How to Turn Your Book Into a Movie Part 2 – How to Format a Screenplay

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Danek-S.-Kaus_40117By Danek S. Kaus

If you want to be successful at screenwriting, you must first master screenplay format. Screenplays look very different on the page than novels do, and they have length requirements. If your script doesn’t look right, it won’t get read. Period.

It must also be the proper length. Newbies to screenwriting often make their scripts too short or long. They need to be between 90 and 120 pages. If a script is too short or too long, it will get thrown away without further consideration. Period, end of story. It may seem unfair and petty, but you must behave as a professional to be treated as one.

The left hand margin should be 1.5 inches, which allows room to punch holes for brass brads that hold the script together. Right hand margin is one inch. One inch margins at the top and bottom.

Use only Courier or Courier New 12-point font. The reason for this is that movie makers use a rule-of-thumb that one page of a screenplay equals one page on screen time. Using different fonts would make that rule unreliable.

Begin your script with the words FADE IN: in the left-hand margin, one inch from the top of the page.

Scripts are written in scenes, not chapters. Every scene begins with what is called a slugline that states where and when the scene takes place. Sluglines begin with either INT. (interior) or EXT. (exterior). Next you indicate the specific location followed by a dash and the time of day. Here is how the slugline looks:


Then drop down two lines and describe who is in the scene and what they are doing. The first time you introduce a character in your story, their name should be ALL CAPS. After that, use traditional capitalization. For example:

ALICE WALKER, early 20’s, wearing an inexpensive suit stands, at the blackboard, writing out math problems in the empty classroom.

Begin dialogue at 2.5 inches and end at about 6 inches. Character names in dialogue are in ALL CAPS and set at 3.5 inches.

If dialogue jumps to the next page, put (CONT’D) below it. Begin the next page with the name of the character followed by (CONT’D) on the same line.

There are more rules for screenwriting format, but these will give you a good start.

If you’re really serious about a career in screenwriting, consider investing in screenwriting software. The two industry standards are Movie Magic Screenwriter and Final Draft.

About Danek S. Kaus

Danek S. Kaus ia a produced screenwriter with two films in development. Three more of his screenplays have been optioned. To learn how he can help you turn your book into a movie, visit his screenwriting site []

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