How To Read Scripts

Scripts can be beguiling to the uninitiated since they are not a finished product. They are a blueprint for another medium, a technical document of sorts.


Explained below are the few bits of junk and jargon you'll find in various script formats which aren't always immediately understood.


Screenplays (TV/Film):


  • Screenplays are not like normal books. They are short, precise, and sparse, and so read more like a long, narrative poem than a novel.


  • In scene headings, EXT. means a location 'exterior'/outside, and INT. means it is 'interior'/inside.


  • In dialogue, CONT'D means 'continued', O.S. means 'off-screen' and V.O. means 'voice-over'.


Comic or Graphic Novel scripts:


  • These are informal, written as instructions directly to an artist. The writer will sometimes leave a short sequence only half-written to allow the artist to dictate the action.


  • A 'panel' is one image, and there are multiple on almost every page.


  • The 'gutter' is the space between the panels on each page, and can be manipulated for effect.


  • SFX, or sound effects, are words that should be drawn outside of a word balloon, like a THUD or a WHACK!


  • If dialogue is '(cont)', that means that rather than being in an entirely new word balloon, it is drawn connected-up to the previous speech by the same speaker.