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Encyclopedia > Screenplay
Sample from a screenplay, showing dialogue and action descriptions.
Sample from a screenplay, showing dialogue and action descriptions.


A screenplay or script is a written plan, authored by a screenwriter, for a film or television program. Screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing works such as novels. A screenplay differs from a script in that it is more specifically targeted at the visual, narrative arts, such as film and television, whereas a script can involve a blueprint of "what happens" in a comic, an advertisement, a theatrical play and other "blueprinted" creations. Image File history File linksMetadata No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File linksMetadata No higher resolution available. ... Screenwriters, scenarists, or script writers, are authors who write the screenplays from which movies and television programs are made. ... This article is about motion pictures. ... A television program (US), television programme (UK) or simply television show is a segment of programming in television broadcasting. ... This article is about the literary concept. ... Look up script in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... This article is about motion pictures. ...

The major components of a screenplay are action and dialogue, with the "action" being "what we see happening" and "dialogue" being "what the characters say". The characters, when first introduced in the screenplay, may also be described visually. Screenplays differ from traditional literature conventions in ways described below; however, screenplays may not involve emotion-related descriptions and other aspects of the story that are, in fact, visual within the end-product.

For more details on the contents of screenplays, see Screenwriting. Screenwriting refers to the art and craft of writing screenplays for film or television. ...

In the United States, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has final control on whom may be awarded screenwriting credit for a screenplay in a union production. The WGA is one of several organizations in the U.S. and worldwide which recognize screenplays with awards. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is the collective bargaining representative, or labor union, for writers in the motion picture and television industries in the United States. ... Screenwriting credit for motion pictures and television programs under its jurisdiction is determined by the Writers Guild of America (WGA). ... A trade union or labor union is an organization of workers. ...

A script for television is sometimes called a teleplay. A screenplay or script is a blueprint for producing a motion picture. ...

Writing on spec or assignment

Screenplays can be written either on "spec" (speculative) or as assignment ("Commissioned"). The Variety slanguage dictionary defines "spec script" as "a script shopped or sold on the open market, as opposed to one commissioned by a studio or production company."

Writing on assignment

Assignments are commissioned by production companies or studios on the basis of pitches from producers or writers, or literary properties they already own. Most established writers do most of their work on assignment and will only "spec" scripts which they think no-one will pay them to write, or if they cannot find assignment work.

There are exceptions: some very famous writers only write on spec because they know that they can get a better price for their work this way. Other writers spec scripts that they care deeply about so that they do not have to bend to the whims of executives and producers.

An assignment may be for an original screenplay, or for an adapted screenplay based on another work such as a novel, film, short story, comic book, magazine article or, increasingly, video game. It may also, however, be for a rewrite of an existing script, and in fact this is how a large proportion of writers in the modern studio system make their living. Rewriting scripts is an art in itself and an extremely lucrative one at that: it is not unknown for trusted writers in the higher echelons of the industry to receive $200,000 a week (2004 numbers) for their efforts. $50,000 per week is not uncommon.

Rewriting is difficult because executives often have very clear ideas about what is wrong with a script, however, they are usually unable to provide detailed prescriptions for ways it can be fixed. This is not surprising, because screenwriting is not the expertise of the executive, but of the screenwriter. The writer is therefore usually expected to come up with a detailed prescription for how the script can be improved, and then execute this in a timely fashion. During the process of choosing a writer to rewrite a script the executives may ask several writers for their 'take' and choose the one who appears to have the greatest likelihood of moving the script forward to the point where it may be greenlit for production. To greenlight a project, in the context of the movie business, is to formally approve production finance, thereby allowing the project to move forward from the development phase to pre-production and, barring disasters, principal photography. ...

Before 'going to script' a writer may be asked to write a treatment, an outline, or a step outline describing the script in various granularities of detail. Some writers resist this process and will do anything to avoid it and get down the writing the script itself; others embrace the process and even deliver fairly elaborate treatments, the so-called scriptments. It is fair to say that producers tend to be wary of the former and pleasantly surprised by the latter. A treatment or more properly film treatment is a short piece of prose intended to be turned into a screenplay for a motion picture. ... An outline is a hierarchical way to display related items of text to graphically depict their relationships. ... A step outline is a detailed telling of a story intended to be turned into a screenplay for a motion picture. ... A scriptment is a treatment of a film or a TV show that is more elaborate than a standard draft treatment. ...

Spec scripts

Main article: Spec script

Many Spec scripts (short for speculative) are written independently by screenwriters in hopes of optioning and eventually outright selling them to producers or studios. Other spec scripts are written by writer-directors who plan to direct the film themselves. Many so-called "art films" films fall into this latter category, whereas the former category tends to be filled with "high concept" scripts - mostly action or comedy, to which a star or A-list director can be attached. However, most of the hundreds of thousands of spec scripts penned each year are written by unknowns who are trying to attract attention and find it difficult to generate the kind of “buzz” that more established scribes count on to sell their scripts. (See the screenwriting documentary Dreams on Spec.) A screenplay or script is a blueprint for producing a motion picture. ... In the film industry, an option is a contractual agreement between a movie studio, a production company, or a producer (henceforth called the producer) and a writer, in which the producer obtains the right to buy a screenplay from the writer, before a certain date. ... U.S. theatrical release poster for German New Wave director Werner Herzogs 1973 drama Aguirre: The Wrath of God An art film (also called an “art cinema”, “art movie”, or in the US, an independent film or “art house film”) is a typically serious, noncommercial, independently made film that... High concept, in film, is a term typically used to refer to the style and mode of production developed by Hollywood studios in the late 1970s. ... Dreams on Spec is an American documentary film – the first ever to profile the struggles and triumphs of emerging Hollywood screenwriters. ...

The development process

Once a studio has purchased or commissioned a script, it goes through the process of revisions and rewriting until all stakeholders are satisfied and ready to proceed. It is not uncommon for a script to go through many, many drafts on its journey to production. Very few scripts improve steadily with each draft, and when a certain avenue has been exhausted the writer will often be replaced and another brought in to do a rewrite.

Occasionally it becomes impossible to satisfy all such parties, and the project enters development hell. Development hell is media-industry jargon for a film, television screenplay, or computer game[1] (or sometimes just a concept or idea) getting stuck in development and never going into production. ...

If a studio decides it does not wish to proceed to production with the script, the project enters 'turnaround'. Another studio may purchase the script from its original owner, but the script is encumbered with the development costs the studio has already incurred. At a certain point, it may simply be uneconomic for anyone to purchase the script, even if it is a very good one. This goes part of the way to explaining why some of the best scripts in Hollywood remain unproduced.

The shooting script

Main article: Shooting script

Once a script has been approved for production, camera directions and notes may be inserted by the Director, and each scene is assigned a number to provide a convenient way for the various production departments to reference individual scenes. When a scene is omitted, its number is retained labeled with "OMITTED", so that it won't be assigned to any newly added scenes. A shooting script is a version of a script from which a movie is actually shot; it includes scene numbers, camera angles and certain directors notes -- and it is generally fiercely marked up by the script supervisor and other production workers, while the writers draft is simply the skeleton...

When the shooting script is distributed, its pages are locked, meaning that any subsequent revisions will apply to the first set of revision pages. When revisions are distributed, the pages are swapped into the outstanding drafts, and the script is once again locked. The process is repeated for each new round of revisions.

Each round of revisions is distributed on different colored paper. The progression of colors varies from one production to the next. Since rewrites often continue throughout principal photography, most shooting scripts evolve into a rainbow of gold, pink, blue, green and cherry pages.


A screenplay is different from a transcript. A transcript is simply a copy of what dialogue finally appeared onscreen, without regard to the original script, the stage directions or action. A full post-production transcript may also include descriptions of the action on-screen, but since it is generally not written by a professional writer but either a production assistant or a fan, it may not be particularly entertaining to read.

Many published screenplays available at booksellers or downloaded from the internet are in fact glorified post-production transcripts rather than shooting scripts. Transcripts and screenplays often differ radically because scenes are frequently re-ordered or dropped entirely during the editing process. Moreover, actors may change lines or simply improvise dialog, and many directors will make their own changes to the script on the fly during rehearsal or shooting.

It can be extremely revealing to compare a shooting script with the film as finally distributed.

Screenwriting software

Main article: Screenwriting software

Detailed computer programs are designed specifically for screenplays, and many have templates for teleplays and stageplays. These programs have been designed to create industry standard screenplays and are used by professional screenwriters. What should be remembered is that all such software is an aid in the formatting of a screenplay and not the actual creation of it. A number of these programs offer access to online screenwriter communities where feedback from fellow screenwriters is availabe. Some examples of screenwriting software are: Final Draft, Montage & Celtx. Furthermore, screenwriting software is available for handheld devices (Palm OS, and Windows Mobile/Pocket PC). Screenwriting software programs are aimed at screenwriters and sometimes novelists to help brainstorm ideas, structure plots and format text. ... Final Draft is a word processing software program designed for writing screenplays, teleplays and Stageplays. ... Montage is the only screenwriting software exclusively developed for Mac OS X. Montage makes it easy to create, edit, and manage screenplays on your Macintosh. ... Celtx is a free, open source software tool for writing and formatting a screenplay to meet the screenplay submission standards set by the theater and film industries. ... Palm OS is an embedded operating system initially developed by U.S. Robotics owned Palm Computing, Inc. ... Windows Mobile is a compact operating system combined with a suite of basic applications for mobile devices based on the Microsoft Win32 API. Devices which run Windows Mobile include Pocket PCs, Smartphones, and Portable Media Centers. ... The Dell Axim x30, a Pocket PC A Pocket PC, abbreviated P/PC or PPC, is a hardware specification for a handheld-sized computer (Personal digital assistant) that runs the Windows Mobile operating system. ...

See also

// A typical writers deal usually comprises: Option: Monies paid in exchange for the right (the option) to produce -- and therefore to purchase outright -- a screenplay, treatment or other work within a certain period. ... Screenwriting refers to the art and craft of writing screenplays for film or television. ... Storyboards are graphic organizers such as a series of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for the purpose of previsualizing a motion graphic or interactive media sequence, including website interactivity. ... This is a list of film-related topics. ... Guide to Literary Agents Guide to Literary Agents (GLA) is a book that compiles hundreds of listings for literary agents and script (screenplay) agents. ... Writers Digest, established in 1920, is a United States publication devoted to both beginning and established writers, offering interviews, classifieds, market listings, calls for manuscripts, and tips. ... Act structure explains how a plot of a film story is composed. ... Dreams on Spec is an American documentary film – the first ever to profile the struggles and triumphs of emerging Hollywood screenwriters. ... A closet drama is a play that is not intended to be performed onstage, but read by a solitary reader or, sometimes, out loud in a small group. ...


  • David Trottier (1998). The Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script. Silman-James Press. ISBN 1-879505-44-4.  - Paperback
  • Yves Lavandier (2005). Writing Drama, A Comprehensive Guide for Playwrights and Scritpwriters. Le Clown & l'Enfant. ISBN 2-910606-04-X.  - Paperback
  • Judith H. Haag, Hillis R. Cole (1980). The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats: The Screenplay. CMC Publishing. ISBN 0-929583-00-0.  - Paperback
  • Jami Bernard (1995). Quentin Tarantino: The Man and His Movies. HarperCollins publishers. ISBN 0-002556-44-8.  - Paperback

Yves Lavandier (Born April 2, 1959) is a French filmmaker. ... Writing Drama (French: La dramaturgie) is a treatise by French writer and filmmaker Yves Lavandier, originally published in 1994, revised in 1997 and 2004. ...

External links

The Open Directory Project (ODP), also known as dmoz (from , its original domain name), is a multilingual open content directory of World Wide Web links owned by Netscape that is constructed and maintained by a community of volunteer editors. ... The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is a professional honorary organization, founded on May 11, 1927 in California to advance the arts and sciences of motion pictures. ...

The Filmmaking Paper Trail:

Screenplay | Breaking down the script | Script breakdown sheet | Production strip | Production board | Day out of Days | One liner schedule | Shooting schedule | Film budgeting A film being made in Warsaw, Bracka street Filmmaking is the process of making a film, from an initial story idea or commission through scriptwriting, shooting, editing and finally distribution to an audience. ... Pre-production is the process of preparing all the elements involved in a film, play, or other performance. ... The process of breaking down the script occurs after the producer reads through the screenplay once. ... A script breakdown is an intermediate step in the production of a play, film, comic book, or any other work that is originally planned using a script. ... A traditional production board is a cardboard or wooden chart holding colour-coded strips of paper, each containing information about a scene in the script. ... A traditional production board or production strip board is a filmmaking term for a cardboard or wooden chart holding colour-coded strips of paper, each containing information about a scene in the script. ... The Day Out of Days is a filmmaking term for a chart showing the workdays for the cast of a film. ... A One Liner Schedule or One-Line Schedule is a filmmaking term for a shorter version of the shooting schedule. ... A shooting schedule is a project plan of each days shooting for a film production. ... Budgeting is one of the most important - and yet most secretive - aspects of film production. ...


Daily call sheet | Daily editor log | Daily progress report | Film inventory report (daily raw stock log) | Sound report | Daily production report (DPR) | Cost report The daily call sheet is a filmmaking term for a call sheet created by an assistant director for a particular shooting day of a film. ... A Daily Editor Log is maintained by the script supervisor during the production of a motion picture, or television show. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... The Film Inventory Report or Daily Raw Stock Log is a filmmaking term for a report produced by the clapper loader each day. ... A sound report is a filmmaking term for a sheet of paper created by the Sound Mixer to record details of each take recorded, the DAT or DVD program number (PNO) or timecode and any other comments. ... A daily production report (DPR) or production report (PR) are filmaking terms for the form filled out each day of production of a movie or television show to summarize what occurred that day. ... A cost report is a filmmaking term for a weekly report, compiled by the Production manager, detailing the costs to date, costs this week and estimate of the costs to complete the film. ...

  Results from FactBites:
Script Screenplay Treatment at InkTip.com (886 words)
Michael Webber of NightFly Entertainment has optioned the screenplay ‘Buried’ by Mark Song, after finding the script through InkTip services.
Webber is one of the producers for the recently theatrically released ‘Thr3e,’ (starring Marc Blucas, Justine Waddell, Laura Jordan, and fellow InkTip member/producer Max Ryan).
‘Buried’ is one of many screenplays that Song has optioned over the last couple of years.
  More results at FactBites »



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