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Hollywood Standard, the 2nd Edition: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style (Hollywood Standard: The Complete & Authoritative Guide to) Paperback – 1 Sep 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions; 2nd Revised edition edition (1 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932907637
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932907636
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 1.4 x 27.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 321,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
This is the classic screenplay format developed over decades of Hollywood history. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Clark on 28 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
The review below from Matthew Terry is very informative and exhaustive, although it refers to the 1st edition (2006), so I thought I'd write a brief review for this, the most recent edition (2009), having used it to write my own first feature film (I 'won' it in class at BU from Kathie Fong Yoneda, a Hollywood veteran :) ).

Although I'm a Brit the feature film script format is consistent on both sides of the pond - basically, if you want to write commercially viable films (basically any film with a significant audience/market, not just 'Transformers' etc) and be a professional writer, this guide is definitely a must: YOU WILL NOT GET YOUR SCRIPT READ IF IT IS NOT PROPERLY FORMATTED!

A script reader working for a producer will most likely not even bother to read your script if it is not professionally formatted and laid out, even if you've written the best story ever told. No exaggeration.

A few comments on the aforementioned review for the previous edition. Firstly, yes, an early chapter is on 'Shot Headings' and details all the many possibilities. However the author does state that:

"If you have a COMPELLING reason to use one of these shots, this section tells you how to do so in a professional, time-honored manner. However, the FUNDAMENTAL RULE STANDS: Use as FEW SHOT HEADINGS AS POSSIBLE, and keep them as SIMPLE as you can."

Including shot headings such as 'Close Up' or 'Aerial Shot' are clearly what or how a director would determine once they've either come on board a project and are working out how to visualise it, or alternatively they have written their own script and intend to direct it themselves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter on 13 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think it's impossible to write a complete guide to every new type of contemporary script format considering it changes all the time... but this comes very close. A very useful book! Money well spent!
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By maryamandjam on 3 May 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am very happy to have this book for my work. It discusses the rules in very clear fashion and uses examples that are very helpful.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 83 reviews
93 of 103 people found the following review helpful
Complete and Authoritative? I don't know... Still good, though. 12 April 2006
By Matthew Terry - Published on
Format: Paperback
I can tell you right off that I was pre-disposed to love this book. If the only constant I've had to deal with year-in/year-out with screenwriters it is about format: What is right, what is wrong? (CONT'D) or no (CONT'D)? What about (beats) and actions within dialogue, etc.? So when this book landed on my desk I dove in like a child in front of a gift laden Christmas Tree on Christmas morning.

Now, to call your work a "COMPLETE & AUTHORITATIVE GUIDE" is a bit of a risk one may (or may not) want to take. What, exactly, does that mean. IS it "Complete and Authoritative?"

Frankly? No. I still had questions afterward that the book did not answer. I also feared that the book could, possibly, do more harm than good.

Now, before I sound like the kid who only got socks on Christmas morning, let me tell you about the good. The good is that the book is VERY thorough in its subject matter and it runs the gamut of both screenplays and teleplays. It's a fast read and clear and concise. Mr. Riley does create a text book/reference book for the masses that answers most of your questions. It IS a book that one may need to pull off a shelf for a quick answer to a question.

What the book also does very well is give you many examples of both good and bad formatting. Do this - don't do that. Write this - don't write that. There are a number of areas where a person should not have to question which is the right way or wrong way to do something - and this book is clear on many points and, perhaps, TOO clear.

Now, for the socks under the Christmas tree. What do I mean by TOO clear? Well - Mr. Riley does a credible job of differentiating between a Spec Script and a Production Script - but he starts the book dealing with camera angles. I had issues with this. Why? Everything I have always heard, and read, (and Mr. Riley confirms) is that most spec scripts are to NOT HAVE many camera angles - to leave that up to the director. But when chapter two is devoted to: `Tracking shot, hand held shot, med. shot, insert, wide, two and three shot, etc.' I was suddenly questioning my own way of writing: "Holy sh** have I been doing this wrong all this time?" After 17 screenplays and 10 years of teaching? Am I supposed to be including these? Again, later, in two sentences Mr. Riley states: "But when there is no compelling reason to specify a particular type of shot, don't. Leave it to the director." (This was in a large paragraph but in defense of Mr. Riley - he DID put it in bold.) This is important, though and should have been highlighted more - or I fear there are going to be a number of spec scripts cluttered with MED. SHOT HUEY AND LOUIE.

Here is an example of the above: I gave the book to a screenwriter I know to look at something and she turned to me a little while later and exclaimed: "WOW! THIS BOOK IS FANTASTIC!" About a half-hour after that she was in my face going: "What does this mean? I don't understand? Am I SUPPOSED to be doing this? What about this? I'm really confused." Granted, she went out that night and bought the book but, still I think it could have been handled better. How? By doing a quick break down of what is expected out of a "Spec Script" for a first time writer and a "Produced Script."

Another sock under the tree was the point that Mr. Riley made about (CONT'D) following dialogue that is broken by an action. As Mr. Riley states, this has not been a common practice in Hollywood for "TWENTY YEARS." I'll admit I use "Final Draft" and I have the option of doing the (CONT'D) or not and have leaned towards using it as in: no harm, no foul - as long as I am consistent. If "Final Draft" is industry standard (as explained by a Producer I know in the thick of all that is Hollywood) - why would they include the option?

So I went online to [...] to investigate how "Hollywood Standard" this is. And here is what I found: I searched out "Walk The Line" a 2003 Production Draft written by Gill Dennis and James Mangold. The script used the (CONT'D) after action breaks in dialogue it also was rife with: "WE MOVE TO" and "WE SEE" and "AS WE MOVE TOWARD" now, again, these may be proper format in a pre-production script but Mr. Riley does not touch on the "WE" issue that I see in screenplays that I critique or scripts that I write myself. He touches on tracking shots and hand-held shots and close-ups but he never actually touches on writing "WE PAN UP TO SEE..." Is this correct or not? My thinking is that it would be better to just write: PAN UP TO SEE but...

Another thing that is not touched on is the use of (ON RADIO) or (ON TELEVISION). Mr. Riley says that the proper format for something that is being heard from a speaker or radio or television is to use:


But... What if the person is on the television and you can see them? Would you use: (ON TELEVISION) or (ON MONITOR)? It does not make sense to me to use (V.O.) if you can see them. And, again, in "Walk The Line" they use (ON RADIO). Mr. Riley does not touch on this.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: James Mangold Directed "Walk The Line" and Gill Dennis has written a handful of screenplays so they may have been able to "fudge" the rules a bit.)

For the sake of argument I searched out the Best Picture Winner "Crash" on line to take a look at that screenplay. Once again, it used the (CONT'D) after breaks in the dialogue. It, too, was a production script and it, too, was written by the director/producer of the film - so maybe the rules don't apply as clearly in that situation.

I then finally took a look at David Koepp and Josh Friedman's version of "War of the Worlds" - 2005. They did NOT use (CONT'D).

And one other point I felt that Mr. Riley could have touched on but did not: CREDITS - Is it okay to say: Begin Opening Credits and then end with End Opening Credits a few pages later?

This book has far more positives than it does negatives and it IS very thorough. The break-down of what should be capitalized and what shouldn't is INVALUABLE. The examples are excellent and he covers most everything anyone would be looking for.

Still, I don't know if "Complete and Authoritative" is as accurate as he would like it to be as I still had a few questions that didn't get answered.

Bottom line: If you are set on doing something such as the (CONT'D) or (V.O.) instead of (ON RADIO) - just be consistent. Inconsistency is the quickest red flag that you are an amateur and don't know what you are doing.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Easier and smarter is better 25 Feb. 2009
By Michael Janover - Published on
Format: Paperback
I've been in the Writers' Guild since 1978, and I teach Screenwriting online for the UCLA Extension Writers' Program. I only require one book. This is it.

When I started teaching screenwriting, I thought teaching format would be a no-brainer. I mean, what's to know? I could do it in five minutes. If you had any background in movies or bothered to read a few scripts, how hard could it be?

Problem is, too many people come to screenwriting without filmmaking experience and haven't ever seen a script, let alone read one.

Then, you have the people who think the screenwriting program they just bought automatically does all their formatting. Wouldn't that be nice. Maybe it can also build characters and dialogue, and write the script for you while we sleep. Wake up, make a cup of coffee, press, "Alt-Call Agent" and wait to become a millionaire.

Formatting takes more effort than that, and more than five minutes to teach, too. I wish I could tell you to forget about it, and just focus on writing great stories. But format is important, because it allows you to present your story to people according to certain accepted standards.

The people who read your scripts need evaluate ALL incoming material by the same general standards and rules. They're professional standards.

Imagine the NBA without standards. Each team decides how high the basket's going to be and how wide and long the court is. And when the officials come, they'll need to learn the game rules for that arena. Wow. Total chaos.

Presumably, if you have four professionally formatted 120-page scripts, the movies are all roughly the same length. Just flipping through the scripts, a producer or director can get an idea how much dialogue or action your movie has. They can also tell if the writers cared enough to learn the standards, and are even worth talking to. Learning formatting is one of the first barriers beginning writers have to get over, on their way to getting an agent.

Riley knows what he's talking about from personal experience. He was a screenwriter when he wrote this book, and has even read other people's scripts for a living. He even learned his stuff from those who used to work for Barbara's Place, where all the studios and networks would send their scripts to be typed, and where much of these formatting guidelines became standards. He lays it out for you in a sensible manner that's accessible and easy to understand. He not only tells you how, but why.

What I most appreciate, is that he gives options and alternatives for common formatting situations, like phone conversations or montages. Contrary to some screenwriting gurus, I believe that professional formatting comes with enough built-in flexibility for any creative person. It was never intended to be a rigid paint-by-number exercise.

No matter where you are in your development as a screenwriter, this book will make your life easier. I'm grateful to have it. I now have five extra minutes to teach story.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Don't Buy the Kindle Version 25 Dec. 2012
By The Pirate Pug - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This review is for the Kindle version only!!! Do not purchase the Kindle version until the publisher has fixed the formatting issues that plague the book. These issues will cause you, if you are unaware, to format your script incorrectly.

The paper version of this book may be a wonderful resource, but I cannot verify that. I can verify that I returned the Kindle version because of the above issues. If you do purchase the Kindle version, please be aware that you will need to find formatting examples from another source.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Not a Good Book to Buy for the Kindle 19 May 2010
By Brian Hoover - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I sort of don't know what I was thinking when I bought the digital version of this book for my Kindle. (Well, actually, I know exactly what I was thinking: "I want this and I want it now.") Because the content of this book deals so heavily with the specifics of screenplay formatting, one really needs to be able to see the full-page layouts Riley provides. And because it is above all else a reference book, the ability to rapidly flip back and forth between pages would be helpful. The Kindle, as much as I love it, makes this kind of reading very difficult.

That said, the information herein is rock-solid, and having it in digital form doesn't diminish its usefulness, I suppose. The book is well organized, and about as engaging and accessible as an instruction manual on formatting can be.

I'd give the book four-and-a-half or five stars, but only it in its old-fashioned form, with bound pages and all. The Kindle copy of this product is, it pains me to admit, kind of a waste of money. Amazon (or the publisher) ought to reconsider the fact that it offers a Kindle version of this, but I'm guessing that won't happen as long as there are impulsive suckers like me out there.

Ah, well. Caveat emptor.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Very Bad 27 Nov. 2012
By Will - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is meant to show how to format scripts but the Kindle Edition ruins all the formatting found in the book. Very disappointing. Book is great but Kindle Edition ruins the point.
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