What is a Screenplay?

Updated on January 9th, 2022
What is a Screenplay?

A screenplay is a written version of a movie idea or project. It is typically 2–3 pages long and outlines each aspect of the story. The goal is to create a concise document that describes the film's plot, characters, theme, and Spec scripts.

A screenplay is sometimes called a 'treatment.' Some producers even refer to them as 'storyboards.' Basically, it's a detailed outline of the story, including character descriptions, plot points, dialogue, and action scenes. The purpose of this document is to ensure that everyone involved understands the project's direction.

To write a good script with Proper script formatting, you need to master the art of storytelling. It involves knowing who the characters are, where their journey takes place, and their goals. Also, you should know what happens between each scene since a Screenplay demands extreme clarity.

The best scripts are clear and concise and follow a specific format. Here are some of the essential elements of a successful screenplay.

A Proper screenplay format includes:

1) Plot: For anyone to understand your character's problem, you need to know their motivation and backstory. So, the first thing you need to do when writing an outline is define your protagonist's problem. Why does he want something in life through a clear Scene description?

2) Characterization: After defining your protagonist's goal, you need to figure out why your main character wants to achieve his aspirations. You need to know if he's a hero or a villain. And, you need to describe him in detail so that script writing readers can easily visualize the Screenplay written.

3) Dialogue: Another essential element of a screenplay definition is excellent Character dialogue. It makes sense for your characters to speak with one another because it will help your audience empathize with them.

If there's too much back and forth about nothing at all, then it feels like work to read the entire Script format. Ensure that every line has meaning and keeps the mood light enough not to tire the reader's eyes.

4) Structure: Writing screenplays require structure because it's essential to keep your story organized. To ensure that your Movie script flows well, you should use a strong arc. An arc is a path over which your story progresses.

A good angle creates tension by pushing towards the climax and resolution. Each chapter of your screenplay should be focused on solving one particular problem for your character. For example, if your character needs money, it would make sense to focus on how she gets that money.

5) Conflict: Every successful screenplay features conflict. The problems faced by your protagonist usually cause it. Without good conflict, your audience won't care about your characters or any of the other parts of your narrative. As such, your job as a writer is to find ways that your main character faces obstacles. These could include misunderstandings, fear, anger, greed, love, etc.

6) Resolution: Once your protagonist solves her problem, she might feel relief. But, the real victory comes from the fact that she made it through her hardship. To create satisfaction for your audience, you must end your narrative on a positive note. Your main character doesn't always win, but she should emerge stronger than before.

7) Theme: Even though your primary idea may revolve around a specific topic, you don't have to limit yourself to using only one concept for the whole story. Instead, try to develop multiple meanings within your Spec script.

For instance, if your theme revolves around love, then you could explore different types of relationships: friendships, familial bonds, cohabitation, and so on. The more complex your hooks are, the better it will make your Final draft stands out from the crowd.

8) Genre: Some writers write exclusively in one genre while others mix several genres. Either way, when developing a new idea, make sure to consider what type of material you want to produce.

9) Audience: When Shooting scripts, you must understand your target audience. While reading the script aloud to a friend is valuable, writing it down helps you see the details that you miss otherwise. Knowing this information allows you to create an original screenplay instead of simply reworking someone else's creation.

10) Characters: Of course, a protagonist will play a significant role no matter the type of film you plan to write. However, it would be best to give each of your characters something unique. If two people act precisely the same, why bother with their stories? By defining your characters' traits early on, you can easily create exciting conflicts between them later.

11) Style: In terms of style, some films work best when told from the first-person point of view. On the other hand, third-person point-of-view works fine for action movies. Whatever suits your style, stick to it throughout the development process.

How Long Should a Screenplay Be?

The number of pages depends on the subject of your movie. It also takes into consideration whether or not the screenplay has dialogue. Typically, the average page count is 40. However, if your script contains minimal discussion and is heavily reliant on visual storytelling, then you can probably get away with fewer pages.

What Font to Use When Writing a Screenplay?

Generally speaking, you shouldn't use Comic Sans MS because most screenplays contain elements like dialogues and subplots that are meant to be printed off. Instead, stick to Times New Roman because its readability is far superior. Another option would be to use a monochromatic font like Lucida Grande Bold Extended.

The vast majority of screenplays are written in Courier font (the default font used by Microsoft Word). In all fairness, however, there are exceptions to the norm. If you're passionate about a particular design choice, it pays to research the pros and cons. It will allow you to get the right balance between legibility and aesthetics.

What is the Right Screenplay Margins?

When writing a screenplay, you should never forget that the margins are significant. The reason behind this is simple: many readers prefer to print off their scripts rather than view them online. As such, you must ensure that your margins are broad enough so that they don't have to crop any text.

In addition, you should avoid using too much white space because it makes the script look messy. To prevent this from happening, you should leave a margin of at least 1 inch on both sides of every page.

Types of Screenplays

There are three main types of screenplays: comedy, drama, and thriller. Each one offers a different set of challenges and opportunities. For example, comedy usually requires more character development, while thrillers require more plot progression.

Comedy

A comedic story revolves around an ensemble cast and often involves slapstick humor. Examples include Anchorman, Knocked Up, and Bridesmaids.

Drama

Drama is the most common genre of a screenplay. It tends to feature a single protagonist who faces various obstacles along the way. Examples include American Beauty, Forrest Gump, and The Shawshank Redemption.

Thriller

Thrillers tend to rely on suspense and surprise. They typically involve twists and turns that make the audience wonder what will happen next. Examples include Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense, and Unbreakable.

Elements of a Screenplay Format

The following is a list of items that make up the screenplay format and indenting info. While you can use screenplay software to format all these elements automatically, it's essential to have a working knowledge of each component instead of Screenwriting software.

Scene heading: A scene heading is a short description of the current scene. The purpose of this section is to help readers quickly grasp the location, time, and setting of the story.

Action line: An action line summarizes the events taking place during the scene.

Dialogue: Dialogues are where the bulk of the story happens. They should be formatted so that they flow well.

Subplot: Subplots are more minor storylines within the main plot. These usually involve secondary characters and serve to advance the overall narrative.

Character name: Each character should have a name at the beginning of every scene.

Character description: Character descriptions are summaries of each character's personality and appearance.

Parenthetical: Parentheticals describe things that aren't part of the main storyline. For example, intermediate lines may include information about the weather, background music, etc.

Today, parenthetical expressions are rarely used, but sometimes they're needed. With roots in the playwriting style, they're used when necessary. It is mainly because of two reasons.

First, if you need to convey information about what's happening in your story by using a subordinate, then you probably need a better rewrite. Secondly, a director doesn't need to be told what to do. They should never interfere with the actors' work.

Even though parentheticals are generally frowned upon, they still value the reader. As such, you should only use them sparingly.

How to Format Screen Headings

Screen headings are significant for any screenplay. If you don't know how to format them properly, then chances are you'll end up with a bad-looking script. Here's how to format the headings correctly.

Title page: On the title page, write the screenplay's title, followed by the author's name, the year written, and the genre (if applicable).

Table of Contents: To create a table of contents, add an empty line between scenes. Then, start typing Scene 1, Scene 2, etc., until you reach the last stage.

Script Summary: At the top of the first page, type the word "Summary" and then continue writing out the rest of the synopsis.

Conclusion

A screenplay is much more than just a collection of words on paper. It's also a set of rules that you should follow. To get the most out of your screenplay, you need to understand these rules.

Whether you're a budding filmmaker or have dreamt of changing the world by shooting a script, this guide can help you know what to do next.