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The Screenplay

Updated on August 31, 2017

Getting Started

Some people write screenplays on typewriters, or in Microsoft Word, or Google Docs. None of these are good to write with. I would recommend going to www.celtx.com. This is a free site where you can write and connect with other filmmakers. This service will automatically format for you. By pressing TAB, you can cycle through scene headings, characters, dialogue, actions, parentheticals, transitions, and shots. I will go over all of these later. If you also want extra help you can download almost any screenplay pdf on the internet. So if you're ready, you can open celtx or other preferred service and get started writing with the steps down below.

What Is a Screenplay?

A screenplay is the basic foundation for any feature or short film. The screenplay can be easily broken down into three main parts. The scene heading, actions, and dialogue. In this article we will discuss each and every part of a screenplay including the smaller parts, such as transitions, parentheticals, and shots. Please note, this is a screenplay not a stage play. They have very different formats and ways to write. So please enjoy.

Parts of the Screenplay

The screenplay has many parts to it. Some large and important, and some that are smaller and can never be used. This all depends on your own personal writing style. Now I won't get into detail about the Act I, Act II, and Act III parts of the screenplay, but I will explain them so that you have an exciting and engaging story.

First is the Scene Heading. The scene heading tells the reader, where the scene takes place. The scene heading is written in all caps. The scene heading can be bold and underlined, but there is no reason for it, unless you like the look of it. I personally do. The scene heading will look something like this:

1. INT. HOUSE -- DAY 1.

The numbers on the scene heading indicate the scene number. Next to that is your location, either inside or outside (interior or exterior) they are abbreviated by INT or EXT. after that is the time. This isn't a specific time of day you can get into that in the action part of the screenplay. This is to give an idea of what time it is. Either morning, day, night, dawn, dusk.

Second is the Action. This part of the screenplay is for you (the writer) to describe a characters looks, what they're doing, and how they feel on screen. The actions on a screenplay are usually very bland. They should describe what WE will see on screen. There is no issue with you getting more novel-like and detailed with your actions, but this is generally what it should look like:

1. INT. HOUSE -- DAY 1.

Sitting down on the couch is a man. He looks to be in his late thirties or early forties. He is a balding white male with a slight stubble on his chin. He is wearing some pajama pants and a dirty t-shirt. Nothing about him says he wants to strive for greatness.

Lastly is the Dialogue. Dialogue is what drives the story forward, for the most part. If your film is silent then you need to rely on your actors facial expressions and body language.

But in this case, dialogue is very important. When you are writing dialogue make sure that do don't tell the audience something they already know. Instead of saying a person is a dick, show it. Sometimes dialogue isn't important. Also when writing dialogue make sure that it is relevant, don't make your characters talk about nothing, unless you can execute it very well.

That's pretty much it, those are the three main parts of the screenplay.

Parts of the Screenplay pt. 2

Along with Scene Headings, Dialogue, and Actions, there are many other equally important but small parts to the screenplay.

First is the Character. This part of the screenplay goes after the action, and before the dialogue. This part of the screenplay is to show who is talking.

Secondly is Parenthetical. Aside from this word being very fun to say, they add a little extra bump to your dialogue. These either go before, or inside the dialogue. These describe how you want your actor to say the line, or if there is a specific and important action you want them to perform while talking.

Third, are Shots. These are put after the scene heading. These describe the first shot on the screen.

Fourth, are the transitions. These usually help with how you end the screenplay or transition between scenes.

Formatting Your Screenplay

1. You will start with your scene heading, this will describe the area, and the character(s) being seen. After that you will describe what they are doing.

2. The character's name will be centered on the page, the name will be written in all caps.

3. Dialogue, it's best to introduce a character by name, maybe have on character call to another.

4. If you want, you can add parentheticals, shots, or transitions, you can, but they aren't vital to the screenplay process.

© 2017 Jared Fling

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