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SCREENWRITING TERMINOLOGY EXPLAINED

2000 James Russell Publishing

JamesRussellPublishing.com

For the new screenwriter terminology can be overwhelming.  Here's a basic interpretation.

bulletActs - the beginning, middle and ending scenes are each titled as acts.   Act 1, Act 2, Act 3.  Acts are used in feature films relating to pages.   Example: page 1 to 30 can be Act 1, page 31 to 60 Act 2, page 61 to 110 is Act 3.   Act identifications are not printed in the feature film script.  They are identified in sitcoms and theatrical stage plays.
bulletAgent -  A literary agent represents writers to sell works to a principal.  That principal can be a book publisher, producer or movie studio.  A WGA Agent is signatory to the Writer's Guild and agrees to abide by certain rules established by the WGA.  Agents help writers to find work and/or sell scripts.   They earn commissions.
bulletBlocking - where the actors are placed in relation to the camera.   Screenwriters do not need to know much about blocking as a theatrical playwright or sitcom writer would.
bulletFeature Film - a film formatted and targeted for the movie theater market.
bulletIndy - An Indy is a independent production company and not affiliated with a major studio.
bulletLog line - a single sentence describing the story.  A high concept log line is just a few words such as: Grandmothers attack New York. 
bulletManager - Can do everything an agent can do and more.  They have the clout to get films made due to their unique position in the industry and contacts.   They manage actors, screenwriters, etc.  They earn commissions.
bulletMOW - A television Movie Of the Week.  A movie made for TV not for the movie theater market.
bulletPitch - typically a verbal conversation called a "sell" as the writer is briefly selling the script by pitching its benefits to the buyer.
bulletProdco -  production company performing all the filming functions.
bulletProducer - the money man.  A producer makes all the arrangements for funding and developing a studio deal to get the film into production and distribution.   A producer does not work for a prodco as an employee.  The producer is generally independent of the studio or production company until a contract is signed to the contrary, then the producer will be employed by the studio or prodco for that specific project.
bulletQuery letter - a one page letter designed to entice the reader to ask for the script for further evaluation.
bulletScreenwriter - Feature film writer.  Television writers are also titled screenwriters, but commonly referred to as scriptwriters.  The terms are interchangeable today.
bulletSitcom - Situation Comedy.  Typically a thirty minute television stage comedy with few to no exterior filming or videotaping.  Performed in an interior set.
bulletSpec Script -  a TV or film script that is written on speculation that it can later be sold upon completion with no agreement or contract with a principal.   New screenwriters use the spec script as a business card to demonstrate writing ability. 
bulletStory Beats - the main points of twists and turns in the story.  A film may have a dozen beats or more.
bulletStudio - a principal that hires production companies or produces their own films. 
bulletSynopsis - a one page detail of the script's story beats.
bulletTreatment - a breakdown of scenes in short paragraph form.   Typically from 20 to 30 pages.
bulletWGA - A union for screenwriters and offering a registration service for motion picture scripts and treatments.

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