He Said...She Said

by Jessica Brown, Screenwriter and Board Member of Phoenix Screenwriters Association

Writing a screenplay is part art and part science. The art is story, characters and action. The science is transitions, parenthetical, slug lines, shot headings, direction, dialogue. “These are tools the screenwriter uses to communicate the vision he has in his head.” says Antwone Fisher in the foreword to The Hollywood Standard, Christopher Riley’s masterpiece on formatting screenplays. To write a screenplay, you need to learn the science of formatting.

The layout of this resource is easy, logical, and well, fun to use. There is a Chapter titled Quick Start Guide that introduces the fundamentals of standard script format. This easy chapter is designed to get writers turning out professionally formatted pages in a hurry.

Next is a chapter titled “Avoiding a Dozen Deadly Formatting Mistakes.” This chapter alone deserves a read each time you jump into editing your baby. It has tips on how to get proofreading right. There are chapters on how to format things like email exchanges, caller ID readouts, instant messages, and text message conversations. All the modern things we have our characters do now. Whether you purchase the digital version or the paperback version, you will see the Contents section is beautifully laid out to locate, read up, and help you fix your writing challenge quickly and get you back into writing your scenes. But don’t be surprised if you linger and find yourself reading beyond your writing challenge. This is a fun book to read.

No need to worry if using the suggested techniques are correct or will get you into hot water with the professionals. Its Author, Christoper Riley, comes with an extensive background. He worked from 1983 to 1998 in the standard-setting at Warner Bros, and the script processing department where he learned from veteran script proofreaders and typists with decades of Hollywood experience. He rose to manage the historic studio’s script operation, supplying scripts to countless projects in development and production at Warner Bros, and virtually every other studio in Hollywood.

Mr. Riley wrote the software used by the studio to type thousands of television and feature film scripts and he served as the final arbiter of standard script format for the studio. He has trained aspiring screenwriters for work in Hollywood and has taught in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC., New York and Paris. From 2005 to 2008, he directed the acclaimed Act One Writing Program in Hollywood.

So PSA, are you ready to learn the science of screenwriting? Class is now in session. Grab your textbook, The Hollywood Standard, and go off and write an amazing scene, accurately formatted.

Happy Writing and see you soon at an event!

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