How to format a screenplay is a very common question. The easiest way to format a script correctly is to use a specialized scriptwriting package such as Final Draft. If you’re using Microsoft Word, there is even a screenplay template supplied by Microsoft which is free to use.
The BBC Writersroom is also a good source for screenplay formatting information; On the BBC website you will find Scriptsmart, a set of Microsoft Word templates and macros for formatting scripts.
The format for writing feature films is different from that used for TV and Radio scripts are different again – good screenwriting packages such as Final Draft will allow you to change a script into a different format with just a simple menu selection.
One of the first things people will ask you when you tell them you’ve written a story or a script is ‘What’s it about?’
A logline is a one or two sentence description of the overall idea of your story. You definitely need to have a logline for your script – it shows you’re a professional or aiming to be one.
And how would it sound if a producer or an investor or even a friend asks you what your script if about and you’re stuck there saying um well – it’s too complicated – I can’t reduce it – or go on for the next half hour until the person you’re talking to eyes glaze over.
So a logline must tell us:
- Who the story is about (who is your protagonist – your hero)
- What he strives for (that’s his goal)
- What stands in his way (the antagonist – this could be another person or an event or something within himself that stops him for achieving his goal.)
A logline must convey the action of the story. Sometimes the logline also needs to show the setup of your story.
Jaws needs a setup – The logline for Jaws might be –
After a series of grisly shark attacks, a sheriff struggles to protect his small beach community against the bloodthirsty monster, in spite of the greedy chamber of commerce.
Without the setup – which is ‘after a series of grisly shark attacks’ the logline wouldn’t be quite so intriguing.
You wouldn’t just use your logline when you’re talking about your script it can also be used in your query letter. It’s your hook to get someone to read the rest of your script.
Remember a logline should tell a reader 3 things:
- Who the lead character is
- What his problem is
- How he is going to solve it
Can you identify the following films from their loglines?
- The extraordinary story of a thoroughbred racehorse – from his humble beginnings as an under-fed workhorse to his unlikely rise and triumphant victory over the Triple Crown winner, War Admiral.
- A 17th Century tale of adventure on the Caribbean Sea where the roguish yet charming Captain Jack Sparrow joins forces with a young blacksmith in a gallant attempt to rescue the Governor of England’s daughter and reclaim his ship.
- After segueing from a life of espionage to raising a family, Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez are called back into action. But when they are kidnapped by their evil nemesis, there are only two people in the world who can rescue them… their kids!
- Toula’s family has exactly three traditional values – “Marry a Greek boy, have Greek babies, and feed everyone.” When she falls in love with a sweet, but WASPy guy, Toula struggles to get her family to accept her fiancée, while she comes to terms with her own heritage.
- A young man and woman from different social classes fall in love aboard an ill-fated voyage at sea.
- When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by a corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek his revenge.
- An older man is forced to deal with an ambiguous future after he enters retirement and his wife passes away. Ultimately, he finds hope as he comes to terms with his daughter’s marriage and his own life.
- A comedic portrayal of a young and broke Shakespeare who falls in love with a woman, inspiring him to write “Romeo and Juliet.”
- A journey of self-discovery by a brilliant mathematician once he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He eventually triumphs over tragedy and receives the Nobel Prize.
- An Epic tale of a 1940s New York Mafia family and their struggle to protect their empire, as the leadership switches from the father to his youngest son.
- After a twister transports a lonely Kansas farm girl to a magical land, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find a wizard with the power to send her home.
- A shy young boy discovers a stranded alien and finds the courage to defy the authorities to help it return to its home planet.
- After a high-powered surgeon is wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, he escapes custody and hunts down the real killer – a one-armed man.
- In a future where criminals are arrested before the crime occurs, a despondent cop struggles to prove his innocence for a murder he has not yet committed.
- A young farmhand on a distant planet joins the battle against the universe’s evil forces but doesn’t realise that his family’s dark secret will have serious repercussions for him and his friends.
- A highly strung mother won’t allow her children to leave the house but when three disconcerting housekeepers turn up to help her, strange events occur that suggest the house is haunted.
- A mild mannered Englishman begins to wonder if he’ll ever meet the woman of his dreams when he always attends weddings as a guest, never the groom, but when he meets a sexy American woman, he decides to pursue her as she could be the one to lead him up the aisle.
- A freewheeling cop aims to take down a long-time criminal adversary, but gets stuck with a new partner — a police dog.
- A team of commandos, on a mission in a Central American jungle, find themselves hunted by an extra-terrestrial warrior Predator.
- An archeologist must find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis get their hands on it and use it to rule the world.