the layout of The scenario

To write a screenplay, have a good idea of the inspiration and talent, it helps, but this is not all ! It also takes a lot of work, and above all, knowledge ! In fact, there are many rules and codes to follow for the layout of a scenario. I thought knowing these rules, and at a meeting at the Home of the Short Film, I realized that there were a lot of things that I could (and had to !!) correct order to put all chances on my side to convince a producer to accompany me in my project.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to a few basic elements to the layout of the scenario, but also for the synopsis, note of intent, the resume and the biography of the author ! To go further, you can purchase the following books, even if they are regularly unavailable :

Know how to write and present scenario of Philippe Perret and Robert Barataud

Learn to optimize a scenario of Richard Sidi, script Doctor to the Home of Short Film


You can also get the book The Writing of the scenario of Jean marie Roth, my favorite book on the subject, and refer to the article Write a screenplay of a short film on this site. So much for the resources, now let me come to the facts.

The record of presentation of a scenario of the short film

Let’s start with the basics. Choose a font that is pleasant to read, such as Helvetica or Georgia. Then, before entering the heart of the folder, there are already plenty of things to say on the front cover :

  • First of all, make it clear that this is a scenario of short fiction
  • Please mention your first and last name, but also your contact information (Address, phone, e-mail)
  • You can optionally add a summary, but this is not essential

The next step, it is the synopsis. Contrary to some misconceptions, this is not ideal to do a complete summary :

  • 3 to 4 lines max
  • Present the universe, the exhibition
  • Mention the trigger

The result of your case, it is the scenario itself, which details the layout below. After your scenario, you must submit your notice of intent :

  • It must be personal, it is the gaze, the point of view of a particular person, an author, a project and a staged
  • It is divided into two parts : The “why” of the film, what motivates the author, the story behind the story. And in a second step, the “how”, the presentation of bias, the aesthetic and the justification of these choices.
  • The note of intent must contain 2 or 3 strong ideas. The reader should feel a logical link, an argument.
  • Avoid the questions, the note is a light
  • Avoid references to film this or that film or filmmaker
  • Avoid common places and the explanation of the text : Do not specify the genre of your film
  • Talking sequence in particular

After the notice of intent, you must include your CV ONLY if you have a lived a cinematic experience in the sector. If this is not the case, prefer a biographical sketch, to give a chance to the player to discover.

If you choose the CV :

  • mention of course your Marital status and your contact information
  • Your professional experience connected with the film (Shooting in which you have participated, films…)
  • Do list not necessarily the screenplays written but not made

If you choose the biographical note :

  • Introduce yourself, explain what your course you takes today to want to make this film
  • You can also talk to filmmakers, talk about their work

On the next page, I offers you a few recommendations more specific to the layout of the scenario itself.

Recommendations layout for your scenario

For the scenario, there is a rule to comply with, codes including professionals, but also of small tricks that even the writers experienced do not always master !

For a start, it is preferable to use a descriptive language that highlights the content of the image, which will be visible, but also the sounds and the actions. Choose a scenario of narrative, with a unity of action and place, rather than a scenario of shooting. Watch and describe rather than explain.

As for the literary style, choose simple vocabulary and short sentences : subject + verb + complement. Do not hesitate to go to the line every time you change the plan.

For each character, don’t forget to present it at its first appearance. : Enter your name, age, gender as well as a physical description. At the beginning of each sequence, you must recall the place, even if it is mentioned in the title sequence. ex : “In a room with dimmed lights, Jason, lying in his bed, looks at the tv…”

Things to be avoided in a scenario

In addition to the elements it is good to put in a scenario, there are plenty of things to avoid :

  • Verbs of thought and intention, that it may not translate to the screen. ex : Claire is sad / Sophie thinks
  • The descriptions which give the impression of reading a catalogue, with details few necessary accessories that may be different on the day of filming. ex: the red shoes, a pants green khaki, a wood table…
  • Redundancy : if a person says a bad word, no need to specify that it is angry or nervous, it is superfluous. By, he says in a tone honeyed, very quietly or with a smile, this is unusual. It is therefore justified to clarify.
  • The contradictions in the intentions of the game : “both joyful and nostalgic”, “angry and serene”…
  • And above all, no indication of a plan and or set the scene. The reader can understand some of the movements or frameworks that you with in mind, but this must come naturally and not be written black on white.

How to make a title sequence ?

Sequence X / Int day / Place

There is nothing more to put as information in the title sequence, except in very specific cases. Indeed, it is strongly recommended to clarify the flash back (fb), flash forward (ff) and dreams (dream)

The presentation of the dialogues

For the dialogues between the characters, it is of course necessary, before each reply, to remind you of which character takes the floor stating his / her name or his first name.

When it is a narrator who expresses himself, it is necessary to mention “over”. When it is a telephone conversation, it is necessary to indicate “off”. Has your keyboards now !

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