Friday, January 27, 2012

Tip # 44: Resources

By Anant Mathur (January 27, 2012)

Often times I have come across young writers who wish to know how to write a screenplay. Screenwriting is quite different than writing a story, essay, novel or writing for a TV show. When I started writing it was near impossible to find any material to learn how to go about writing a script. In this post, I will list some resources all screenwriters and filmmakers need to know about before they begin working on their first script.


The first thing to know is that there's a format to writing a script no one will even take a glance at your script unless you follow these guidelines.

All scripts have 6 components: Scene Headings, Action, Character Names, Dialogue, Parentheticals and Transitions. If you can learn how to format these 6 components you're well on your way.

     1) Scene Headings:  

     Scene Headings appear at the beginning of each scene and are often referred to as Sluglines.      The purpose of sluglines is that they tells us the scene's setting. They look like this:  

           INT.  JIM'S BEDROOM - NIGHT

     Scene Headings have 3 elements:

           1. INT. or EXT. These are short for Interior or Exterior, they tell the production
               crew whether or not they'll be shooting on a sound stage or on location. 
               Occasionally, if the action moves back and forth it is alright to use INT./EXT.    
           2. Location. This is where the scene takes place. This should be short:
           3. Time. Usually it's just DAY or NIGHT but can be as specific as 00:01. (if
               there's a countdown of some sort.)
     Sluglines are always in ALL CAPS. There are two spaces between INT. or EXT. and Location, 
     and a space, hyphen, space between Location and Time.

     At times, you may require a Sub-location to clarify the Location. It will look like this:  


     A new scene occurs whenever there's a shift in Time, Location, or both.

     2) Action:

     Describes what is happening in the scene and which characters (if any) are involved. 
     Action follows standard rules of capitalization. It's single-spaced and the narrative 
     description is written in present tense. Don't exaggerate descriptions; only add the 
     details necessary to move the story forward. Try limiting paragraphs to 4 or 5 lines. 
     Physical descriptions of locations and characters should be brief and important to the 
     story. Only write things that can be shown on screen; DO NOT add thoughts, motives, 
     recollections (leave that for the dialogue). It should look something like this:  


           TONY is standing in front of the ball rack. Blue, red, green, black—he finds 
           an assortment of balls in front of him. He stoops to pick a green one, but 
           his fingers don't fit, he tries the black one - the holes are too far apart for 
           his hand. After trying several different balls, TONY finally finds a blue one 
           that's perfect for his hand. He picks it up and walks towards his lane.

     You must have some description after a Scene Heading, even it's only a single line. 
     Like this:  


           As JOE approaches the vehicle, it blows-up.

     3) The Character Name:

     It always appears on top of the dialogue every time a character speaks and tells us 
     which character is speaking. It looks like this:

                                     TALKING BUSH:

     Character names are always capitalized. If a minor character (without a name) is 
     speaking, it's alright to use a description such as DOCTOR, MAN, WOMAN, WAITER, 
     NURSE. If there are two Nurses, for example, you can use NURSE #1 and NURSE #2.

     4) Dialogue:

     Dialogues are the words the character speaks. It is focused, clear and concise. 
     Lines of dialogue should be kept short (unless it is a justifiable monologue); people 
     must be able to understand what your characters are saying. It looks like this:

           INT. BAR - NIGHT

           RONNY walks into the bar. He looks around and finds his friend JACKIE waving 
           to him. He goes over to her.

                         Let's get out of here. I got the tickets.

                         Really? How did you manage those?

     5) Parentheticals:

     These are used within dialogue to describe what a character is simultaneously 
     doing, who she's talking to, or how he is speaking. Parentheticals are always inside 
     parenthesis and appear on their own line. If they hit their left margin they wrap 
     around to the next line. Use parentheticals sparingly and for clarification purposes 
     only. They look like this:

                                 (to MADGE)
                         I'm ready.
                                 (putting down his menu)


     Parentheticals are also used to let us know the location of the character that is 
     speaking. This direction appears next to the Character’s Name. There are two 
     cases where this is found: VOICE OVER (VO) AND OFF SCREEN (OS). 

     VOICE OVER (VO) is used when a character or narrator’s voice can be heard 
     talking from some unknown place. Occasionally, the character is on screen and we 
     are hearing his thoughts as he narrates his own story through a voice over.

     OFF SCREEN (OS) is used when a character is speaking in a scene but does not 
     actually appear on the screen.

     6) Transitions:
     Transitions are used to indicate a change from one scene to the next.  In a spec 
     script, they should be used sparingly. Typical transitions are: FADE IN, FADE OUT, 

Each of the above 6 components is set at a specific location in the script. In the old days, we had to manually format the script to these locations using Microsoft Word or other such word processing programs. Scripts are set up using the following technical elements:

     Should be 1.5 inches (15 spaces) from the left edge of the paper. 

     Should be 1.5 inches (15 spaces) from the left edge of the paper. 

     Should be 3.7 inches (37 spaces) from the left edge of the paper. 

     Should be 2.5 inches (25 spaces) from the left edge of the paper and end 
     2.5 inches (25 spaces) from the right edge of the paper. 

     Should be 3.1 (31 spaces) from the left edge of the paper and end 
     2.9 inches (29 spaces) from the right edge of the paper. 

     Should be right justified, one inch from the right edge of the paper OR 
     1.5 inches from the left edge of the paper.

     In a single character's speech, made up of Character Name, Dialogue, and 
     possibly a Parenthetical, there are single spaces between the components
     Between everything else, double space.

     A script should be anywhere from 90-120 pages. Comedies rarely exceed 
     100 pages while dramas tend to be a little longer. The latest trend in Hollywood 
     has shortened the desired maximum length from 120 pages to 110.  DO NOT 
     cheat by using thinner margins or smaller font.
     Screenplays live on letter-sized paper (8.5 x 11 inches). They're always written in 
     Courier font, 12 point, 10 pitch. No bold, no italics. Page Margins: Left: 1.5 inches, 
     Right: 1 inch, Top: 1 inch, Bottom: 1 inch.

     The title of your script should be centered on the page both vertically and 
     horizontally.  It should appear in all capital letters.  There should be a double 
     space and the word “by” should be typed you then double space again and 
     type your name. It should appear like this:



                                                YOUR NAME

     In the lower right-hand corner, put your name, mailing address, telephone number, 
     email, and (if you've decided to register your script with the Writer's Guild) your 
     Writer's Guild registration number. Like this:
                                                                                Your Name
                                                                                Street Number and address
                                                                                Telephone Number
                                                                                E-mail address
                                                                                Writer's Guild registration Number

     The very first time a character's name appears in Action, it appears in ALL CAPS. 
     Some writers also use ALL CAPS when a sound effect appears in Action. Others 
     capitalize important props. This would look like this:  

           JACKSON yawns and stretches his arms. The toaster oven DINGS. 
           Jackson pulls out a BUTTER KNIFE and butters his BAGEL.

     These go in the upper right-hand corner. There's no page number on the first 
     page of a screenplay.  

     DO NOT put scene numbers on your scenes. These are only for shooting scripts, 
     and are used to help the production crew plan the shooting schedule.

Fortunately, today there are many software which eliminate the need for knowing these tedious details. One of the best was Sophocles - sadly the company that made this software closed and this software is no longer available. Celtx is the next best thing I have used, if I remember correctly it was the only screenwriting software available for MAC when it came out. It's available for both PC and Mac, and it gives you several option for writing a script - from Theatre, Film, Radio, Comic Book, Novel to Storyboards - it covers most forms of writing and is my #1 choice today. Trelby was one of the first screenwriting software available on the market, but after 2006 it disappeared, now it's back and its FREE - one of the few software that's available for Linux as well as Mac and PC. My favorite feature of Trelby is that it has a built in list of names from different ethnic background you can use for character names - it's easily becoming my new favorite.

Movie Magic Screenwriter is available for purchase on both PC and Mac platforms - the cost at the time of this post was $249.95*. Final Draft is one I used earlier on in my writing career, I'm not to familiar with its latest version but this one is also available for both PC and Mac at a cost of $249* or you can try a demo for FREE. Several others screenwriting software which are available for free or purchase include: page2stage (Free), Scrivener ($40-45*), Mongate ($49* - Mac Only), BPC-Screenplay (Euros25.00), Storyist ($59* - Mac Only), Movie Outline ($199.95*),

There are many others out there and the great thing is the good ones are available for free. Not to worry, if worst comes to worst and these software are no longer available in the future you can always follow the above guidelines and write your script in Microsoft Word or software as such.


A film treatment (or treatment) is typically the step between scene cards and the first draft of the script. It is longer than an outline (or one-page synopsis), and it could include details of the directorial style. Treatments are set up like a short story but they are told in the present tense and describe events as they happen. There are 2 types of treatments: 1) the original draft treatment is created during the writing process and 2) the presentation treatment which is created as presentation material.

If you are new to the business of writing screenplays, chances are the term "treatment" will be new to you as well. Agents, studios and producers rarely have time to read an entire script so the treatment becomes a very important tool for writers. The primary functions served by the treatment in today's entertainment business are selling and diagnosing a story. What distinguishes one treatment from another is simply its effectiveness in making the sale, and/or laying out the story.

Many key elements make a treatment worth reading. The first is to keep is short. There are 3 kinds of treatments: 1) Original dramatic treatments, 2) treatments of true stories and 3) Adaptation treatments. Another key is to keep the treatment user-friendly and straightforward. A treatment will range anywhere from 1 to 25 or more pages, depending on the kind of treatment it is and its purpose. A treatment does the same thing for a screenplay that a screenplay does for a film. A treatment can be thought of as a written pitch; its purpose is to catch the buyers attention and make them want more.

The big difference between treatments and screenplays is that treatments are written in paragraph form and screenplays have a very technical format (as mentioned above). The writer should keep the language simple yet forceful and declarative. The treatment is used to describe the events of the story so that it can be visualized and brought to life and should be done with the least amount of words possible. The writer should highlight the major points of the story. 

Several factors are important in the creation of an effective treatment: a good opening that catches the readers attention from the get go, there should be a climax that is satisfactory for them as well and in the middle there should be a main character the reader should be able to relate to the character in some way. The story should also have a conflict around which the story revolves. 

Some examples of Treatements:


Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen 


The Star Wars


Once your script is ready it's time to SELL IT. Well this is not as easy as it sounds - you could have the most brilliant script and it will never get made. There are steps to selling a script which are much more complicated than anything you may ever encounter. Hopefully the following websites will help you understand these steps and help you along the way.

What Funders Require 

Preparing to Pitch Your Screenplay to a Studio

Legal Issues in Film Production 

Film Budget Examples

Film Contracts 

BBC - Film Network - FilmMaking - Guide 


A film business plan is most helpful for independent filmmakers who want to raise money from private investors. Potential investors want to know that there is a strong producing team in place. They also want know that the filmmakers have a strategy for generating film revenues from a variety of distribution channels. A film business plan helps to deliver the information investor(s) will require to make a reasoned judgement. It's critical a filmmakers business plan include these elements:
  • Distribution strategy
    Establish the distribution goals in a few pages. Include any resources your team already has to obtain a theatrical or DVD distribution deal. These resources become a foundation for how you will be able to return investors' money.
  • Sales projections
    Write an overview of the film industry at present time. Use resources like the Hollywood Reporter, or for current financial information and gross dollar receipts for films with a similar genre to yours. Use conservative numbers that reflect an understanding of both moderate theater success and DVD sales and rentals.
  • A strategy for recouping investors
    Establish a marketing plan based on the budget you are seeking. A film like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" relied on social networking and small theatrical releases where the film, "Transformers" used massive marketing budgets with wide theatrical releases.


When I started out as a writer I faced a lot of problems trying to sell scripts. Unfortunately there were no resources available at that time to help me and I had to learn from The School of Hard Knocks. I hope this post will help future screenwriters in writing and selling a properly formatted script. These guidelines and resources can help with your writing but it's only your imagination that can help you write well and most of all you need luck on your side to sell it. No matter how good your script is "Being at the Right place at the Right time" really holds true for this industry.

* Price in U.S. Dollars.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Analysis of the last 6 months of 2011

By Anant Mathur (January 20, 2012)

The stats are all in and it's time again to tell you how films fared in the second half of 2011. 71 films were released in the second half of 2011. Only 5 of the 71 films were able recover the cost for their distributors - that's a 7.04 percent success rate. The success rate might be low, But there was some great news for the industry as the year drew to a close - 2011 marked the first time in the history of Bollywood that not one not two but 5 films crossed the 100 crores mark in nett collections. Below are the films that were released and their performance. Films released between July and December 2011.

Murder 2
Cost: 10 Crores
Revenue: 46.40 Crores (Vishesh Films)
Distrubutor's Share: 25 Crores (approx.)
Profit: 15 crores
ROI: 150%

Cost: 40 Crores (Reliance)
Revenue: 100.47 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 49 Crores (approx.)
Profit: 9 Crores
ROI: 22.5%

Cost: 60 Crores (Reliance)
Revenue: 148.01 Crores
Distrubutor's Share:
86.00 crores
Profit: 26.00 Crores
ROI: 43.33% 

The Dirty Picture
Cost: 30 Crores (Balaji Motion Picture)
Revenue: 76.48 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 40.07 Crores
Profit: 6.47 Crores
ROI: 33.56%

Films that were able to recover their cost in the second half of 2011 include: 
Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster.


Bbuddah - Hoga Terra Baap
Cost: 22 crores (Viacom 18)
Revenue: 13.85 crores
Distrubutor's Share: 6 Crores (approx.)
Loss: 16 crores

Delhi Belly
Cost: 32 Crores (UTV)
Revenue: 53.41 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 25 Cores (approx.)
Loss: 7 Crores

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
Cost: 55 Crores (Eros International)
Revenue: 86.66 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 40 Crores (approx.)
Loss: 15 Crores

Cost: 45 (Reliance)
Revenue: 37.19 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 16 Crores (approx.)
Loss: 21 Crores

Chatur Singh Two Star
Cost: 30 Crores (Pen India)
Revenue: 2.45 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 1.25 Crores (approx.)
Loss: 28.75 Crores

Cost: 10 Crores (Reliance)
Revenue: 27.03 Lakhs
Distrubutor's Share: 13.5 Lakhs (approx.)
Loss: 9.865 Crores

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan
Cost: 32 Crores (Yash Raj Films)
Revenue: 56.63 Crores
Distrubutor's Share:
26.54 crores (approx.)
Loss: 5.46 Crores

Cost: 42 Crores (Eros)
Revenue: 29.58 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 14.62 Crores (approx.)
Loss: 27.38 Crores

Speedy Singhs
Cost: 50 Crores (Viacom 18)
Revenue: 3.52 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 1.74 Crore (approx.)
Loss: 48.26 crores

Cost: 32 Crores (Fox Star Studios)
Revenue: 26.11 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 12.50 Crores (approx.)
Loss: 19.50 Crores

Cost: 55 Crores (Viacom 18)
Revenue: 32.58 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 15.90 Crore (approx.)
Loss: 39.10 Crores

Cost: 30 Crores (Percept Picture Company)
Revenue: 2.09 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 1.01 Crores
Loss: 28.99 Crores

Cost: 15 Crores (Studio 18)
Revenue: 86.95 Lakhs
Distrubutor's Share: 43.48 Lakhs
Loss: 14.57 Crores

Cost: 175 Crores (Eros)
Revenue: 114.78 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 57.97 Crores
Loss: 117.03 Crores

Cost: 70 Crores (Eros)
Revenue: 67.23 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 31.88 Crores
Loss: 38.12 Crores

Dam 999
Cost: 50 Crores (Warner Bros.)
Revenue: 81.96 Lakhs
Distrubutor's Share: 40.98 Lakhs
Loss: 49.59 Crores

Desi Boyz
Cost: 50 Crores (Eros)
Revenue: 42.37 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 19.81 Crores
Loss: 30.19 Crores

I Am Singh
Cost: 20 Crores (K.R. Films Hollywood)
Revenue: 37.12 Lakhs
Distrubutor's Share: 18.30 Lakhs
Loss: 19.82 Crores

Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl
Cost: 20 Crores (Yashraj Films)
Revenue: 32.74 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 15.64 Crores
Loss: 4.36 Crores

Don 2
Cost: 90 Crores (Reliance)
Revenue: 104.25 Crores
Distrubutor's Share: 55.25 Crores
Loss: 34.75 Crores

Other Notable FLOPS during the second half of 2011 include:
Chillar Party, Bubble Gum, Gandhi To Hitler, Khap, Chala Mussaddi - Office Office, I Am Kalam, Milta Hai Chance By Chance, Warning, Aarakshan, Phhir, Not A Love Story, Sahi Dhandhe Galat Bande, Chitkabrey - Shades of Grey, iMr. Bhatti On Chutti, Shabri, Stand By, Yeh Dooriyan, Bol, Mummy Punjabi, That Girl In Yellow Boots, Jaana Pehchana, Rivaaz, U R My Jaan, Chargesheet, Hum Tum Shabana, Tere Mere Phere, Love Breakups Zindagi, Soundtrack, Jo Dooba So Paar, Mod, Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge, My Friend Pinto, Be-Careful, Jumbo 2, Tell Me O Kkhuda, Loot, Miley Na Miley Hum, Tension Doooor, Na Jaane Kabse,
Shakal Pe Mat Ja, Who's There - Kaun Hai Wahan, Aaj Abhi, Ziyarat, Lanka, Ye Stupid Pyar, Jo Hum Chahein, Pappu Can't Dance Saala, With Love Delhi!, Kya Yahi Sach Hai.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Bigger They Are The Harder They Fall...

By Anant Mathur (January 13, 2012)

Below is a list of ten 2011 films and how much they fell in collections from week one to second week. As you can see films released on more than 2000 screens tend to have a larger fall (more than 60%) in the second week.

1. Singham - 48.95% (released on 2000 screens worldwide)
2. Ready - 52.89%
(released on 1900 screens worldwide)
3. Mere Brother Ki Dulhan - 54.81%
(released on 1500 screens worldwide)
4. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara - 56.03%
(released on 1800 screens worldwide)
5. Yamla Pagla Deewana - 57.49%
(released on 1400 screens worldwide)
6. Delhi Belly - 59.31%
(released on 1400 screens worldwide)
7. Don 2 - 61.71%
(released on 3800 screens worldwide)
8. Thank You - 62.65%
(released on 2200 screens worldwide)
9. The Dirty Picture - 64.72%
(released on 2100 screens worldwide)
10. Rockstar - 66.60%
(released on 2500 screens worldwide)

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Top Ten Film of 2011

By Anant Mathur (January 05, 2012)

First of all I would like to wish all my readers a very Happy New Year. At the start of last year it didn't look like 2011 was going to be a very promising year for Bollywood. With a string of
unsuccessful big budget films like Anjaana Anjaani, Aakrosh, Knock Out, Jhootha Hi Sahi, Action Replay, Guzaarish, Break Ke Baad, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, Rakta Charitra I & II, No Problem, Tees Maar Khan and Toonpur Ka Superhero ending 2010 and small budget films like Ashoka The Hero, Impatient Vivek, No One Killed Jessica, Viklap, Mumbai Mast Kallander and Turning 30 starting 2011, the future of Bollywood looked bleak. In fact, post Dabangg in early September 2010 there was only one successful big budget film... Golmaal 3. But after the release of Yamla Pagla Deewana in Mid-January everything changed and 2011 became a record setting year. 

With 5 films (Bodyguard, Ready, Singham, Ra.One, Don 2) crossing the 100 crores mark in nett collection history was in the making. Never had two film ever crossed the 100 crores mark in a single year in the history of Bollywood, but in 2011 five films succeeded in crossing the coveted 100 crores in nett collections - not far behind were Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (86.72 crores) and The Dirty Picture (75.98 Crores)*. Below is a breakdown of the top 10 films of 2011 and others that followed close behind...

Top Ten Films of 2011 (based on net collections)

01. Bodyguard - 148 Crores (Blockbuster)
02. Ready - 130 Crores (Blockbuster)
03. Ra.One - 114.71 Crores (Flop)
04. Don 2 - 103.24 Crores (Flop)*
05. Singham - 100.47 Crores (Blockbuster) 
06. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara - 86.72 Crores (Flop) 
07. The Dirty Picture - 75.98 Crores (Super Hit)* 
08. Rockstar - 67.16 Crores (Flop) 
09. Mere Brother Ki Dulhan - 56.63 Crores (Flop) 
10. Yamla Pagla Deewana - 53.50 Crores (Hit)

Other Top Earners of 2011 

11. Delhi Belly - 53.41 Crores (Flop)
12. Murder 2 - 46.40 Crores (Blockbuster)
13. Desi Boyz - 42.36 Crores (Flop)
14. Thank You - 42.25 Crores (Flop)
15. Tanu Weds Manu - 38.68 Crores (Hit)
16. Aarakshan - 37.19 Crores (Flop)
17. Rascals - 32.58 Crores (Flop)
18. Ladies VS Ricky Bahl - 32.74 (Flop)*
19. Mausam - 29.58 Crores (Flop)
20. Force - 26.10 Crores (Flop) 
21. Haunted - 3D - 25.60 Crores (Hit) 

*Film was still in theatrical release at the time of this post.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.