The Ultimate Screenplay Format Reference

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Character Introductions

When a character first appears in the script, you can take this opportunity to briefly suggest relevant aspects of his personality - for example by describing how he/she dresses, moves, reacts at that moment. The main characters should definitely be given a few lines of description. This is your opportunity to establish him as the good or bad guy, clumsy or refined, dashing or cautious etc. Lesser characters need less words, some can live without any introduction at all.

At the time of his/her first mentioning in the narrative of a script the character’s name appears in capital letters - like ROCKY, SAM, OLD MAN or PROFESSOR. All following mentionings are done with only the first letter(s) capitalized: Rocky, Sam, Old Man, Professor.

If a character name’s first appearance is in a dialog then it is not capitalized. This is a good way to handle that case:

         What about Jack? I haven’t seen
         him all morning.

                   JACK (O.S.)
         Who mentioned my name?

All eyes turn to the entrance.

JACK (early 30s) - messily dressed, unshaved but
jovial, smashingly handsome - strides to the front and
takes the stand.

         Good morning, everyone. This is
         what we’ll do.

You might also choose to replace the first JACK with MALE VOICE:

         What about Jack? I haven’t seen
         him all morning.

                   MALE VOICE (O.S.)
         Who mentioned my name?

Jack (early 30s) - messily dressed ...


This is not recommended::

         What about JACK? I haven’t seen
         him all morning.

                   JACK (O.S.)
         Who mentioned my name?

Jack (early 30s) - messily dressed ...


Character Names

Names must be given to the major characters and the important minor characters. Characters that appear only shortly may be given names, too. Not giving a name to a character signals the reader to not focus on them. If the function of a character is more important than their individual identity that function can be used to name them: TECHNICIAN, COP 1, COP 2, PROFESSOR etc.

If a character changes his name in the course of the script or if there is a case of mistaken identity the most important issue is to not confuse the reader ( audience = reader ). One way to handle this is to use both names after the change, like in JAKE/BILL or JAKE (BILL).

However, if it is clear to the reader it might be a good idea to use the true name of the character throughout even if he acts under a different name. The Screenwriter’s Bible quotes the script of ‘North by Northwest’ to make that point.

Character Cues

These are the character names that precede the dialog lines, like JACK and MIKE in the examples above.

They are written with all capital letters of size 12 Courier or Courier New fonts.

As specified on the page on screenplay measurements, character cues must start 3.7 inches from the left side of the paper that is 2.7 inches to the right of the left margin (which 1.0 inch from the left side of the paper).


The Screenwriter’s Bible
David Trottier

350 pages

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