You may have heard that Sofia's Diary has been picked up by Channel 5, which is exciting, and it's great that the show is doing so well (will keep you posted on any developments, natch). Before the show started on Bebo, I wrote the pilot in a Microsoft Word document (don't think the producers had Final Draft) and pretty much made up my own formatting, even doing it in Arial pt 12 instead of Courier. Like, I'm so me, y'know? Despite this, it did actually look like a script (honest), which is obviously the most important.
Anyway, it made me think of this post about formatting from around this time last year. Go direct to the source if you want to check out some of the comments. Below is the post in full. And click here if you'd like to see a follow up post about using and formatting various techniques (freeze frame, voice over etc). See you on the flip flop.
A lot of people get hung up about format. Courier pt12. The right margins. Which screenwriting software to use. And so on. There's no need to get stressed about it. Relax. As long as it looks like a script and smells like a script, it probably is a script. Only the bad ones smell, mind. The point is that only the most pedantic of readers is going to reject your script based on the formatting alone. There may be a few misplaced parenthicals or an action line may find its way into the dialogue space - and just how do you format a montage? - but if the script is 90% okay, then you should be in the all clear.
If you're still unsure about format, don't sweat. Look back at what you've written. Is it easy to follow? Does it all make sense? For the flashbacks/intercuts/montage/telephone call, have you taken the reader 'out of the story' because you've formatted it to death. If the reader can read the script and follow the action, then no problem, job done. A script needs to look like a script but after that, it's going to be something that's riddled with formatting errors to make a reader's blood boil. Lucy has some good thoughts on the matter, here.
Someone emailed me a while ago, asking about format. Here's the skinny:-
I've just bought First Draft and I am a bit confused. If you are au fait with the software could you advise me on the following:
1. What template should I use for a BBC returning drama series?
Normal screenplay format is the best to use, especially for spec scripts, even if they are intended for the Beeb.
2. Should I put 'Scene' and the scene numbers i.e. 1, 2 etc at the end of each scene or should I just indicate a transition by putting int/ext, and time etc followed by action.
The usual scene headings such as INT. OFFICE. DAY will suffice, no need to put Scene or scene numbers.
3. Should I write 'cut to' at the end of each scene/transition?
You can if you want. Up to you (I don't, unless I want to make an emphasis about what I'm cutting to).
4. At the end of each scene/transition should I let the script carry on or should I start a new page after each new scene heading?
In normal screenplay format, let the script carry on, don't start a new page after each scene.
5. OR should I just try and use Script Smart?
I've never used Script Smart (the above link tells you everything you need to know). Final Draft software is widely regarded as the format to use, and the Beeb don't mind. They can reformat scripts into their own templates if necessary (once you're working on an actual series, say). There is lots of good software you can use, some for free, but you can easily set up a screenwriting template on MS Word.