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Script format correct here ? (1 Viewer)

Hello all!​

I've been reading the book "Television and Script Writing: From concept to contract" (my first try before reading the book was abysmal).

It's going to be a drama. I've only posted a snippet just so people can say if the format is correct or not (I used Final Draft, and I realise that the dialogue and what not are not centre enough, but it seems impossible to do it properly here)

The 2 characters LC and Police Constable have no names as of yet.


INT. POLICE STATION - MAIN ROOM - DAY

Through the police station window you see LC’s Ford pull up sharply in the station car park. You hear two doors shut one after the other.


JIMMY (O.S.)​
Watch it man!

LC (O.S.)​
Oh, you’re talking now huh?

JIMMY (O.S.)​

(smirking)​
You got a problem with the system man, not me.


The double doors of the police station swing open as Jimmy gets roughly shoved through them, loosing his footing and falling to the floor.​

LC
The problem with the system is punks like you.


The police constable finishes writing something in a file, before slowly looking down at Jimmy laying on the floor.​

POLICE CONSTABLE
Ah, Jimmy. Wasn’t expecting to see you so soon. What’s he done this time LC?


LC picks up Jimmy from the floor and walks him over to the desk.​

LC
His usual. Swiped an old ladies handbag and tried running off. Ran in to a wall, you know. The usual.


The constable makes his way to the cells, where there are already a few offenders being held.​

POLICE CONSTABLE
You’ll have to pre-book next time Jimmy. It’s getting a little full.


The constable unlocks the door while LC walks Jimmy in to the cell, before chaining him to one of the bars.​

LC
We’ll be running out of bars soon enough. What then?

POLICE CONSTABLE​
No idea LC, you tell me.

LC​
If only I could.


Constable locks the cell before both of the officers walk to the staff room closing the door behind them.​


CUT TO:​
INT. POLICE STATION - STAFF ROOM​

POLICE CONSTABLE
So then, your hand alright?


LC clenches his hand and gives it the once over.​
LC
Yeah, no problems there. It’s well worn in, just the way I like it.


Constable closes the door slightly, so that others can’t here the conversation.​

POLICE CONSTABLE
How many times do I have to tell you about that? We’re supposed to be upholding the law remember, not breaking it.

LC
I’m aware of that.

POLICE CONSTABLE​
I don’t think you are. One of these days you’re going to cross the line, and when the shit hits the fan I can’t be of any help to you.


LC walks over to a comfy arm chair, before planting himself down in to it.​

LC
It does my fucking nut, it really does. We’re out there busting our balls on a day to day basis, and where are we getting?


Constable closes the door firmly so that no one can hear the conversation with its increasing volume.​

POLICE CONSTABLE
Just calm it right down LC. You know the situation. Until the government sort out things their end we can only do so much.

LC​
So much isn’t enough. You know who I saw on the way back here?

POLICE CONSTABLE​
No, enlighten me.


LC gets up and walks to a filing cabinet in the corner, he quickly flicks through various files, before stopping at a certain one.​

LC
Here, take a look at this.


LC hands the file over to the constable.​

POLICE CONSTABLE
LC, why am I holding the file of Juan Ernesto?


LC snatches it back, glances at it and waves it about whilst speaking.​

LC
Juan was arrested for indecently assaulting a young lady.

POLICE CONSTABLE​
I remember. Nasty piece of work. You’ll still need to enlighten me.


LC walks over to the constable with the file open. He then taps the mug shot of Juan Ernesto.​

LC
That gutless prick in the photo is the same gutless prick I saw on the way over here. Reunited with some of his old pals. Sentenced for four years, out after one. Where’s the justice.


Constable stands still, with a look of disappointment all over his face.​

POLICE CONSTABLE
You just have to put it out of your mind LC. He’s obviously out on parol for good behavior.

LC​
Good behavior? He violates a human being and gets off lightly. There should be no leniency with these sentences!


LC chucks the file on the table before calming himself and pouring a drink.​

POLICE CONSTABLE
Look, you’ve got an hour and 10 minutes left of your shift.


Constable picks up the file​

POLICE CONSTABLE (CONT’D)
Pack up early and get yourself home.


Constable places the file back in the cabinet, closing the drawer.​

POLICE CONSTABLE (CONT’D)
I don’t agree with the system any more then you do, but we can’t do jack shit about it.


LC puts his drink down, and slowly grabs his coat off the peg, slinging it over his shoulder.​


POLICE CONSTABLE (CONT’D)​
I’ll hold the fort till the night guys get here. Just take it easy.


LC slowly nods his head in understanding and walks past the constable touching him on the shoulder as he proceeds to the door.​

CUT TO:​
INT. POLICE STATION - MAIN ROOM - DAY​


LC opens the door and makes his way to the entrance, pointing to Jimmy as he walks out. Constable watches from the staff room door.
 
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Kimba

Senior Member
Generally speaking, it's not too bad. I'd watch that the character positions are uniform throughout the script. That is they should all be roughly in the middle although I realise that formatting a script in this forum may be a tad tricky. Another thing to be aware of it to make the slug line as specific as possible even if you are cutting to another scene.

eg, INT. POLICE STATION - DAY

Other than that, it's fairly well done in terms of formatting. :)
 
Yeah, I kept having a problem when I went to preview what I had posted. It suddenly kept changing all the dialogue, action, characters etc back to the left, then the centre. Madness, pure madness.

Another little query I have it to do with action. I'm always reading that scripts are supposed to show and not tell.

The parts where LC shakes the file in his hand, and then taps the mug shot, and then when the constable picks up the file and puts it back in the cabinet. Is that telling too much, or is it unavoidable telling whats happening in the action?

As for the slug lines, do you mean that I should change the 'Staff Room', 'Main Room' etc and just have them all under one scene like
INT. POLICE STATION - DAY ?

Thanks for the reply :)
 

jughead

Member
RoscoLabri said:
Another little query I have it to do with action. I'm always reading that scripts are supposed to show and not tell.

Analyze your action cues as part of a rewrite. Make sure they are active and move the story forward while being as concise as possible. Show don't tell is the rule.

I think of it this way - if an action is necessary to move the plot forward it goes in. If an action further defines and speaks to character it goes in. If an action doesn't address these criteria, I take it out.

What you want to avoid are action cues that tell the actor how to act and the director how to block and direct. If these are the only purpose the action cues serve, refine, rewrite and purge.
 

mammamaia

Senior Member
do NOT use 'we/you see' or anything at all like that... the audience will see everything that you write as action/description, so it's silly to only say that about this or that... same goes for 'hear'... just write what is seen or heard...

you do need to work on your writing some... f'rinstance, words like 'whilst' have no place in a script... and you have your characters using fancy words normal folks just don't slip into ordinary conversation...
 

Kimba

Senior Member
Just following on from maia's comments, it would probably be better to say - especially for sound effects - something like "two doors can be heard shutting one after the other".

With regards to the slugline, by all means add the STAFF ROOM in it. The use of POLICE STATION shouldn't be a generalised location in the slugline. In fact, I'd probably write it as follows:

INT. STAFF ROOM, POLICE STATION - DAY
 

movieman

Senior Member
something like "two doors can be heard shutting one after the other".

Again, I'd say that's a bit distracting for readers. I'd go for something more like 'CLUNK! CLUNK! Two doors shut, one after the other.' OK, that's a bit naff in itself, but I could probably come up with a better way to phrase it if I spent some time thinking about it :).

But the main point is to give the reader the impression that they're watching a movie, and not break them out of it by having to think about what they would actually be hearing and seeing in a cinema. Also, if we haven't seen the doors yet we don't even know what noise they'd make when they shut, maybe later in the story we'll discover some major plot point where they turn out to be 'Star Trek' style doors that 'whoosh' as they open and close :).

Now, if you have a great plot, good characters, etc, then they're probably not going to care in the long run about issues like this. But there's no point giving a reader a reason not to like your script... personally I usually find that if it hasn't grabbed me in the first few pages then there aren't going to be a great plot and good characters further in. The more you grab the reader and pull them into the 'movie' you're writing, the more they'll want to keep turning the pages and read the rest... and if you can make them want to read to the end you're already ahead of 90% of the scripts out there.
 

Kimba

Senior Member
movieman said:
Again, I'd say that's a bit distracting for readers. I'd go for something more like 'CLUNK! CLUNK! Two doors shut, one after the other.' OK, that's a bit naff in itself, but I could probably come up with a better way to phrase it if I spent some time thinking about it :).

Chances are the only people who will be reading the screenplay are directors and producers who would much prefer to be given some idea what should be heard rather than what the exact sound is. Most scripts I've read give general descriptions of a sound because it's the job of the director [in negotiation with a sound engineer] to find the appropriate sound to fill the soundscape - not the writer.

A script isn't supposed to give readers an impression of watching a movie. That's why writers create a treatment which gives descriptions of what is in each scene as they will be played out. The point of this topic is to comment on the format of a script - not its purpose.
 
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movieman

Senior Member
Chances are the only people who will be reading the screenplay are directors and producers who would much prefer to be given some idea what should be heard rather than what the exact sound is.

Any producer worth the name probably gets hundreds of scripts submitted to them every year: they're not going to read through all those themselves, because 90% are crap and probably only 1% are worth serious consideration.

But hey, if you want to write scripts that don't read well, go ahead: it will mean less competition for the rest of us. I read a lot of spec scripts, and 'we see', 'we hear' etc really, really bug me and give me a poor impression of the script even before I've got a few pages into it. I'm sure I'm not the only one.
 
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Kimba

Senior Member
As a film student, I've produced several shorts and what really bugs me most is writers telling a director what something is supposed to sound like. No director likes to read that door goes "clunk" when it may be more effective as a muffled sound of a door shutting.

I would much prefer the writer say the sound is heard and leave it up to the director's interpretation. Nine times out of ten, the director will ignore the directions in the script and do it the way he/she wants.

By the way I agree with you on the "we see" and "we hear" which is why I'm suggesting the sound "is heard". I personally feel that "to hear" something is clumsier than saying it "is heard".
 
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movieman

Senior Member
Once you have a director asking you to write a script for them, you can write it with lipstick in Esparanto if you like.

Until then, 99% of scripts are spec scripts, and your goal with a spec script is to make the reader who's reading it see what a great movie it will make if only they recommend it to their producer. Once the producer gets it and hands it to the director, they can do whatever they want with it, but until then you're writing for the reader. Why make your life hard by writing something that's painful to read?

But, with your extensive experience producing film school shorts, I'm sure you know better. You're free to ignore any advice anyone gives you.
 

Kimba

Senior Member
With regards to having the reader see what is supposed to be in a movie, that's where treatments come in.

I'm not arguing with you on the script reading but a director will need to know when a sound should be heard to incorporate into a scene when filming. Perhaps I've missed something here but how would you write a sound into a script? Surely, you wouldn't completely leave it out.

Don't get me wrong here. I'm willing to learn new ways of scriptwriting. Something tells me that the script format in Australia is a little different than elsewhere.
 

mammamaia

Senior Member
as for...

it would probably be better to say - especially for sound effects - something like "two doors can be heard shutting one after the other".

best would be, 'Two doors bang shut, in sequence.'... remember that page space is at a premium in scripts... 'lean and clean' is what you need to aim for in writing style...
 

movieman

Senior Member
With regards to having the reader see what is supposed to be in a movie, that's where treatments come in.

No it's not. Forget film school for a moment.

If you're one of the 99% of scriptwriters who are writing a spec script, then you're writing a script, not a treatment. You write a script, you send it to agents and production companies, and unless your script comes with a recommendation from their mother they'll usually give it to a reader, who is probably borderline suicidal after spending months wading through piles of crap.

Your job as a spec writer is to make that reader pass your script back to the agent or producer and tell them they should read it, and to then impress producers enough that you end up with funding, a director and actors attached. Until you reach that point your script is just low-grade toilet paper.

Spec writers write scripts. They would only write treatments for their own use, because few production companies want to read treatments by spec writers... a treatment is worthless to them if you can't turn it into a decent script. When you get to the stage where a production company comes to you and asks you to write a script for them, _THEN_ you can worry about treatments and handing your script directly to a director who'll whine if you include sound effects. Few people get to that stage until they've written at least a few spec scripts that impress people enough to consider them a writer worth hiring.

If Spielberg calls you tonight and asks you to write the script for Jurassic Park 4, then none of this matters... write it in crayon in Etruscan iambic pentameter with stick-figures instead of action lines and little pictures of explosions instead of sound effects, if you like. But 99% of scripts are spec scripts, which need to stand out from the 90% of crap if you want any chance of seeing it produced (or at least optioned) and getting to the point where Spielberg will be asking you to write scripts for him.
 
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