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How to Format a Screenplay for Submission
by Samantha Stone

The screenwriting field is ultra-competitive. Everyone has an idea for the next big blockbuster. There's plenty of room for screenwriting. However, studios don't make unlimited numbers of movies, and budgets are getting bigger every year for the movies that are being made. That's where the competitiveness comes in.

Screenplays are guides – manuals – that a screenwriter uses to convey to the producer, actors, and director how the story is to unfold. They must follow an established format to be read by these professionals.

Give your screenplay the best possible chance at getting optioned or purchased by looking professional. Keep these 10 tips in mind when sending your next brilliant idea to Tinsel Town.

1. Guidelines and Release Forms

Read the production company, film studio, or film agency's submission guidelines. These can be found on their websites or in guides like the current year of Writer's Market or at the wga.org (Writer Guild of America) website. Register your screenplay with the WGA. If the agency or studio requires a Release Form (usually downloadable at their website), send the completed form along with your submission. This is permission for them to read your script.

2. Know the Format

Screenplay formats are widely available from free online sources; most are good. The tab/indents may vary slightly, but all require dark ink or font in Courier or Courier New, size 12. You can also use scriptwriting software. Number pages at the top right corner. Check submissions guidelines about numbering scenes. Feature-length screenplays run 90-120 standard size pages. Use a three-hole punch and black card stock covers to bind your script using two brass brads in the outer holes (leave middle hole empty). In the UK, one punch hole at the top left is used with a brass brad.

3. Ideas Are a Dime a Dozen

Your screenplay must be well-executed to stand out in the crowd. Put your best scenes on the page, with sparking dialogue and a compelling storyline, and in correct format. Any of these missing is reason enough to get tossed aside.

4. Look the Part

Send a clean, fresh copy of your screenplay; no dog-eared copies with coffee stains.

5. Your Mindset

Think like a producer, director, and actor. Write engaging parts that actors want to play in challenging stories that directors and producers want to own. Be aware of what has already worked on the screen.

6. The Waiting Game

Dive right into your next project or catch up on some reading or writing. Don't wait. Occupy yourself. Save your nerves for writing those thrilling scenes, not eating you up in the wait.

7. The Answer is “Yes”

If an agent or producer likes your work, they might want to see more. Make sure you have another project in the works so that if they ask to see more of your imagination, you can say “yes”. Be productive.

8. Your Back-Up List

Okay, so your screenplay came limping home without a nibble; dust it off and send it back out. Yes, it can smart a little, but rejection is part of the scriptwriting game. Evaluate any criticism you get, use what has merit and rewrite, and resubmit.

9. Critique and Evaluation

Sometimes those comments from an agent or producer mean a rewrite. Do it. Change what makes sense to change in your story; give the script a good long look and see it how that reader in the industry saw it. If the comments are right, you rewrite. If you obstinately do not agree after a fair evaluation, then leave your story as written, and send it out again.

10. Jump Back In

Even after multiple rejections and rewrites, screenplays can still come home without a bid or option. This happens. Keep sending it out, or work on another project. But don't quit.

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