I can’t remember the last time I saw a produced screenplay that didn’t cheat formatting. Conservatively, it seems to happen about 99% of the time. I allow for that 1% because I figure someone, somewhere hasn’t done it.
Why is this OK?
It’s because of what’s important at a moment in time.
In one moment, you need to sell a script, so you do what you have to do to SELL. If that means that you need wonky formatting to make your script faster / slower / longer / shorter than you do it. You’re always trying to get to the next level.
In another moment though … well, all hell can break lose if you don’t follow industry standard formatting (which, again, nobody follows.)
The reason you use standard formatting is because production people assume that certain things will happen at certain times. This helps the crew plan. It can also impact your budget. Let’s say you cram 145 pages into something formatted to 119 pages. A line producer goes through the script line-by-line to work out a budget, props, catering, extras, lighting rigs, lodging, and much more — including shooting days. You 119 page script that turns out to be 145 pages can bust the budget.
So then why do scripts that blatantly cheat formatting get made?
It’s because, ultimately, a studio or a producer is in charge, and they care about different things. So you may piss off an AD or a line producer (and countless others…) but at least you got that far in the process, right? Of course, wouldn’t it suck if the whole project got scuttled because you cheated the formatting?
So… FOR THE AGES…
What is proper screenplay formatting?