“You can’t judge a book by its cover” is advice customers ignore every day. Book covers are designed to sell the pages within.
The cover page of a screenplay has a very different purpose—to tell the reader if the writer knows what they are doing.
A perfect cover page is no guarantee that the script is any good. But a bad cover tells a reader their read ahead will not be pleasant. Chances are they'll move the script to the bottom of the stack before they read even a single page.
This is an actual cover of a script submitted to a production company. Only the title and names were changed to protect the guilty.
Weird fonts: Like everywhere else in a screenplay, use Courier 12pt black. Anything else tags you as a newbie or the Unibomber.
Graphics: Never use them, no matter how tempting they can be.
Credits: There are only two credit attributions that mean anything, Story and Screenplay. Anything else smells like there’s unresolved ownership issues which means future lawsuits. As for “Mike’s Bicycle,” you only attribute published or produced works. Plus, it’s confusing; why did they change who owned the bicycle?
Registration info: By all means, register your work. But putting the info on the cover pages is saying, “I protected my script so you can’t steal it.” Not the best way to start a relationship.
A good cover is simple:
It has the three pieces of info development folk need:
Title: in all caps, no bolding, no underlining.
Credit: Depending on how Bill Bonney contributed to the script, he’d either share story or screenplay credit. I chose story for purposes of this demonstration.
Contact info: Either yours or your reps, not both.
Our next posting is The first three pages. Until then, it’s back to work.
Geof Miller is a screenwriter, producer, development consultant, and teacher of screenwriting. His classes at the University of Washington and Seattle University were described by students as “inspiring,” “enlightening,” and “f*cking awesome!”