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How To Cite A Screenplay

Adam Scott

This article will discuss how to cite a screenplay. And while this is something you should do for a finished screenplay, it’s not that difficult.

I actually do it myself, since I have to teach screenwriting a lot. I don’t mention it in class every day, but I do check my examples and make sure they conform to the standards set forth by professional screenwriters.

Since this is a tutorial, I’m assuming you’re interested in teaching screenwriting. If you’re not interested in doing that, then there’s no point in reading this section.

This is where you need to be very specific. You can’t just list the screenplay on an “Action Editor” page because that’s not the name of the person writing that script.

You need to specify the person’s name and the title of their screenplay.

This usually comes up when I teach a class. When people start mentioning scripts to me, I usually have no idea which one they’re talking about.

I’m not very well versed in screenplay reading.

Instead, I give them a list of the names, with the exact title of the screenplay, so that I can list them as students are about to mention a script.

Note: If you want to show the students a real example of something like this, I recommend finding an old script, and then digging through your personal collection to find the one you’re writing about.

Every example will be different because there is no standard screenplay format. However, since I teach Screenwriting and Screenwriting for Dummies, I’ll stick with those as an example.

ScriptPhoto of person writing on notebook

I’m assuming you’re using Final Draft. (Why Final Draft? Because that’s what I use.)

Now, you have to mention the script in your “Special Notes.” It can either be under Special Notes, Special to the Editor, or Special Notes to the Writer.

My preference is that all three be listed.

Credits

Also, I recommend listing credits. Just list the producers, the writers, the director and the editor, if they exist.

Don’t list the script in its entirety, but show the actor that played the role, and the name of the editor who did the cleaning up of the script.

These names are so crucial that you can usually find them on a page called credits and acknowledgments. This would be where you write in the names of the team, and the screenwriter.

They’ll usually be listed under the headings of the film’s producer and director.

ContributorsCalm diverse men and ethnic woman looking at camera while standing together

At the end of the page, list the names of all contributors. Don’t list all of them.

Just the screenwriters. I recommend numbering them because it’s more likely that the reader will be able to read your name off the page if they’re just scanning through it.

Now, there’s a very famous story about the names of the producers who produced Pulp Fiction, and it’s worth sharing. Apparently, Quentin Tarantino’s agent, Ari Emmanuel, did not like the names that his client was initially going to use, so he put the following ad in Variety, showing the names that he preferred.

It’s hard to read, but they read: “Mr. Robert Tapert, Mr. Roger Birnbaum, Mr. Mark Canton, Mr. Mort Zuckerman and Mr. W. Kent Hhr.”

This is where screenwriters screw up. They put a good name on a bad screenplay.

As long as you’re showing examples from movies that you’ve actually watched, you’ll be fine. As you’ll see below, I have an example that uses the same names, but changed their spellings.

Here’s the interesting thing about this: Once you finish the outline, do a pass through, and then revise the screenplay, you’re going to need to change the names.

Revise your screenplayMan in long sleeve shirt assisting woman

If you’re taking a step-by-step approach to writing, you’ll usually want to use a different name for the character that you’re writing about. For example, say you’re writing a story about a nameless street hustler in Los Angeles.

If you stick with “Jack,” “Chi-chi,” “Dennis,” and “Uncle Mark,” you will come across a name that is very difficult to pronounce, and you won’t have a very memorable character. So you’ll probably change the name.

So, in addition to setting the proper credits, and putting in place the correct screenwriting credits, you also need to revise your screenplay.

There is no formula for how you revise a screenplay. I’ve read a lot of screenwriting books.

Some of them tell you to write the screenplay while reading the novel or the story that you’re adapting. That works for a lot of people.

Some of them say that you should read through the screenplay three times, and then after each read, you should go back and read it out loud. That also works for a lot of people.

Other books tell you to read the screenplay six times, and then when you feel comfortable with the script, you have to revise it.

In practice, I always go in and read through the screenplay with fresh eyes. Sometimes I write notes. Sometimes I do a line-by-line edit.

Sometimes I have my assistant edit it, and then I go through it with fresh eyes.

Basically, the way that I do this is: first I read through the screenplay with a fresh eye. Then I read through it with a line-by-line edit.

After that, I read through it with fresh eyes again.

By reading through the script a few times, you’ll usually find that some scenes need work.

And some scenes will need to be cut entirely.

And the process of doing the revisions is what ultimately determines whether or not a screenwriter is successful.

If you’re lucky, you might be able to edit your screenplay a couple of times, and then pass it off to a professional to edit. I’ve read a lot of screenplays, and I’ve yet to meet a professional editor who could edit my screenplay better than I could.

If you’re not fortunate enough to get an editor, or if you don’t feel comfortable with the thought of spending three days watching and listening to a video that someone you barely know is making about you, then you’ll probably have to start from scratch.

Sometimes, you might just end up making changes to your screenplay that you would make even if you hadn’t received a script assignment.

For example, the following screenplay came to me last year.

It’s called Alpha.

I don’t think that I’ll ever be a good screenwriter, so I’m going to make changes to it as I go along. It’s good to see what your characters look like as you write them.

I don’t think that I’ve written the screenplay in a way that works with the narrative that the screenplay’s narrator is trying to convey. In fact, I’m going to make some of those changes.

If you notice that you’re still making the same mistakes that you’re making right now, then you need to revise your screenplay.

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