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Film script: what is the proper structure?

Do you have a toothy grin, a pounding heart, goosebumps, or even tears in your eyes while watching a movie? Know that it is because, behind these few hours full of emotions, there are people who spend sleepless nights.

A film is not made with a wave of a magic wand. It requires a lot of intelligence, strength, courage, patience, and creativity. But it all starts with the “script.” Don’t know what it is? Let’s go figure it out together and learn the proper structure to use. You won’t be sorry!

The script, what is it?

In film, the script comes from the term “shooting script.” This is also called “technical cut.” The producer and director Thomas HARPER INCE introduced his universal structure in 1910. This document brings together the setting, the dialogue between the characters, the story’s narration and all the valuable information for making the film.

The author writes the fruit of his imagination, more often on paper than on the screen, like a novel. The script is this document. This is the critical piece of the puzzle. It’s a movie but in writing. And in this script, the weather, the environment, the characters, the gestures, the moods, the colors… absolutely every smallest detail is described.

It is for this reason that many screenwriters choose to adapt fictional works into screenplays because they are two works written of the same caliber. You will indeed say to yourself: “Then it is the same as the scenario!” Well no! They are almost different things.

Precisely, unlike the scenario, the screenplay contains all the ideas of the author. This is the written version of the story in the film. Whereas the screenplay is the medium through which the screenwriter intends to project these ideas onto the screen. This is the act of playing the content of this script. Using the author’s instructions, the screenwriter looks for all the elements (actors, costumes, setting, etc.) to adapt the story to a film.

However, all scenarios used t o be screenplays, but not all are meant to be adapted into screenplays. Some scripts are intended for other uses. This is especially the case for journalistic and advertising scripts, etc.

Vintage typewriter on wooden table in home office

The Script: its structure

A good scenario is judged on the quality of the script. This is why the writer must be rigorous and persuasive in the form and content of the technical outline. Here are the elements that should be included in a script:

The movie title

Although the names of the actors accompanying the title are still unknown, the film’s title must appear prominently on the script’s first page. The author must be more than creative in the choice of the title since the latter should summarize the story. That said, the title may change depending on the preferences of the writer or director as they may find more suitable titles.

The prologue

The prologue is a non-mandatory element. This is mainly found in old movies, especially those about mythologies, religions, etc. A voice-over interprets these sentences to give an overview of the story. The narrator says this before the film begins. It aims to clarify past events that may cause viewers to get stuck or misunderstand the context while watching. The prologue also introduces the characters, the narrative, and the historical setting. However, it must be very short because the length runs the risk of boring the spectators and inflating the production price. Note that a film that begins with a prologue must end with an epilogue.

The stage directions

Directions are paragraphs written by the writer for the director. It contains information that the lines do not reveal: the decor, the facial expressions of the actors, the behavior of the characters, the styles of clothing, the moods, etc.

You can see two types of stage directions:

  • The initial stage directions : The writer writes the initial stage directions after the title of the film. They reveal the locations and the list of characters. They can also display the age of the characters, the places, and the time of the actions.
  • Functional stage directions: Functional stage directions are placed before each clue. To indicate in the dialogue who is speaking and who is responding. Like the initial stage directions, they can describe information about these characters.


The dialogues

The dialogues dominate most of the script because, except for the unspoken passages, the actors talk with each other. And in some cases, a character communicates on its own. It’s always a dialogue. All dialogues have a purpose. Each character expresses himself with registers adapted to his age and environment. The lines should also be short and precise to facilitate the spectators’ understanding.

The story

In a screenplay, the author divides the unfolding of the story into three acts:

  • In the first act, the author introduces the setting and differentiates between the main character and the other characters in the film. This first part is finalized by “the dramatic knot,” an obstacle that will give the main character the motivation to continue the story.
  • The second act is what is called “the climax.” This is where the main character meets all the elements that will help him overcome the obstacle. Friends, enemies, hardships, etc. This part is the longest in the film.
  • The third act is concise. This is called “the resolution.” Here the protagonist goes through a final test. A test he can win and also fails.


All films follow this structure. You can check it in all the movies produced by MARVEL! Let’s not go far.

The Script: who writes it?

To write a script, you must have a light pen. So anyone can do it. You too!

All you need is a head overflowing with ideas and imagination. You can then look for a screenwriter who will adapt the scenario into a screenplay. And once the script is done, if you want your story to come out on the screen, you look for a director.

Or else, the trend these days, you can sell the script. Therefore, if you want to be successful with your screenplay, you need the following tips:

  • Use current language
  • Put emotion into your writing
  • Has a sense of humor
  • Be clear and brief


In short, make the story exciting to read, unique and rewarding!

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