Origins of Screenplay Formating in Less Than 15 Minutes

Great Train Robbery ScriptIf you've ever wondered why screenplays are formatted in such a strict and precise manner, or thought, "When did the first filmmakers start using scripts," or wanted a clear rundown of the first decades of the history of cinema -- well -- you're in luck. Not only can you learn the origins of the screenplay and the basics of "The History of Film 101" (arguably 102) for free without buying textbooks, but you can do it all in less than 15 minutes.

Okay, I admit, you're not going to get the full scope of cinema's history, but this video by Filmmaker IQ does a great job highlighting each important and notable time in cinematic history, while at the same time linking it to the birth of the modern script. From Muybridge's horse gait experiment (which was commissioned by Leland Stanford -- yes -- the founder of the university) to Casablanca's screenplay, considered by many to be one, if not the, best screenplay of all time.

Check out the video below.

Video is no longer available:

Maybe it's just because I'm a history junkie, but seeing the evolution of the screenplay is so incredible to me. First of all, the fact that the fathers of cinema found that connecting individual "scenarios" created a longer moving picture that formed a story which just so happened to make sense just -- blows my mind.

What do you think? What are some other interesting facts about the history of screenwriting that the video didn't touch on?

Link: The Origins and Formatting of Modern Screenplays -- Filmmaker IQ

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FWIW, the "Hollywood" screenplay format isn't used globally. The Soviet/Russian formatting is closer to a novel. I saw it a few years ago while searching for Tarkovsky's scripts. His was a mishmash of dialog, directions, thoughts, etc. It was very hard to follow. To the contrary, the stage play formats are, to the best of my knowledge, universal. Directions are minimal, as it's, by and large, one line of dialog after another.

June 5, 2013 at 7:11PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Fellini wrote in a really weird way as well. He wrote pretty much only dialogue and the slugline, at least that's how the commercially available OTTO E MEZZO screenplay is formatted. There's barely anything else, and the funny thing is you can barely understand what kind of movie is going to come out of it.

As I live in Portugal and far and far away of anything resembling an industry I've come to develop my own way of writing and formatting as well, and I think the excess of rules for American screenwriting can often be stifling and kind of "direct" you to a certain kind of story. I think most independent people should try to develop their own style in both writing and formatting.

June 9, 2013 at 12:35PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Wow! Really great introduction. If all learning could be this well presented and easy to digest.

June 6, 2013 at 5:31AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


A great production. Formatting a screenplay isn't that so easy but can be learned.

June 19, 2013 at 11:47AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


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March 7, 2014 at 12:58PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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March 27, 2014 at 4:58PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM