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Is it Scriptwriting or is it Screenwriting?

Writing is the quintessential art form when it comes to storytelling. Scriptwriting and screenwriting are two of the most well-known writing styles since they're used for creating TV series and films, and at a first glance the two seem to have a lot in common. Writing styles have different functions that are quite specific that could be to convince, to explain, to narrate, and more. Likewise, Screenwriting and Scriptwriting, though often confused, are two types of writing that are similar but have a different utility, which makes it essential to know their individually unique format and function. Take a look at our break-down of the details that make the difference between one style of writing that's part of the Hollywood production process and the other that's headed for Broadway.

various screenplays, scripts, the difference between a script or a screenplay

Is it a Script or a Screenplay?

  • As a whole, in a script, the writer uses a limited number of locations where the story takes place, whereas with a screenplay the amount of locations can vary greatly. 

  • The dialogue in a script is essential to define the characters and to tell the story, opposed to a screenplay which relies on imagery as a shortcut to tell the story and to define the larger number of actors. 

  • In-depth descriptions of setting and characters are included in a script, where on the other side, a screenplay uses action descriptions of one to three sentences and reveals the characters throughout the story and with dialogue.

  • In regards to length and timing - a script usually consists of two acts which follow the length of the dialogue with the act numbers specified on the page, while in contrast the timing of a screenplay is one minute of screen time per written page. 

  • A last important difference between a script and a screenplay is that a script is intended to be performed as written, whereas  a screenplay is a highly collaborative process which encourages interpretation and often has many rewrites before it’s produced.

We created an outline to provide a clear overview with these various features that differ from each other when comparing scriptwriting with screenwriting.

scriptwriting vs screenwriting comparison chart list graphic, tips for screenwriting

Another way to look at a script is to think of it like a blueprint; a preliminary framework for a production which encompasses elements like actions and dialogue, whereas a screenplay is further along in the development process, having already taken into account key character arcs and indications about the settings from the script.

When Do You Call Someone a Screenwriter and When a Scriptwriter ?

The titles of screenwriter and scriptwriter can cause some confusion as the term ‘screenwriter’ is often used when referring to writers who create scripts specifically for TV and film. In reality, a screenwriter is nonetheless a scriptwriter and the title is simply representative of the intended use of the script. On the other hand, ‘scriptwriters’ could also be writing for TV and film, but might also choose to write for theater or video games. In the past, writers may have worked on one or two formats but stayed relatively specialized. Today, as AI becomes more prevalent and social media and streaming have disrupted the industry world-wide, film and television writers are likely to work across formats and sometimes even across industries, a trend that is expected to become an expectation for many writers in the future.

 Chart of the difference between a script or a screenplay

Summarizing Scriptwriting vs Screenwriting

Scripts which are referred to as ‘screenplays’ are written and formatted for usage in TV and film, while the intended use of ‘scripts’ from scriptwriters is not specified, but could include TV, film, theater, video games, corporate video and more. 

The bottomline is that regardless of what title they have, scriptwriters and screenwriters are crucial forces in the film and TV industry. By continuously tapping into their creativity and developing authentic characters and narratives, they craft meaningful stories to life which are worth telling. 


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