A couple years ago, I worked on a screenplay adaptation of As You Wish. Learning the formatting presented a challenge, and since I didn’t own scriptwriting software, I did all the formatting by hand in WordPerfect. Not recommended. (A Google search should turn up some free screenwriting programs online, if you’re interested, but I haven’t checked any out.)
If you want to try your hand at a screenplay, this article offers a quick overview of the format. You can also find a zillion (approximately!) sample scripts to read at The Weekly Script.
Meanwhile, if anyone wants to check out the opening of my screenplay for As You Wish, I’m pasting it below. Note that the proper formatting isn’t retained here. And since everyone asks, “M.O.S.” in the stage directions stands for a German phrase that means the characters are out of earshot.
INT. DRAWING ROOM – DAY
A drawing room in a once-grand English manor, now shabby and sparsely decorated. A tour group of 20-somethings flirts and jokes M.O.S., ignoring an elderly guide.
The exception is LEAH CANTRELL, 27 and quietly pretty in an ivory sundress with pockets. Toting a handbag, she hangs on the guide’s words and studies a less-faded block of wallpaper where a portrait once hung.
EXT. ESTATE GROUNDS – DAY
A cracked asphalt drive in a wooded parkland in spring. Leah walks with JEANINE WHITE, a trendy blonde who looks bored. A few other tourists wander in the background.
The house tour was interesting, but the grounds are amazing.
Yeah. Are you almost ready to head back to the bus?
As soon as I find the spring.
The one our guide said was once a sacred pagan well. Did you know that the custom of making a wish at wells comes from ancient beliefs in water spirits?
So, are you going to wish that Kevin calls, begging you to catch the next flight back to Philly?
Of course not. I just thought the story was interesting. The spring was dry for 200 years. Then after all the rain they had here last month, it came back to life.
Leah, I noticed you’re wearing that cheap ring of his again.
Leah glances at her finger, looking slightly ashamed.
After three years of wearing it, I didn’t feel right without it. I kept thinking I’d lost something.
You haven’t. I’d hoped this trip would help you forget that idiot.
Leah turns away from her and doesn’t answer.
Why don’t you find yourself a nice English “bloke” here?
I’m open to finding someone new, but I doubt it’s going to happen on a 12-day tour.
Taking that ring off might help. Throw it in your wishing well. I’ll be waiting at the bus.
Leah sighs and stares off into the trees, where she spots a crumbling stone springhouse. She weaves through brush to the SPRING, a shallow pool next to a big oak.
Grinning, she sets down her handbag, stoops on the mossy bank and swishes her fingers in the water. A round form on the bottom catches her eye. She reaches in and pulls out a large, mud-covered, gold COIN.
INSERT – THE COIN in Leah’s fingers
Under the mud, we see a man’s bust and “GEORGIVS III.”
BACK TO SCENE
Leah covers her mouth and glances back in the direction Jeanine went. She’s gone. Leah shakes her head and turns back toward the pool.
I can’t ruin someone’s wish. I’ll throw it back in.
She flicks the coin into the water.
I wish I knew who it belonged to and whether they ever got what they wanted.
As she stands up, she slips on the moss and falls into the pool. But instead of hitting bottom, she sinks into an abyss, flailing. …