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Your CUT TO: Is Showing: The Most Complete Spec Screenplay Formatting Guide Ever Written Paperback – August 3, 2012
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About the Author
T. J. Alex has been involved in screenwriting as a writer, teacher, editor, analyst, and consultant for many years. He is the former president and founder of the New York Script Club in New York City and founder of Scripttoolbox.com.
No matter how much he learns about screenwriting, he'll always consider himself a student of the craft. He lives somewhere in Texas with his wife and three children.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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1). As mentioned in other reviews the index is almost unusable. It's actually more of a concordance than an index. In other words, every time a word is mentioned in the book it gets an index entry. For example if one is looking for the proper way to format Off Screen dialogue the index first takes you to p. 7 which has no information about off screen dialogue at all. The next index entry takes you to p. 10 where it says "On screen and off screen sounds are also in ALL CAPS." It's not until the fifth entry that you get the entry that describes the details of using off screen dialogue. To further confuse the matter, the index includes three similar entries: "Off Screen" "Off-Screen Voice" and "(O.S.)." Each has a different set by partially overlapping entry pages. As an index all that is needed is the "Off-Screen Voice" entry. The "O.S." entry should refer the reader back to the "Off-Screen Voice" entry. For an index to be useful it must be thoroughly thought through and proofread -- especially in the case of a purported reference book. The author has undermined his work by creating the index in a slapdash manner.
2). Some of the advice given in the book is dead wrong. For example on p. 61 the author warns not to write camera direction in second person (e.g. "We SEE the detective as he looks behind the curtain"). He warns, in all caps, "DO NOT DO THIS!" Then follows up with the statement that those using this approach risk their script being "tossed in the trash quickly." I work at a major Hollywood studio and read spec scripts that have been picked up for pilots and television series. This approach at camera direction is common. I have no problem with the author calling this out as a suspect method. However making unequivocal statements about something as fluid as screenwriting damages the author's credibility.
I quickly ran across the dreaded rules of script formatting. Not fun. Even using Celtx software to carry some of the grunt work, it was intimidating and confusing to the point that I shelved it for a year. Recently I decided to try again, and subsequently found and read a few well known books on screenwriting. They were excellent, but still not quite what I was looking for. It was too much on the art of writing, and how to sell your screenplay (uh...can't think about that now.) In addition, I discovered there was a difference between a Spec screenplay and a Production screenplay, which has a lot more direction. The resources I had were delving more into the production scripts than I needed and the mix of the two can get very confusing.
I knew what I wanted - just a basic formatting guide. Just formatting and nothing but formatting. Laid out clearly and concisely. With examples. Specifically for a SPEC script. This book was EXACTLY what I was looking for. As to the typographical/grammatical errors referenced by other reviewers, I can't say I've noticed, but as a novice I'm so focused on what I'm learning those things are probably just slipping past me. Certainly they have not interfered with the usefulness of this guide.
All in all this guide follows through on the promise stated on the book cover, and I would highly recommend it.
It's a BIG BOOK! Literally. Chock full of useful info if you're a serious (or just starting) screenwriter.
Something for everyone.This should be standard reading material for anyone interested in the subject.
If your school or classes don't include this on their reading list, do yourself a favor and get it.
Follow the rules and you'll be percieved as a real pro.
The one improvement I would make is to make the examples of "incorrect" a different text color so you're not confused if you do a quick consult of the book (which is how I most often use these books). But you can fix this yourself with a highlighter.