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Formatting for Television Drama Scripts

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Misty Faucheux•updated: 8/4/2009

Here are some formatting guidelines for television drama script writing.

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    Though a television drama does not have as specific scripting requirements as genres like situation comedies, the fact that it does sit inside of a television paradigm requires that there is a common language that it speaks in. For television dramas there are some standard teleplay formatting rules that are universal, and this includes both the basic text structure of the page and the limitations set on the story arc. Here are some rules for putting together a script for a television drama.

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    Story Structure

    Unless you are completely redefining the genre or writing a drama for a channel that follows a different format, like HBO or Showtime, then you have a structure to a television drama that has similarities to a situation comedy. You are writing the script in a five-part system. You start out with the teaser that starts off the episode by presenting the issue or setting the tone. This is usually only a couple minutes and may come before the shows opening title sequence.

    After that, you typically have four acts, though some have three. The last section is the tag, which is just like the one in the situation comedy. This is where the problem has already been established as being over and the characters are seen continuing on, even possibly starting another issue for later reconciliation.

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    Script Structure

    You are going to format each act of the dramatic series in normal spec screenplay format. This means that the meat of the teleplay is going to look just like a normal feature film script.

    Each section needs to be identified and labeled, with the first act being titled ACT ONE and starting on a completely new page from the teaser. At the end of an act you identify the act number, with a marker like END OF ACT TWO. You also identify the TEASER and TAG if you like, though it is not always necessary and may make you look as though you are a newcomer. Make sure to start the script with a full title page that identifies just the name of the show and the episode name.

    For example:



    Keep the text centered and you may opt to use a by line below this if you do not have a way of indicating your credits ahead of time. Try to keep two lines in between the show title and the episode title.

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    Keep In Mind

    There are a number of things that you need to think about when you are writing television dramas. Keep the script about fifty five pages, but less is usually better. If you are writing an established show, you need to know the rules of the program and characters before you begin.