Nine times out of ten you’re going to be submitting your screenplay to someone in electronic form, either via email or uploading your file when entering a competition by E-Submission etc. Most contests and schemes offer guidelines on what to send and how, so always read these guides thoroughly, but we’re still surprised at how many people fail at the very first hurdle when putting their script out there.
The most preferred file format to use is PDF. Not only is this the most accessible means of reading a script, it also offers protection against any content being edited or changed. Mac’s have the ability to produce PDF’s automatically when saving. PC users who need to convert documents can find free services online such as the one here.
The other two most common files used are Microsoft Word docs and Final Draft files. While a Final Draft file shows that you’re serious enough about screenwriting to be using the appropriate screenwriting software, there’s still the risk that the recipient of the file won’t have a licensed copy of Final Draft on their device and therefore cannot open it. On the flip side of the coin, although Word doc’s are much more widely accessible, it also shows that you aren’t dedicated enough to have invested in the right software.
We’ve had a whole host of other file types submitted to our competition throughout the years, sadly, like the ones shown below, some of them couldn’t be opened because the writer didn’t use an accessible file type.
Always make sure to name your file correctly too. Again, read the submission guidelines to whatever contest or scheme you’re submitting to as they may ask for slightly different things, but in general it’s best to use the name of the script followed by the name of the author.
Don’t risk your file being deleted by accident by not being absolutely clear when naming your file as below.
Regarding spaces in a file name, some sites may not accept files with gaps between words, and some automatically insert a dash themselves. Err on the side of caution just to be on the safe side and use a dash instead of a space as below:
There may also be file size restrictions as well, especially when sending via email. Normally, a feature length screenplay in PDF format should be around the 200-300KB mark. Anything 4MB or over is unusual for a plain text file and can mean that the file includes other unnecessary elements such as images or is a scanned copy of a paper document. Double check the file you’re submitting isn’t too big to physically send.