Picture courtesy: Pereanu Sebastian – Unsplash
One of the clichés filmmakers can’t get rid of is showing their characters that are playing the roles of writers, using a typewriter. We have been shown so much of it that we can’t imagine a writer without it. And one of the reasons why directors try to incorporate this thing in films is due to the close-up shot of written script in which the font is visible. To some, this is the credibility that writer carries with his character.
Picture courtesy: The Shining (1980) – Stanley Kubrick
This font is called Courier. Though it reminds us of the golden age of typewriters, it has now become the industry-standard font for stage and screenplays in this digital realm as well. Why? CONSISTENCY!
BIRTH OF COURIER
Courier was found in 1955 by a designer named Howard Kettler at IBM. Since IBM didn’t trademark this typeface, it was adapted by multiple mediums to be used without any royalty fee. Earlier named ‘Messenger’, Kettler felt that the typeface needed a much more elegant name to suit its stability and prestige, and that is how ‘Courier’ was born.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT COURIER?
Courier is a monospaced font, which means each letter is given the equal amount of horizontal space. Letter ‘I’ will occupy same space as letter ‘Z’.
In contrast with other fonts, courier is not very eye pleasing. Fonts like Arial and Times New Roman has letters that only take the required space, which increases their readability and clarity.
In Film and TV scripts, consistency is mandatory. According to a thumb rule, a page of your screenplay is equal to the 1 minute on screen. If the screenplay is typed using 12 pt courier, a page will usually have 55 lines and it will be the minute of your film. In case you choose the same font size but different font, let’s say Times New Roman, the consistency will be disturbed and then screenwriters won’t be able to measure the duration of their film through their screenplays’ page count.
Another reason why courier is used is because of its universal pagination. A script typed on Mac OS will have the same pagination on Windows OS. And courier wins here big time since screenplays travel through a lot of desks and personal computers.
To me, and I am sure to every screenwriter, Courier is sacred. Scripts typed in any other font do not please us. As a script consultant, I always ask the writers beforehand to type their screenplays using Courier as many of them are inexperienced and untrained. Unless you are an auteur like Stanley Kubrick or Rajkummar Hirani, who write, direct, produce and edit their films, you are always expected to use Courier.
Screenshot: 3 Idiots Screenplay (2010) – Rajkummar Hirani
Take a look at this screenshot from the actual screenplay of 3 Idiots by Rajkummar Hirani. Notice the standard rules that are not being followed here. And it’s absolutely fine since being the auteur; he is responsible for every aspect of his film.
If you are only responsible for writing, follow the rules. Because industry is already in ruins and we can’t let the ‘wrong’ keep repeating itself.
Have I missed anything or do you wish to add something to this piece? Comment below and let me know.