Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Choreographing fight scenes

Neil wrote in last week with this question:

I write a lot of action scripts (yet to have anything professionally read) which means a lot of action - gun fights, fights, chases etc. But how much is too much? I have a very clear image of how a fight will go for example, so I'll describe most of the punches and how close the bullets are. Should I be avoiding this> Is it not my job? Should I be somewhere between this and "they fight". Say HOW they fight (style and who is superior) and show the outcome?

Good question. As a writer, I tend to favor erroring on the side of caution and not giving a blow-by-blow description of the fight. In general, a lot of that work is probably left to the fight choreographer. Speaking as a reader who has suffered through more than a few over-written fight scenes, I can say that it does impact the read. First, I’d say follow the tips I gave yesterday. You can probably get away with describing a few extra actions so long as those actions are broken up in a way that they still flow.

Having said that, take a look at this example from Revenge of the Sith:

And now look at how the first few scenes in that clip are described in the script: (

ANAKIN: If you're not with me, you're my enemy.

OBI-WAN: Only a Sith Lord deals in absolutes. I will do what I must. (ignites his lightsaber)

ANAKIN: You will try.

ANAKIN ignites his lightsaber. ANAKIN lashes out at OBI-WAN, and they begin a ferocious sword fight. ANAKIN throws CONTAINERS at OBI-WAN using the Force.

They work their way off the landing platform and into the main entry hallway. ANAKIN kicks OBI-WAN, and OBI-WAN drops to a lower level.

ARTOO BEEPS his concern and rushes to the unconscious PADME's aid.


ANAKIN and OBI-WAN move their fight toward the main control center. As the laser swords fly, bits of the hallway are cut up. OBI-WAN and ANAKIN jump and use every trick in the Jedi book.


View screens EXPLODE around ANAKIN and OBI-WAN as they work their way into the Control Room. The fighting is intense.

OBI-WAN is on the defensive as he jumps up on the table view screen in the center of the room.

It’s worth noting that if you compare the script to the film as produced, there are more than a few differences. Still, notice how sparse Lucas’ descriptions are? Especially compared to all the parries, thrusts, and flips seen on-screen?

With so many great scripts online at the Internet Movie Script Database, it’s worth checking out famous fight scenes and seeing how under-choreographed they are. Just take a look at Rocky ( and see how the final fight gives a sense of how many blows are thrown, without specifically choreographing each hit.

Bottom line, I wouldn’t go overboard in the description. If there’s a particular punch or gun shot that’s important, then certainly call it out in the script. If your script is starting to read like a ringside play-by-play, then you might want to rethink things.

Having said that, everybody has their own way of doing these things. Just make sure it’s easy to read. You can get away with a lot so long as it’s easy to read. In my experience “easy to read” usually translates to less description.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Writing action paragraphs

I’ve often felt that one way to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to screenwriters is to examine how they handle their action paragraphs. I’ve read plenty of badly-written scripts with great concepts – that’s nothing new. Even on the rare occasion when I’ve given those scripts a CONSIDER it’s been in the back of my mind that if they don’t improve as writers, they might not have much of a career. However, it’s always interesting for me when I find myself completely uninterested in the screenplay’s story – yet still feel like the writer has talent.

One of the first ways I determine if a script is a PASS or a CONSIDER is if it was an easy read. Did I breeze through these 105 pages quickly and still retain a good sense of what the story was about? Was I turning those pages at a fast rate, eager to see what was on the next page? Or was it a chore to get through each page? Did my mind wander? Was I tempted to check my email, get a sandwich, make sure my DVR was programmed properly for that week’s offerings? Most of the time there’s a correlation between this sort of fast read and a story with a great concept, great characters and a solid structure. In the rare instances when all of those factors are so-so and I still got through the script with ease, it’s clear that the way the action was written played a difference.

Consider this following example:

JAMES BARTON (22) enters his apartment carrying a bundle of mail. He sets it on the table, including a small brown package. He hesitates. Carefully he pulls out a knife and cuts open the packing tape. Reaching inside he pulls out a silver ID bracelet with the name “Carrie” inscribed on it. He impassively stares at it, then tosses it across the room. Moving, he closes all the blinds in the living room. One by one. With the room now dim he goes to a stack of magazines on a bookshelf. Without looking, he plucks a particular one. Playboy. He sits down on the sofa – the magazine in his left hand while his right hand disappears towards his belt, below frame…

How did that read to you? Boring? Did you almost miss the detail about him closing the blinds because it was buried in the middle of the paragraph? Was there any sense of flow or pacing to the scene? Probably not. Now, take a look at how by changing only a few line brakes, we can adjust the pacing and even add some emotion to the moment.

JAMES BARTON (22) enters his apartment carrying a bundle of mail. He sets it on the table, including a small brown package.

He hesitates.

Carefully he pulls out a knife and cuts open the packing tape.

Reaching inside he pulls out a silver ID bracelet with the name “Carrie” inscribed on it. He impassively stares at it, then tosses it across the room.

Moving, he closes all the blinds in the living room. One by one.

With the room now dim he goes to a stack of magazines on a bookshelf. Without looking, he plucks a particular one.


He sits down on the sofa – the magazine in his left hand while his right hand disappears towards his belt, below frame…

Did that read better? It certainly looks better on the page, and it’s a lot easier to skim. That’s the little trick – the easier you make it on your reader, the more likely they are to come away from your script with a favorable impression. When that happens, your odds of getting a consider have just gotten better. Every writer should strive to make their script an “easy read.”

How does one accomplish this? By remembering these little tricks:

White space is your friend. If you’re working on a screenplay, I want you to flip through a few pages of it without reading it. Look at the balance between text and white space. If you know what you’re doing there should be more white space on your page than text. Brevity is essential.

Keep your paragraphs short and break up long blocks of text. I’ve found that four lines seems to be the point where descriptive paragraphs hit critical mass. Any longer than that and it gets hard on a reader’s eyes when they’re trying to skim the page (and they WILL skim – there’s no getting around that.)

Start a new paragraph with every new action. Don’t pile a number of consecutive actions on top of each other. Breaking up long paragraphs into smaller bites is also a good way to control the pace of the scene. In the examples above, the first spacing makes it harder to convey mood. The second one, by breaking up and drawing attention to specific moments and visual beats, probably had an entirely different flow altogether.

Next time, we’ll discuss fight scenes, and how much to choreograph in the descriptive paragraphs.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Playing with someone else's toys

When I was 10, my parents bought a video camera and, knowing my interest in film, they encouraged me to play with it and perhaps make a movie or two. Naturally, I did what any aspiring filmmaker my age would have done – I shot a fan-film for a movie series I loved, casting my friends in the iconic parts of that franchise. The plot was thin, and basically an assembly of some of my favorite moments and lines of dialogue from that series and there were maybe about two ounces of originality to it – my own mistakes.

So it’s not that I don’t understand the compulsion to remake a favorite movie, or to make a sequel to a favorite film. And I’m hardly alone in my urges. When he was 14, Len Wiseman apparently shot a backyard version of Die Hard. The thing is, that kind of fan fiction has a time and a place. When you’re ten, it’s no big deal to invest your time in writing and/or shooting your own James Bond or Star Wars sequel. But if you’re trying to break into the business, writing a sequel or a remake really isn’t the way to go about it.

When you’re writing a screenplay, presumably you want to sell it, and logically that means that you want to have as many potential buyers as possible. Just by way of example, an action-comedy with original characters is the sort of script you can take to any producer and any studio in town. But what if you decide you want to write the next Star Trek movie. Do you know how many potential buyers do you have in that case? One – the studio that owns the rights to the series, which in this case would be Paramount. And do you know what you are if Paramount reads and feels they’d like to “go in a different direction?” Screwed.

If you don’t hold the rights to what you’re writing about, don’t bother. Amazingly, I’ve seen several scripts over the years where wannabe writers have ignored that advice. Possibly the most ridiculous violation of this rule I saw was a script that was a misguided attempt to continue a 30 year-old action franchise by crossing it over with another 40 year old film! One of those films featured an actor long dead, and the other featured an actor who likely would never return to this signature role. Out of respect for the writer, I won’t post the specifics, but it was sort of like crossing over The French Connection with the original Gone in 60 Seconds. It would have been difficult enough to do a sequel to just one of those films, but with a crossover, this writer was putting himself in a situation where he couldn’t make a sale unless two completely different sets of producers and rights-holders signed off on the concept. This would have been a legal nightmare even if someone like Steven Spielberg or J.J. Abrams was determined to make it.

And let’s be realistic here – in the case of franchise films like those, the studio never is going to buy the latest sequel as a spec. Those kinds of tentpoles already have specific producers attached, and they’ll have considerable say in the hiring of a writer. Even if you manage to query the producers, it’s extremely unlikely that they’d be receptive to a script from an unproven outsider, and again, there’s still only one guy you can take that script to. As a writer, the franchise film isn’t something you can really go after until you’re inside the club. Then, either your agent will lobby to get you onto, say, the next Superman. Or the producers or studio behind said movie will come to you and say, “How’d you like a crack at Superman?”

If you don’t have any script sales to your name, you’re essentially an unproven writer and no one hands a franchise movie to those guys. It’s like writing for the school paper and then expecting to get hired as the main political writer at The New York Times. It just doesn’t happen.

So consider all that before you invest six months of your life writing a live-action adaptation of the 80s cartoon Jem and the Holograms or GoBots. In the end, you’re going to need your own idea and your own characters in order to break into this business.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Plugs and more plugs...

For those of you looking for another great industry resource, check out Amanda the Aspiring TV Writer, who recently conducted an awesome interview with Will Akers, the equally awesome writer behind the book "Your Screenplay Sucks."

I can't recommend this book enough for the first-time screenwriter. It's everything you need to know to get your script past a bitter reader like me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Size matters

Quick! What’s the first thing a reader does when they get a script? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

The answer: they turn to the last page to see how long it is. Though as a reader of many years and many more scripts, I can tell you that this is often a formality. An experienced reader can usually peg the script’s length just by eyeing the thickness. We often know a script is too long or too short even before we check the page number.

Roger Ebert once said, “No good movie is too long. No bad movie is too short.” That’s true when it comes to the actual movie, but in the eyes of a reader, the best script is a short script. Just as long as it’s not too short.

It’s generally been understood in the industry that 121 pages is the magic number where a screenplay becomes too long and 89 pages is the magic number where it is too short. As every screenplay writing book will tediously inform you, one page of script is equal to about one minute of screentime. In most cases a Hollywood movie runs between 90 minutes and two hours, hence those “magic numbers.”

When you’re trying to break into the business, the odds are your script isn’t going to be read first by the guy who makes the decision to buy the script, and probably not by the guy directly under him either. If you’re lucky, the script will land on the desk of a professional reader – along with another dozen for that week. If karma’s really out to get you, your script will get passed on to the new intern who just arrived in town a week ago. Either way, the pile of scripts confronting that particular reader will be attacked in the same method – shortest scripts go first.

Remember, readers get paid by the script. Why spend an hour and a half reading a 180 page script when you could get two 90 page scripts done in that time? (Though often a reader makes extra for a longer script.) This results in the longest scripts being put off as long as possible, probably until the end of the week when the reader’s patience is at its lowest ebb. Suddenly, deliberately paced stories feel slow, slow-paced stories feel glacial and REALLY slow scripts get weaseled out of with a quick verbal summary of the hook to the director of development and the exasperated remark – “It’s a three-hour movie!”

Once you’re a known writer who’s sold a few, the usual rules no longer apply. At that point, write all the 140 page scripts you want. If you’re any good, odds are that your tightly written, well-paced story won’t come out that long, and if it does, hopefully it’ll be well-crafted enough that the reader won’t care.

But when you’re Joe Nobody, you’d better believe it matters. To be honest, these days the average industry script is coming in even shorter, close to the 105-115 range. Probably one of the most common critiques a reader will give a script is that the plot is too slow to advance. You might only get one shot with some contacts, so before you send around your script, give it an extra read and make sure that every scene counts.

Expositional scenes are the ones that tend to kill you here. Particularly with films that have complicated plot twists, a writer wants to make sure that they haven’t lost the audience. Unfortunately, this often manifests through overwritten scenes or scenes that spell out what the audience had already figured out on their own. You can usually trust in the intelligence of your audience so when giving your script a final read, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:

Have you entered each scene as late as possible? Are you getting out of there as quickly as possible? When I was learning the art of economic scene length, I studied Law & Order. Though their episodes are more plot driven than character-driven, they cover an incredible length in 44 minutes of airtime. What’s more, almost all of their scenes tend to be short, succinct and give you exactly what you need to see in order to keep the plot moving. If your script’s coming in long, it might be scenes like this that end up being the culprit.

Perception is everything, though. If your reader starts the script already “knowing” that it’s “too long” they’re going to look for the evidence to justify it. They’ll be reading it primed to point out scenes that don’t fit, dialogue that goes too long, and plot points that are needlessly complicated. If – in your heart of hearts – you are certain that this is a story that demands 130 pages, by all means submit it. But cutting 11 pages and getting it down to 119 might make all the difference in how the reader perceives it.

Every reader has a horror story about the 150 page opus that went nowhere that they had to read. The vast majority of “too long” scripts are written by people whose writing would be unbearable even at 90 pages. It doesn’t take too long for a reader to start noticing a correlation: Too long = bad writing.

Is it fair? No. Is it the nature of how readers work? Almost to a man.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Clichés I’m tired of seeing – Part I

Screenwriters are often advised to “Show, don’t tell” and I’m a big believer in that advice. Film is a visual medium, and it’s always best to take advantage of that rather than simply spelling something out through dialogue. Still, when doing this, show some imagination in your “showing.” If you come up with the same visual cue as a hundred other screenwriters, you run the risk of the reader reacting “Not again!”

I wish I had kept a running tally of how many times I’ve seen some version of the following scene. It usually happens in a romantic comedy, though often it pops up in dramas centered on relationships. Usually, the core romance has landed on the rocks at the end of Act Two, thus forcing the protagonist to fight to save the relationship in Act Three. The penultimate scene typically plays out one of two ways – the characters confront each other and the relationship is either explicitly mended, or there’s an emotional catharsis that ends ambiguously. Are the couple still together or aren’t they?

And then comes “the scene.” Four times out of five it will be a montage without dialogue, and almost always is set “One Year Later.” Carefully, each character is revealed in this coda, culminating with….

Come on now, dear reader… surely I’ve given enough set up for you to guess?

… the woman of the couple. And guess what?

Please, people. This isn’t hard. Speak up, now.

That’s right! She’s pregnant! The guy and the girl are going to live happily ever after and the proof is in the belly! And the scene is totally showing, not telling! Isn’t that cool?

To be blunt, not really. Too often I’ve seen writers use this as an out to show that the couple’s together without doing any of the work to really make it feel like the couple is together. It’s a cheap “out.” I admire what the writers are going for, but the next time you have the urge to end your movie this way, take another day or two and see if there’s a more original way of showing the couple is going to turn out all right.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Structure is one of the most important elements in screenwriting, and it’s also one that a good writer could spend an entire screenwriting book explaining. Having read several of those books, I can attest that everyone has their own method of explaining the three-act structure. Different books and screenwriting professors might have different terms for certain structural details, but in the end most scripts can be broken down in one way or another. For a very detailed breakdown, this reader suggests the one that Blake Snyder discusses in his book Save the Cat.

However, in most cases, I usually discuss structure in a less specific fashion when I do coverage. Here’s the short, most basic breakdown I tend to work from:

Typically you want the inciting incident to happen in the first fifteen minutes of the movie. This is the moment that puts the main arc of the story into motion and often ends up defining the script. In most cases, you’ll find it close to p. 12-15. Then, at the end of Act One, there will be a major turning point in the plot that sends the story in a new direction. This usually happens in the range of p. 25-30. First acts generally conform to this pattern, whether the second act is 30 pages or 60 pages. If your main story hasn’t gotten some advancement by p. 30, it’s usually time to start tightening the pace.

Act Two has three turning points, and usually they’re separated by a range of 15-20 pages, though in a tight script it’s not unheard of for them to be ten pages apart. In any event, there need to be three major developments in the story that build on each other, with the third development being the end-of-Act-Two climax. Usually, this is the point where things are at their worst for the hero. It’s sometimes called the “all is lost” moment because it happens when the odds have been stacked against the protagonist and everything that can go wrong, has.

The third act then usually begins with the hero somehow rallying as he prepares to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Then after about 15-20 pages, we reach the climax, where the central problem of the film is resolved. After that, there’s usually a coda, which can take anywhere from 5-10 pages and brings closure to the story.

I’m always leery of citing page counts because that gives the impression that scripts are completely cookie cutter and a writer is going to get called out if their inciting incident is on p. 16 instead of p. 15, or if the first turning point comes on p. 31. Don’t worry too much about that. Worry about the fact that if your reader is noticing the page numbers, then the pacing probably isn’t as tight as it needs to be. When a story isn’t flowing well for me, or the beginning of a script is dragging, 99 times out of a hundred, I can trace it back to the fact that the writer is taking too long to get to the turning point. Cutting down the excess almost always results in the turning points ending up roughly where they need to be in terms of page count. Pacing and structure go hand-in-hand, and there’s definitely a reason why reviewers notice when the first act runs 35 pages long.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What page am I on?

This will be a shorter entry this time, but I have to sound off about the formatting mistake that never fails to raise my blood pressure – the omission of page numbers.

See, when I read a script, I like to keep notes about particular plot points so that I can go back and refer to those scenes later, either when writing up the synopsis or when later revelations in the story motivate me to go back and revisit earlier scenes. Without page numbers, not only does that task become much more difficult, but it becomes nearly impossible to give specific notes about typos, bad lines of dialogue, awkward transitions and so on if I don’t have a page number I can cite.

Some might say, “Well, you could just write in the page numbers as you go. It only takes a second.” That’s true, but it also only takes one second for the writer to activate the page numbers in his word processor. If I have to write in each page number manually, it breaks the flow of the story for me, plus it puts me in a really bad mood. As we’ve established, it’s not wise to upset your reader.

Don’t make a reader angry. You wouldn’t like us when we’re angry.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

When good scripts go bad - "Domino"

For most readers, probably 90% of what we read will never be produced, but you can get a helluva education from the 1 out of 10 scripts you read that do end up produced in one form or another. The reactions range from “They made that? The script sucked?” to “What happened? The script I read was so good!” I’m sure there are readers who fear for their jobs or their credibility after a script they raved about comes out as a terrible movie, but the fact is that there are always plenty of other places to point the finger.

Almost five years ago, I had the then-rare distinction of reading a really clever and engaging script for my bosses at the time. It had a complex plot, a clever non-linear structure, some funny showbiz cameos, and some really well-executed twists. In short, it was one of the most original scripts I’d seen and also one that I would have been willing to stake my reputation on. The script in question? Richard Kelly’s Domino, the story of a former model-turned-bounty-hunter, based on a true story (sort of.)

Unfortunately there was not shortage of reasons why my boss felt that the script was an inappropriate fit for us at the time, and there were factors I wasn’t expected to know about, so the company quietly passed. I spent the next year lamenting the fact that my bosses had let such a sure-fire hit movie get away. During that time, whenever someone asked me if I’d read anything good lately, I was quick to reply that Domino was one of the best scripts I’d ever seen and that it was sure to be a hit when it came out. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but in hindsight it certainly feels like I was staking all my script-reading credibility on this movie, at least as far as my rep among my friends was concerned.

So it was apt punishment for my ego when the film came out and tanked horribly. The reviews were savage. This wasn’t just a weak movie, this was a BAD movie. Rotten Tomatoes has it at a 19% Fresh rating, and it made a paltry $22 million return worldwide on a supposedly $50 million investment. (The domestic box office was a pathetic $10 million.) By pretty much any standards, this was a failure. Clearly something had gone wrong, but what?

I saw the movie on DVD and there weren’t any drastic script deviations that I could detect. How had my instincts had been so off-base? Easy. I had forgotten about one major factor – the director. This was perhaps the most over-directed, over-edited, over-stylized film I ever had the displeasure of sitting through. The story and dialogue might have been the same, but the presentation was marred by the sort of ADD/MTV editing that critics like to rip to shreds. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with every criticism lobbed at this film – but I still think the script was awesome.

It is pretty much an inevitability for any script reader that eventually a script they loved is going to be horribly miscast, thus ruining the entire film. The best thing you can hope for is that when it happens, it isn’t with a script being produced by the company you work for.
And if that does happen. Just let it go. You don’t write the movies, you don’t produce the movies, you don’t cast the movies. You are just the guy who reads them and helps the important people decide it’s worth their time to read them too.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Anyone here from out of town?

Screenwriter John August has an interesting post about the reaction to an earlier post that argued that screenwriters from outside of L.A. have no right to be frustrated when no one takes them seriously. It's definitely worth reading for any aspiring screenwriters who secretly hope they can merely work from their home in Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, etc. (the Midwest is usually employed for this example) and never have to worry about moving to L.A. I understand why this is a popular fantasy - if all the person is doing is writing, why can't they just conduct business by phone and email?

Unfortunately, I have to agree with Mr. August. Like it or not, screenwriting is a career tied to an industry centered in L.A. It's extremely unlikely that any writer will be able to establish himself if he's not in the thick of things. One has to be available to take meetings with prospective producers and agents. One needs to be able to network and make the connections that can lead to meetings that would open the door for that next job. A lot of screenwriters make their living "on assignment" - usually work like rewrites and in cases like that, a producer or a studio is likely to go with a commodity they're familiar with, or at least one they can feel out. It's hard to establish that sort of connection from out of town.

I don't doubt that there are working writers who live outside the L.A. sphere, but I'd bet that the vast majority of them paid their dues and worked in town before retiring away outside of California. Having read plenty of scripts written by writers who live all over the country, I can attest that there are talented writers bred outside Southern California - just as there are an even larger number of writers whose work is amateurish and sub-standard. (That isn't terribly remarkable, though... L.A. is filled with wannabe writers whose work is just as bad.)

Given the current economic climate, I don't recommend anyone moves to Los Angeles on a whim unless they have enough money saved to survive for at least 6-8 months, should it take them that long to secure work. Instead, hone your craft. Read as many screenplays as you can, study them inside out, and apply what you learn to your own writing. Then, take a good hard look at your abilities and as yourself if they're on a par with professionals. Once you reach that point, then you're ready to come to L.A. and hit the ground running. Make friends, get to know people in the industry and do everything you can to get your work in front of people.

Wannabe writers living in L.A. aren't always taken seriously, but they're definitely taken more seriously than wannabes outside of L.A.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Formatting - The First Thing Every Writer Gets Wrong

Last week I went to pick up scripts from one of my jobs, and the assistant handing them over – a good friend and fellow screenwriter, by the way – saw me flip through a few pages of one of the offerings. Even before I had a chance to say anything, he remarked, “I know. I hate when they do that too. I can hardly read them like that.”

The infarction in question? The writer used Times New Roman font instead of Courier. And I completely understood what my buddy meant.

To the layman, there’s no difference between Times and Courier, but to a reader who’s gotten used to the formatting, there’s a world of difference. I can skim through a Courier script quickly and retain a lot of it, but put the same script in Times and speed-reading because a lot harder, as if I developed a learning disability. Part of this has to do with the fact that Times font is a little smaller, but I’m certain there’s something at work here on a subliminal level. It’s as if there some kind of psychosomatic script-reader autism that one can develop, where deviations from the format cause difficulty in reading comprehension. As silly as it sounds, several readers have backed me up on this.

This is all just a long-winded way of saying that when submitting your script, be sure its in Courier or Courier New 12 point font. Any other size or font will throw off the “actual” length of your script when the error is corrected. I’m not immune to this. I wrote my first script in Microsoft Word at Times New Roman 12 point font. It came out at 118 pages… until my error was pointed out to me and adjusting the font inflated the script by a good 15 pages if I remember correctly.


Spacing errors are equally annoying, particularly egregious ones. You might think we’d never notice if you cheat the side or bottom margins, or expand the dialogue margins in order to keep the page count down. Trust me, we’ll know. We read a 12 scripts a week so we can pick out inaccurate margins without even looking hard. It’s another one of those things that screams “mark of an amateur” but more importantly, by squeezing more words onto a page, it again makes reading a harder on your reader’s eyes.

It probably sounds arbitrary when a reader harps on formatting as a major factor in the read, but it definitely has an impact. It’s called an “industry standard” for a reason. That’s the way a script is supposed to look. To put it another way, if you were applying for a job at a law firm, you wouldn’t go in wearing a torn T-shirt and flip-flops, would you? No, you’d dress for the job you wanted because being a smart interviewee, you’d know that presentation is an important determiner of how people perceive you. When screenwriting, consider your format the wardrobe for your job interview.

Final Draft (and every other scriptwriting program might seem expensive) but it is worth every penny. Not only will you not have to figure out how to create a template with your word processing program, but you’ll win points with your reader.