Script Writing Procedure and Assignments

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
Welcome to Season 6 everyone. I'm really excited about this season and all the new faces we have. I'm posting here an updated version of the procedures Marie posted last season. I will also be using this thread to put out script assignments for this season. No need to panic, assignments will only go out to people who have specifically expressed interest in writing a particular episode.

Here is the procedure for how the scriptwriting works.

First, we open a thread in this forum to discuss the content of the episode. Usually, threads will open 1-2 weeks prior to the script discussion of that episode. That is the best time to bring up suggestions for scenes or events that can play out in that particular episode, or bring the storylines together. Everything that we were saying was too much detail to get into in the pre-season? Now it's time for those ideas! Conflicting suggestions are welcome - the more ideas we have available, the better decisions we can make during the script discussion.

Then, we hold a Script Discussion (Friday nights at 8 PM Eastern Time) in which we put together an episode outline. Anyone is welcome to participate, and there are multiple methods of doing so. You can join the discussion on video via Zoom (ask any member of the script team for the link of how to join that). You may be audio only, if that is your preference. Or, you may leave typed comments in either Zoom's chat box, or Twitch's chat. The video of the script discussion is available immediately afterwards on SignumU's Twitch channel. We do not currently have audio file availability.

The Episode Outline is posted in the thread after the script discussion. Sometimes these discussions run quite late, so do give me a day to get it posted. The Outline is posted as a Google Doc, and when you click on the link, you can leave comments or suggestions directly on the document if you have any questions about particular items or additions to suggest making. You may also continue to comment in the thread, so we can make any necessary edits to the outline. The expectation is that one week after the script discussion, the outline will be in a finished form.

Within one week of the Script Discussion, we will try to have a script writer selected. If you are interested in writing a script for a particular episode, you must post in this thread or contact a member of the script team to let us know of your interest within that one week window. The script writer is encouraged to listen to the Script Discussion (participation is better), and begin writing a script based on the episode outline. 'In Progress' scripts can be shared via private message here (we'll have a 'writers room' set up for just such a purpose). When that script is in a state in which the writer is comfortable sharing it with others, the document will be uploaded as a google doc and the link will be posted on the episode thread, with the 'anyone with the link can comment' option. This allows anyone on the boards to view the script, and also to suggest edits or add comments throughout the script, directly on the document. The script writer retains full editing authority, so that suggestions are only incorporated at the script writer's discretion. This allows for collaborative feedback without creating chaos :)

Once the script has been uploaded and gone through initial edits and review, the script team will decide that we are ready to share the script with the hosts on their podcast. Marie will make a pdf of the document and send it along to the hosts. That means...there is a deadline. Scripts should be posted no later than two weeks before the podcast date, to give everyone time to read them over and suggest any edits they think necessary. Ideally, the script writer will get feedback from everyone who participated in the initial script discussion during this review process. A script that does not really follow the outline or that is incomplete would be unlikely to be shared on the podcast, but we can have discussions about that if necessary. The script team does have the ability to hold back scripts for these reasons.

For the podcast, the hosts will be given a copy of the script outline and the finished script (in pdf form without any comments/suggested edits visible). They will then be able to review the script and discuss that episode, suggesting any changes or improvements. We can then continue to edit the document posted here in light of that podcast discussion to reach a (more or less) final draft version of a Silm Film script!

I know that's a lot, so if you have any questions, please ask! Nick is our Script Editor, so he will be overseeing this process. He will post the episode threads and host and moderate the script discussions, as he has done in previous seasons. We needed a more involved procedure this season, because we are holding the script discussions before the hosts of the podcast discuss the individual episodes.
 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Certainly, whenever you are interested or comfortable, simply let Nick know of your interest! Ideally, interest in writing an episode would be expressed within a week of the script discussion taking place. That way, the script writer can be assigned and get started as soon as possible.

Our premise is that we are writing an hour of television, so a screenplay for Silm Film should be roughly 60 pages long. Each scene from the outline should take up approximately 4 pages, with the Teaser and the Tag only needing about 2 pages each. You will notice that math does not quite add up...so there is some flexibility there.

In addition, here is a 'getting started' post on writing screenplays from Atanvarno that I have shared elsewhere on the forum; it deals with some basic formatting and tips if screenplays are new to you:

Atanvarno said:
Screenwriting is easy.

There's six kinds of text in a screenplay:
  1. Scene heading (or slugline)
  2. Action
  3. Character cue
  4. Dialogue
  5. Transition
  6. Paranthetical
Sluglines are in CAPS and start with INT. or EXT. (interior or exterior), then they say where the scene happens, then a dash followed by time of day (to establish lighting) or a more general time hint (CONTINUOUS, MOMENTS LATER, NEXT DAY, etc)

Code:
EXT. LOTHLÓRIEN - DAY

INT. ELROND'S HOUSE - LATER
Flashbacks, dream sequences, montages, etc. can be recorded in the slugline.

Code:
FLASHBACK. EXT. CARADHRAS PASS - DAY
For our purposes, rather than label everything outside of the frame as a flashback, it is useful to put in the slugline which plot the scene is part of.

Code:
EXT. THIRD AGE. LOTHLÓRIEN - DAY
Action is the catch-all. It describes whatever is on the screen, in the soundtrack that isn't dialogue. The important thing is to keep it in the present active tense. When a character is first introduced in action text their name is in CAPS, normal thereafter.

Character Cues introduce dialogue with the character's name in CAPS. These are indented. The name can be followed by "(V.O.)" for voice overs, "(O.S.)" for off screen (if the character is physically present, but not shown -- behind someone else or on the other end of a phone). If a single character's dialogue is broken up by action text, it was traditional to mark continuations with "(CONT.)"; that is largely redundant so is falling out of favor.

Dialogue is what it sounds like. It's indented both left and right (less than the cue). It's always introduced by a character cue.

Transitions are in CAPS, always followed by a colon and right aligned. These are technical notes of how to get between scenes. The standard way is CUT TO:. Since this is so frequent as to be redundant, it's omitted (so a slugline is understood to always have a CUT TO: before it, unless there's a different transition).

There's a few notable exceptions -- the first transition before the first slugline is FADE IN:, likewise at the top of TV episode acts. Again, this is so common that it is redundant, so I omit it. At the end of an TV act, you typically use FADE OUT:, but it's not general enough that it can be omitted. SMASH CUT:, CUT TO:, SLOW FADE: all have their place at the end of an act.

Parentheticals go between a character cue and dialogue and relay extra information about the dialogue. Since most actors are training to not read parentheticals, their use should be avoided where possible. Most of what you want to put in a parenthetical can be put into action text. The one common actor direction is to clearly mark sarcasm. The other use is for technical information, commonly subtitles.

In TV writing there is a seventh kind of text. This starts and ends acts. It is in CAPS and is underlined. The only ones that should be used in a TV script are:
Code:
TEASER
TITLES
ACT [NUMBER]
END OF ACT [NUMBER]
DÉNOUEMENT
CREDITS
A page break goes before the start of an act/dénouement.

That's all there is to it.

Screenwriting software is available which takes care of the formatting. The professional quality ones cost a lot, though. I advocate saving money and using Fountain markup in a plain text file to write with. You can then use a free tool to see how it will look and non professional quality software to make a PDF.

With all that in mind, here's something in Fountain:

Code:
>_TEASER_<

EXT. THIRD AGE. LOTHLÓRIEN - DAY

From high up, the woods of Lothlórien are golden and beautiful.

ARWEN, sad and troubled, stands on a high flet. She looks out to the darkness of southern Mirkwood and Dol Guldor in the distance.

She shifts her gaze west to the Misty Mountains.

.FLASHBACK. EXT. THIRD AGE. CARADHRAS PASS - DAY

CELEBRÍAN and a party of other elves from Imladris work their way through the steep and sheer pass.

A bestial cry. Orcs descend on Celebrían's party in a sudden ambush.

Surprised, the elves are not able to form up and the orcs get into the midst of them.

The orcs and elves fight and several elves fall.

Seeing their victory, the orcs subdue Celebrían and the remaining survivors. They drag the unconcious elves away.

>FADE BACK:

Arwen's eyes are full of sorrow, mourning for her mother. From behind, CELEBORN approaches her.

CELEBORN
There you are!

He looks and follows Arwen's gaze.

CELEBORN
You've chosen a beautiful spot.

Arwen masters her grief and turns to Celeborn.

ARWEN
Grandfather.

CELEBORN
You have been quiet lately.

ARWEN
I have felt the need to be alone more often these days.

CELEBORN
What is troubling you?

Arwen gestures to Dol Goldur.

ARWEN
The shadow is difficult to escape lately.

Celeborn sighs and nods.

CELEBORN
The shadow has always been with us, since the beginning.

ARWEN
You make it sound as though there is nothing to be done!

Celeborn smiles.

CELEBORN
It may seem that way at times. I mean that we have always had to contend with it. There is no elf who ever lived who was able to avoid facing the darkness.

ARWEN
I know. I know this darkness is nothing new. But... it seems more urgent now. And I miss my mother's guidance.

CELEBORN
It was always urgent. Even in the beginning of days, on the shores of Cuiviénen.

Arwen gives him a doubtful look.

ARWEN
But there were no orcs in those days. I remember the stories my mother told me when I was young, about the elves awakening for the first time on the shores of the lake and seeing the starlight mirrored in the waters there. I always imagined it a place of beauty.

CELEBORN
And so it was, but we also had fears and dangers to face in those days...

EXT. FIRST AGE. FOREST OF CUIVIÉNEN - STARLIGHT

The starlit forest near the shores of Cuiviénen is idyllic. A gentle wind and the background sounds of nature. In a clearing, young CELEBORN lays on his back, languid.

ELWË bursts out of the tree line, running for his life in panic. He sees Celeborn on the ground in his path and swerves to avoid him. Elwë shouts out a warning.

ELWË
(Primitive Elvish, no subtitles.)
Ā-roktā!

[[Note: **rohta** is modern Quenya for "to run". This comes from the root **ROK**. The verbal ending **-ta** comes from the primitive **-tā**. So the Primitive Elvish verb "to run" was certainly **roktā**. Primitive Elvish used a particle, **ā**, to mark the imperative. Its placement is variable, so to avoid **roktā-ā**, which would probably collapse to just **roktā**, the particle goes in front. It's impossible to know with any degree of certainty, but I would place the stress on the o.]]

CUT TO:

>_TITLES_<

===
Copy and paste that into a .txt file and use the tool linked above, and that's all you need for screenwriting.
The major issue (and it's one I still have to catch myself with) is to always, always use the present active tense, which can be quite the transition when you're used to writing with the past tense.

The other thing to be aware of, but it also applies as general good fiction writing, is to keep action descriptions as sparse as possible. Dialogue follows the same rule but more so - it should have more in common with haiku (in terms of length) than naturalistic speech.

Also, a good rule of thumb is no more than four lines of action should be together without being broken up with dialogue. Likewise, back and forth dialogue should be broken up with lines of action.
I use the Screenplay Formatter Google Chrome extension Add-on for Google Docs as the basic starting point for formatting the document, but there are certainly directions readily available online of how to do it manually.
 
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Ilana Mushin

Active Member
Thanks Marie. I'm potentially interested in the post-Finrod song battle episode because I'd love to have a crack at the Beren/Finrod and Sauron/Luthien Athrabeth-esque dialogue. Also because intercultural communication is part of my day job. Depends a bit on the timing though.
 

Kathrin

Well-Known Member
I am of course also very interested in all things song battle, Finrod, or Thuringwethil (who'd've thought) and would be happy to do script writing. I might even manage to do a late night discussion once or twice if i'm lucky with the timing, but can't promise anything there. So if it would be possible to potentially just work off the discussion summaries and via other communication I would def. be interested.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Certainly, participating in a script discussion is not a requirement for writing a script. Listening to the discussion afterward on Twitch would be necessary, though. And if you know beforehand that you are interested, you can make sure to make asynchronous suggestions about particular scenes prior to the discussion, so the outline can still incorporate your ideas.

Episode 2 is likely to be the strongest episode for Thuringwethil, as she is coordinating the Gorlim situation. She will appear in later episodes, but as a more minor role. She dies in Episode 7.

Episode 6 will be the song duel, and naturally the "Finrod and Beren in prison" episode happens in Episode 7.

As for the schedule...I can say with confidence that the Script Discussion for Episode 2 will be on April 29th, but I hesitate to make a schedule too far in advance. We will not hold script discussions on weeks when there are podcasts (back-to-back is simply...not an option), so any shift in the podcast schedule will impact the script discussion schedule. We will likely be ready to do the Episode 6 script discussion around the time of Mythmoot (end of June), but we won't be actually doing that during Mythmoot (I don't think??)

Deadlines will be based on when the episode will be discussed on the podcast, so that also...remains to be determined. The goal is to have the script discussion far enough in advance that the writer will have ample time to work on it. I am...maybe giving myself plenty of time for Episode 1 ;). But again, if there is a certain window of time when you would be available for writing, be sure to communicate that to Nick, so he can work with you on episode assignments.
 

kanji_d

Member
May I suggest for those looking for formatting help, for my previous scriptwriting endeavors I've generally used WriterDuet, which is an in-browser program available for free. Unfortunately, the main downside is that the free version only allows you to save three scripts at any given time. But aside from that it's still good-quality and has an easy user interface.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
Just a word of caution, sometimes the formatting doesn't transfer easily to a Google Doc from screenwriting software and you wind up having to change the formatting line by line.
 

Ilana Mushin

Active Member
Sounds like the episode 7 discussion will happen in July some time. I'm going to be taking 4 months long service leave from end of July and so will have plenty of time for Tolkien-ing.
 
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