Screenwriting on the Internet-web has been around a decade (we've done it since 1996).
It makes the literary art more available, enhances it with direct reading, audio
reading, progressive-live storyboarding, music, facilitates online collaboration,
one-day turnarounds, production previewing, enables doll-avatar performance (java/script,
Flash) ... It becomes the babysitter.... It has the scientific mindset of jumping
straight to the implementation, skipping the book-wordy-format version, It works at
the programming level and with HDDV-camera technology breakthroughs, corroborates and
proliferates rapid lowcost high quality channel throughput.
The art of screenwriting, feature movies, cinerama, home theater, television,
sitcoms, dramas, movies of the week, blockbusters, superblockbusters, festival shorts,
-now new interactive-DVD games and computer-based live-action-staged virtual-reality
multi-player team-games (cf Holodeck);- its art, technology, science, form,... rapidly
clarifying and developing as faster digital computers and Internet and higher definition
cameras and projectors bring collaboration to instantaneously bear on all phases, from
public interest to idea to concept to research to treatment to plot to story to script
to review to pitch, agents, options, sales, to producer to market analysis to budget to
investors to coproduction to storyboard to production line script to schedule to
directors, casts, crews, to logistics, locations, settings, sets, properties, to
cameras, units, blocking, shooting, to dailies (now "seconds") to editing
(and "mixing"), CGI computer-generated imagery, sound, music, rights,
synchronization, to mastering to copies to promotions, trailers, to distribution to
theaters, syndicates, broadcasters, to previews to first runs to commercial debuts to
investor returns, public opinion, world-wide release, director versions, DVD rentals,
sales ... is full cycle, and a webful of information:
THE SPEC. SCRIPT: [*]
The spec. script is a story laid out in movie script format, a two-dimensional
specification of what goes on record: The elements of a script are, most evidently,
its temporal progress down the page line-by-line second-by-second, page-after-page
minute-after-minute, and process phases across, left-to-right indented and blocked,
Leftward scene identification, depiction and action, transition, timing, Midway
actor, comedy-action, prehearsed-as-impromptu dialog, Rightward scene edits, Sprinkled
with set and sound events in capital letters (ALL CAPS), and implicit and essential
camerawork Push-Capped (to, becomes, To; On, becomes, ON)...
(Implicit, means, plain language that implies or actually requires camerawork,
Typically the directional-prepositions, in English.)
(Essential, means, arcking in, through, and out, the story, Not, deciding set angles
for the shooting script,-- e.g. a marble arcking-out amid a spill, arcking-through an
examination of contents of an emptied pocket, arcking-back-in as the substitute for a
FOUR KNOCKS ON WOOD, And we begin--
The corresponding-paper-page size is 8.5×11 in. (Am.) with gutters and margins using
the inner 6×9 in. 60 em × 54 lines for all typed writing; And indentations
typically-usually successively 5-6 em each (a half inch at 10-pitch Pica font) ...
However, industry usage is-and-has-been more flexible and episodic productions
more so depending on actor feedback and changes over series years.
(N.B. Advanced scripts and close-to-production-ready spec. scripts use scene numbers,
out-indented left and out-in-margin right with the page number, also reserved for
document revision notes, sometimes squeezing the depiction portion a half
inch, 5 em, fitting 55 em across; But in basic spec. script, master-scene or
non production-ready, scene numbers are generally not assigned, Or much later.)
[unnumbered title page]
[upper-48% blank] [or series-style]
"Title in caps and quotemarks"
-Subtitle in caps and dashes-
Story and screenplay by
Full Name of Screenwriter
(Story source reference scope)
e-mail, phone or fax Street or PO address CITY STATE ZIP+4 USA
Reg. # Registration Number (current year and Registrar)
EXT. LOCATION - POSITION - DAYTIME/LIGHTING (SCENE RELATION)
The scene header block line, in caps, locates the setting or smaller, set; EXT. is Exterior, INT. is Interior. Subsequent paragraphs depict and develop it, detail and people it. (The INT.-EXT. denotes wind-flow-thermal-pest-control/enclosure.)
[Block-line is also called a "slug line" (a newsprint term)] [Depiction is also called a "description" (a literary term)]
Location, specifically what-and-where the setting or set is; City or Country as representational qualifiers as may be CGI graphics background to bluescreen or greenscreen matte;
[Bluescreen or greenscreen is the technique of chroma-keying images for micromanaging overlay editing to as-if colocated]
Position 'You Are Here' is offset by a dash, unless Location or Position is adjectival or additional; NB. Position may be that of a locatable platform, e.g. EXT. OIL RIG - NORTH SEA, but which is then implicitly a Vantage or Establishing shot.
Daytime-lighting by daypart typifying distinctness: PREDAWN, DAWN, SUNRISE, MORNING, NOON, AFTERNOON, GLOAMING, SUNSET, TWILIGHT, AFTER DARK, LATE EVENING, NIGHT, ... which may be further clarified, e.g. AUTUMN, MISTY, DELUGE, HAZE, CLOUDY, ROILED SUNSET, SUNSETTING, LOW WEST FULL MOON (cf predawn).
Note that film-screenwriters prefer to Depict the shadowing, But also that digital, cameras, can handle greater contrast.
NB. Clock time is not usually given unless it shows, or can, or is colloquial or carefully descriptive, e.g. THIRD WATCH.
Parenthetic scoped Relation adds dimension relating scene to scene by type of dis-/continuity, implying possibly cameras, techniques, settings, types and sources of film. Relation is assumed consecutive unless specified:--
CONTINUOUS = scene and actor kinetic motion and speech; AS CONTINUOUS = scene kinetic motion, splittable action; CONTINUOUS SOUND = feels continuous in time or attention; DIFFERENT VIEW, REMOTE = farther away than just a POV; CONTIGUOUS = action juxtaposed but not as continuation; SAME TIME, BACK OVER = overlaps for a second-angle view; FLASHBACK = to a prior era, from-which we soon recover; IDEA, IMAGINED, ENVISIONED, CONSTRUCT = anytime thinking; DREAM = as in sleep: low speed limit, unresponsive dialog; CGI, VR, VIRTUAL REALITY = Computer-Graphics-Imagery; PRESENT, NORMAL, REAL = resuming, waking, realizing; PAST = reenactment of pertinent anthropological history; FOOTAGE = stock, file; old movies, historic reels, news; COMICBOOK = exaggerated colorifics, emotation; pagination; MATCHED = coregister an image specified in both scenes;
ESTABLISHING SHOT - DOMAIN - GOVERNING FACTORS
Often the opening shot in the movie, sometimes as a refrain, sometimes more than one ... This is a motif-reference scene, a single auspicious frame -(may pan and scan)- dwelling long enough to say how this story could have taken place; whether or not it did or will; A locus scene imbued with the feel of being there;- Usually a long shot, very-wide, extra-wide for simple drama, that says 'This Is The Setting'-- The City/The Valley/The Land/The Mountain/The World/The Universe/The Bug; Usually not including Agonists, but may have kind and may be effectually Transitioned to an Agonist, e.g. Passes the lens and, FOCUS--! Usually a peculiar view, angle, weather: so as to feel as much as possible its thousand-words-worth indued.
NB. This is an essential shot that cannot be left to the DoP Director-Of-Photography, as it requires a sense of the whole story, what it is about and not ... It confuses audiences if the Establishing shot goes unrelated: cf a starry night sky, that never develops a story about night, space, stars, autc.
NB #2. In B-movie western story it may be a lulled or action scene of no arc consequence but to establish the familiarity or mindset of the Protagonist, usually un-present. It may be block-lined, EXT.-INT., and first paragraph, "ESTABLISHING."
NB #3. Sometimes a quicker, more-involved VANTAGE shot, will reestablish much-needed comedy intensity perspective relief.
EXT./INT. BUILDING FAÇADE
The business of moviemaking is building façades, -or using,- building façades, and doing interior shoots on studio stages with backdrops or bluescreen imagery:-- Movement transitions in-or-out: whence a double locus indication.
The business of storytelling is actors acting:- body action.
INT./INT. ROOM SPACE TYPE #1 - ACCESS SPACE TYPE #2
Sometimes the connected spaces are as different as INT./EXT. And the one may be considered an extension of the other. You may also wish to indicate their initial proximities as-such.
INT. BUILDING SET - ROOM OR SPACE - LIGHTING (DAYTIME)
An Interior scene block line is similarly, with INT. instead of EXT. The innermost Room or space is offset by a dash - as more may follow in angles here or scenes later. Lighting and Daytime are parallel, separable, even choosy: as lighting is typically controlled. We scope-reference Daytime to keep its EXT.-relation, e.g. INT. CAVE - PITCHBLACK (NOON).
Actor ROLE NAME-calls are capitalized and depicted for first appearance: The introductory shot receives extra emphases in time, focus, systematic angles, CU's in a crowd; much as for Establishing-shot scenes. Subsequent depictions use standard name capitalization, as becomes the DoP's visual-prerogative angling each shot for best telling, appearance, factoring-in dwell-interests, emoted responses, background alignments ... Later attentions, may, cap or close-up (CU) an Actor action.
[Likewise the Actor ENTERS and EXITS/EXEUNT are capitalized]
NB. We've recently added an un-naming convention for special unassigned-actor dialog where the scene or actions determine who-says-what: We use a grammatical punctuation of enclosure by dashes to indicate, -FIRST-, -LAST-, -US-,... (Our intent is to utilize best-clarity, not just formalize).
Depictions include consequenced actions separated by a dash, drawn-- to its direct consequence, or, --from a self-imposed consequence connecting or inserting itself,-- or by ellipsis … for subsequent action occurring on its own time and merit. Frequently a causal or precedent action takes two seconds to be seen, and so appears on a line by itself, ending with its connecting punctuation. But fast, repetitive, action appears in the same line, even running-on lines where the camera DoP chooses his own re-angling synchronizations on other merits.
[COMMENT: Ellipsis is either '… or ...' spaced or-not by the feel of its connectedness/quickness/immediacy]
If the depiction of an actor results in saying something, it is dashed-- to the dialog. But if other depiction results in saying, it is conjoint-and-drawn by punctuation-dash. If the depiction is merely descriptive, not consequential, a colon: leads-to indicating: subordinate detail follows. And if only coincidental, a semicolon suffices. (The distinction is that consequential needn't be causal but equal, except for order, e.g. His face reddens-- HE I shan't do this!)
[Formatting-- is like giving plain-English a little english: Reading the same grammatically while jumping-about the page]
Our punctuation is fairly controlled: A period, indicates, a completed action or a fact stated outside needed timing. The semicolon indicates action completing outwardly parallel and inwardly more-sequential, than comma, e.g. distinct talents: HE (climbs up; eats, cheers) Go--!
NB. In polite, actor, society, noncomedy action goes on the depiction line, not, in the actor's parenthetic scope,-- as kicks, punches, etc., are not the actions of polite society actors, but are deemed stuntwork, safely requiring -and by- description. You may so notice that we have alot more actor scopes than seen in most other spec. scripts, as we do more comedy: where the expression of their words oft spins among their multiple entendres … even in our proficient Sci-4-Fi.
Depiction also includes serial details, animations; And we capitalize OBJECTS, TO BE NOTICED-- as mime comedy actions requiring camerawork, as-if singular events of themselves. And likewise VIEW POSITIONS TAKEN in the room, are cap'ed.
Keep depictions clear, concise, complete, even compact one-liners... Use direct language that tells it right here now: AND DON'T LEAVE IT TO THE DIRECTOR TO BE SURE IT'S CORRECT! (-There's a story of difference in a wall to the horizon!-)
ANOTHER ROOM OR SPACE OR CORNER - (CONTINUITY)
The subscene header indicates what's necessarily seen, -even moving the camera but not far,- And camera blocking; A scene may include camera motion, transitioning or following, in or out, dollying, walking, craned, when the camera movement has specific characteristics usually left to the DoP Director of Photography, who designs thousands of camera angles per hour second-by-second: The screenwriter writes the story, The DoP visually tells it.
The INT.-EXT. is omitted if the subscene is short, or motion connected or continuous, or, the whole scene is in one place and facile to do as one-shoot camerawork, not location work. (But if the camera should be transported, specify INT.-EXT.)
As a script progresses, block lines become shorter, filling-in only enough details to be sure of which, and differences.
If a scene is more contrived, we may separate the camera and sound equipments. Relative Time may hint more the character-sense (cf the shadow of the beard; working-up a sweat), than of the sun and the sky; and if short enough, the continuity, contiguity, even minutes lapsed (indicating work progress).
Staging: Actors, scene, or camera:
B.G. b.g. (in staging direction) = background F.G. f.g. (in staging direction) = foreground REFL: (REFL) = reflected image (e.g. mirror, window) M.G. m.g. (in staging direction) = midground
N.B. The OC/OS distinction is for hidden-vs.-unviewed sound.
ZOOM: CLOSE SHOT: MED. SHOT: TWO SHOT: PAN: PULL BACK TO REVEAL: LONG SHOT: WIDE SHOT: AERIAL SHOT:
TRANSITION: CUT BACK AND FORTH: INTERCUT: SERIES OF SHOTS: = (contiguity/semicontinuity of action) MONTAGE: COLLAGE: INSERT: INSERT - = (filming Unit#2) BACK TO SCENE:
MATTE: OVERLAY: SUPERIMPOSE: [content included, or separate indented] TITLE: [content included, or separate indented] SIGNS PASSING: [content included, or separate indented] WRITES:, TYPES:, ENTERS:, KEYS:, READS:, LABEL:, SIGN:
Major indentation same as dialog, 10 em; Text reads to the right margin.
"Blockquotes likewise (ibid)...."
We use Secretary-handbook-Post-Office-standard-non-period'ed all-caps-acronyms ("anchronym" in submariner heads-up-humor) but period'ed caps are still trade-common.
NB. Though usual in production detail scripts, spec. script does not use ACTOR (CONT'D) across page boundaries; Only on monologs longer than a page do we insert reminders. We also use (CONT'D) to indicate an actor's-pose-continuity.
NOTE: THE GENERAL RULE IS: Each scene script progresses from its block line, to depictive paragraph, to active paragraph, and thence to timing and dialog ... All culled for brevity--
Primary indentation, none, 0 em (from the 1.0 in. margin and 0.5 in. gutter) ... We keep block lines and superimpositions with their first paragraph, And tailor lines to 60 em across 54 down fitting the 6×9 in. text area of an 8.5×11 sheet.
(parenthetic scoped synchronization-corroboration) Minor indentation, 5 em; Timing cue, choreography step, vocal-count sync, video-sound phase, clock sync, delay, music cue e.g. (01:59 "do it"), title/artist/mix first.
ROLE NAME (SCOPE, SOUND) Major indentation, 20 em, 10 em inside dialog-left, or centered; capitalized; Parenthetic augmentation, quality, or sound source.
APPARENT ROLE (EGO ROLE)Actor's dual personality: i.e. ego as discoverable.
APPARENT SUBROLE:ID ROLE Actor performs a subrole: e.g. an actors' audition.
[ROLE:VIDEO(...)](...) Jamb-bracketed: actor-on-TV, videolink, cellphone; any 'box' present or O.S.
ACTOR #1 +ACTOR #2 +ACTOR #3 Multiple actors' lineset:
(scoped comic adjustment Minor indentation, 15 em, 5 em inside dialog sides; Delivery, pronunciation, concurrent comedy action. We, wrap at 25 em across; Shooting wraps at 19.)
Major indentation, 10 em, 15 em right margin ~20 em wraps ragged... Dialog, tailored to 35 em across. Each line speaks ca two seconds, compensating other line-spacing.
/#1/ Parallel added for actor #1. /#2/ Parallel added for actor #2. /#3/ Parallel added for actor #3.
CUT TO: CUT ACROSS TO: SLASH CUT TO: (a wipe) WIPE TO: DISSOLVE TO: MATCH DISSOLVE TO: (An object) REGISTER TO: (room alignment) MELD TO: (adding or deleting) FADE TO: FADE TO [COLOR]
(Right-justified, flush right scene-end continuity editing; capitalized because these are edit cues: points of control)
Punctuation, is slightly different from plain English, but with good sensibility:--
Extraordinary incongruous things, actions: SUPERIMPOSE, TITLE/SUBTITLE, MARQUEE,
MARKER, OPTICAL, e.g. She walks THROUGH THE OPTICAL (a camera movement accompanying as
well as specifying for the actor not POV in relation to an edit-overlayed visual effect).
Second/interactive actors/objects/places included in a dialog, (e.g. To him; RE: his
ring; ON THE SOFA: Ten Partyers...).
(Generally, little extra capitalization occurs in a spec. script.)
Parentheses, are scoped dimensionality,- whence common in actor dialog:
The actor's parenthetic comedy (or simple concurrent action) appears indented on a
separate-but-contiguous line as a control-phrase over the dialog, --not inline within
dialog,-- and sometimes more than one per dialog block continuous or contiguous. The
actor's camera-sound adjustment is scoped on the name;
But, If the actor-role is of dual personality, the apparent is first, and its
actuality is connected by hyphen, e.g. SCHOOLBOY-KING, or, ego by parenthetic, e.g.
DUKE (IMPOSTOR), or, subroled real-role by colon, e.g. BARON: UNDERSTUDY. We also use
parentheses for back-and-forth reference clarity of block-line and depiction values
unseen or already specified, e.g. DIM CAVE (NOON); and for music and suggested
implementation of technical specifications.
Box-brackets, [ ], we use to indicate, In-a-box, e.g. an actor on TV, video-link,
cellphone,... or additional editor comments.
End a phrase with Period, on a completed action, depiction, or statement sentence.
End a phrase with Comma, on an immediate series of actions. Emphasize-enunciate the
last word, or, deemphasize the subsequent unless it too is comma'ed; Slightly pause
between (Comma always looks bigger in type, than it is in effect).
Cf Similarly offset-emphasize a word inserting itself -wrapped- in dashes.
End a phrase with Semi-colon, on complete but (still overlapping) concurring action.
End a phrase with Colon, for further detailing or synchronizing its action.
Enunciation emphasizes the next word or words.
End a phrase with Dash (double-length), on prompted or connected cause--effect,
End a phrase with Ellipsis, on action continuing until succeeded, superseded,
or included, by intercepting a non-prompt action.
Separate paragraphs where actions should be built up a moment;
else connect in the same paragraph where quickly successioned;
E.g. SLO-MO: He jumps, stretches,-- reaching,-- spreads his mitt ... falling ...
the ball plops in his mitt--
REAL: HE HITS THE DUST-- BELLOWING it up about...
[Replace stuntman and dirt-dust-mattress implicitly]
Close-periods likewise, e.g. U.S.A. close-pronounced U-S-A "youessay" not U. S. A.
Apostrophe missing letters, or to pronounce or enunciate by separately closed sounds
run together, e.g. camera'ed unlike cameraed ('cam-reed'), "oo'oo'oo" smoothly unlike "oo-oo-oo".
Underline/underscore, with rarity, for concept-phrasing emphasis, (Comma suffices
sentential phrasing; Italics is elusory-emphasis-by-odd-font usually only to imprecate
some oddness in vocality, so we do it only combined in caps for visibility).
Pronounce unpunctuated acronyms as known, or continuous, e.g. NASA as "Nassah"
(and keeping hard-soft, neg. "Nazah").
Use the special spellings, picnicked, arcked (not in most dictionaries), for
unmistakable unguessed 'proper' pronunciation.
Generally spell-out numbers: We use numerals for instantial calculations but
kept simple, e.g. 2-point-72, point-73,... And we spell-out for substructure depiction
and general dialog, e.g. 4 crew, two lifting a log.
And remember: commas and apostrophes are catch-sounds, half, as big, as they look.
We asterisk (*) real names, trademarks, quotes ... for legal footnoting citations,
printed, spoken, displayed, depicted, dialogged.
And, In screenwriting for non associated producers, we use additional shorthand:-
"@#!" ('at-lb!') in dialog is the actor's-own-one-word-ad lib not punctuation,
e.g. 'rats! things are slightly messed or chewed; darn! it needs a small but
necessary fix first'. (Note that according to Forest Gwmp, hollywoodites may use
"@!#" monogram style as it is their telecommunications areacode.)
(We use punctuation to keep actors formally correct when wearied of believability:
as a kind of digital-error-correction.)
N.B. A transition is, an event: however an event is more self-contained, whereas a
transition is an instantaneous change of condition:-- one would expect two transitions
per event-on-event-off; e.g. The ROOM GLOWS-- the BLAST ROARS THROUGH-- and COOLS,
is two transitions about one event. Other types of transitions, stretched, are events
themselves: as a camera transition through a window.
N.B. Acting and camerawork are very literal, -a literality oft forgot, the next
generation:- Beat, means, beat, feeling-down, overcome, the unworded crank, penitent
"Where'd we go wrong?!" repentant, resolving; Whereas quite oppositely, a beat, means,
a thoughtful or thought-turning pause; resolving at the minimum. A beat is oft needed
to let the audience laugh at a funny line before a nondisposable second, funny line or
arc detail. SLASH CUT, is the now-old-fashion old-time
long-diagonal-slash-cut-in-the-celluloid-film making the next scene replace the former
from one side (which side unsaid was implicitly the Editor's selection: They watch what
Wise and otherwise it is, plain English, to the point ... no worse than tweaking any
arbitrarily large four-color-map-problem solution.
Yes...yes ... but, Whatabout log lines, tag lines, synopses,
treatments, pitches and pitching, acceptance speeches ... Director's cuts ...?
We keep HTML spec. scripts to mainline standard format, with CSS styles; Final
HTML results are consistently very good to fine on medium-to-high-end browsers.
[We have recently revamped our style sheets, for our
simple MSIE 6-7 JScript screenplay
formatter utilizing the DT-DD-DL element-subset for efficient nomenclatural
Enjoy your foray into the world of online screenwriting: The world-wide-web
is watching; the Internet is moving toward super-net bandwidth capacity
to move movies; and the browsers are developing mega-media.
* [N.B. We use more-formal language around here: "Spec. script," master-scene or
non production-ready, is a specification, script, of what we design as the story,--
comparable to the specifications for any product-- not the production assembly
instructions, technical circuitries, construction diagrams, assembly logistics,
behind-the-scenes in production studios and on locations, but, just all the story
components, connections, operations, features, workings, talkings and feelings
that the end-audience gets, of the selfsame, production, version ... Furthermore,
our, stories being of advanced sci-fi and futur-docudrama, are spec. to the sciences
as well, (albeit we do not hamper our efforts with obsolete science as we up the
advanced science research here as well)...
whereas the movie industry regularly uses the business term, "spec script," which means
a, speculative, work-done, price-to-be-determined-upon-sale or oftimes to be read by
professional paid-reviewers for gaining subsequent contract work if not a direct sale,
as an artist's story-portfolio; and the style used for spec script is the spec. script
... and therefor we publish directly here while developing our production opportunities
... And, therefore, nevertheless, on this project, we avoid mere pulp-fiction drama;
albeit we take occasional forays in the Internet commons]
Captain,-- We're approaching the inner-Y2K-limit; ETA: 10-point-7.
Steady as she goes, Helm!
Comm-- Open Hailing Frequency!
Hailing Frequency open, Captain.
Chess Nuts hosting on an open wire, Crackpots kibbitzing your News, URL's being hung by Acquire, Jokes trussed up like ASCII-moes... Everybody knows-- Some 'turkey', And his missile-in-tow, Helps to keep the seasoning light; Tiny dots, With their 'i's all aglow-- Will find the harddisk cheap, Tonight...
YEOMAN, a Santa-elf-dressed female in red-and-white fluff, approaches the Captain's chair...
(sidles up, quiet)
Some of the crew have this Y2K-pool... And were wondering if you'd like to participate?
Captain waves Cut at Communicator,
Comm, Can you eliminate, that?!
Sure, Captain. But 'tis the season!
PA: Diminuendo (CONTINUOUS).
(quieter, a smirky grin)
What's the catch?
All expenses paid.
Sounds like fun. When did, they pay?
We have Anomaly Prediction!--
(RE: side display)
One-way Certification cutoff due to timezone differentiation-- Net result: Insecure reflections--! Duration: 40 kilohesits--!
The theory of measurement propounded in this work is not to be cited (as)
considering contraband or corpses; Nor are the intellectual appurtenances
hereïn to be used for or in the commission of crimes against persons,
peoples, properties, or powers (States).