Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Victoria Lucia

Screenplay Format for New Writers & Free Screenplay Templates

Screenplay Format for New Writers

& Free Screenplay Templates

Screenwriting has precise, rigid rules and formatting practices. Over the years, screenwriting software has made it easier to ensure you write your script to traditional industry-standard specifications. But what if you don't have access to traditional screenplay software? Luckily, you can easily download traditional screenwriting templates to format a film script or a half-hour or one-hour television script. 

Why do I need a screenwriting template?

Technically you don't have to use a screenwriting template. Screenwriting software and templates do most formatting for you, so it leaves less room for a formatting error. You could format everything manually in Word or Google Docs, and many writers do. But know that screenwriting has a lot of specifics about font, spacing, and margins, and every element factors into another necessary calculation: one page equals one minute of screen time. If you're not sticking to a traditional screenplay template, your timing could be off.

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In addition, if you don't use a template, you could hinder the speed of your progress. Many writers get stuck fixing and tweaking formatting instead of focusing on their story.

You may want to check your work against the basic screenplay format by using a blank screenplay template. 

How does the screenplay format template work?

A screenwriting template is an existing layout that allows you to add all the story elements in the correct places using proper script formatting. While you're not going to get an outline for a 120-page script, it will provide you with enough information to get started. For example, a template will note a scene heading, and you'll fill in the information for your scene. It'll have a section for action, and you'll write in your action. It'll be the same process for any element. The nice thing about screenwriting templates is that they often have specific instructions about what to put where, with a description under each section. So, a template can be a helpful guide for a new scriptwriter.

Most templates will be formatted for a spec script, not a shooting script. Learn the difference between spec scripts and shooting scripts before you get started. 

How do I get a blank screenplay template for Microsoft Word?

You can download a template for Microsoft Word here. This is a very user-friendly guide that's the perfect script template for a new screenwriter. It includes sections for a  title page, sluglines, scene description for your visual exposition, action, character introductions, character names, dialogue, basic transitions (DISSOLVE TO:, FADE IN:, etc.), and more. It also includes basic instructions for screenplay structure and storytelling.

How to get a blank screenplay template for Google Docs? 

The screenplay format template for Google Docs is here. While not as detailed as the Word template, the Google Docs basic script template is still an excellent option for achieving a quick and easy industry-standard script layout. 

Other blank script templates online

The templates for Word and Google Docs aren't the only template options. There are quite a few others you can find for free online. Here's a screenplay template that should work with Apple Pages. These two articles provide many other screenwriting templates and can be seen here and here.

Screenwriting format examples

If you find yourself with questions about screenwriting format, be sure to check out the script examples in Script Writing Examples From Almost Every Part of a Traditional Screenplay

To learn more about proper screenplay format, check out these SoCreate blogs:

The best way to learn about screenwriting format and practices is by reading screenplays. Here's an assortment of actual scripts to check out!

Shorts

  • Wait, written by Yamin Tun - Drama
    A Chinese migrant family in 1980s New Zealand reaches a breaking point.

  • Cradle, written by Hugh Calveley – Science Fiction Drama (*This is a shooting script)
    A 14-year-old girl on a spaceship returning to earth must get a computer to help her when her dad is injured and the spaceship is in danger.

30-minute television scripts

  • Atlanta, written by Donald Glover - Surreal Comedy-Drama
    Broke and low on options, Earn decides to enter the music industry by offering to be a manager for his rapper cousin, Paper Boi.

  • New Girl, written by Elizabeth Meriwether - Comedy
    Following a breakup, a woman decides to move in with three male roommates.

1-Hour television scripts

  • Breaking Bad, written by Vince Gilligan - Drama
    Recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, a chemistry teacher teams up with a former student to cook and sell crystal meth.

  • The Magicians, written by Sera Gamble & John McNamara Based on the Novel by Lev Grossman - Fantasy
    A group of 20-something friends attends a magical graduate school. They soon realize that the magical fantasy world they learned about as kids is real, and it poses a deadly threat.

Feature-length scripts (approx. 120-page screenplay and approx. 90-page screenplay)

  • Belle, written by Misan Saygay - Historical Drama
    The Mixed-Race daughter of a royal navy captain endures trials and tribulations as she's raised by her aristocratic uncle in 18th century England.

  • Pretty Woman, written by J.F. Lawton - Romantic Comedy
    Sparks fly when a wealthy businessman hires an escort to accompany him to various functions. It quickly becomes apparent that this is more than just a business transaction for both of them.

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From action lines to scene headers, there are fundamental rules for traditional screenplay format. Luckily for you, you only have to know what each basic element means, and a script template can do the rest! Once you learn the basics of screenplay formatting, it will be easier to work without a template. Now that that's taken care of, it's time to jump in. Happy writing!

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