Screenplay Formatting - OFFICIAL DISCUSSION


Okay, look. There seems to be a lot of hand wringing over how to do format screenplays correctly.

What’s right? What should I indent? What’s capitalized, what’s not capitalized? How detailed do I need to be?

There are some general rules and people have little preferences and things like that. But the key here is to understand the most important thing- and that is you want your screenplay to be as economical and direct as possible.

In order to do that, you should absolutely and positively use screenwriting software. No question. The last thing you want to do while writing is waste time on indenting and formatting when really you should be concentrating on your story. And screenwriting software will absolutely do all the annoying stuff for you. We’ve included a list of both free AND professional programs to check out below!

The eight items, or “lines” we’ll go over in this lesson are:

  1. Header
  2. Action Line
  3. Character ID
  4. Dialogue
  5. Character Parenthetical
  6. Dialogue Parenthetical
  7. Transition
  8. Over Black (& Titles)

That’s it. There’s really only eight. Watch the video or download the STUDY GUIDE here, to see the examples all written out!



Write a short 2-5 page script about something that happened to you this week, and upload it here to share!




Boom. So umm… this isn’t exactly non-fiction. I call it “5 Dollar Problem” and hopefully it doesn’t get me banned.


Oh also I didn’t find a way to upload a PDF. It looked like images were the only things I could upload. To see the images better you can right click and select ‘open image in new tab’ or you can just zoom in 300x the old fashioned way. I for real wrote this today after seeing the video so feel free to give me edits or whatever. I think I’ve never written any screenstuff before and this was a fast write up so my body is ready for criticism. I was just trying to have fun with it. I didn’t use Joey as the name for any other reason than I needed a name.


Great video, best explanation i’ve ever seen for this topic. I’m using a program called Drama Queen for my screenwritings. I would recommend you to put this also in the description as a free program because it is damn great! :smiley:


I have a fun question! When it comes to characters I get that we go all caps:

MIKE asks a question. Mike gets an answer.

The second time you use my name, it is capitalized. I’ve heard that you should do that when you give a person a descriptive name, like this:

RANDOM GUY asks a question. The Random Guy gets an answer. The Random Guy is happy about it.

Is that how we should be doing it, or should we go like this to make it more grammatically correct:

The MAN thinks this might be the way. The man may be correct. The man will hopefully be satisfied with the answer…



Another idea for extra credit for screenplay formatting:

Take your favorite movie, let’s say The Dark Knight. Pick 2-3 pages from the film, and replicate those pages indent for indent in a screenwriting software! It’s very good practice, and is something that helped many at my film school!


Finally, I understand the script without any issues smiley
Also, was wondering what is «(O.C.)» (Character parenthetical) and it seems to be the same as «(O.S)».

Great thanks!

Here’s my script…and I know, my English is far from perfect :smile:

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental…or not really ;D

BTW, Can anyone tell me how to make a spoiler here?


If it’s a character name, it should be capitalized in all instances. This a more “practical tool” aspect of screenplays; someone will have to cast and someone will have to play “Man.”


Thanks. That’s helpful - I assumed as much.


mikefly - yeah, Kevin is exactly right. Every single role that has to be cast in the movie should be capitalized, with the exception of a group of extras or something. But if any one of those non-speaking roles is of purposeful distinction for the story, like “shifty man in corner” then yup that person is now officially a character that needs to be cast and thus needs to be capitalized.

chrisgpresents - that’s a great idea!


rayanderson - Yup! O.C. and O.S. mean the same exact thing in that it is “off-camera” and “off-screen” though I like the specificity of being off-screen because it implies the end result.


Here’s my question: lets say you are on set and there is part of the screenplay that is unclear or left out. It may be important as far as the beats of the scene. Who makes the call on how its going to go?


Three questions, if I’m not being a hog:

  1. Outer space, logically, would be EXT. But is it DAY or NIGHT? Or is it silly to worry about it?

  2. Is there a format for when characters are talking over each other – like in a Howard Hawks film, or the air traffic control scene in Close Encounters? How would you arrange it to indicate the timing of their speaking?

  3. Suppose the story is that two characters switch bodies. There’s some stuff before they switch bodies, during the switch, and some stuff after they switch back. How do you make it clear who’s talking in which body? Since the same actors would be playing both roles, would the character IDs “stay with the bodies,” or change based on which character is talking? Or would you add a character parenthetical – say MARSHA is in JOHN’s body. Do you write JOHN (as Marsha) or MARSHA (as John)? …See, I’m even confusing myself.


One of the practical reasons for the all-caps the first time is that’s the name that’s going in the credits. As an actor, about half the film roles on my resume are for such memorable characters as WAITER and SECOND DRUNK GUY. :smirk:


You’ll want to get into the habit of printing out screenplays. Get screenplays online for your favorite movies and read them. You might see things that never made it into the final film. Some scripts I’ve downloaded and printed at work are: Birdman, Avengers, Winter’s Bone, The Cabin in the Woods, Nightcrawler, Gone Girl, Badlands, Whiplash, Foxcatcher, How to Train Your Dragon, The Dark Knight, Breaking Bad pilot, some Firefly episodes and…
Chinatown (1974) written by Robert Towne is considered one of the best screenplays ever written. I can’t say why since I’m still a beginner but that’s a must have if you want to study the art of screenplay.

Understanding many screenplay tricks are really invisible feats that are hard to identify… You’ll want to be looking around in your area for other screenwriters to get an understanding for these hidden gems. Attend writing groups and get familiar with the writing environment. You’ll learn faster if you pay to take some classes.


I was going to upload the first 5 page of my zombie script I did last year in class but it says new users can’t upload pictures.


Great questions in here! So great in fact, that we’re planning a follow-up to this video.

If you have any screenwriting format questions that have not already been asked, please post 'em here in this thread so we can try to answer them soon in-video. Thanks everyone!


One thing I’ve always wondered about a screenplay is dual identity. For example, Spider- Man. In the movie there will be scenes with him and others with his secret identity Peter Parker. Should you call him PETER or SPIDER- MAN in the screenplay? Does it depend on the scene?