How To Format A Screenplay - 5 Basic Elements : FRIDAY 101

oh hey guys Russell here this week is

all about the basics of screenplay

formatting next week I'll be covering

more advanced formatting tips but to

know what I should cover send me your

questions at Friday 101 mail at

gmail.com subject line screenplay format

question if something isn't covered in

this video ask me about it what do I do

in this situation or that situation one

thing I know I'll be covering is what to

do if two characters are talking at the

same time so that's a good example but

now it's taken so don't ask that now

let's get to it


interior Fremont City Taxi night moving

buildings and street scenes go by as

seen through a dirty car window William

an older gruff looking gentleman who

looks like he'd be more comfortable on a

Western film set is in the backseat of a

rattlin taxi looking out the window at

the passing Urban Decay the cabbie has a

rough but friendly voice and speaks to

William with a nostalgic tone cabby

adjusts rearview mirror to see William

more easily I've been living in the city

almost 30 years you know seen it all my

parents God rest their souls moved us

here so I could be in a good school

system the school system can you believe

it they look at this place that was a

quick excerpt from my short film script

I'm currently working on getting made in

that short excerpt are the five basic

elements of proper screenplay formatting

the slug line or scene heading the

action or description the character name

the dialogue and parentheticals which is

a lot of fun to say the finer points of

screenwriting will add more small

elements to this mix but for you

beginners especially those who have

never written a properly formatted

screenplay before let's focus on these

simple basics

there are many screenplay programs out

there that help make formatting easier

that way you don't have to memorize so

many different margins and then have to

go through and set those manually final

draft was always my favorite program and

I used to use movie magic screenwriter

as well but there's a free solution

available to everyone now and for the

purposes of using something everyone can

use I'll be working in cell techs which

you can use yourself at Celtics comm

first the slug line at the start of each

scene you want to establish a few things

it starts out simple is your scene

inside or outside or in this case

interior or X

easy right after that add your location

in a description of when the scene takes

place usually just day or night will

suffice but you can get more specific if

you want morning afternoon evening dawn

dusk if the flow of time between two

scenes is uninterrupted even if cutting

to a completely different location you

can write continuous same location but

need to show the passage of time to

later in the day use later as far as the

word moving at the end of the taxi slug

line I used earlier that's generally

only used in a moving vehicle you can

also use traveling in that case and

remember that your slug line is all caps

all the time now for the action where

you write out the description of what is

happening on screen who people are

etcetera this is the most

straightforward part of the screenplay

writing wise but there are a few little

things to know first always write in the

present tense this line later in my


William takes out a cigar and nods to

the cabbie would never be William will

take out the cigar or William took out a

cigar those just sounds silly anyway the

first time a character comes up in the

action generally as they are introduced

in the script their name is capitalized

William an older gruff looking gentleman

who looks like he'd be more comfortable

on a Western film set is in the back

seat of a rattling taxi try to sum

things up to describe your character in

the action as best you can you don't

want to give their entire life history

just enough to give the reader a feel

for who they are

notice rattling is capitalized also this

can be done to call attention to certain

sounds and sound effects and while there

isn't really a definitive rule on when

to do this I think it's best used when

it helps set a scene like the rattling

taxi getting across that the cab is a

piece of junk to help set the feel of

the scene or when it's important to what

is happening on-screen which is why

sound effects like gunshots and

explosions are usually capitalized as

well and one last note about actions and

descriptions always have something

between the slug line and the dialogue

even just one quick line will do now

we're at the character name that's easy

all caps centered done if a character is

speaking from off-screen but is still

physically a part of the scene you would

add OS in parentheses if a character is

not physically part of the scene but is

doing a voice over you would add vo

subtext and many other programs make the

character name thing easier for you by

letting you autofill the name after

typing the first letter once you've

already put it in that's a big reason

why movies generally don't have

characters with the same name and

usually have characters whose names

start with different letters entirely

just makes everything easier for the

dialog the text gets centered on the

page while still keeping a normal left

side alignment dialogue is also pretty

straightforward feel free to write it in

your character's voice if they've got a

specific way of talking like the cabbie

character here but that's up to you

you can add detail to what actions a

character is doing while speaking

through the use of parentheticals set in

parentheses and with a left-side margin

a bit further in to help differentiate

it visually from the dialogue these are

used to help block out a scene they

don't have to be complete sentences just

basic descriptions of what is happening

truth be told I could probably have

moved this note about the mirror to the

description but I wanted to give a good

example and found that as I was reading

it I liked the idea of the character

doing this while speaking his lines so

in this short bit you've got all five of

the basic elements properly formatting

your screenplays is very important and

the more you do it the more it'll become

second nature at my old job all on my

lunch break I would actually write

scripts down in notebooks and still

follow the right format just makes for a

much easier to understand read even when

done on pen and paper that's all for the

basics of screenplay formatting now next

week we'll be going over the many small

variations that come along with writing

a script and when that happens the

button on screen right now covering up

my screenplay in the background will

take you there so if you're watching

this in the future click that button to

continue learning about proper

formatting remember to send all your

questions about script formatting to

Friday 101 mail at gmail.com subject

line screenplay format question also

check out the other window to bring up

the how-to playlist over on sell Texas

channel and go get yourself registered

at Celtics comm if you want to get

started writing on a completely

unrelated note I recently recorded an

appearance on the Ron purty show a great

podcast that I was honored to be a part

of and that episode goes up on Tuesday

April 2nd at Ron purty calm the link is

on screen and in the description if you

want to check that out see you all next