How to Properly Format Your Title

In the treacherous world of screenwriting, many authors concern themselves with the occasionally obscure, often arcane practice of formatting and presenting their scripts. Industry professionals agree that the body of the work should be written in 12-point Courier font—a comfortable industry standard—but the correct formatting of the title, however, remains furiously contested. 

Of the various factions perpetually at war in the battle-scarred, no-man’s-land of correct title formatting, some combatants maintain that the title MUST be written in ALL CAPITALS, while others identify the exact line number (twenty-five) on which the title should be written. Another guide (which can be read here) states that on all subsequent pages, the title should be written at the top of the page, -centered-, underscored, and in ALL CAPS.

There’s something to be said for standardization, but in a psychotically commercial industry where a new idea has, at most, about fifteen seconds to capture one’s attention, authors feel the need to do whatever it takes to draw attention to their script, even at the most superficial level.  

But enough theory and speculation. How have the real industry insiders—screenwriters responsible for award-winning scripts—chosen to format their projects in the past?

Take the Coen Brothers’ script for No Country for Old Men, for instance. 

no country 2

Look at that beautiful type. Simple and elegant, this particular title falls within the parameters of guide.

How about Academy Award-winning writer/director Spike Jonze’s Her?

ner 2

That doesn’t look like Courier to me, Jonze. And forget about size 12. That kind of shoddy work will never pass muster with the guide. 

Kaufman’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Seems this title isn’t guide-approved either. Leave a comment if you think we ought to take back those two Oscars and three BAFTAs for this. 

es 2

William Monahan’s The Departed? Bolded and underlined and size 18? There’s just too much innovation here for me to wrap my head around. 

depart 2

Finally, fatally, there’s Tarantino. What else need be said? Yes, I am taking pot-shots at one of the most beloved filmmakers of our age. No, I would not say that to his face.

django unchained script

The moral here is that screenplay style guides are well and good, but notice that they’re called “screenplay guides” and not “screenplay laws.” Armed with this knowledge, a writer may choose to play fast and loose with the formatting of a film’s title, so long as it doesn’t assault the eyes and prove difficult to read. Accordingly, your correspondent does not necessarily recommend formatting a title in Comic Sans and, to that effect, would like to remind his readers that discretion is often the better part of valor. 

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