How to Write a Spec Script

All movies start with a screenplay. Many of which start as spec script. A spec script is a screenplay written with the hopes that a production company will turn the script into a movie. In many cases, the spec script itself doesn't sell, but the quality of the writing can lead an agent or producers to offer the script's author a writing job to another screenplay. Here's how to write a spec script that could result in a movie deal for you.

First, write a treatment or outline your script. The outline doesn't have to be detailed. Numbered steps touching on all the major plot points will do. Having the story laid out before you begin makes it easier to focus on the details. Many writers outline with index cards so that they can be easily rearranged to accommodate the story as the script develops.

Focus on the storytelling. You should never include scene numbering or shot calls or any other type of breakdown information in a spec script. Those elements are reserved for a shooting script. A spec script should never stray from the story or try to describe how to film the story.

Format a spec script as you would format any type of movie script. Scene headings, action, and dialogue are the key elements to focus on. Write only what you can see and hear. Write action elements in present tense, as it takes place. You can't see what a character is thinking or what they feel, so you have to find a way to show it on the screen. Always focus on visual elements.

Use proper script format. Dedicated screenplay software handles the repetitive formatting for you, allowing you to focus on writing. Movie Magic Screenwriter and Final Draft are the leading screenplay programs on the market. You can also use Celtx, which is free, or one of the online screenwriting sites that offer the same power and versatility of stand-alone screenwriting software (see Resources).

Bind your screenplay between two pieces of cover stock in white, blue or black. Use a three-hole punch and three 1-1/4 inch brads. Do not write anything on the cover. Include the title of the script and all contact information on the cover page of the screenplay itself.

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