How to Lay Out Your Script
You should start by writing a treatment just like a sitcom. A treatment simply tells the story in paragraph form. Then you should expand your treatment by turning it into an outline, a scene-by-scene breakdown of the main story and any smaller stories within it. Once you're happy with your outline, you're ready to move on to the actual screenplay.
If you are going to be writing a lot of scripts, buy a copy of Final Draft software (
Here is the basic formatting to use when writing your script:
The scene header should tell the reader who is in the scene, where it is, and when it is taking place. It should be flush left, written in all caps and bold, with abbreviations for interior (INT.) and exterior (EXT.) For example: INT. BOB'S APARTMENT — DAY
The scene description tells us what is happening in the scene in paragraph form, with each thought clearly separated from the others. The names of characters that are in each scene are written in all caps. It should be written in a simple, conversational style in the present tense. Don't be afraid to show a little attitude. For example:
We see a small, messy two-room apartment that looks like it has never been cleaned.
A cheap black–and-white television is showing an infomercial for some kind of self-improvement product.
We see BOB lying face down on the bed, snoring and creating a nice little puddle of drool that he is oblivious to.
The radio alarm clock clicks on and loudly plays mariachi music.
BOB is startled into consciousness and stumbles out of bed. As soon as he gets his footing, he steps onto a pizza that is lying on the floor in a box.
Dialogue is written under the character who is speaking and if there is a certain tone or attitude that you want to express, it should be written in parentheses below the name and above the dialogue. Final Draft intuitively auto-fills character names as you are writing your script, which comes in handy if your main character's name is long and difficult to type.
Your movie might be a romantic “chick flick,” a college sex romp, or a family film that works on one level for the kids and another for their parents. If you keep your audience in mind for every joke you write, you'll have a successful script. You also need to respect your audience.
If a character's dialogue is interrupted by an action, (con't) should follow the character's name when he picks up the thought. Both the character's name and the dialogue should be centered as a flush left paragraph, indented about one and a half inches from the scene description or action.
Dammit! There goes my breakfast.
The phone rings. BOB Answers.
An automated recording is heard.
VOICE ON PHONE
This is just a friendly reminder that you phone service will be cut off unless we receive payment by twelve noon tod —
The phone goes dead as Bob looks at the clock. It is exactly twelve o'clock. Bob freaks, realizing that he is late for work.
I'm late! Not again!
A script is laid out this way for clarity. You want the reader to understand every line and every thought at first reading. The screenplay also leaves a lot of white space to make room for written corrections, improvements, and production notes as each version of the script is revised.