REFORMATTING PREVIOUSLY WRITTEN
but badly formatted screenplays is a sometimes necessary but a distinctly unromantic task. I wrote this template to aid in this repetitive work. It is Freeware written with Microsoft Word in 12-point Courier. Please feel free to pass it on to other filmmakers. For Macs, option+click to download; for PC's, right click.
Paragraph & Format Symbols
After you download this file, if you cannot see four paragraph symbols (¶) between this line and the title above, select "Show ¶" under the VIEW menu, and theyll pop into view. I strongly recommend that you activate this "Show ¶" mode when writing a script. With it activated you will have wealth of format information at your fingertips and will therefore know how to correct a format mistake (more on that, later).
OK, all of us have writen screenplays on a word processor before we knew how to work with anything but the spacebar. So we have these previously written screenplays that we want to correct. Our first task is to get them into Microsoft Word:
Importing a File Written with Another Word Processing Application:
1. Open the Microsoft Word application.
2. Close the blank worksheet.
3. Select "Open" under the FILE menu.
4. Select your file.
5. Open it. It will be converted into a Microsoft Word file.
(You can try this using the file in this Screenplay folder entitled "Screenplay/Exercise/2").
Now that youve opened the file, you neednt feel embarrassed that youve written Grand Stuff formatted littered with tabs and spacebar tracks (no-nos). See how full of tabs the following screenplay excerpt is (the script starts on page 3).
Now you see tab and paragraph symbols just littering the script. You must get rid of these symbols to apply the pre-programmed screenplay format to the script. You could go through the entire script, select and delete all these symbols by hand. 120 pages worth.
That would take forever. So, let the computer do the work.
Cleaning Up the Script
Important: always work on a copy of your script because ridding it of pre-existing formats is risky business. To do this:
1. Close this file and select "Quit" under the FILE menu.
2. At the desktop level, select the file and select "Duplicate" under the FILE menu.
3. Select and reopen the copy.
When cleaning scripts always save the file before making changes. The reason: sometimes you do a global replace and screw up the script so badly that you cant fix it.
When this catastrophe happens:
1. Do not save the mess!
2. Close the file. When the Dialogue Box asks "Save Changes before Closing?", click "No", and close.
3. Open the file again. It will open onto the last good save.
Now, in the following script the goal is to rid ourselves of all pre-existing formats so we can then apply correct, automatic formatting to it. Start with ridding ourselves of the all the pairs of tabs (right-pointing arrows) at the left margin.
1. Save the file.
2. Select "Replace" under the EDIT menu.
3. In the "Find What" Box, pull down the "Special" menu to "Tab Marker. Release the mouse.
4. A "carrot-t" will be inserted in the "Find What" space.
6. In the "Replace With" box, click once at the left margin.
7. Press "Replace All".
If youve done it right all tabs at the left margin are now removed. If so, save this version.
So thats a taste of search and replace.
Youre now ready to access the short but complete tutor on how to do this stuff:
1. Select "Help" under the WINDOW menu.
2. Scroll to "Finding and Replacing Text" and select it.
3. Scroll to "Finding and Replacing Text or Formats", then to "Specifying a Special Character as Search or Replacement Text".
4. Read both and learn.
Then practice search-and-replace on the following fragment from one of my screenplays until every line lies at the left hand margin, single-spaced:
EXT. COCHISE - NIGHT - CHIEF'S DINER
at the top of a small rise. It is a greasy spoon with an
Indianhead sign proclaiming in huge hand-painted letters "CHIEFS--HEAP'IN GOOD FOOD!" We hear MEXICAN RADIO PROGRAM.
We hear Pearl open the door and get out.
Fake some sleep.
The door SLAMS shut. We hear the sound of Pearl's FOOTSTEPS on gravel, receeding .
"We driving people that ain't ours
on roads we ain't suppose to be on
and we can't stop for gas 'cause we
don't look right."
So how we suppose to ask for help?
INT. CHIEF'S DINER - PEARL
stops at the entrance.
REGULARS at the counter slowly turn to look. Pearl hesitates.....
then walks across the diner to the counter, hesitates.....
and sits down. WAITRESS, wizened and gum-chewing, approaches with coffee pot.
Are you a sight for sore eyes, honey!
First person of the woman-type persuasion
I seen all day.
Pearl looks around her at the two other women in the diner.
Them? They live here.
Say, can anybody--
You want coffee, honey?
Here or to go?
Waitress pours a Dixie cup of black coffee.
Can anybody around here fix--
How you take it, honey?
Your coffee. How you take it.
Cream, sugar, black?
Waitress puts a lid on the Dixie cup.
I'll bet that's the way your boyfriend
like it, don't he.
Waitress serves the coffee.
Pearl looks up sharply.
That's the way it is. Father, brother,
boy friend. We take it the way they like
it, honey. You want sugar?
Look, me and my friends got a car
out in the lot and the engine's running
kinda hot. You got anybody here know
how to look under a hood?
Waitress scans the diner and then calls to an old man, HECTOR, asleep at a table.
(shouts to HECTOR)
Hey, Hector! Wake up! Get up!
A FARMER shakes HECTOR awake. He wears an Army cap.
Morning, General! Look! We got a lady
here for you!
HECTOR rises like an old unsteady dog to the scent.
You going to put your greasy old fingers
into something useful for a change!
LAUGHTER. HECTOR stops, confused, unsteady.
SMASH CUT TO:
EXT. COCHISE/HIGHWAY - NIGHT - CADILLAC
drives out of the town of Cochise and into the desert.
INT. CADILLAC DRIVING - NIGHT - PEARL, B.J. AND MINNIE
B.J. and Minnie rise up from under a blanket in the back seat. Pearl takes off her wig.
Okay. Haul them out.
B.J. pulls the back seat forward.
Hey, guys, we're clear!
Helmut and Heinz crawl out stiffly.
We are so very cold! We thought the old
man would never finish!
Jeez, we even got tired faking sleep.
What time is it?
One-thirty. We got at most an hour and
a half before we got to drop you guys off
and turn back. Give them the coffee.
The engine's not so hot, now. So far, so good!
Wait before we clap, okay?
EXT. SERIES OF LONG SHOTS - NIGHT - HIGHWAY - CADILLAC
A Cadillac driving through desert.
B) Cadillac driving into small town.
C) Cadillac driving by closed gas station and Indian gift shop.
D) Cadillac driving out of small town and into the desert. The dust raised by the car swirls around CAMERA which pans up into the sky.
EXT. SERIES OF LONG SHOTS - NIGHT - SKY
A) Stars and comets.
Fade up on the sound of WIND.
B) Sky framed by mountains at lower edge of frame.
We hear the sound of the MOTOR passing by.
C) Identical sky framed by identical mountains at lower edge of frame. GLOW of sun rising behind the mountains. We hear the sound of the MOTOR slowing.
INT. CADILLAC - DAWN - PEARL, MINNIE, B.J., HELMUT, HEINZ
The Cadillac parks on the bumpy shoulder of the highway.
Pearl turns the MOTOR off.
Well, this is it. We gone too far already.
B.J. wraps a map, sandwiches and two dollars in a towel.
B.J. hands him the packet
If we had more we'd give it.
Helmut takes packet, opens the door and pulls Heinz out with him.
We go to Mexico now.
AD LIB goodbye's. Pearl says nothing. The men slowly leave, walking backwards.
(slowly; to MINNIE)
You drive, will you?
EXT. SERIES OF LONG SHOTS - ROAD - LATE AFTERNOON - HELMUT AND HEINZ
walk along a country road.