Screenplay Format


In Hollywood you pretty much have to use 12-point Courier on your screenplay, even though it may seem weak and hard to read.

Must I really use Courier font?

Even this 'rule' has been broken, and successfully, as all supposed rules in Hollywood have. But for newbies and the faint-of-heart, it's just not worth playing around on this one. You need the readers on your side from the get-go, you want them to be sure you know the game.

This means ONLY Courier 12-point, and nothing else. Not Times Roman, Arial, or Helvetica. Not even a different 'typewriter' style font. Not 10 point, or 14 point, or any other font size, either.

Why only Courier 12-point?

Screenplays used to be written on typewriters, and the standard font was what we call 'Courier' today. By the very nature of typewriter technology, fonts were 'fixed pitch' using the same space for each letter on the page. Because each key was the same width each letter took up the same space on the page, which meant that a string of text typed in one script occupied the same space on the page as another.

Modern word processing technology allows 'proportional spacing', which is why you have to pick a fixed pitch font of the right size to mimic the way typewriters used to do it.

Why does the text have to take up the same space on the page?

Scripts provide a rough page-per-minute onscreen time guide—but only if the text takes up the same amount of space as expected. A page-per-minute estimate from the script gives directors an idea of the length of scenes, and producers a way of estimating cost. Being able to use the number of pages to estimate onscreen time facilitates every step in the production process, actually, helping actors, 'continuity gals', and just about everybody else get a proper handle on the project.

Reviewers of your script get nervous when they see proportionally-spaced fonts being used. They wonder if the writer might have squeezed more into a page—making the movie actually longer than the page total indicates.

What about using fixed pitch fonts other than Courier?

Using different fonts might change the height of your lines, which could change the length of your screenplay, thus messing with page-per-minute estimates. Using stretched-out versions of Courier can mark you as an amateur.

If the letters in the script all are the right height on the page, and take up the same space across the page, all scripts come pretty close to this page-a-minute format. This is even more important in the Hollywood of today where scripts come in from thousands of writers each year, and from all corners of the globe.

Why force us to use such a weak-looking font?

It's just the way it is; an historical relic. But, you might be able to enhance the appearance of your script a bit.

Your printer may be making Courier font look even lighter and sicklier than it normally does. It may seem too thin to read easily. Your operating system version may give you access only to Courier New (or another nonstandard version of Courier) that's taller than the proper font.

One fix is in the copying. Though your script might come out a little light-looking from your laser printer, the copier can give it a slightly darker hue (making it easier to read).

DON'T MAKE IT BOLD IN YOUR DOCUMENT: That's the true mark of a wanna-be. As is setting the copy machine abnormally dark.

Final Draft Courier font.

Another fix is to use the Final Draft Courier font, found in their screenwriting software, one of the two biggest screenwriting software packages used in Hollywood.

Final Draft™ can hardly steer you wrong.

Take care applying other options. The farther afield you venture the fewer are those who can or will follow your approach. You may be able to get your set-up fine tuned, but if you hand your script off electronically you can't predict results at the other end.

REMEMBER: There are no rules in Hollywood--just be sure not break any of 'em.

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