Script Writting 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.

scriptsample.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):

Art on the title page.

Typo/misspelling on the title page.

Typo/misspelling in the first scene header.

Typos/misspellings in the first sentence or paragraph or page.

Triple/double spacing of every/many line(s) on first page.

Lack of spacing between scene header and description and/or between description and dialogue and/or between dialogue and dialogue.

Use of font other than Courier 12-point, ten-pitch, non-proportional (excluding the title page).

Extensive use of bold print.

Dialogue that stretches from the left margin to the right margin.

Extra space between character name and dialogue.

Description and/or dialogue typed ALL CAPS.

Extremely narrow or extremely wide outside margins.

Long, long, long descriptive passages.

Handwritten or hand-printed script.

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.

The Screenwriter’s Survival Guide

Adams, Max.

Your Screenplays Sucks: 100 Ways to Make It Great

Akers, William M.

Elements of Style for Screenwritiers

Argentini, Paul. 

Writing the Screenplay  

Armer, Alan A.

Screenwriting Updated: New (and Conventional) Ways of Writing for the Screen

Aronson, Linda. 

Aspects of the Screenplay: Techniques of Screenwriting

Axelrod, Mark. 

Fade In: The Screenwriting Process

Berman, Robert A.

The Elements of Screenwriting

Blacker, Irwin R.

Television and Screen Writing: From Concept to Contract

Blum, Rick. 

Stealing Fire From The Gods: The Complete Guide to Story for Writers & Filmmakers

Bonnet, James.

The Understructure of Writing for Film & Television

Brady, Ben & Lance Lee

The Craft of the Screenwriter  

Brady, John. 

The Screenwriter’s Legal Guide  

Breimer, Stephen F

The Way of the Screenwriter

Buchbinder, Amnon

How To Make It In Hollywood  

Buzzell, Linda.

So You Want to be a Screenwriter  

Caldwell, Sara & Marie-Eve Kielson. 

The Script is finished, Now what do I do?  

Callan, K. 

Authorship: The Dynamic Principles of Writing Creatively

Cannon, Doran William. 

Writing Dialogue

Chiarella, Tom.

Rewrite: A Step-By-Step Guide to Strengthen Structure, Characters, and Drama in your Screenplay

Chitlik, Paul.

The Bares Bones Book of Screenwriting

Clark, Josh T.

Screen Plays: How 25 Screenplays Made It to a Theater Near You

Cohen, David S. 

The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats, Part I: The Screenplay

Cole/Haag. 

Writing Great Screenplays for Film and TV  

Cooper, Dona.

Professional Writer’s Teleplay/Screenplay Format  

Coopersmith, Jerome. 

Talking Pictures: Screenwriters in the American Cinema 1927-1973

Corliss, Richard.

The Creative Writer’s Companion: Selling Your Ideas for Movies, Books, Electronic Media, and More  

Corwin, Stanley J.

The Art of Plotting: Add Emotion, Suspense, and Depth to Your Screenplay

Cowgill, Linda. 

Secrets of Screenplay Structure

Cowgill, Linda. 

Alternative Screenwriting: Writing Beyond the Rules

Dancyger, Ken and Jeff Rush. 

Global Screenwriting

Dancyger, Ken. 

Development Girl  

Davis, Hadley.

Opening the Doors to Hollywood: How to Sell Your Idea  

de Abreu, Carlos & Howard Jay Smith.

Anatomy of a Screenplay

Decker, Dan.

On Screenwriting  

Dmytryk, Edward. 

Monster: Living Off the Big Screen  

Dunne, John Gregory.

Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot

Dunne, Peter. 

“I Liked It, Didn’t Love It”: Screenplay Development from the Inside Out

Edwards, Rona & Monika Skerbelis.  

The Art of Dramatic Writing  

Egri, Lajos. 

Oscar®-Winning Screenwriters on Screenwriting  

Engel, Joel. 

Screenwriters on Screenwriting  

Engel, Joel. 

Crafty Screenwriting: Writing Movies That Get Made

Epstein, Alex. 

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  

Field, Syd

How Not to Write a Screenplay  

Flinn, Denny Martin

Teach Yourself Screenwriting

Frensham, Ray.

The Art and Craft of Screenwriting: Fundamentals, Methods and Advice from Insiders

Frome, Shelly.

 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  

Froug, William. 

Screenwriting  

Geller, Stephen. 

The Screenwriter Within: How to Turn the Movie in Your Head into a Salable Screenplay  

Gilles, D. B.

Adventures in the Screen Trade  

Goldman, William. 

Which Lie Did I Tell?  

Goldman, William. 

Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach

Gulino, Paul Joseph.  

Writing Great Characters  

Halperin, Michael. 

Writing The Second Act: Building Conflict and Tension in Your Film Scripts  

Halperin, Michael. 

Writers in Hollywood 1915-1951  

Hamilton, Ian. 

Create The Suspense Film That Sells  

Harmon, Renee. 

African-American Screenwriters Now  

Harris, Erich Leon.

Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds

Hauge, Michael. 

Writing Screenplays That Sell  

Hauge, Michael. 

 

The Perfect Screenplay: Writing It and Selling It  

Herbert, Katherine Atwell. 

Selling Scripts to Hollywood  

Herbert, Katherine Atwell.

Writing Scripts Hollywood Will Love  

Herbert, Katherine Atwell. 

Screenwriting 101  

Hicks, Neill D. 

Writing the Action-Adventure Film

Hicks, Neill D. 

Writing the Thriller Film  

Hicks, Neill D. 

Hollywood Creative Directory

Hollywood Representation Directory

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  

Horton, Andrew. 

The Tools of Screenwriting  

Howard, David & Edward Mabley. 

Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434  

Hunter, Lew. 

The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters  

Iglasias, Karl. 

How to Enter Screenplay Contests . . . & Win!  

Joseph, Eric.

Reading for a Living  

Katahn, T. L.

Conversations with Screenwriters  

Katz, Susan Bullington.

Plots and Characters: A Screenwriter on Screenwriting

Kaufman, Millard. 

How to Write a Selling Screenplay  

Keane, Christopher.

How to Write a Movie in 21 Days: The Inner Movie Method  

King, Vicki. 

Writing a Great Movie: Key Tools for Successful Screenwriting

Kitchen, Jeff. 

How To Sell Your Idea To Hollywood  

Kosberg, Robert with Mim Eichler, 

Screenwriting From the Soul  

Krevolin, Richard. 

Writing Drama: A Comprehensive Guide for Playwrights and Scriptwriters

Lavandier, Yves. 

Secrets of Film Writing  

Lazarus, Tom.

The First Time I Got Paid for It  

Lefcourt, Peter & Laura J. Shapiro. 

500 Ways To Beat The Hollywood Script Reader  

Lerch, Jennifer.

Breakfast with Sharks

Lent, Michael. 

The Screenwriter’s Guide to Agents and Managers  

Lewinski, John Scott. 

 Alone in a Room: Secrets of Successful Screenwriters

Lewinski, John Scott. 

Story Sense: Writing Story and Script for Feature Film and Television

Lucey, Paul. 

Screenwriting: History, Theory and Practice

Maras, Steven.

The Secrets of Action Screenwriting

Martell, William C.

Backstory 1: Interviews with Screenwriters of Hollywood’s Golden Age

McGilligan, Patrick, editor.

Backstory 2: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1940s and 1950s  

McGilligan, Patrick, editor. 

Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

McKee, Robert. 

Ask the Pros: Screenwriting

Meibach, Howard and Paul Duran.

Spec Screenplay Sales Directories

Meibach, Howard.

The Screenplay: A Blend of Film Form and Content  

Mehring, Margaret. 

Writing the Romantic Comedy  

Mernit, Billy. 

Screenwriting for Narrative Film and Television

Miller, William. 

The Screenwriter’s Handbook  

Nash, Constance and Virginia Oakey. 

What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting

Norman, Marc. 

The Art of Screenwriting  

Packard, William. 

How to Write It, How to Sell It  

Palmer, Linda. 

The Everything Screenwriting Book: From Developing a Treatment to Writing and Selling Your Script

Pollock, Robert. 

Good Scripts Bad Scripts  

Pope, Thomas. 

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Screenwriting

Press, Skip. 

The Ultimate Writer’s Guide to Hollywood  

Press, Skip.  

Developing Story Ideas

Rabiger, Michael.

How to Agent Your Agent  

Rainford, Nancy.

Formatting Your Screenplay

Reichman, Rick. 

The Hollywood Standard: The Complete & Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style  

Riley, Christopher. 

Writing the Script

Root, Wells. 

The Perfect Pitch: How to Sell Yourself and Your Movie Idea to Hollywood  

Rotcop, Ken, as told to James K. Shea. 

Screenplay: Writing the Picture

Russin, Robin U. and William Missouri Downs. 

Screenwriting From the Heart

Ryan, James.

How To Sell Your Screenplay: The Real Rules of Film and Television

Sautter, Carl. 

American Screenwriters  

Schanzer, Karl and Thomas Lee Wright.

Screenwriting for Dummies

Schellhardt, Laura.

How to Write: A Screenplay

Schwartz, Mark Evan. 

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  

Seger, Linda. 

The Power of the Dark Side: Creating Great Villains, Dangerous Situations & Dramatic Conflict

Smith, Pamela Jaye

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

Snyder, Blake.

The Complete Book of Scriptwriting

Straczynski, J. Michael.

Framework: A History of Screenwriting in the American Film

Stempel, Tom. 

Understanding Screenwriting: Learning from Good, Not-so-good and Bad Screenplays

Stempel, Tom. 

Getting Your Script Through The Hollywood Maze

Stuart, Linda. 

This Business of Screenwriting  

Suppa, Ron. 

The Big Deal: Hollywood’s Million-Dollar Spec Script Market  

Taylor, Thom.

The Screenwriting Formula: Why It Works and How To Use It

Tobin, Rob.  

Storytelling in the New Hollywood

Thompson, Kristen. 

Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters  

Tierno, Michael. 

The Screenwriter’s Bible  

Trottier, David. 

The Anatomy of Story:22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller

Truby, John. 

The Technique of Screen and Television Writing  

Vale, Eugene. 

Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Film Conventions Every Filmmaker Must Know

Van Sijll, Jennifer. 

The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers & Screenwriters 

Vorhaus, John. 

The Comic Toolbox

Vogler, Christopher.

Writing the Comedy Film

Voytilla, Stuart and Scott Petri. 

Power Screenwriting: The 12 Stages of Story Development  

Walker, Michael Chase. 

You Can Write a Movie  

Wallace, Pamela. 

Screenwriting: The Art, Craft and Business of Film and Television Writing  

Walter, Richard. 

The Whole Picture  

Walter, Richard. 

Horror Screenwriting: The Nature of Fear

Watson, Devin.  

Gardner’s Guide to Screenwriting: The Writer’s Road Map  

Webber, Marilyn. 

Screenwriting on the Internet

Wehner, Christopher.

The Writer Got Screwed (but didn’t have to)  

Wharton, Brooke A. 

Selling Your Screenplay  

Whitcomb, Cynthia. 

The Writer’s Guide to Writing Your Screenplay  

Whitcomb, Cynthia. 

The Screenwriting Life  

Whiteside, Rich. 

How To Sell Your Screenplay  

Wilen, Lydia & Joan Wilen.

The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue &  Vice for Box Office Success

Williams, Stanley D. 

Sell Your Screenplay: Your Guide to the Independent Film and Television Producer  

Wolf, Andrea Leigh. 

Top Secrets: Screenwriting  

Wolff, Jurgen and Kerry Cox.

Fitzgerald Did It: The Writer’s Guide to Mastering the Screenplay  

Wolitzer, Meg.

Cool Million: How to Become a Million-Dollar Screenwriter

Woodbury, Sheldon. 

Screenwriting Is Storytelling

Wright, Kate.

The 3rd Act: Writing a Great Ending to Your Screenplay

Yanno, Drew. 

The Script-Selling Game

Yoneda, Kathie Fong.