Screenplay Format

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I've never written a movie script before, but I had an idea for a movie called "Honest Politician" that I just couldn't get out of my head. I started writing in Google Docs, but then realized that nobody ever takes a screenplay seriously unless it is in standard "Screenplay Format" which looks a little something like this:

Short except from this example. In this example the first four lines show examples of: (1) the scene headings where (INT/EXT) means inside or outside (2) an action line (3) character line and (4) dialog lines.


Seems to me like there are two main options:

  • Final Cut Pro - The industry standard (>90% adoption for film and TV), has a 30 days trial but is ~$200, which might seem like a lot if you just want to try writing one script.
  • Arc Studio Pro - Different pricing models, but one is free, and has a nice autocomplete features to help beginners, and saves files to Google Docs.
  • LibreOffice with close-enough settings - A template like this one isn't perfect to match all the screenplay requirements, but it's "close enough" that when printed it looks like a screenplay.

I went with Arc Studio Pro for now, but if I get anywhere I'm sure I'll have to switch.

Target Page Length

The general concept is that a page takes a minute, so for a movie, you should target 90-120 pages. Anything longer will never be taken seriously. And so I was pretty shocked how eaily you can fill to 90 pages, you really, really have to be concise what scenes you put in a movie.

Writing Guide

I'm not about to create a writing guide when there are already many. Instead here are some links to articles that helped me:

Other Tips

As I was writing my screenplay ("Honest Politician") I discovered it is very easy to get too ambitious and put in way more characters and plot points than you will ever have time for in 90 pages (1.5 hours). I guess my only tips is to start a seperate google doc that highlights the main plot points in the movie, add all your scene titles first and as you flesh out the dialog you'll inevitably realize you have to drop entire scenes. Since deleting text is hard, a good doc could be the place where you paste any ideas that you can't fit into the movie. It's almost like the doc is an extra long version of your movie. I will say that writing into a Google Doc dialog and scene ideas feels almost twice as fast as screenplay format, where you have to click multiple buttons as you type to insert character lines etc etc. I really like the Arc Studio Pro autocomplete feature, but I'm not used to pausing while I type to style each line differently, and it does slow down the process.