One of the things I failed to mention in my previous post: a matter of script format.
When I write, I tend to type fast – like it’s a race with my brain to get the words onto the keyboard before they’re lost forever. Formatting for screenplays, with all its various indentations and rules about specific wording, slows me down. I’ll lose the race if I have to pause to keep the words within the confines of a script template. So I just plop all the words down in a screenplay style of my own design, which is close to the look of a screenplay but without any set margins.
I do stick to the obligatory “EXT. CITY HALL – DAY” scene headers, but I don’t bother with much of the other lingo. My scripts contain very little information about camera angles and editing points.
The reason all those writing guides tell you to stick to a specific template is because as a writer, you’re selling your words to someone else, and they have to be able to translate them; the screenplay format is best at that job. But I’m not selling my script. The only people who need to translate it will be my crew, who will have me nearby to answer questions if something gets unclear.
And that is, in my view, the best approach for an indie writer to take. If you’re shooting the film yourself, write the script for yourself. Don’t worry about margins and terminology. It’s a blueprint for you to follow, so write it for you. If you want to overload your script with camera directions, go ahead. If you want to ignore all character descriptions because you already know what the actors look like, be my guest. If you want to print the whole thing up in Comic Sans on rainbow paper, well, that’s a terrible idea, but whatever makes you happy.
I did need to make the screenplay someone understandable, though, so I did go through today and rework the margins – not worrying about fitting to the official standard, just enough to make it look logical to those who will need to see it, especially to those in my crew who are used to reading screenplays. Those extra margins spreads out the text, especially in long speeches, and now the script stands at 81 pages.
My dirty secret: That’s 81 pages in 10 point Arial, which is, if you follow the screenplay websites, the worst thing I could do in the history of forever. Screenplays are to be in 12 point Courier New, no exceptions, and if you fail at this, the script police will come and impound your laptop.
But c’mon. Courier New, especially when as large as 12 point, is one of the ugliest fonts of them all. To be nice to the script police, I tried it out – and my screenplay jumped to 115 pages. I’m told it’s 12 point Courier New that’s used to define the “one page, one minute” rule of thumb, but that’s horse hockey. I know this material, and it’s not two hours’ worth.
So I went back to good ol’ 10 point Arial, my favorite. It’s more pleasing to my own eyes, which is what really matters here. Plus, 81 pages per copy cost a hell of a lot less than 115 at Kinko’s, and when you’re working without a budget, every bit helps.
The lesson here? Unless you’re trying to get something in front of a studio executive, write however damn well you please. Toss out those screenplay guides. Don’t worry about margins. It’ll make things easier and less stressful.
Courier New can suck it.