Film is a visual medium (art). As such, it is the film writer's job to effectively describe the setting, characters, actions, and create a tone with his/her description using effective diction (word choice) and just plain, good writing that shows a scene rather than tells us.
A well-written script creates in the mind of the reader the experience of watching a movie. To that end, you must describe settings, characters, images, sounds, actions, and speech (dialogue) in such a way that the scenes appear as they would on a screen. You've got to see the picture in your mind, then describe it!
Before you tell us what actions take place in the scene, it’s a good idea to focus on the setting. The first time we see a particular setting, describe it. Insert a blank line to separate this description from the action that follows.
Make the description kinetic and visual, but succinct and specific. Replace passive verbs (e.g. “is”) with active verbs to make the action more dynamic. Use active verbs! (see the list at the link for examples...and you can use them for your resume as well...)
Ex. Hideous: the man shuffles along the sidewalk, as though one leg is shorter than the other. His fetid breath puffs out in small grey clouds of vapor as his cracked and blood-crusted lips part. A blackened and swollen tongue darts over the dry lips and we see his mouth gape open wide, wider, wider--a string of viscous drool dangles for a moment. Then we see the rows of shark-like teeth, jagged and sharp as he lurches forward to bite a shiny red apple. We hear the crunch and gurgle of the fruit as it slides down his esophagus.While I'm overdoing it there, the trick is to describe characters, actions, scenes, etc. visually, aurally, and, if possible, kinetically, or gustatorily or with olfactory imagery.
Such camera directions as “PAN TO,” “DOLLY IN,” and “CRANE UP” should be used sparingly. No director wants the writer to tell him how to move the camera. It’s possible to convey the shot you envision simply by describing the scene in a manner that leads the mind’s eye of the reader. That means describing in details what the camera does:
ex. We move past the tent flap and into the crowded arena, tracing a jagged path through the party-goers and revelers until we settle on the rosy-cheeked face of our protagonist, Shelley the Elephant Girl.
- NEVER center the character cues! It may look cool, but it actually makes the script harder to read.
- Don’t place a colon after a character cue. While some published stage plays may have colons after their cues, this is incorrect in screenplays.
- It’s not necessary to use both the first and last names. Leads generally go by their first names.
- Acting notes (use sparingly) usually appear at 2.5" (5 TABS)
- Dialogue appears at 2" (4 TABS). All dialogue should start or carry over at 2".
- Most importantly, keep your spacing/formatting consistent. A little error of .5" (1 standard TAB stroke) will not destroy the world. If your lines and formatting are all over the place, then you appear careless, ignorant, or just plain wrong.
After viewing this, it's your turn to start writing your film based on your film treatment. If you wrote your treatment with a lot of detail, you can use the treatment as a guide by breaking your treatment into the 3 important components of a film script: the sluglines, the description of the action, and the dialogue.