is for the director or production crew during shooting.

Although most written contracts are still in existence, they are usually delivered electronically via email.

Screenplay formats

Screenplays and teleplays using a set of standardizations, beginning with proper formatting. These rules are in part to serve the purpose of making uniformly readable scripts of “blueprints” of movies, and also to serve as a way of distinguishing a professional from an amateur.

Feature film

Motion picture screenplays Intended for submission to mainstream studios, whether in the US or elsewhere in the world, are expected to accordance to a standard typographical style Known Widely have size studio qui stipulates how Elements of the screenplay Such As szene headings, action, transitions, dialog, character names, shots, and parenthetical matter should be presented on the page.

One reason for this is, when rendered in a studio format, most screenplays will be on the screen. This rule of thumb is widely contested – a page of dialogue usually occupied by a page of action, for example, and it depends enormously on the literary style of the writer – and yet it continues to hold sway in modern Hollywood .

There is no single standard for studio format. Some studios have definitions of the required format written in the rubric of their writer’s contract. The Nicholl Fellowship , a screenwriting competition run under the auspices of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences , has a guide to screenplay format. [3] A more detailed reference is The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats . [4]

Screenplays are almost always written using a certain font , often a variant of Courier or Courier New , both mostly used as 12 pt font. This is preferred due to its clarity. Screenplays are usually 90-120 pages long.

Spec screenplay

A ” spec script ” or “speculative screenplay” is a script written to be sold on the open market. The content is usually invented only by the screenwriter, though spec screenplays can also be based on established works, or real people and events. [5]


For American TV shows, the format rules for hour-long dramas, like CSI , and single-camera sitcoms, like Scrubs , are essentially the same as for motion pictures. The main difference is that TV scripts have act breaks. Multi-camera sitcoms like I Love Lucy uses a different, specialized format that derives from radio and the stage play. In this format, dialogue is double-spaced, action lines are capitalized, and scene headings, character inputs and exits, and sound effects are capitalized and underlined.

Drama series and sitcoms are not longer than the formats that require the skills of a writer. With reality-based programming across genres, many of the so-called “reality” programs are in large part scripted in format. That is, the overall skeleton of the show and its episodes are written to dictate the content and direction of the program. The Writers Guild of America has identified this as a legitimate writer’s medium, so much so that they have lobbied to impose jurisdiction over writers and producers who “format” reality-based productions. Creating reality show formats involves storytelling structure similar to screenwriting, but much more condensed and boiled down to specific points or actions related to the overall concept and story.


The script is for documentaries and audio-visual presentations which consist of a large number of voices, and is often used in many different ways. to editing or rewriting. Many script-editing software programs include templates for documentary formats.

Screenwriting software

Main article: Screenwriting software

Various screenwriting software packages are available to help screenwriters adhere to the strict formatting conventions. Detailed computer programs are specifically designed for screenplays, teleplays, and stage plays. Such packages include BPC-Screenplay, Celtx , Fade In , Final Draft , FiveSprockets , Editing , Movie Magic Screenwriter , Movie Outline 3.0, and Scrivener , Movie Draft SE and Zhura. Software is also available as web applications , accessible from any computer, and on mobile devices , such as Fade In Mobile and Scripts Pro.

The first screenwriting software was SmartKey , such as WordStar , WordPerfect and Microsoft Word . SmartKey was popular with screenwriters from 1982-1987, after which word processing programs had their own macro features.

Script coverage

Main article: Script coverage

Script coverage, is a filmmaking term for the analysis and grading of screenplays, often within the “script development” department of a production company. While coverage may be quite verbal, it usually takes the form of a written report, guided by a rubric that varies from company to company. The original idea behind coverage was that they should not be allowed to produce their products and they should not be allowed to produce them. [6]

See also

  • Act structure
  • Closet screenplay
  • Filmmaking
  • scriptment
  • Screenwriter’s salary
  • Screenwriting
  • Screenwriting software
  • storyboard
  • List of film-related topics
  • List of screenwriting software
  • Dreams on Spec
  • Writer’s Digest


  1. Jump up^ “How is the page-per-minute rule?
  2. Jump up^ “Hollywood Standard Formatting”
  3. Jump up^ Guide to screenplay formatfrom the website of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  4. Jump up^ The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats(2002) Cole and Haag, SCB Distributors,ISBN 0-929583-00-0.
  5. Jump up^ “Spec Script” . Act Four Screenplays . Retrieved August 10, 2012 .
  6. Jump up^ “What is Script Coverage?” . WeScreenplay . Retrieved 5 July 2016 .