So you got your sweet computer and powerful laser printer and you're ready to start cranking out your masterpiece. What is the proper screenplay format? What is a finished screenplay supposed to look like?
If you're looking how to type your screenplay, look here to learn the most important secret on what the pages of a screenplay are supposed to look like.
So let's start with the paper. It's a known fact that when script readers look at the stack of screenplays they need to read, the fattest looking screenplays are probably not going to get read. Therefore you need to use the thinnest paper you can find. You might think your baby needs to be dressed up with ultra-high quality, substantial feeling paper. Dumb idea.
As I've said, people in Hollywood HATE to read screenplays. They are looking for any reason to not have to read your script which is why the screenplay format and the overall look of your script is so cruelly scrutinized. If it doesn't look like how it's supposed to look like, some cranky Hollywood script reader is going to put it on the bottom of the stack.
And chances are that as more screenplays are brought in, your big, fat screenplay is likely to stay on the bottom. The standard cut off for the amount of pages a screenplay is allowed is 120 pages. If you have gone over that even by a few pages, you can trick a reader into picking it up as long as the script as a whole looks thin.
Try to find the cheapest paper you can still get through your laser printer without jamming it up. Then buy it by the box because you're going to use reams of it as you start mailing and passing out scripts to everyone you can find.
Next, you're going to need a hole punch (unless you can find pre-punched paper that doesn't jam up your printer). The one I use is the CARL 40-Sheet capacity heavy-duty 3-hole steel punch. This monster can pop through a fat stack of paper like it's butter and I've never been able to jam it. The great thing is that the more paper you can punch at once, the less jagged your script looks. You'll be happy you spent the extra couple bucks.
What about double-sided printing? This is becoming more and more acceptable. It makes your script look smaller. It's easier for executives to carry around and it saves a few branches off of a tree. The verdict: it's OK, but only do it if your laser printer handles double sided printing in an easy and logical way. Otherwise, don't rock the boat.
Let's talk about screenplay binding and how it's adds to the proper screenplay format. The standard way pros put their screenplay together is with Acco solid brass 1.25 inch fasteners. Everyone does it this way. It's how it's always been done. Don't make a statement. Conformity in this case, gets you further than anything else you can do.
Some people use the screw-and-post things. I think these look great. They don't get caught on everything. It makes the whole script feel solid and easier to read. I like them. The problem is that every script I've ever read that has them has sucked. This is a totally arbitrary judgement, but I'm probably not the only one coming to this conclusion. As I said: pros use ACCO fasteners. Do yourself a favor and make your screenplay format look professional.
Pictures on screenplays
Let's look at the final component in the screenplay format: the cover. Rule #1 (and the most IMPORTANT rule!) Your final screenplay should never ever EVER have any kind of picture on it.
That one is so important that I will repeat it: NO F@$%ing PICTURES ON YOUR SCRIPT!
The script should have card stock covers on the front and back. More and more often, I have seen these in various colors. It seems that Hollywood is coming around to color cover scripts. The fact remains that professional writers (i.e. paid writers) all use some kind of white, off-white, or cream color for the cover of their finished screenplays. I gotta say, look as professional as you can. Stay in the lighter realms and you won't look out of place with the masters.
Hollywood is all about appearances
Make sure you make the best (and safest) looking appearance you can. It's better not to have the look of your script stand out. Instead, your writing should say everything it needs to get noticed. If you keep all of these screenplay format rules and tips in mind, you won't get your script thrown in the trash before someone actually has the chance to fall in love with it.