How To Format Your Screenplay : Spec Scripts vs. Shooting Scripts

As an aspiring screenwriter trying to "make it" in Hollywood, it is important to know and understand the different types of scripts used in the industry.

You only have one chance to make a good first impression--so make sure it's the best it can be by using the proper screenplay formatting!

The large majority all of the scripts written each year are spec scripts. That script that you have tucked away in your drawer? Spec script. That script you wrote and passed along to your friend to read? Spec script. That script you took with you to last year's PitchFest? You guessed it, spec script! Spec scripts, as defined by Wikipedia, are "non-commissioned, unsolicited screenplays usually written by screenwriters with the hopes that they will someday have the script optioned and eventually purchased by a producer or production company/studio." A spec script is written specifically for a reader, rather than a director. The main goal of a spec script is to get the reader's attention with your story and spark enough interest for them to push to represent you or option your script. 

A shooting script, on the other hand, is "the version of a screenplay used during production of a motion picture." This version of the script is the blueprint for the making of the movie. It includes information that is not included in the spec script, such as camera directions and film crew instructions. 

Want to know more? Check out some of these other great resources! 

Thanks for reading! Happy Writing! 

Help Us Welcome Our New Team Member, Lauren Spence!

Ladies and gentlemen, readers and writers: Please help us welcome our newest team member, designer Lauren Spence!

Lauren was born and raised in Cupertino, CA. She spent the first 18 years of her life in the Bay Area before an acceptance letter to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo brought her down to the Central Coast. After starting out as an English major, Lauren discovered her true passion for graphic design in an introductory Graphic Communication course. After the class' tour of the Cal Poly Shakespeare Press Museum, Lauren fell in love with letterpress and the hands-on nature of the major's curriculum. After some thinking, but probably not too much convincing, she made the decision to switch her major from English to Graphic Communication (GRC), and instead just minored in English. 

During her time at Cal Poly, Lauren was extremely involved in the campus GRC happenings. Soon after officially changing her major, Lauren accepted what she describes as her "first real job" as an assistant at The Graphic Communication Institute (or GRCI). While working at the GRCI, she gained valuable experience building websites, creating programs, and developing her HTML knowledge. Towards the beginning of her 4th year, Lauren also started working as an intern at Cal Poly University Graphic Systems. As an intern at UGS, she had the opportunity to run the university's web offset press, which is responsible for printing the campus-wide newspaper, the Mustang Daily (now known as Mustang News). 

Following in line with her original captivation by the letterpress museum, Lauren also spent the last two years of her time at Cal Poly serving as the President for one of the three Cal Poly Graphic Communication clubs, "The Shakespeare Press Museum Club." As president, Lauren spent her time sharing her love for letterpress by training others on the art of letterpress printing. 

Lauren graduated from Cal Poly in 2013 with a job already lined up with the online marketing firm, Rosetta (now known as SapientRazorfish), in San Luis Obispo. While at Rosetta, Lauren worked as a front-end web developer, creating websites, web pages, and HTML emails for a variety of large-scale commercial websites. After working with Rosetta for a little over four years and growing from an associate developer to a senior developer, Lauren made her next career move and joined our design team here at SoCreate. 

We are so excited to have Lauren and all of her great web development experience on our team! When asked what SHE is most excited about, Lauren said that she is really looking forward to being part of a team where everyone believes so strongly in what we are building--to be part of a smaller company with great communication that is creating something that can really make a difference for writers all over the world. 

When she is not developing awesome webpages, Lauren also enjoys sewing and reading "a lot" of Sci-Fi and mystery novels. She is also very involved in her church communities and loves spending time with her husband, cat, and dog. 

Welcome to the team, Lauren! 

Until next time, readers. 


SoCreate Proudly Sponsors The 2017 Central Coast Writers Conference

And that's a wrap on another informative and inspiring Central Coast Writers Conference! 

This past weekend, SoCreate had the opportunity to sponsor the Central Coast Writers Conference for the 3rd year in a row! The Central Coast Writers Conference, which celebrated its 33rd anniversary this year, is cited as one of the best writers conferences in the United States. Located at the Cuesta College campus in beautiful San Luis Obispo, the conference offers 2 full days of workshops for writers of all genres and experience levels taught by remarkable guest faculty--ranging from Academy Award winners to New York Times Best Selling authors. 

Sponsoring this conference is always a special experience for us. At SoCreate, our main mission is to empower writers and provide them with all of the tools that they need to be successful, and this conference does exactly that. Our sponsorship gives us the opportunity to introduce ourselves to and help out the people that we care about most--writers! Oh, and did I mention it takes place right in our SoCreate backyard? How awesome is that?

The conference opened at 5pm on Thursday, September 28 with registration and some tasty drinks and appetizers outside of the Cuesta Performing Arts Center. After an hour of socializing, everyone headed inside for the opening introductions and keynote speaker. Teri Bayus, the wonderful conference organizer, welcomed everyone and explained a quick roadmap of the weekend events.

Once the welcoming remarks from Teri, the Cuesta College president, Gil Stork, and the SoCreate Director of Community Outreach--oh yeah, me!--were through, Teri welcomed the night's keynote speaker, screenwriter Tom Schulman, to the stage. Tom is an Oscar-winning screenwriting best known for his 1989 film, "Dead Poets Society." Some of his other well-known screenplays are Disney's "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids" and "What About Bob?" In his presentation, Tom shared about his screenwriting journey, including his writing process, his Oscar-winning experience, and some helpful tips for all of the aspiring writers in the audience. His keynote speech left everyone feeling inspired and ready for a great weekend!

Friday morning started off on a motivational note with keynote speaker, work-life balance expert Mary LoVerde. Her presentation, titled "Winners Quit. Seriously" touched on the importance of quitting things that get in the way of our writing. Mary's opening keynote was followed by a lunch buffet and then the start of the workshops. Attendees had the opportunity to select workshops (4 on Friday and 5 on Saturday) that they would like to attend from 9 different tracks: 

  • Beginning Writing
  • Marketing
  • Poetry 
  • Children's
  • Agents and Editors
  • Publishing
  • Writing for Screen
  • Making Money with Words
  • Characters

As you would imagine, our team spent a majority of our time in the workshops for "Writing for Screen," listening to great presentation after great presentation from renowned screenwriters including:

Friday's workshops were followed by an event titled, "Burn the Bully" inspired by conference faculty member, Jay Asher, author of the book Thirteen Reasons Why which inspired the Netflix hit series. For this event, attendees were invited to write the name of a bully they have faced, either in writing or in life, on a piece of paper and place it into the fire pit. The burning of the written name symbolized the destruction of all bad memories associated with that bully.

After we had all "burned the bully," we drove out to Morro Bay for an evening of storytelling, networking, and delicious appetizers at the Inn at Morro Bay.

Saturday started bright and early with the first workshop at 9am. We again spent our day on the "Writing for Screen" track and heard from some other inspiring screenwriters including: 

In between workshops and during breaks, our intern, Sam Solis Ramirez, and I had the opportunity to sit down with writers Doug Richardson, Jeanne Veillette Bowerman, and Ross Brown, and chat with them about their careers as screenwriters. They shared their own personal stories, experiences, and some really helpful tips for aspiring writers. 

A big part of the beauty of the Central Coast Writers Conference is the ability to have these one-on-one conversations with industry professionals. You most likely would not have an experience like this at a larger conference. Attendees can easily walk up to a faculty member and chat, or schedule a time with them for a personal critique session.

The Central Coast Writers Conference is truly a remarkable and one-of-a-kind event, and we are always thankful to be able to support writers in our community. A huge thank you to Teri Bayus and her team for another successful event. I know I can't be the only one counting down the days until #CCWC2018!

Cheers to you, writers! 


How To Use Capitalization in Traditional Screenwriting

Unlike some of the other rules of traditional screenplay formatting, the rules of capitalization are not written in stone. While each writer's unique style will influence their individual use of capitalization, there are 6 general things that you should capitalize in your screenplay.

Of the six uses listed above, #6 ("Integral sounds, visual effects, or props that need to be captured in a scene") is by far the most disputed. Keep in mind that not every sound, visual effect, and prop needs to be capitalized. The number one priority is that your script is as easy to read as possible. Ask yourself, "Does capitalizing this word enhance the reader's experience?" If the answer to that question is a thundering "yes," then capitalize. However, if your answer is "maybe" or "no," it is best to not capitalized. Keep your use of capitalization for this scenario limited to a minimum. NO one WANTS to read AN ENTIRE SCRIPT that IS PLAGUED with CAPITALIZATION. Less is more! 

There are a number of great blog posts and forum strings on this topic. Check them out here for more!: 

What are you thoughts on capitalization? Feel free to share in the comments below! 

Cheers to writing!

SoCreate Welcomes New Lead Software Engineer, Jon McElroy!

Hello readers, and Happy Friday! 

Please join us in welcoming our newest SoCreate team member--Lead Software Engineer, Jon McElroy! We are all excited to have you on board, Jon. 

Jon grew up just down the 101 freeway from our SoCreate office in Santa Barbara, CA. He made the 94-mile move up the Central Coast to San Luis Obispo in 2005 when he was accepted to Cal Poly to study Computer Science. During his college years, in addition to his classes, Jon worked as a student developer at the Cal Poly CADRC (Collaborative Agent Design Research Center), now known as Tapestry Solutions, for 3 years--fine tuning and growing his software development knowledge.

After completing his undergraduate degree, Jon was accepted to the Cal Poly Master's Program for Computer Science. In 2011, he successfully defended his thesis, graduated, got married, and landed a job all in the same month. Talk about busy!

After graduating from the Master's Program at Cal Poly, Jon started his career as a developer at Shopatron (now called, Kibo Commerce) in San Luis Obispo--working mainly in PHP on development of their e-commerce platform. Over the course of 5 years and a lot of hard work, Jon made his way from developer all the way up to technical lead.

In 2016, Jon took the next step in his career and accepted a job as Senior Software Developer for HPD Software LLC, another local company that develops lending software for banks. After a year with HPD, Jon made another move--our favorite move!--and accepted a job with us at SoCreate! 

Jon is joining our team at an extremely exciting time as we are really starting to take off with our new screenwriting platform. He is most looking forward to architecting such a cool and modern platform from the ground up. 

When he is not working on developing software, Jon enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids. Although a 5, 3, and 1-year old take up a good portion of his free time, he also enjoys home improvement projects and mentoring others in his church community at Mercy Church in SLO. 

We are thrilled to have you on our team, Jon, and are excited for all that the future has in store for you at SoCreate. Welcome!

Happy Writing!

SoCreate End of Summer Trip 2017

Where has the summer gone? Although the end of summer may mean the end of warm nights or weekend BBQs, it also means time for our annual company End of Summer Fun Trip! 

Last week, our SoCreate team hit the road and headed down to Southern California for a very full, but very fun two-day adventure. The End of Summer Trip is a great opportunity for everyone to get to know each other outside of work and have some fun away from the office. 

Day 1 (Sunday, September 10) started bright and early with a 7am scheduled departure time from our San Luis Obispo office in order to beat L.A. traffic and make it to our first surprise destination on time. "Surprise destination?" you may ask. That's absolutely right! The majority of the trip's plans were kept a secret from most our SoCreate team members. All they knew was that they needed to bring an older change of clothes that they wouldn't mind getting dirty. The rest was a total mystery. 

Once everyone had arrived and our documentary camera crew (who also hit the road with us) was set-up, we packed into two 14-passenger vans and started our trek down to SoCal. 

After about 4 hours of driving and numerous guesses from the team on where we were going, we arrived at our first location: Paintballing at Hollywood Sports Park in Bellflower. 

Armed and ready to go after some quick training, our team took to the field for an exciting (but very warm in the 90 degree weather) game of paintball. It's safe to say the competition was not the only thing heating up out there! After a few games and a few new bruises for some, we turned in our masks and paintball guns and headed back to the nice, air conditioned vans. Who would've guessed our team would be so excited about getting back into the vans for more driving?

Next up was a quick trip to our hotel, Loews Hollywood, located right off of Hollywood Boulevard for some lunch and time to clean up after an intense paintballing session before heading to Secret Destination #2. 

Feeling refueled and refreshed after our short break, we hopped back in the vans and headed south to our next stop: The Quest Factory Escape Rooms in Los Angeles.

Reviewed as one of the best escape room locations in L.A., our team split up into three groups and conquered 4 of the 6 available escape room adventures that The Quest Factory had to offer. The room themes that we played included the horror-themed "Clinic," the pirate-themed "Queen Anne's Revenge," the adventure-themed "Aztec," and the spy-themed "Impossible Mission." Each team had the opportunity to play two rooms of their choice over two hours. We all had a great time, and the escape rooms were the perfect team building exercise. We all had to work together to solve the puzzles if we wanted to escape within the allotted 60 minutes of play time.

With tired minds and hungry stomachs, we headed back up to Hollywood for some dinner at La Velvet Margarita Cantina, known for their funky Gothic atmosphere and delicious Mexican dishes. After dinner, it was back to the hotel for some much needed shut eye before another eventful day on Monday.

The next morning (Monday, September 11) started early once again to make it to our 7:30am breakfast reservation in Beverly Hills, at Nate 'n Al's Delicatessen, a New York style deli known for its occasional Hollywood star spotting. While we didn't spot any famous customers, we sure enjoyed our delicious breakfasts.

Next up on the agenda was our final secret destination: An Open-Top Hollywood Van Tour with Access Hollywood Tours.

With two open-top vans filled with our team and camera crew, we cruised all around Hollywood, seeing the city's most famous sites including:

Once the tour was over, we had some lunch at a great burger place in Hollywood called Stout, and then packed back into the vans for the last leg of our trip.

Final Destination: Electric Go Kart Racing at K1 Speed in Anaheim--a SoCreate team favorite from last year's End of Summer Trip. 

This was the only destination of our trip that was not kept secret from the rest of the team. Helmets, head socks, and seatbelts were securely fastened as our team took off from the starting line and raced 14 laps around the 0.3 mile track.

On your marks, get set, GO! 

After everyone raced together in the initial warm-up race, we split up into two smaller groups to allow for more room on the track during our final two races--a qualifying time trial of 14 laps and a final race, for the big medals, of 16 laps. The top three racers for each heat were awarded with trophies and medals, and took their places at the Winner's Circle for a quick picture. Congratulations to all of our winners! Our software engineering intern, Tim Stoddard took 1st place in the final overall race standings, and our designer, Amber Black, came in the with fastest lap time.

We had an awesome time, and everyone really enjoyed ending the trip on such a fun note! We will be back, K1. 

After a fun-filled two days, we got into the vans one last time and drove back to San Luis Obispo. Back to reality.

The summer of 2017 may be coming to a close, but our team is feeling rejuvenated and excited for all of the great things that the rest of the year has in store here at SoCreate! 

Happy Writing! 


How To Format A Phone Call in Traditional Screenwriting: Scenario 3

You guessed it, we are back for Scenario 3--our final post in the "How To Format A Phone Call in Traditional Screenwriting" series. If you've missed either Scenario 1 or Scenario 2, we encourage you to check them out so you can be sure to get the full scoop on formatting a phone call in your screenplay. 

  • Scenario 1: Only one character is seen and heard.
  • Scenario 2: Both characters are heard, but only one is seen.
  • Scenario 3: Both characters are seen and heard.

So, without further ado...

Scenario 3: Both characters are seen and heard. 

For a phone call scene in which you want your audience to see and hear both participating characters, you will use the intercut tool. defines intercutting as "cut(ting) from one type of shot to another." 

The beauty of this tool is that it eliminates the extra time and space that you and readers would use writing or reading master scene headings. By using an "INTERCUT" slug line, you are also letting the reader know that you are going to be moving quickly back and forth between multiple locations. 

As shown in the example above, you will need to first introduce each of the two scene locations with a master scene heading. Once both locations are introduced, write out the intercut slug line. The following are some acceptable variations:

  • INTERCUT 'CHARACTER 1 LOCATION' / 'CHARACTER 2 LOCATION' (shown in the example above)

Once you have included the intercut slug line, continue on with the dialogue as you would for a normal scene in which both characters are in the same location. 

Pretty simple, right? 

Now that you are equipped with the proper tools, head back over to your computer and start perfecting that phone call scene in your screenplay! ;)


We hope you have enjoyed this blog post series! If you did, be sure to follow our blog and social media pages for more SoCreate "How To's" and company updates!



How To Format a Phone Call in Traditional Screenwriting: Scenario 2

In our last blog post, we introduced the 3 main types of phone calls that you may encounter in a screenplay: 

  • Scenario 1: Only one character is seen and heard. 
  • Scenario 2: Both characters are heard, but only one is seen. 
  • Scenario 3: Both characters are heard and seen. 

In today's post, we will be covering Scenario 2: Both characters are heard, but only one is seen. For more information on Scenario 1, please refer to our previous blog "How To Format a Phone Call in Traditional Screenwriting: Scenario 1."

Scenario 2: Both characters are heard, but only one is seen. 

For this scenario, use the voice-over character extension ("V.O.") for the unseen character, as shown above for Shelly's dialogue. The application of the character extension for voice-over is often confused with the extension for off-screen ("O.S"). The difference between the two lies in the location of the unseen character. You will almost always use "voice-over" for this type of phone conversation.

  • Voice-Over: The character speaking is not in the same location as the character that is visible to the audience. The example above demonstrates this application. Since Shelly is not anywhere in Johnathon's apartment, we use "V.O."
  • Off-Screen: The character speaking is in the same location as the visible character. This extension would be used if Shelly and Johnathon were not on the phone, but rather talking to each other from different parts of Johnathon's apartment (i.e. Shelly talks to Johnathon from the kitchen, while the audience sees Johnathon's reaction and reply on-screen from his bedroom).

Writers may select the voice-over phone call scenario in their screenplay for a variety of reasons including:

  1. The writer is more interested in showing the actions and reactions of the on-screen character. 
    • The example in the infographic above demonstrates this use of the voice-over tool. The writer wants the audience to focus on Johnathon and his reaction to Shelly's acceptance of his date proposal.
  2. The writer wants to keep the identity, location, and/or actions of the character on the other end of the phone call hidden from the audience. 
    • One well-known example of this use of the voice-over tool is the phone conversation between Bryan Mills and Marko from the 2008 action thriller, Taken, right after Bryan discovers his daughter has been kidnapped.

    • (Dialogue by Taken screenwriters, Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.)
    • In this example, the writers hide Marko, the kidnapper's, location and reaction to Bryan's statement from the audience to add to the suspense of the story. 

Be sure to check in for our final post on this "How To" topic later this week.

Like this article? Share it on social media using one of the links below!

Thanks for reading, writers! Until next time. 



How To Format a Phone Call in Traditional Screenwriting: Scenario 1

Formatting a phone call in your screenplay can be tricky. Before you dive in, make sure you have a good grasp on the type of phone call you want to have in your scene and the correct way to format it in traditional screenwriting. 

There are 3 main scenarios for screenplay phone calls: 

  • Scenario 1: Only one character is seen and heard. 
  • Scenario 2: Both characters are heard, but only one is seen. 
  • Scenario 3: Both characters are seen and heard. 

Scenario 1: Only One Character Is Seen and Heard

In traditional screenwriting, a scene with a phone call where only one of the characters is seen and heard is commonly referred to as a one-sided phone conversation. It is best to use this scenario for short phone calls.

There are a few different accepted techniques for formatting these types of phone calls within your screenplay, but they are largely formatted the same as normal character dialogue. Unlike normal dialogue, however, you will want to include beats, pauses, or specific character actions to signify the times where the unseen and unheard character on the other end of the phone is talking.

  • Option 1 (Top Left Infographic Example): Ellipses. This is the best option for one-sided phone call dialogue that does not involve any action or other on-screen character dialogue as it keeps your writing short and clean. Simply place an ellipse (...) at the end of each statement signifying the times when the other person speaks. 
  • Option 2 (Top Right Infographic Example): Parentheticals. Pauses in dialogue can also be represented through the use of parentheticals such as (beat), (listens), or (pause). While still an acceptable option, this tends to take up valuable page real estate within your screenplay.

    Parentheticals are best used for scenarios where the character the audience sees speaking on the phone is also interacting with another on-screen character who is not part of the phone call. They are used here to signify what is said into the phone and what is said to the other on-screen character. Here's an example of a scene that takes place in Johnathon's apartment. He is seen talking on the phone and then to his younger sister, Janet, who is also at the apartment.Option 3 (Bottom Infographic Example): Action Descriptions. Another solution for representing pauses in dialogue is the use of action descriptions if the character is doing something else while on the phone during the time that the unseen/unheard character is speaking. Action descriptions, where appropriate, are nice for breaking up longer blocks of conversation dialogue. Be sure not to use an action description just for the sake of breaking up dialogue. Only include action if it adds to the scene.

Watch for our upcoming blog posts for formatting tips on the two remaining phone call scenarios. Like our posts? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Happy Writing!

The Magic Behind the SoCreate Mural - Anthony Harris

If you have ever visited the SoCreate office, you may know about our awesome wall mural that stands just outside of our conference room, but what most people do NOT know is that it was designed and created by our very own, in-house artist, Anthony Harris!

In today's blog post, we will share Anthony's story including his background in art, the process of designing and painting the SoCreate mural, and a sneak peek into the future art plans for the rest of the office.

For as long as he can remember, Anthony has been interested in art. As a graphic design major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he had the opportunity to explore all aspects of art--including painting, sculpture, and of course, graphic design. Having gained exposure to and experience with a lot of different types of art, Anthony ultimately decided that he wanted to go into the ever-growing industry of web design.

After graduation, Anthony worked a few different jobs before finding his place at SoCreate--joining our team during a very exciting time when projects here were really starting to ramp up. After working on smaller scale, shorter term projects and doing some freelancing work, he found the robust platform projects here, which required more work in terms of both size and scale, extremely refreshing. There was a lot to learn, but he was up for the challenge!

It was not until we moved into our new office that the mural project came up. There was a lot of blank wall space that needed some SoCreate personality. Knowing his background in both design and painting, our CEO, Justin Couto, came to Anthony with the idea for a large mural to fill one of the new walls. Although the SoCreate logo had already been created at this point by our Chief Designer, Brian Treese, Justin left the rest of the project very open-ended for Anthony to have the opportunity to really create something SoUnique.

After their meeting, Anthony went to the drawing board--literally--sketching out the design on paper before moving it to Adobe Illustrator. Anthony then took his first idea and design to Justin, and Justin absolutely loved it. The only thing about the design that was disputed was whether or not any of the SoCreate logo would be covered up by the broken wall. Anthony mentioned that the original design did not have any of the logo cut off, but after his discussion with Justin, they decided together that covering some small pieces gave the design more of a 3-dimensional feel. Teamwork making the dream work at its finest!

Once the design was set, it was off to the paint store for Anthony. In order to get the perfect shade of green, Anthony provided the store with one of our existing flyers which was then placed into a machine that determined the exact mixture ratio for our SoCreate green.

Then came time for the big task--actually making the mural. The paint was bought, the floor was taped, and Anthony was ready to roll on his very first mural ever. To ensure that the overall logo dimensions were done correctly, he made a grid on an 8.5x11" piece of paper, drew the logo, and then copied both the grid and the logo to the wall. Once everything was sketched, Anthony busted out the brushes and started painting.

Overall, the project took Anthony close to 3 months to complete--working 2 days each week on it (1 weekday and 1 weekend) for an estimated grand total of 24, 8-hour days! What a task!

Close to a year after the main mural was completed, Justin came to Anthony again with hopes to add two more smaller murals on the walls of our conference room. Having seen the now completed, original masterpiece, Justin had a bit more direction for Anthony on what he wanted for these two. Using the guidelines provided to him, Anthony free-handed the design for the two, small SoCreate value tablets that now greet our guests and co-workers every day for interviews, company meetings, and many other office events.

These three walls may be done, but we have big plans to cover every wall possible in our office. Anthony and Justin have already started working on some new and exciting ideas! I can't wait to see what's coming next.