Somebody wrote me recently that their project got rejected in Hollywood for improper formatting. The writer was irate that such a small thing would be used to reject his script. Here, for the general edification was my response….
I wanted to express a brief defense on behalf of those of us who are sticklers about screenwriting grammar, aka formatting. Considered under a professional lens, formatting is not irrelevant. In the vast majority of projects, a correctly formatted page equals one minute of time on the screen. The margins for dialogue are shorter and allow for the actors to add expression. The longer margins allow the audience to get a good enough look at whatever is being described. Beyond timing, capitalizations are signposts to casting agents, line producers, directors and DP’s for all their respective tasks.
The best way to consider a screenplay is like unto an architectural drawing. People outside the profession do not appreciate all the industry standard norms for drawing, and would probably dismiss them. But they have their uses. Essential uses from a professional standpoint.
Considering that these things are essentials, it could be a disservice to discourage your readers from giving them proper attention. Christians already have a bad rap in Hollywood for lack of professionalism. We don’t want to add condescension to ignorance.
People who haven’t learned the industry standard for formatting are better off writing their story in a straight narrative fashion, as in a treatment. There are some expectations for a treatment, but few people in the business will quibble over them.
Barbara Nicolosi is the Executive Director of The Story Institute at Azusa Pacific University. Barbara has worked in Hollywood since 1996 as a writer, producer, story consultant and production company executive. She is an adjunct professor of screenwriting at Azusa Pacific University and at Pepperdine University. Barbara can be booked for speeches or conferences through CMG Booking at: www.cmgbooking.com/speakers/470-barbara-nicolosi. For script and movie consulting, see Barbara's company www.storycatharsis.com.
This blog adheres to the Nicolosi Civility Protocol. That is, all thoughtful comments are welcomed. But if your comments are rude, obscene or basically amount to "You're a stupid poo-poo head!" they will be edited freely to serve as fodder for Barbara's amusement.