...Like what I did there? Write? Right? Oh, never mind.
I got an interesting question from the lovely Melissa, a previous Bang2write client, over the weekend: how does one format an intro with a narrator voiceover like one in say, The Dark Crystal?
A cursory look on the internet revealed lacklustre results, as did flicking through my trillions of books on format. As you can see from this transcript of the original screenplay, all we have is dialogue! No scene description or even formatting of ANY kind. Whilst it's pretty accurate (hands up who watched it this weekend!! Ok, me...What??), it's not a lot of use to the aspiring screenwriter...
...And this is where the rub is when it comes to format. Looking at scripts online is great for ideas and sites like Script-O-Rama and Simply Scripts are a godsend for getting different versions of what we see in the cinema, but thinking they can be the authority on how to lay out one's script can be foolhardy. After all, we can have no idea what we're seeing: is it a shooting script, maybe or even a transcript off a DVD or Video? If the script of a film that has not yet come out in theatres, is it the "right" version, or one that was discarded? (The number of times I've done this - read it, then watched a different movie with the same name is uncountable!)
So rather than rely solely on scripts like The Dark Crystal's, interesting only as a transcript, I find it works better to actually ask people who have done what you want to achieve. I had this exact problem myself about eighteen months ago when writing my werewolf project Eclipse. I wanted to start with a narration, but not neccessarily have the SAME pictures in the background - just like The Dark Crystal in fact, when the Narrator talks about "The time of Wonder" and fills the audience in about the backstory re: The Crystal, The Shard, The Skeksis and The Mystics and of course, the importance of The Gelfling Jen.
So I made a nuisance of myself. I wrote lots of crap examples and sent them to people I know: is this right?? I got some profane replies and I got ignored, but a couple got back to me, explaining very patiently that no, what I'd written was a load of tripe and had I thought about doing it "this" way? One problem though: the two people who had been kind enough to get back to me gave me two very different examples. What was I do? Which was the "right" one?
They both were.
Someone once told me that Format isn't about being "right", it's about not getting "caught out". In other words, as long as it's NOT TOTALLY, UNBELIEVABLY ALL OVER THE PLACE, or worse, INCREDIBLY DENSE WITH BLACK ALL OVER THE PAGE, then you should be ok: you won't get crucified for it. So the good news is, if you have a transition in the wrong place or TITLE instead of SUPER and it's one of perhaps three mistakes or typos in the entire script, you should be okay.
For example: I was really surprised recently when a script was returned to me with a favourable report, because for some reason when I had bound it, I had gone quite mad and forgot the number 7 existed. I put all the pages with the number 7 in at the back. No kidding. Quite how this happened I have no idea: I can only imagine that Evil Aliens whose mission in life is to sabotage Human Screenwriters took over my body for the duration it took to print out, arrange and bind my script. There is no other explanation (ok, maybe).
However, rather than ridicule me for my ridiculous page order, The Reader wrote:
"I enjoyed the challenge of reading your script...Not least because it was in the weirdest order I've ever seen in my ten years of reading. However, the story, visuals and dialogue are strong, with an intriguing central premise."
Of course they didn't want to make the bloody thing, but they did want another script, so they can't have thought I was completely barking. Or maybe you don't have to be mad to work there, but it helps (GROAN - couldn't resist).
So what am I saying here? Know Format exists, but don't be constricted by it. It can actually help you. But don't get hung up on it. I went through a PHASE when I could barely let go of a script into the postbox JUST IN CASE something was wrong with it. When they came back with rejection letters, I'd see a format error and go, "Oh God! It's because of that!" Actually, now I know it's 'cos all my early work was the product of those same Evil Sabotaging Aliens who wrote really godawful shite to keep me out of the writing market, but I overcome them most of the time now and people actually sometimes like my specs. Even if they don't make them. Damn their hides.