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Capitalizing words in Scripts/Screenlpays


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#1 FilmmakerJack

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Posted 02 July 2005 - 04:45 PM

Hey, in scripts and screenplays, is there a rule for when the writer capitalizes certain words, most commonly being important nouns or verbs? or does he just do it to how he feels is necessary?

The following is an excerpt from the first draft of King Kong

MATT looks around furtively. None of the other pilots are looking in
their direction. With practiced skill, MATT reaches down for something
in his tiny cockpit ... HE STANDS UP, wedging the control column
between his knees and turns back towards JACK'S Camel ... a BASEBALL IN
HIS HAND!! With equal proficiency, JACK jams his control column between
his knees and stands, brandishing a BASEBALL BAT! Both pranksters have
to fight against the fierce slipstream as MATT THROWS THE BALL.I across
fifty feet of sky towards JACK! He prepares to swing, but the ball
FALLS SHORT, getting MINCED in JACK'S propeller! A quick look around to
make sure no one is looking, and MATT reaches down again, grabbing
ANOTHER BASEBALL out of the bag of balls he carries in his cockpit!


And then Batman Begins:

BLACK. A low KEENING which becomes SCREECHING that builds and builds until

RED flickers through black as the screen BURSTS into life:

Clouds of REELING BATS silhouetted against a blood red sky, blotted away from camera, MASSING in the sky...FORMING a density the shape of an enormous BAT-LIKE SYMBOL.
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#2 Alex Ellerman

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Posted 02 July 2005 - 04:58 PM

There's no absolute rule... but i will tell you a couple things:

1. King Kong and Batman Begins are studio scripts which are hired work, not spec scripts. Style means less than substance in those instances. Koepp, for instance, is an A list writer who can write his script however he wants.

2. It's a style that I believe was en vogue a little while back, but isn't as prevalent currently.

3. It's very effective when used sparingly. Same with wrylies and exclamation marks. A writer can guide the readers eyes over the page, drawing attention to important words much in the same was a good DP guides the viewers eyes. But too much capitalization renders the effect useless.

just my opinion...
theturnaround
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#3 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 06:11 AM

When characters are introduced they're capitalized:

JEFF STONE, 33, rugged and handsome, swings a shotgun over his shoulder as he steps out of his car.

Some continue the capitalization throughout the screenplay for names, but mostly it's just kept for the introduction.

Things that make sounds are often capitalized, like in your example. Important or key props are also often too.

In personally find that reading a script with over-capitalization detracts from the moment when they're really needed, just like theturnaround mentioned in his post. A bit like close-ups in films, they should be kept for the key points the scriptwriter wants to convey, not used everywhere.
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#4 razerfish

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 06:45 AM

Some hard and fast rules, though if you're a produced screenwriter, you can break them at will.

You typically capitalize a character's name when he first appears, and often times you capitalize sounds, such as "the gun FIRES." This is to alert the proper people such as props or special effects people that there's something they have to worry about. But this is going away in many spec scripts because it's distracting as hell when you have all kinds of capitalized words in the script. It's a chore enough to read an entire script, it's worse when it's filled with things like this that slow you down.

A shooting script is a different animal, though. I'm sure the AD will be quite happy with you by having these capitalized, and by having proper slug lines.
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#5 Mark Allen

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 03:29 PM

Adam sums up what I would say, but I'll add that I've found over the years that people read your script very very fast. I no longer capitalize sounds or all key props unless they tie into somethng that I absolutely need the reader to see and remember for a later point in the script.

I stopped capitalizing sound when I realized that the people who would be adding them would never see the script. I'll only do it when it's for reading benefit. "The plates SMASH to the ground." - but avoid over capitalizing because you'll need that tool when you want to clue the the reader to something very plot key.

There are lots of screenwriting rules and I've found that I've never heard anyone in any position of real power complain about a script breaking form in the details (yes, if it looks like a printed play they'd mention it). The only people I've heard complain about the screenwriting minuteau were people who were struggling themselves and wanted to act like they knew better.

If you can structure a compelling story that keeps people on the edge of their seat - no matter what the genre. No one will say a word about the capitalizations in your script because they won't want to blow their chance of being a part of a good script (which is very hard to find).
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Visual Products

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Glidecam

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rebotnix Technologies

Willys Widgets

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Tai Audio

Rig Wheels Passport

Paralinx LLC

Technodolly

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Abel Cine

Wooden Camera

Ritter Battery

Aerial Filmworks

Metropolis Post

CineTape

FJS International, LLC