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The Hollywood Standard: The Complete And Authoritative Guide To Script Format And Style 3rd Edition by Christopher Riley (book review).

April 27, 2021 | By | 2 Replies More

Now ‘The Hollywood Standard: The Complete And Authoritative Guide To Script Format And Style 3nd Edition’ by Christopher Riley will teach you the ropes on how to present a manuscript in Hollywood and not to make silly let alone obvious mistakes that distinguishes the amateur from the professional if you want to be taken seriously. Please notes, this is the THIRD edition not the SECOND edition. The size of the book this time is the same size as the paper used although I do have to wonder on its availability in the UK as its 11 inches (28cm) tall by 8 inches (22cm) wide and pre-hole punched, presumably this has no problems going through a computer printer. By the way, this book is ½ inch taller and wider in all dimensions so not an exact fit margin wise but close enough.

As I’ve commented in the past, it only with film or TV scripts that writing less is more and, when you focus on Riley’s book, you should realise if there is less text describing things per page, then there’s more room for dialogue.

He does point out that there are four script formats out there for the main software but doesn’t go into details in how to grab them. If you are or going to be a serious scriptwriter, going for the dedicated ‘Movie Magic Screenwriter’ will at least get you the right template from the off. Please bear in mind, the UK version is different and still wish we had a scriptwriting format book over here. It should go without saying but really does that you need to check your spelling and grammar as these are the tools of your trade and not to take any word processing spell/grammar checkers as being perfect because they aren’t but make sure it is under American English setting. The main advantage I have as an editor is not only do I understand grammar but have read books on grammar and in a position to be able to criticise when they make errors. If you know you’re getting things wrong then focus on sorting them out one by one so it becomes second nature and focus on your weaknesses to get better.

I hope those of you in America who get this book have already managed to acquire copies of film scripts so you can match technique to looking at the real thing. Riley points out which words need to be capped and if you’re an ardent note-maker you’ll soon learn to remember which ones need it. I do wonder if I was writing a script that I would be sorting this out when polishing the script and make sure I got it all corrected there. Unlike regular fiction, you can’t cover that a character is thinking although you can do a voiceover if that is the want of the script although this isn’t covered. 

What Riley does explain is how the text is set up for voices speaking at the same time which I haven’t seen before. One thing that is changing is you no longer have to have two spaces between sentences, something that earlier secretaries did and took longer to lose. Oddly, a space is used after an ellipsis, the three dot pause, which we don’t use in fiction. I’m less sure about no punctuation in dialogue, mostly because actors like to know if there’s a slight pause or tonal change in what they are saying.

There are some things that would raise questions. I wish Riley would explain why scenes are omitted. I mean, who’s responsible? The director, producer, script editor or who and why? Obviously, it might be taken out for pace or information duplicated elsewhere. When you consider how some directors film more expecting to take things out in the editing stage, some clarity would have been useful for understanding.

I do like seeing the colour order list for script revisions. Although Riley points out a lot of sources to get hold of scripts further into the book, I do wonder how often shooting scripts get out so you can see the range of colours, often called rainbow range.

The use of computers to write scripts is now a necessity and, in many ways, makes correcting things a lot easier and I go along with Riley in all he says about getting the material as perfect as possible. I would suggest getting an Ecotank printer though. It might cost a bit more but having had mine for nearly two years, I haven’t had to refill its ink tanks yet which should speak for itself how much money I’ve saved.

I would also add, as well as making back-ups all the time, don’t rely on a solid-state hard drive as they don’t last as long as the original hard drives and anything on them is lost when they die. His list of common mistakes in writing is useful. For those writing scripts for the American market, ensure your Language setting is on American English and have a book on the subject nearby to check against, more so as Word seems to accept American spellings even before British in it from time to time.

This book is a useful bible for anyone wanting to do scriptwriting in America and you would be foolish to ignore getting a copy. I do wonder if there should be a travel-size copy that can be put in your pocket but that would apply to all books of this sort. Fade out.

GF Willmetts

April 2021

(pub: Michael Wiese Productions, 2021. 195 page indexed softcover. Price: $29.95 (US), £21.64 (UK) in June 2021. ISBN: 978-1-93290-763-6)

check out website: www.mwp.com

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Category: Movie books

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

Comments (2)

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  1. DMcCunney says:

    “There are some things that would raise questions. I wish Riley would explain why scenes are omitted. I mean, who’s responsible? The director, producer, script editor or who and why? Obviously, it might be taken out for pace or information duplicated elsewhere. When you consider how some directors film more expecting to take things out in the editing stage, some clarity would have been useful for understanding.”

    That one’s easy. It is almost certainly the director. A *lot* more film will be shot than will be used. The daily rushes give an idea of how things are coming. But when filming is considered complete, the raw film must be edited The director will go into the editing booth and start cutting and refining. She will have a hard length target to meet to get something that *can* be broadcast. Entire scenes will wind up on the cutting room floor if the director determines they *can* be dropped without affecting continuity or audience comprehension.

    “I would also add, as well as making back-ups all the time, don’t rely on a solid-state hard drive as they don’t last as long as the original hard drives and anything on them is lost when they die”.

    *Untrue*. This has *not* been the case for years. SSDs have been continually developed. The media is better and the firmware is *much* better. My desktop came with a Lexar Media 256GB drive as boot drive. Lexar Media is a Panasonic brand, and Panasonic is one of the small number of companies who actually *make* the NAND Flash media used in things like SSDs.

    I’ve seen stress test where even “budget” SSDs require *petabytes* of writes to get them to fail.

    The underlying issue is the the sort of Flash media we normally see is divided into cells (roughly equivalent to disk blocks.) Those cells have a write limit of about 10,000 times. Beyond that, the cell is unusable, like a bad block on a spinning platter drive. But the drive firmware tries to spread writes evenly over the entire drive. (Because it’s a solid state drive, there is no concern over just where data gets written. Any cell can be accessed in the same amount of time, so you don’t have the concerns of just where something is written that you would have on a spinning platter drive.) Just how long do you think it will take to write to any cell *10,000* times?

    And the drive firmware tracks usage. SSDs are over provisioned with spare cells. As a cell approaches the writes limit, the firmware attempts to transparently migrate the data to a clean spare cell, and mark the old call as unusable. The only way you will even *notice* SSD wear is if all space cells get used and you see a gradual drop in available capacity. You are likely to replace the whole *machine* be you even *notice* drive wear.

    I lose *no* sleep worrying about whether my SSD will fail. You shouldn’t either.
    ______
    Dennis

    • UncleGeoff says:

      Hello Dennis
      The omitted scenes are done prior to filming. Various directors do different things to scripts but, outside of animation where minutes cos millions, many of them do support covering scenes rather than risk reshoots and edit down later if they run too long. We rarely see why the omissions were done which is what I was criticising. Considering some writers are also on set, they are invariably used to rewrite scenes or dialogue and in a book like this, it would have been useful had it been explored. These omissions are done before filming, its more an interest in the decision-making process.
      I didn’t choose my comments about solid state drives unwisely. Just double-checked and although the stated life is 10 years, they last a lot less than that which is rarely indicated when people buy computers with them inside. After all, for many computers, many don’t last longer than 4-5 years before there is a critical failure, not necessarily with the hard drive itself. They also slow down as they fill up, which happens with regular hard drives so speed itself isn’t always enough. As with finger ssd drives, the more often they are accessed the more wear they get and I’ve had a couple that wore out. I think ssd drives are great for back-up but I’d be less inclined to use it for a C drive where they get accessed hundreds of times a day.
      I don’t lose sleep over it simply because my laptop doesn’t have SSD drives.
      Geoff

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