A Beginner’s Guide to Scriptwriting

April 12, 2022
April 12, 2022 Zee Dichev

Scriptwriting is an art in itself but there are a few tips that can help you along. Scriptwriting is everywhere from film and television, tv commercials, short films to company promos.

The Writers Guild of America estimates that around 50,000 scripts are written and registered every year. Yet at the same time, only around 25 spec scripts are sold. So, how do you ensure you get your script perfect?

Read on as we tell you the basics of scriptwriting and it fits with the process of filmmaking

What Is the Purpose of a Scriptwriting?

Before creating a script it helps to know exactly what it will be used for. Many people go into scriptwriting looking to tell a story that will later be transferred to a feature. However, writing one has numerous differences from writing down a story in prose.

Scriptwriting leans towards creative writing. Its first purpose is to make the production go smoothly. In a working reference document, the production script should give most of the vital information. This will include the time of day if it is indoor or outdoor, the cast members required and action lines when the character is speaking.

A script should also give information on how the actors should respond and how the story develops. Lines alone are little without meaning inferred in them, and it is a chance for the writer to inform the actors what they envision.

The end product should be something that can be used to pitch a TV commercial, promo, feature film, movie or TV show. In marketing, it may go straight to a client who checks if it suits their creative concept and marketing goals.

Formatting a Script

scriptwriting

When scriptwriting there are several formatting options you should adhere to. While there is no definitive method, these will help a reader navigate and use the document more easily.

Basic Scriptwriting Terminology

When writing a screenplay or script for theatre, there are some abbreviations and terminology you should know. These make it easier to speed read your document.

Some may only apply to film and others to plays. Do not be afraid to include your own concise instructions if it is applicable to the scene.

Screenplay Format

The format of a screenplay can be broken down into various sections. These help distinguish each part.

Scene Heading

The scene heading helps map the story and break up large blocks of text for readability. A title is usually followed by one of the abbreviations to give a quick note about where the scene is set. It will then be followed by an expanded description of settings, time of day and other conditions.

Sub Heading

These are used to show a change in a location without a break in the scene. The characters may move indoors or outdoors for example, without breaking the dialogue.

Character Introductions

When a character gets introduced during scriptwriting, their name is written in block capitals. This is followed by a short character description along with any traits. It may describe their actions, mood or clothing as they enter.

Action

Action is a description of the events taking place. You should always stick to the third person present tense when writing this.

When conducting your final draft, make sure to eliminate any unnecessary information. This is the place where people can drift into the territory of writing a descriptive novel.

Dialogue

Dialogue is the words spoken by your characters. They should be set underneath the name of the person speaking them.

Tips on Scriptwriting

Before you start writing a script consider investing in screenwriting software. This can make it easier to format your script and make notes on its progress. You can find many options online with different payment plans and subscription levels.

As a very general rule, one page should amount to a minute of screen time. This may not always be possible if you have lots of action or events taking place but keeping it close to this helps gauge the amount of time a screenplay will take. When production begins this will get measured more exact.

Spec scripts are the name given to a script that isn’t commissioned. They are usually written by people who have an idea for a story and want to get it turned into a pilot episode or movie. Most producers will not accept spec scripts unless they get provided through an agent or someone who has prior experience.

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