Writing A Film Script (Screenplay): What I Learned

For Project 2, each team was required to come up with their own scenario to a board game. This involved: making a unique set of rules that could be attached to a common set of rules that every scenario had, making crises that players had to solve which were specific to the scenario, and making film scripts to deliver to Film students. The Film students would later set up and record a professional actor to perform the scripts. These recordings would accompany the board game, to be played along side the crises.

In order to write a screenplay that would be presentable, I researched how to properly format and write a professional film script.

Screenplays are notorious for being finicky when it comes to their layout. Descriptive text must have a certain indent, while speech text must have an increased indent beyond that. In terms of layout, each page should follow these specifics:

  • Top Margin: 1 Inch
  • Bottom and Right (outside) Margin: 0.75-1.25 Inches
  • Left (inside) Margin: 1.5 Inches
  • Font: 12 point, Courier
  • Dialog Indent: 1.5 Inches, on both sides

Every page should follow these rules and the reason for this is because it will take one minute for each page to play out on-screen. This allows readers of the screenplay to accurately guess how long it would run for.

Beyond that, there are some specific terms, references and capitalisation that must be used in writing. For example, the first line of a screenplay should read ‘FADE IN:’, without the quotation marks, as this signifies that this page is the beginning of the screenplay. From there, scenes are split up by their location.

After ‘FADE IN:’ but before any other text, you must write a one line description of the location that the next scene is going to take place in. It must specify whether there is an INT. (interior) or EXT. (exterior) camera at the start of the description and, at the end of the description, you can whether the scene is shot during the day, the night or at the same time as the last scene if need be. Finally, the entire description must be capitalised.

Whenever a new character is introduced their entire name must be capitalised and must be accompanied by a description of them. From there you can write normally about what characters are doing, until they speak. When a character speaks, their entire name must be capitalised and indented on the left by an additional inch. If dialog runs over the page, then (MORE) must be added to the bottom of the page that the dialog started on. Then on the page that the dialog runs onto, the characters name is placed at the top of the dialog, all capitalised again, but with (CONT’D) placed next to it.

There are also certain terms that must be next to a characters name at the top of their dialog depending on the characters’ location on-screen. If the character has dialog but is not mean’t to be on-screen when saying it, then you must add (OS) next to the characters’ name at the top of dialog. However, if the character is purely voice, e.g. a narrator, you must add (V.O.) next to the characters’ name at the top of dialog.

Lastly, if a specific transition is required between scenes then it should be noted at the end of the scene. To do this, write the transition in capitals with a colon at the end (e.g. DISSOLVE:), and align the text to the right. Note, however, that is should be done for every scene change.

 

It doesn’t contain everything that has been discussed but below is an image of the screenplay that I wrote for the first crisis of my team’s scenario.

FilmScriptSample.png

Future Uses:

This research obviously helps with writing dialog and planning cutscenes in games. Beyond that, I believe that this provides me with a valuable first step into an aspect of game development, even an entire genre of games, that I am yet to explore. It allows me to begin experimenting with narrative-driven games in a form that is easily understood and is still useful later in the development cycle.

This also gives me a medium in which to express ideas and stories not only in a structured manner, but in a professional manner as well. It allows me to write in a format that is common in the industry (in the film industry at least) and can be easily read by veterans and amateurs alike.

Finally, this research is the first step into opening avenues for me in the film industry should I ever wish to transition to another creative industry.