Filmmaking Basics/Formatting the Script

This school is:
Wikiversity Film School - Narrative film production
This course is:
The basics of narrative filmmaking
This lesson is:
Formatting the script
Pages of this lesson:
Page 1 - Lesson summary & the story
Page 2 - Analyze the story
Page 3 - Learn Final Draft
Page 4 - Type the script
Conclusion - Is it perfect?

Quick summary of the entire script-formatting lesson for speed readers

Things to do

Here are the steps for this lesson:

  1. Download the free demo version of Final Draft or the free beta version of CeltX which is not as educational as the free demo version of Final Draft but will work with Linux.
  2. Learn to use the program.
  3. Read the story (below right).
  4. Type the story as a movie script (not television script) using Final Draft (free demo) or, if you must, CeltX.

Note: Script formatting is only for dramatic motion pictures,
not for documentaries, event video, educational programs, or multimedia.
If you want to edit videos of your kids or create 'How to" videos, this is the wrong course.

Analyze the story and format the movie script using a script formatting program

For the first lesson of this course, you are given a short story and you are told to format the story into the proper format for a motion picture script.

A golden opportunity - Final Draft FREE demo version
Now is an excellent time to learn script formatting. This is a task that people do every day in Hollywood so this lesson give you excellent practice.
A wonderful tool
You can download a free yet working demo version of Final Draft which is a script typing and script formatting program. This is the ideal program for learning script formatting. There are versions for both the Macintosh and Windows.
CeltX - An interesting alternative
if you cannot use Final Draft, you can download a free program called CeltX and the manual. It is free, and it works on Linux as well as Macintosh and Windows. Final Draft does not work with Linux.

Why such a simple story?

This is an extremely simple story. It seems trivial. You say, "I want something more challenging!"
I have heard this a thousand times from beginning filmmakers. Filmmaking looks so easy.
Wrong! This movie will be anything but easy. By the time we turn this simple script into a motion picture, this tiny movie will require a huge amount of effort. Filmmaking is never as simple as it looks. With this very simple scene, you will have the opportunity to do it all.

The steps of this lesson

1. Look at the story
To the right, you see the story for "Seduced by the Dark Side!". Even though this is a very short story, it still needs proper formatting because this movie will be worked on by hundreds of people. Everyone in Hollywood expects to see your script typed in the proper format.
2. Identify the elements
On page 2 , you see how the story is broken down into the different elements such as CHARACTER and DIALOG. Before you turn to this page, think about what elements of the story are needed for the script.
3. Download and learn to use Final Draft demo version
On page 3, you get a brief introduction to Final Draft. Final Draft is both a very professional program with lots of features and a simple typing program. First, you need to learn all the elements of a formatted script. Your second step is to learn how to navigate inside of Final Draft.
Important: Even though Final Draft has a tutorial, you will learn navigation mostly by trial and error using the TAB and the RETURN keys.
4. Typing the script - Line by Line
On page 4, you are shown all the steps of typing this script using Final Draft. Try doing this without looking. If you have studied the script and learned how to format using Final Draft, you should not need to read this page… but I include it just in case.

Your Assignment

  • Submit a PDF file with the completed script formatted in proper format for a motion picture. (With the Macintosh OS X, you simply as to print the page using the PDF option.) If you have CeltX, you can submit the CeltX project file. Your instructor's email address is "r_elliott at".
  • The title page in Final Draft will print automatically when you print your script so don't forget to select the Title under the Document menu and fill in all the info for the title page.

There is a bug in Final Draft!

Title Page BUG in Final Draft

  • Warning: There is a bug in Final Draft.
The title page will not print correctly to PDF in some cases. You have to follow a special procedure.
To type the title page, select TITLE PAGE from the DOCUMENT menu. A special window appears. When finished, all the "(WORDS)" should be replaced with your information. No brackets should appear in the actual title page.
Final Draft does not remember the information on the title page until you close the title page window. After you close the title page window, save your project (SAVE AS...).
Then open the title page again to see if the information is still there. (I always save a copy of all the text from the title page in TextEdit or my word processing program, just in case.)
Now you can use SAVE AS PDF in the FILE menu to create the PDF version which you will send to me.

Here is the story!

"Seduced by the Dark Side!"

An old (yet wise) person and a young (but curious) person are outside a movie theater where they have just seen the movie "Star Wars". Now they stand looking at the movie poster on the wall outside the theater.

The younger person says, "That was a great movie... but I don't understand one thing." The older person says, "Hum, what's that?". The young person says, "I don't understand how anyone can be 'seduced by the dark side'".

The older person thinks for a while and then answers, "What computer do you use at home?"

The young person immediately responds eagerly, "A Macintosh."

Then the older person slowly says, "But what computer does your father use at work?"

The young person thinks for a while and then smiles in amazement, exclaiming loudly, "Seduced by the Dark Side!"

The older person smiles knowingly at the young person. The young person is very happy knowing he has just learned a very important lesson. Now the two have formed a bond that will last a lifetime.

They begin walking slowly home together.

The End

Things to Read

The Tutorial

  • Skim the tutorial for Final Draft which is located in the Final Draft folder. Most of the content is for advanced users so you will not need this.

Optional Readings

Optional References

Want more practice?

There is another course which shows how high school drama departments can create motion pictures as part of their class. See Course:Basic Filmmaking for High School Drama Departments. These are short movies which can be filmed on the stage set for the school play.

Please write a 5-minute motion picture script and, of course, format the script just as you did in this lesson.

The Next Page

Continue this lesson on Page 2 - Analyze the Story

Contact your instructor

Your instructor for this filmmaking class is Robert Elliott. You can email me by clicking here.