Screenwriting Resources

There is no absolute “standard” format used by all professional screenwriters working in the American film industry. Slight variations abound in scripts written by professionals. That said, professional scripts will invariably resemble the formatting guide that follows. Nuances may vary – margins slightly different, a dash here or there, parentheticals used this way or that – but overall, professional screenplays fit these guidelines.

Realize that “shooting scripts,” the form in which scripts are most often available at libraries and elsewhere, are not the form in which most professional writers submit their scripts. Submission scripts, sales scripts, first draft scripts – all share certain characteristics: no scene numbers, few if any camera shots designated and sequences written in master scenes.

Your script does not have to mimic the following pages exactly, but it should closely resemble them. If you’re confused about which nuances are acceptable and which would push your script into an “out-of-format” category, you would do well to follow these guidelines and eliminate those questionable nuances.

Screenplay Format Sample (PDF)

Script Problems to Avoid

Can your script give a reader a negative impression before the reader starts reading?

The answer is “possibly,” and whether it does will vary from reader to reader. Does a negative first impression mean that a script will be automatically dismissed? Of course not. If a script is good enough, no minor “fault” is going to stop it. But why cause a reader to have a negative first impression of your script if you can easily avoid it?

Writers who entered scripts with one or several of these “faults” have won Academy Nicholl Fellowships. Undoubtedly, many scripts with some such “faults” have sold.

Fifteen foibles that might invoke a poor first impression (based only on a script’s title page and page one):

  1. Art on the title page.
  2. Typo/misspelling on the title page.
  3. Typo/misspelling in the first scene header.
  4. Typos/misspellings in the first sentence or paragraph or page.
  5. Triple/double spacing of every/many line(s) on first page.
  6. Lack of spacing between scene header and description and/or between description and dialogue and/or between dialogue and dialogue.
  7. Use of font other than Courier 12-point, ten-pitch, non-proportional (excluding the title page).
  8. Extensive use of bold print.
  9. Dialogue that stretches from the left margin to the right margin.
  10. Extra space between character name and dialogue.
  11. Description and/or dialogue typed ALL CAPS.
  12. Extremely narrow or extremely wide outside margins.
  13. Long, long, long descriptive passages.
  14. Handwritten or hand-printed script.
  15. Other glaring, non-standard format usage.

Writers who entered scripts with one or several of these “faults” (non-Courier and lengthy description being the most obvious) have won Academy Nicholl Fellowships.

Remember, these remarks are based on subjective observation of subjective reactions. Not all readers are affected by the same “problems” when picking up a script. And if Shane Black were to have six typos on page one, would anybody care? Probably not. Until you are paid to write scripts, it’s probably more reasonable to be careful about your submissions.

Below is a comprehensive bibliography of books on screenwriting. Many of these books may be available at local bookstores or they can be ordered online.

  • Adams, Max. The Screenwriter’s Survival Guide
  • Akers, William M.  Your Screenplays Sucks: 100 Ways to Make It Great
  • Argentini, Paul. Elements of Style for Screenwritiers
  • Armer, Alan A. Writing the Screenplay  
  • Aronson, Linda. Screenwriting Updated: New (and Conventional) Ways of Writing for the Screen
  • Axelrod, Mark. Aspects of the Screenplay: Techniques of Screenwriting
  • Berman, Robert A. Fade In: The Screenwriting Process
  • Blacker, Irwin R. The Elements of Screenwriting
  • Blum, Rick. Television and Screen Writing: From Concept to Contract
  • Bonnet, James.  Stealing Fire From The Gods: The Complete Guide to Story for Writers & Filmmakers
  • Brady, Ben & Lance Lee. The Understructure of Writing for Film & Television
  • Brady, John. The Craft of the Screenwriter  
  • Breimer, Stephen F. The Screenwriter’s Legal Guide  
  • Buchbinder, Amnon. The Way of the Screenwriter
  • Buzzell, Linda. How To Make It In Hollywood  
  • Caldwell, Sara & Marie-Eve Kielson. So You Want to be a Screenwriter  
  • Callan, K. The Script is finished, Now what do I do?  
  • Cannon, Doran William. Authorship: The Dynamic Principles of Writing Creatively
  • Chiarella, Tom. Writing Dialogue
  • Chitlik, Paul. Rewrite: A Step-By-Step Guide to Strengthen Structure, Characters, and Drama in your Screenplay
  • Clark, Josh T.  The Bares Bones Book of Screenwriting
  • Cohen, David S. Screen Plays: How 25 Screenplays Made It to a Theater Near You
  • Cole/Haag. The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats, Part I: The Screenplay
  • Cooper, Dona. Writing Great Screenplays for Film and TV  
  • Coopersmith, Jerome. Professional Writer’s Teleplay/Screenplay Format  
  • Corliss, Richard. Talking Pictures: Screenwriters in the American Cinema 1927-1973
  • Corwin, Stanley J. The Creative Writer’s Companion: Selling Your Ideas for Movies, Books, Electronic Media, and More  
  • Cowgill, Linda. The Art of Plotting: Add Emotion, Suspense, and Depth to Your Screenplay
  • Cowgill, Linda. Secrets of Screenplay Structure
  • Dancyger, Ken and Jeff Rush. Alternative Screenwriting: Writing Beyond the Rules
  • Dancyger, Ken. Global Screenwriting
  • Davis, Hadley. Development Girl  
  • de Abreu, Carlos & Howard Jay Smith. Opening the Doors to Hollywood: How to Sell Your Idea  
  • Decker, Dan. Anatomy of a Screenplay
  • Dmytryk, Edward. On Screenwriting  
  • Dunne, John Gregory. Monster: Living Off the Big Screen  
  • Dunne, Peter. Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot
  • Edwards, Rona & Monika Skerbelis.  “I Liked It, Didn’t Love It”: Screenplay Development from the Inside Out
  • Egri, Lajos. The Art of Dramatic Writing  
  • Engel, Joel. Oscar®-Winning Screenwriters on Screenwriting  
  • Engel, Joel. Screenwriters on Screenwriting  
  • Epstein, Alex. Crafty Screenwriting: Writing Movies That Get Made
  • Field, Syd. Four Screenplays: Studies in the American Screenplay  
  • Field, Syd. Screenplay  
  • Field, Syd. The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver  
  • Field, Syd. The Screenwriter’s Workbook  
  • Field, Syd. Selling a Screenplay: The Screenwriter’s Guide to Hollywood  
  • Flinn, Denny Martin. How Not to Write a Screenplay  
  • Frensham, Ray. Teach Yourself Screenwriting
  • Frome, Shelly. The Art and Craft of Screenwriting: Fundamentals, Methods and Advice from Insiders
  • Froug, William. The New Screenwriter Looks at the New Screenwriter  
  • Froug, William. The Screenwriter Looks at the Screenwriter .
  • Froug, William. Screenwriting Tricks of the Trade  
  • Froug, William. Zen and the Art of Screenwriting  
  • Froug, William. Zen and the Art of Screenwriting 2  
  • Geller, Stephen. Screenwriting  
  • Gilles, D. B. The Screenwriter Within: How to Turn the Movie in Your Head into a Salable Screenplay  
  • Goldman, William. Adventures in the Screen Trade  
  • Goldman, William. Which Lie Did I Tell?  
  • Gulino, Paul Joseph.  Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach
  • Halperin, Michael. Writing Great Characters  
  • Halperin, Michael. Writing The Second Act: Building Conflict and Tension in Your Film Scripts  
  • Hamilton, Ian. Writers in Hollywood 1915-1951  
  • Harmon, Renee. Create The Suspense Film That Sells  
  • Harris, Erich Leon. African-American Screenwriters Now  
  • Hauge, Michael.  Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds
  • Hauge, Michael. Writing Screenplays That Sell  
  • Herbert, Katherine Atwell. The Perfect Screenplay: Writing It and Selling It  
  • Herbert, Katherine Atwell. Selling Scripts to Hollywood  
  • Herbert, Katherine Atwell. Writing Scripts Hollywood Will Love  
  • Hicks, Neill D. Screenwriting 101  
  • Hicks, Neill D. Writing the Action-Adventure Film
  • Hicks, Neill D. Writing the Thriller Film  
  • Hollywood Creative Directory
  • Hollywood Representation Directory
  • Horton, Andrew. Laughing Out Loud: Writing the Comedy-Centered Screenplay
  • Horton, Andrew. Screenwriting for a Global Market: Selling Your Scripts from Hollywood to Hong Kong
  • Horton, Andrew. Writing the Character-Centered Screenplay  
  • Howard, David & Edward Mabley. The Tools of Screenwriting  
  • Hunter, Lew. Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434  
  • Iglasias, Karl. The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters  
  • Joseph, Eric. How to Enter Screenplay Contests . . . & Win!  
  • Katahn, T. L. Reading for a Living  
  • Katz, Susan Bullington. Conversations with Screenwriters  
  • Kaufman, Millard. Plots and Characters: A Screenwriter on Screenwriting
  • Keane, Christopher. How to Write a Selling Screenplay  
  • King, Vicki. How to Write a Movie in 21 Days: The Inner Movie Method  
  • Kitchen, Jeff. Writing a Great Movie: Key Tools for Successful Screenwriting
  • Kosberg, Robert with Mim Eichler, How To Sell Your Idea To Hollywood  
  • Krevolin, Richard. Screenwriting From the Soul  
  • Lavandier, Yves. Writing Drama: A Comprehensive Guide for Playwrights and Scriptwriters
  • Lazarus, Tom. Secrets of Film Writing  
  • Lefcourt, Peter & Laura J. Shapiro. The First Time I Got Paid for It  
  • Lerch, Jennifer. 500 Ways To Beat The Hollywood Script Reader  
  • Lent, Michael. Breakfast with Sharks
  • Lewinski, John Scott. The Screenwriter’s Guide to Agents and Managers  
  • Lewinski, John Scott. Alone in a Room: Secrets of Successful Screenwriters
  • Lucey, Paul. Story Sense: Writing Story and Script for Feature Film and Television
  • Maras, Steven. Screenwriting: History, Theory and Practice
  • Martell, William C. The Secrets of Action Screenwriting
  • McGilligan, Patrick, editor. Backstory 1: Interviews with Screenwriters of Hollywood’s Golden Age
  • McGilligan, Patrick, editor. Backstory 2: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1940s and 1950s  
  • McKee, Robert. Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting
  • Meibach, Howard and Paul Duran. Ask the Pros: Screenwriting
  • Meibach, Howard. Spec Screenplay Sales Directories
  • Mehring, Margaret. The Screenplay: A Blend of Film Form and Content  
  • Mernit, Billy. Writing the Romantic Comedy  
  • Miller, William. Screenwriting for Narrative Film and Television
  • Nash, Constance and Virginia Oakey. The Screenwriter’s Handbook  
  • Norman, Marc. What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting
  • Packard, William. The Art of Screenwriting  
  • Palmer, Linda. How to Write It, How to Sell It  
  • Pollock, Robert. The Everything Screenwriting Book: From Developing a Treatment to Writing and Selling Your Script
  • Pope, Thomas. Good Scripts Bad Scripts  
  • Press, Skip. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Screenwriting
  • Press, Skip.  The Ultimate Writer’s Guide to Hollywood  
  • Rabiger, Michael. Developing Story Ideas
  • Rainford, Nancy. How to Agent Your Agent  
  • Reichman, Rick. Formatting Your Screenplay
  • Riley, Christopher. The Hollywood Standard: The Complete & Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style  
  • Root, Wells. Writing the Script
  • Rotcop, Ken, as told to James K. Shea. The Perfect Pitch: How to Sell Yourself and Your Movie Idea to Hollywood  
  • Russin, Robin U. and William Missouri Downs. Screenplay: Writing the Picture
  • Ryan, James. Screenwriting From the Heart
  • Sautter, Carl. How To Sell Your Screenplay: The Real Rules of Film and Television
  • Schanzer, Karl and Thomas Lee Wright, American Screenwriters  
  • Schellhardt, Laura. Screenwriting for Dummies
  • Schwartz, Mark Evan. How to Write: A Screenplay
  • Seger, Linda. Advanced Screenwriting  
  • Seger, Linda. And the Best Screenplay Goes To . . . Learning from the Winners
  • Seger, Linda. The Art of Adaptation: Turning Fact and Fiction into Film  
  • Seger, Linda. Creating Unforgettable Characters
  • Seger, Linda. Making a Good Writer Great  
  • Smith, Pamela Jaye. The Power of the Dark Side: Creating Great Villains, Dangerous Situations & Dramatic Conflict
  • Snyder, Blake.  Save The Cat! Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter’s Guide to Every Story Ever Told
  • Snyder, Blake.  Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need
  • Straczynski, J. Michael. The Complete Book of Scriptwriting
  • Stempel, Tom. Framework: A History of Screenwriting in the American Film
  • Stempel, Tom. Understanding Screenwriting: Learning from Good, Not-so-good and Bad Screenplays
  • Stuart, Linda. Getting Your Script Through The Hollywood Maze
  • Suppa, Ron. This Business of Screenwriting  
  • Taylor, Thom. The Big Deal: Hollywood’s Million-Dollar Spec Script Market  
  • Tobin, Rob.  The Screenwriting Formula: Why It Works and How To Use It
  • Thompson, Kristen. Storytelling in the New Hollywood
  • Tierno, Michael. Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters  
  • Trottier, David. The Screenwriter’s Bible  
  • Truby, John. The Anatomy of Story:22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller
  • Vale, Eugene. The Technique of Screen and Television Writing  
  • Van Sijll, Jennifer. Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Film Conventions Every Filmmaker Must Know
  • Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers & Screenwriters Vorhaus, John. The Comic Toolbox
  • Voytilla, Stuart. Myth and the Movies
  • Voytilla, Stuart and Scott Petri. Writing the Comedy Film
  • Walker, Michael Chase. Power Screenwriting: The 12 Stages of Story Development  
  • Wallace, Pamela. You Can Write a Movie  
  • Walter, Richard. Screenwriting: The Art, Craft and Business of Film and Television Writing  
  • Walter, Richard. The Whole Picture  
  • Watson, Devin.  Horror Screenwriting: The Nature of Fear
  • Webber, Marilyn. Gardner’s Guide to Screenwriting: The Writer’s Road Map  
  • Wehner, Christopher. Screenwriting on the Internet
  • Wharton, Brooke A. The Writer Got Screwed (but didn’t have to)  
  • Whitcomb, Cynthia. Selling Your Screenplay  
  • Whitcomb, Cynthia. The Writer’s Guide to Writing Your Screenplay  
  • Whiteside, Rich. The Screenwriting Life  
  • Wilen, Lydia & Joan Wilen. How To Sell Your Screenplay  
  • Williams, Stanley D. The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue &  Vice for Box Office Success
  • Wolf, Andrea Leigh. Sell Your Screenplay: Your Guide to the Independent Film and Television Producer  
  • Wolff, Jurgen and Kerry Cox. Top Secrets: Screenwriting  
  • Wolitzer, Meg. Fitzgerald Did It: The Writer’s Guide to Mastering the Screenplay  
  • Woodbury, Sheldon. Cool Million: How to Become a Million-Dollar Screenwriter
  • Wright, Kate. Screenwriting Is Storytelling
  • Yanno, Drew. The 3rd Act: Writing a Great Ending to Your Screenplay
  • Yoneda, Kathie Fong. The Script-Selling Game
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