You’re most likely aware that there are different types of scripts out there… short films, feature films, television pilots, plays…
Yes, but there are also spec scripts and commissioned scripts and many other kinds of scripts for different mediums, all written by industry professionals like you.
In this article, you can find a list of scripts that you will most likely get confronted with at some point in your career or even (hopefully) write yourself.
There are around 13 types of scripts. They include adapted, spec, commissioned, shooting, pitch, story board, film, TV pilot, short film, documentary, plays, and video game scripts. The most common script for emerging writers is the original script.
Let’s take a look at each of them:
An original screenplay is a script based on a story that is original. By original, we mean a story that is yours and nobody else’s.
Basically, that means that the script was born from your imagination and not based on existing IP (Intellectual Property). It’s not based on a book, not based on someone’s story, or anything else that would need you to have the rights to develop the story into a script.
Most scripts emerging writers write are original screenplays. However, it’s important to note that Hollywood buys less and less original scripts and more and more adapted scripts (based on IP) since it’s easier to develop a project that already has an audience.
Making a movie costs millions of dollars, and oftentimes producers are wary about putting that money, time and effort into a project that might not be something people want to see.
With existing IP, the production companies know that there is already an audience for this concept and story, which makes the risk of spending time and money on it a lot more calculated.
Currently, everyone is obsessing over IP, but that too shall pass. Don’t despair. Every year original ideas still get made and there are many people in Hollywood that are fighting to get producers to look at original screenplays again, not just as samples but as producible stories.
However, I recommend creating something around your original screenplay to accentuate its chances of getting made. That can be a novel, a short film (that you can shoot low budget), a web series or anything else that can gather some sort of an audience.
That will drastically help your original script’s chances to get made. Don’t believe me?
The famous movie “Fatal Attraction” (1987) is based on the short film “Diversion” (1979) by the same writer-director James Deardon and was commissioned by Paramount after the success of the short.
“Whiplash” (2014) is based on an 18-minute short film with the same name. Basically, the short film is one scene of the famous movie that did amazing at Sundance and got enough back-up to become a feature film.
There are many more movies that started as short films and later became successful feature films. So, get a bunch of actors together, grab a camera and shoot your concept or a scene from your feature script in a short film format. Submit that film into festivals and the attention it will gather, will most certainly help you get one step closer to a produced original script.
An adapted script is pretty much the opposite of an original script.
It’s an adaptation or a new take on an already known story that can be from an existing movie, show, novel, play, or article.
An adapted script is a story that needs the signed approval of its original creator to get made into a screenplay by you.
Those scripts are currently very much of interest to industry professionals in Hollywood. But when you do write an adapted script, make sure that you own all the rights to do so or you will have lost an awful amount of time writing a story you are not legally allowed to take out.
A spec script (spec feature) is a script that was written without payments and without the writer being hired by anyone to do so.
Spec means speculative. It’s a script you write because you want to write it. No one is asking you to do so.
According to the Writers Guild of America, over 25,000 screenplays are registered every year on their website, yet only 25 scripts got sold on spec last year. That number can seem extremely low, but while spec scripts might not sell by thousands anymore, they’re an amazing way to showcase your unique voice as a writer, to land representation and to get staffed on a show. I like to think of spec scripts as who you truly are.
Many writers once they start working on Open Writing Assignments (OWA’S) (FYI: link recent article on OWA’s here once it’s online), stop writing on spec since they have less time and since they get good money writing for production companies.
That’s understandable but the biggest names out there will tell you to never stop writing on spec. Write at least one spec script a year. It’s new material for you to show and it will keep you happy, since what you write on spec is what you truly want to write, without restrictions.
In television however, a spec script is the script of an episode of an existing show that you have written in order to showcase how you can adapt to the tone of an existing show.
It used to be the norm to send spec scripts to showrunners back in the days.
But for the past 5 years or so, showrunners mostly want to read original work and therefore, spec scripts of existing shows have become rare in television. I wouldn’t even recommend having one in your portfolio anymore unless you truly want to write your take on a show you love. After all, it can be good training for a future writers’ room.
A commissioned script is a script that a production company hired you to write. This will often be through an Open Writing Assignment (OWA). Commissioned scripts are an incredible way to make a name for yourself, to accumulate more on-screen credits and to get paid good money, but it’s also a script in which your creative freedom will be limited somehow.
You cannot start writing whatever you want for the sake of being a storyteller. You are tasked to write something precise and need to follow what was agreed upon with the production company who hired you.
Usually, commissioned scripts are scripts based on some form of IP that the production company has signed the rights to adapt into a screenplay.
A shooting script is a script that has been locked for production. It means the script has gone from its rewrite phase to its shooting phase, from its pre-production phase to its production phase.
It’s easy to spot a shooting script since the scenes will all have numbers next to them, which is how the crew will refer to the scenes on the set.
Additionally, the shooting script will also include essential camera shots, order of locations and scenes, props, and any other relevant information for shooting purposes.
The shooting script will also always show the number of revisions the script has and which version is being used.
During production, a writer will often have to rewrite a scene and the shooting script will be revised with a new draft color, allowing the entire cast and crew to know what is the latest script they need to look at during production.
A pitch script is most of the time an outline or treatment. It’s a script in which a writer pitches his or her take on a story. It’s usually a document that summarizes the scenes of a movie or show. It doesn’t look like a complete script, and often does not have dialogue. It’s more so considered to be the backbones of the story.
A storyboard is a script that uses mostly images to convey a story. It’s usually presented as sketches of scenes. Text can and should be added onto the drawings. It’s used most of the time in animation to visualize the scenes before creating them.
Basically a feature script. A feature screenplay usually has anywhere from 90 to 120 pages.
There are many different genres for features:
- Action and Adventure
- Comedy & Romcom
- Thriller & Mystery
- Science Fiction
And a feature script can be for a live-action (with real people) or for animation.
TV Pilot scripts
A television pilot is an original script that basically represents the first episode (the pilot episode) of your original show.
There are two different genres:
Drama – the script usually is about 50 to 60 pages long.
Comedy – the script is usually about 25 to 35 pages long.
Oftentimes, these pilots are somehow tied to a pitch deck. An additional document that many producers will want to see that has visuals, the tone and themes of the show, more arcs for the series, and additional information about the show.
It’s a supporting document to the pilot that basically shows that you have more than enough to sustain a full show beyond the pilot episode.
Short Film Script
Short films are their own medium and many festivals celebrate them.
Short film scripts are usually between 15 and 20 pages long but can be as short as 4-5 pages and as long as 30. While the format is short, the script does tell a full story with a beginning, middle and end.
When you write a short script, you want to use limited locations since your script is limited in time and pages. Additionally, for short films, it might be the only time you will ever hear me say: the story comes first.
You won’t have time to develop the characters over numerous pages and story arcs, but you can make an absolutely stellar story over that little amount of pages (with compelling characters of course, always!)
Short films work best when they have a strong unexpected twist.
Sounds confusing? Many people think that a documentary because it is real life does not have a script.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
While a documentary script will not have scripted dialogue, it will still portray scenes and a storyline. That document ultimately is the core of what the movie was thought to be.
Of course, during the shooting of a documentary, things can change and take a new direction. They most certainly will. Therefore, rewriting is a consistent task when writing documentary scripts. The writer will be writing and rewriting constantly on the set.
The documentary script will even be rewritten during post-production, when the footage has been shot and the story needs to be pieced together.
A play is a script for the theater. It still heavily relies on the three act structure. The beginnings and endings of each act are mentioned and written in the play script, which is a big difference with the feature script.
Additionally, a play will not have any camera directions since it’s a play, and cameras are not part of that medium at all.
Video Game script
Believe it or not, video games have their own scripts too.
Actually, the video game industry is big on hiring screenwriters who can write unique stories for gaming purposes.
In video games, teamwork is crucial since you will often find yourself writing with others and collaborating closely with the creative director and game designers.
Scripts for video games tend to be long since many stories are interactive and will have different storylines depending on the player’s choices.
Some of the companies hiring screenwriters for their games are:
As you can see, scripts go way beyond the never ending debacle of feature versus television. There are many more mediums out there and many more variants to consider when writing a script.
Now that you know all 13 different scripts, we are looking forward to seeing which one of these steals your creative heart and makes you want to dive in and write immediately.
Happy script writing!