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  • Anthony Hett

How to write a short film - Elements of a script

Hello and welcome back to my blog, where I offer simple and practical advice on how to write and make an interesting, engaging and hopefully successful short film.

Today we will be looking at the different elements that make up a script.


It is important that your scripts look and read professionally. Your screenplay should keep to the industry standard layout and should be written in Courier 12. This allows for a set number of lines per page, which helps when timing a script.

Your screenplay should be made up of the following elements:

• Title page

• Scene heading

• Action

• Character

• Parenthetical

• Dialogue

• Transition

But what are each of these elements used for?

Title page

First of all you will need a title page. Keep it simple. Make sure that it has the film title and your name as the writer at its centre and your email address and phone number in the bottom left hand corner – as shown in the image below. It does not need to contain anything more.

(Also, take into consideration that some competitions/schemes judge submissions blindly and so will ask for you to submit your script without a title page. Therefore, for your own convenience, when saving our script as a pdf, it might be a good idea to save a version with a title page and one without. But make sure not to send the script with the title page, unless specifically asked not to.)




Scene heading

The scene heading is used to tell the reader where and when the scene is set. It uses INT and EXT to denote interior and exterior, meaning inside and outside. Which it also specifies where the scene takes place, for example, flat, hospital, school. Finally it also denotes a time, which is usually morning, day, evening, night but can be more specific if required.

Your scene heading will therefore look something like this: EXT. GARDEN - NIGHT

Action

The space reserved for describing the location and characters, as well as the action/movement within the scene. (I will be looking at this in more detail in my next blog).

Character

This is simply where you put the character’s name, so that it is clear who is speaking at a given time.

Parenthetical

The parenthetical fits in between the character’s name and their piece of dialogue. This is usually used to describe how a line of dialogue is delivered. You can also add in an action or emotion that is attached to the dialogue.


I would say that although it can be a helpful tool, it should hopefully be clear to the actors and director how the majority of the lines should be delivered, while you also want to give them some freedom to bring something different to the film. Therefore, use them but try to use them sparingly.

Dialogue

The words that are spoken by the character. (I will discuss dialogue in more detail in future posts).

Transition

Transitions are descriptions detailing how the film will move from one scene or camera angle to another. These are of particular importance to the editing team. Examples of different transitions include: cut to, fade in, fade out, dissolve to, jump cut, match cut.


For more information about how to format your screenplay, I found this to be a helpful resource: https://downloads.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/scripts/screenplay.pdf

I hope that you found this information helpful. Don't forget to check out the video that accompanies this blog post, which you can find on my YouTube channel and I will be back next week with a new blog and vlog running you through a writing exercise which looks at Writing action.

And don't forget, if you're enjoying these blogs and think that you might be interested in 1:2:1 mentoring sessions, where I go into each topic in greater detail, please send me a message through my contact page.