Bela Lampert

Optioned Screenwriter / Yoga Instructor

The Myth About Screenplay Formatting

There is this myth out there that the formatting of a screenplay is so important, when you get it wrong, and you send your script to a producer, that producer will never talk to you again.

Well, that’s not completely wrong but it’s not what screenplay formatting is about either.

Here’s the thing.

Yes, screenplay formatting is important. On a basic level.

Let me say that again: on a basic level!

And here is why.

Why was screenplay formatting invented?

It was necessary to make it obvious to the reader what is happening so that there is never any confusion about what each of the formatting elements wants to say.

Is this something that is happening on screen or is something saying that line? – That would be a pretty terrible confusion, don’t you think?

So, the purpose of screenplay formatting is to make it easy on the reader to understand what’s going on, which facilitates a quick read.

Now, on the other side of that there are so-called “screenplay formatting gurus” out there that make a living off of scaring the hell out of writers in terms of what will happen if they make one single formatting mistake.

And what they’re offering as a solution is that you buy their courses and get training on screenplay formatting.

Don’t get me wrong, apart from the basics in screenplay formatting, there are some guidelines that are useful, and some cases where you might want to look into some specific use cases. I get that. And that’s fine.

(There are also some good books on the matter, by the way.)

But what is simply untrue (in my experience) is, for example, that you need to put “CUT TO:” after each scene to indicate that there will be a plain and simple cut between this scene and the next.

Sorry, that’s just bs.

Doing that is a waste of time and it even trips producers up. Because it makes for an annoying read!

But that’s just one of the stupid rules that are taught to new writers who have no chance of knowing any better because they’re not in contact with the industry yet.

Want to know which formatting basics to take care of and which of the “formatting rules” are crap?