How to format a screenplay

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The world of screenwriting has its own unique set of rules. In particular, screenplays follow very specific guidelines and are a language unto themselves.

Take a look at a portion of this sample screenplay provided by Screen Australia. If you want to download the PDF, you can get it directly from Screen Australia here.

Scenes

You’ll see that each scene is numbered. And “INT. OFFICE. DAY” indicates that it’s an internal shot, in an office, during the day.

Dialogue

The character speaking the dialogue always appears above their dialogue. And this is indented 3.4cm from the left AND the right. That makes it easy to distinguish the dialogue from the instructions.

Action

If you’re describing action, you write it in present tense. Example: “He walks towards the toilet door.”

How to type this

Don’t worry if this looks like a pain to format in Word. You can use software designed for writing screenplays like Final Draft, Scrivener, Movie Magic Screenwriter, and so on. These apps make it easy for you to format your screenplay.

If you’d like more examples, there are many Hollywood scripts available online. Check out the screenplays for Rocky, Apocalypse Now Redux, and Sleepless in Seattle.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 9.21.37 am

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If you’d like to find out more about screenwriting, check out our course Screenwriting for Television.

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