A screenplay or script is a written work by screenwriters for a film, video game or television program. These screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing pieces of writing. In them, the movement, actions, expression, and dialogues of the characters are also narrated. A play for television is also known as a teleplay.
Format and style
The format is then structured in a way that one page usually equates to one minute of screen time. In a "shooting script", each scene is numbered, and technical direction may be given. In a "spec" or a "draft" in various stages of development, the scenes are not numbered, and technical direction is at a minimum. The standard font for a screenplay is 12 point, 10 pitch Courier Typeface.
The major components are action and dialogue. The "action" is written in the present tense. The "dialogue" are the lines the characters speak. Unique to the screenplay (as opposed to a stage play) is the use of slug lines.
The format consists of three aspects:
- The interplay between typeface/font, line spacing and type area, from which the standard of one page of text per one minute of screen time is derived. In the United States letter size paper and Courier 12 point are mandatory; Europe uniformly uses A4 as the standard paper size format, and has no uniform font requirement.
- The tab settings of the scene elements (dialogue, scenes headings, transitions, parentheticals, etc.), which constitute the screenplay's layout.
- The dialogue must be centered and the names must be capitalized. A script usually begins with "FADE IN:", followed by the first scene description. It might get more specific, e.g. "FADE IN ON AN ECU of Ricky as he explains the divorce to Bob." A script will usually end with "FADE TO BLACK", though there are variables, like "CUT TO BLACK" for abrupt endings.
The style consists of a grammar that is specific to screenplays. This grammar also consists of two aspects:
- A prose that is manifestation-oriented, i.e. focuses largely on what is audible and what is visible on screen. This prose may only supply interpretations and explanation (deviate from the manifestation-oriented prose) if clarity would otherwise be adversely affected.
- Codified notation of certain technical or dramatic elements, such as scene transitions, changes in narrative perspective, sound effects, emphasis of dramatically relevant objects and characters speaking from outside a scene.
In cinematography, there are several types of screenplays:
• A literary screenplay is a screenplay written in the same language that is used in fiction. This type of screenplay is not always an adaptation of a literary work; it may well be an original work in its own right.
• A publicistic screenplay, in contrast to a literary screenplay, is written in the “broken” language used in newspaper articles and does not contain the aesthetic component found in the literary and artistic styles.
Screenplays can be both original and derivative.
• An original screenplay is written as an independent work of art, featuring an original plot and original protagonists.
• A derivative screenplay is an adaptation of an existing literary work for the screen.
• A director’s screenplay is a screenplay, the descriptive part of which is numbered or has the boundaries between shots indicated on it (wide shot, close-up shot, etc.).
• An explication is a plan for the production of a motion picture, including the filming techniques and methods and a complete list of the filming equipment that is necessary in order to implement the creative concept. There are two types of explication: a director’s explication and a cameraman’s explication (however, the latter is not classified as a separate category of screenplay). Explications are often mistaken as synopses, but on closer inspection one sees that they have nothing whatsoever in common. A synopsis is an outline of the plot of a movie, as set out in the screenplay, described in a succinct and entertaining manner. A synopsis is usually no more than several pages in length.
The descriptive part of a screenplay can be either poetic or prosaic. In this regard, screenplays can be divided into those that are poetic and those that are prosaic.
A poetic screenplay is a literary and dramatic work whose descriptive part is divided into rhythmically commensurable segments, or poems. This remarkable feature makes the poetic screenplay very distinct from the other types of screenplays, endowing it with a special form of artistic expression.
• In a prosaic screenplay, the descriptive part is prosaic.
We can now identify the three main features of the poetic screenplay:
• Figurativeness – colourful expressiveness of portrayal that is only found in poetry. The main method of making words figurative is to use them in a figurative sense. At this point it is worth mentioning the particular means of artistic expression – tropes (metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, hyperbole, and litotes) and figures of speech (simile, epithet and oxymoron) that are used in poetic works.
• Succinctness – brevity and conciseness of narration. In the poetic screenplay, the characters’ environment, appearance and actions are described in a relatively concise form, using as few words as possible. However, this specific feature does not prevent the author from creating a precise and harmonious work that can convey the main objectives of his/her creative concept to the reader.
• The extraordinary dynamism of the action. In the poetic screenplay, events unfold very quickly – just as they do in modern life, when a moment’s delay may result in missing a train. It is perhaps this particular feature that determined the emergence of the poetic script as a genre that can coexist with the new trends in modern life, the needs of today’s world, and the frantic pace of life.
The poetic screenplay genre was created by Alexey Snezhin in 2011.
A 'spec' or speculative screenplay is a script written to be sold on the open market with no upfront payment, or promise of payment. The content is usually invented solely by the screenwriter, though spec screenplays can also be based on established works, or real people and events.
A commissioned screenplay is written by a hired writer. The concept is usually developed long before the screenwriter is brought on, and often has multiple writers work on it before the script is given a green-light.
Detailed computer programs are designed specifically to format screenplays, teleplays and stage plays. Celtx, DreamaScript, Fade In, Final Draft, FiveSprockets, Montage, Movie Magic Screenwriter, Movie Outline 3.0, and Scrivener are several such programs. Software is also available as web applications, accessible from any computer, and on mobile devices.
- Writing section from the MovieMakingManual (MMM) Wikibook, especially on formatting.
- Act structure
- Closet screenplay
- Screenplay slug line
- Screenwriter's salary
- Screenwriting software
- List of film-related topics
- List of screenwriting software
- Dreams on Spec
- Guide to Literary Agents
- Writer's Digest
- David Trottier (1998). The Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script. Silman-James Press. ISBN 1-879505-44-4. - Paperback
- Yves Lavandier (2005). Writing Drama, A Comprehensive Guide for Playwrights and Scritpwriters. Le Clown & l'Enfant. ISBN 2-910606-04-X. - Paperback
- Judith H. Haag, Hillis R. Cole (1980). The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats: The Screenplay. CMC Publishing. ISBN 0-929583-00-0. - Paperback
- Jami Bernard (1995). Quentin Tarantino: The Man and His Movies. HarperCollins publishers. ISBN 0-00-255644-8. - Paperback
- Luca Bandirali and Enrico Terrone, Il sistema sceneggiatura. Scrivere e descrivere i film, Lindau, Torino, 2009, ISBN 978-88-7180-831-4.
- Riley, C. (2005) The Hollywood Standard: the complete and authoritative guide to script format and style. Michael Weise Productions. Sheridan Press. ISBN 0-941188-94-9.
- 3. The Poetic Screenplay. A collection of articles / Edited by A. I. Snezhin. M.: Angel, 2012.