Below is a listing of the most common script formats in use today. This document will be dealing with Feature Film/Television Movie of the Week which are very similar but the others are distinctly different. Their attributes complement the needs of production distinct to the medium, the working style of the actors, and production personnel:
In this document:
- Stage Plays and Musicals
- Sitcoms (3-camera, 1-camera, tape and film)
- Soap Operas/Daytime Television
- Audio/Visual Scripts/Dual Column
Scriptwriters for any of the above formats will present their work in either of the two variants below depending on whether they are trying to sell their work or have sold it and are working in the production part of the process.
AKA a Spec Script. This is a script written without being commissioned or bought, on the speculative hope that it will be sold. This overview will favor the philosophies of spec script writing which is to say, ‘stay out of the way of the collaborative process’! The do’s and don’ts you’ll see here will reflect this philosophy.
Once a script is purchased, it often goes through a series of rewrites before it is put into production. Once that happens, the script becomes a ‘Shooting Script’ or Production Script. All the scenes and shots of a shooting script are numbered and each scene and shot are broken down into all the component pieces required to film it. The production assistants and director can then arrange the order in which the scenes will be shot for the most efficient use of stage, cast, and location resources.
Since feature screenplay format is the most popular form of script today, we will begin by exploring that layout. Later, we’ll discuss the other formats, building on what we’ve discovered here.
A general comment about script formatting: Although a certain format has become more and more standardized in recent years, there isn’t ONE way, ONE set of margins, ONE style. There is a RANGE OF CORRECTNESS. All the software program formats and measurements fall within this range.