CAPITALIZATION in action lines

Discussion in 'Basics' started by Twyla, Mar 11, 2010.

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  1. Twyla

    Twyla Bronze Member

    In reviewing tons of different available scripts, I've noticed that a number of various words are fully capitalized yet cannot find any information on what determines whether a word should be treated so. Obviously, the first appearance of a character identifier, but stuff like:

    ... three GUNSHOTS ring out ...
    ... driver SWERVES and <name> DIVES for cover ...
    ... phone rings and character JUMPS ...

    What *ARE* the 'rules' for such capitalization?
  2. craktactor

    craktactor Moderator

    They're not so much 'rules' as simple guidelines(ish).

    SOUNDS - gunshots, whistles, voices, etc.
    Moving ACTIONS - swerving, diving, etc.
    Close-up IDENTIFIERS - important actions like, FINGERS doing something, HANDS picking something up, a CIGARETTE being lit.
    And of course CHARACTER NAMES at first meeting only. Or a character (non-speaking or one liner) like FAT COP, GOTH GIRL, BITCHY WOMAN, MORONIC MAN, etc.

    Really, that's about it. However, all should be of importance to the story, or moving the story forward, or revealing an important aspect of the story. Always.
  3. Ven

    Ven Bronze Member

    I'll just add to what Craktactor mentioned.

    Older convention was to capitalize all sounds and props as well as character intros.
    Newest convention is to capitalize only character intros. Nothing else.

    Conventions evolve, which means there is a spectrum in between those two examples.

    My personal opinion is to capitalize:
    character names the very first time they appear
    an occassional sound, for effect
  4. Reg

    Reg Silver Member

    Personally I go for this one with a very (very) occasional exception.

  5. davidartiste

    davidartiste Silver Member

    First, one needs to understand the purpose of CAPITALIZATION. Yes, the books tell you what and what not to capitalize, but they do not explain the purpose of this. The information I am sharing is not pulled out of my a$$, but rather gained from speaking with directors and producers I have worked with and simply just asking them.

    It is used for 2 reasons:

    1. CAPITALIZATION is used to not only to intoduce new characters, but key objects, sounds and places in order to point out to the reader what is important. remember a script is an incomplete project. It is not a novel. It is complete when the movie is on the big screen. If a character drops a KNIFE in a room, you better use that knife later in the script. It creates a cue. You are not writing this for the public, but for a producer and director. This leads to the second and really most important purpose.

    2. CAPITALIZATION is used for budgetary purposes. It allows the producer and director to be aware of what is important, because it all costs money. Every time you mention a new character, that is a cost. A new and important location, that is a cost. If it is vital to the story that character drives a Ferrari, well the first time it is mentioned it should be FERRARI, this way the producer thinks, "Shit, we need to buy a Ferrari or get permission to use one". If the character has a fixation with Coca Cola from the bottle, the first time you mention it, it should be COCA-COLA BOTTLE. That is a cost.The producer needs the rights to use that name. Then Big sounds and special effects need to be capitalized, because it is a cost. "John starts up the car and BOOM!" Blowing up a car costs money.

    Believe me, when a producer reads a script they are running a mental budget at the exact same time.

    So, I would say if it is important to the storytelling and/or a budgetary thing then capitalize it the first time.

    *Note-If you just like the idea of the character, for example, driving a Ferrari, but it is not important to the story, then there is no need to capitalize. This way a producer may think to himself, "Ooo. ferrari can be tough, but I bet I can get a porsche". or something like that.
  6. Ven

    Ven Bronze Member

    Hm, I just spoke yesterday with a director who has his own prodco.
    He said never capitalize anything other than character intros.

    Another guy who has sold specs disagreed.

    So I'm still going to agree with Kractator and Reg,
    and add that again, it's a spectrum.
  7. davidartiste

    davidartiste Silver Member

    Okay, well I am going with:

    1. Phil Beauman: writer of all the Scary Movies and then some

    2. Ian Toporoff: My brother in law and an Emmy award winning director and a film producer.

    3. Buddy Cone: Commercial and Television director

    4. Eric Weston: 20+ year film director.

    Let me know if you want more names. I can provide them. I have been storyboarding professionally for 15+ years and as I have learned this craft of screenwriting, I ask them and many more the right questions.

    The information I provided is sound and correct.
  8. Ven

    Ven Bronze Member

    Well I'm not going to name drop. :)


    I'll just say that someone who has sold a 7-figure spec told me one thing.
    A Hollywood director told me another.

    I'll let everyone figure out what it means that two different answers were given by respectable sources.
  9. davidartiste

    davidartiste Silver Member


    Don't take the high road now. You started this, not me.

    But I guess writing 3/4 of a scipt and reading a couple books means you have all the answers.
  10. caseyhein

    caseyhein Silver Member

    No reason to get petty, What David is saying is NOT wrong, period. A spec isn't going to get turned away for sparse capitalization's. I would say do what you want, the easier way to make sure you don't cap things you shouldn't or do it the very technical way, correctly.

    I didn't know how to use them correctly so I avoided them for the most part but now I am going to use them as I finally got an answer I was looking for also.
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