TV Scripts



Writing TV scripts of course has much in common with writing scripts for movie productions. There are, however, some fundamental differences between the two. If you're going to write TV scripts, you'll need to understand the difference between movie and television production scripts.

Movies don't have to be concerned with allowing breaks for commercials. The usual television program does. So there need to be strategic breaks in the television script you write where these can be fitted in. But these breaks need to be "natural seeming", too.

Another difference between the television and big-screen film is that movies will have more total story time than most television shows. When you write a television script, therefore, you have to be more concise than with what you can get away with in the movies. Every little scene change, perspective, and word of dialogue has to flow.

That's not to say writing movie scripts doesn't require great attention to every detail of what's in them, mind you. But movie scripts are better likened to novels, while television scripts are better likened to short stories.

Many times, too, there is a budget difference. Big movie productions can afford way more in scenery change, computer graphics, and filming time than television productions. TV films are going to be more constrained by time and place considerations, and your script must reflect this.

Finally, this leads to the greatest difference between television and movie scripts: the dialogue flow. Movies have much more space available for non-verbal communications and longer scenes without speech.

Television scripts, by contrast, must include almost continuous dialogue to tell their story. This means that when it comes to TV films, one page of the script should equally approximately one minute of action.

When it comes to the technical aspect of writing TV scripts, there's much to know about proper structure, formatting, and "lingo". You should read as many TV scripts as you can get your hands on to learn about the directions, "the business", slug lines, correct measurements of margins and spacing, and so on and so forth.

But basically speaking, the layout for television films is the same for movie screenplays.

*Type the script on only one side of the paper.*The fonts to use are Courier or Prestige Pica, in 12-point.*Double-space the script.*Use generous margins to allow ease of reading and ease of making written notations on personal copy.

*Page numbers go in the upper right hand corner starting with page 2.

Below is an excerpt from the opening scene of the made-for-TV movie "Actual Innocence", a teleplay by Kathleen and Christopher Riley based upon a true story which novelist John Grisham wrote about in his first non-fiction book 'An Innocent Man'. Please note that a made-for-TV movie is a little more like a big-screen movie, but the basic differences between the two still hold true.

FADE IN:

A JURY BOX

Twelve prospective jurors. Serious. Sober. Midwest

simple.

JUDGE JONES (O.S.)

The defendant is charged with

murder in the first degree. If

you find beyond a reasonable doubt

that the defendant is guilty, can

you consider each punishment,

death, imprisonment for life

without parole, or imprisonment

for life? Mrs. Abbott?

ABBOTT

I couldn't consider death. I

could consider life without parole

and life.

JUDGE JONES (O.S.)

Mrs. Lee?

LEE

I think I can.

JUDGE JONES (O.S.)

Mr. Ballard?

BALLARD

I feel the same way about it.

JUDGE JONES (O.S.)

Mr. Mann?

MANN

Yes.

JUDGE JONES (O.S.)

Mr. Likowski?

LIKOWSKI

I feel the same.

JUDGE JONES (O.S.)

Okay. Now, you feel the same as

who?

LIKOWSKI

Yes.

JUDGE JONES (O.S.)

You could consider each possible

punishment?

LIKOWSKI

Right.

JUDGE JONES (O.S.)

Mrs. Flowers?

FLOWERS

If there's no doubt in my mind I

could do all three of those.

JUDGE JONES (O.S.)

No reasonable doubt?

FLOWERS

No reasonable doubt.



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