How to format a script

blank scriptThere’s nothing worse than looking unprepared, unprofessional or just plain stupid. Well, there are worse things, but for the sake of this post, I’m going to suggest that presenting a script that isn’t well formatted, or doesn’t follow the accepted structure would be likely to fall at the first hurdle.

Even though I haven’t written a script before, I don’t want to look like an amateur. Amateurism telegraphs problems and sets alarm bells ringing among professionals and those who are more experienced. It’s like submitting a manuscript for a novel to a prospective agent, they expect you to follow a particular standard – margins of a particular dimension, double line spacing, standard font style and size etc.

So, now that I’m close to finishing the first draft of my script, it’s time to work on the format and structure. Time for some research.

The first thing I’ve noticed is that there are a number of variations. There are also differences when writing a script for TV, radio, theatre or film.  And there are differences based on  country. For example, for an American script character names are central and a line above the dialogue, like this:

RICKY
What's with the long face?
BEAUTY
(BACKS AWAY SLOWLY FROM RICKY)
I'm feeling a little horse and I don't know what could have triggered it. What do you think?

Whereas, in the UK, the script would be left justified, like this:

DAVID: That guy must be climbing the walls by now?
SHIRLEY: If this is that old joke about Spiderman, you need to find some new material.

But even among scripts from UK writers, there are differences. Therefore for the purposes of my script I have decided to defer to the trusted knowledge of the BBC. The BBC Writers Room has provided this handy PDF guide:

stage script format bbc

It’s very simple to follow and hopefully, will give me some semblance of credibility when the script leaves the safety of my PC.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are various scriptwriting software packages available too. They are easy enough to find via a search engine. However that’s not the route I chose.

So for me, it’s time to get on with the formatting.

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