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Thursday, January 20, 2011

How Do I Format A Quote At The Beginning Of A Script?

ANOTHER scriptwriting-related question - it's been quite the week for them - but this time, just a kwikkie on format from Wade Glenn, which I realised is not part of The One Stop Shop yet:

I've seen a lot of films end their opening credits sequences with famous quotations that are thematically relevant to the film. I want to do this but I'm wondering:

How do you format this in a script?


If I decide to use it, do I have to mention a credits sequence, or do I just put it somewhere after "FADE IN"?

There's no real "rule" for quotations, though I would not recommend putting them on the title page. Can't say I'm particularly keen on them; a lot of quotes are often rather obscure and/or don't seem to really inform the story, making me wonder why the writer bothers. If the "theme" is not obvious from the telling of the story, will it be obvious from a quote or vice versa? Also seems to me to be more of a director's thing, really. Of the quotes I see, song lyrics win by a country mile, then probably Bible quotes. Both make me groan a bit 'cos they *feel* a bit over-used. Like most things screenwriting-related however, every now and again I see a quote that fit PERFECTLY though and then it really works.

But if you really want to include a quote, there's no reason why you can't. On this basis then I'd recommend putting it on p2, on an otherwise blank page; that's where I see them the most. If using Final Draft, go to Title Page > then scroll down to p2 of the title page, rather than go onto p1 of your *actual* screenplay, if that makes sense.

WHILE I'M HERE: Don't forget, The Format One Stop Shop covers teasers, title pages, copyright symbols, Intercut, VO, flashbacks, scene description and more... Check out this extensive list of the issues I see most frequently on the page and make an informed decision on what (if anything) you want to do about there.


Beaten-By-Quakers said...

Thanks again for answering this for me.

I actually just found an article on that says, "Don't put a second page with the quotation that tells the theme of your screenplay," putting it in the same category as illustrations and fancy fonts.

The site doesn't have an about page, so I don't know the writer's credentials, but it does make me question whether doing so would irritate a reader enough to throw my script into the slush pile as they likely would for the aforementioned other examples.

Lucy V said...

No problem.

I can't answer for *all* readers obviously, but I certainly have never thrown a script out for having a quote on a second page. Personally, I wouldn't get too hung up about it - if a reader is SO easily offended by something tiny like this, I think we have to ask ourselves if we were *ever* really in with a chance of getting a "proper" read? (ie. if it wasn't the positioning of the quote, it's only going to be *something else* - ie. they're looking for an excuse NOT to read your script).

But whilst this sort of thing does happen, I'd wager most readers are not going to be bothered in the slightest AND most worth their salt actually WANT to find good scripts/stories.

But if in doubt, stick it on page 1 above FADE IN, rather than the title page I'd say is your best bet.