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A scriptment is a written work by a movie or television screenwriter that combines elements of a script and treatment, especially the dialogue elements, which are formatted the same as in a screenplay. It is a more elaborate document than a standard draft treatment. Some films have been shot using only a scriptment.
The term scriptment was originally coined by filmmaker James Cameron, possibly during his early involvement in the development of the Spider-Man film series. In that effort, after the success of his 1984 film The Terminator, Cameron wrote a 57-page scriptment for the first proposed Spider-Man film, which was used by screenwriter David Koepp to write the first draft, incorporating it nearly word for word.
Cameron's scriptment for Titanic (1997) was 131 pages. The term became more widely known when Cameron's 1994 scriptment for the 2009 film Avatar was leaked on the internet during pre-production, although other directors, such as John Hughes and Zak Penn, had written scriptments before. The scriptment for Avatar and its notoriety caused the spread of the term.
A scriptment borrows characteristics from both a regular screenplay and a film treatment and is comparable to a step outline: the main text body is similar to an elaborate draft treatment, while usually only major sequences receive scene location headings (slug lines), which is different from the extensive slug line formatting in standard screenplays, where every new scene or shot begins with an INT./EXT. DAY/NIGHT slug line set above the description or dialogue. However, just as a treatment can be short or long, a scriptment can exist in various degrees of completion depending on how much time the writer has devoted to it and a more fully developed one could have all slug lines in place, a great deal of dialogue, and only require the producer's (or a writing partner's) okay on the direction the finished script should take before proceeding further.
In a scriptment, scenes and shots may be separated as paragraphs or sentences and, if it is the writer's style, can also include an occasional explanatory note, such as might be important in an adaptation or a sequel. As with standard treatments, much of the dialogue is summarized in action. The longer the scriptment, however, the more likely it contains dialog scenes that are fully developed. Single words or brief phrases of dialogue can be included within the description and lengthier exchanges are formatted exactly as a regular screenplay, which is the main reason for the "script" part of the term.
The longer the scriptment, the more likely it is written shot to shot as opposed to scene by scene; thus, a long, detailed scriptment does not necessarily equate to a longer movie, as a typical 90-120 page screenplay written with master scenes contains many more individual shots than are immediately apparent.
A scriptment can begin with FADE IN: top left and conclude with a centered THE END. It can have a title page like a script and lengthier treatment. It is written single spaced with an empty space between paragraphs and other elements and the pages are numbered in the upper right corner, just as in a screenplay.
Directors and screenwriters write scriptments as an intermediate stage in development from the draft treatment to the first draft of the screenplay. Like a draft treatment, a scriptment can be anywhere from 20 to 80 or more pages, while regular presentation treatments or outlines only summarize the plot, typically in not more than 30 pages.
For the Batman feature film The Dark Knight (2008), writer David S. Goyer and the film's director Christopher Nolan wrote a scriptment that was then used by Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan to expand further into a finished screenplay. "I wrote what you'd call a 'scriptment' with Chris over an accelerated month long period, and then we handed it off to his brother [Jonathan], who did the first pass," explains Goyer.
Filmmaker Wayne Spitzer used a scriptment while writing the adaptation of author Algernon Blackwood's 1907 supernatural short story "The Willows".
Comic book writer Warren Ellis has written that he sometimes works in the scriptment style.
A scriptment can also be a presentation document; that is, one that is sold or handed in as the finished work.
Writer-director-producer James Cameron delivered a 57-page scriptment that he was contracted to write during the development phase of the first Spider-Man (2002) theatrical movie, which he was also going to direct. When Cameron left the project, screenwriter David Koepp expanded it into a first draft script, which was later worked on by other uncredited writers.
In 2005, Sony Pictures paid screenwriter Ken Nolan US $3 million for his 75-page scriptment that was an adaptation of the then-unpublished Whitley Strieber novel The Grays. Nolan had only one produced writing credit at the time, the screenplay for the military film Black Hawk Down, a project for which he had submitted three different scriptments to producer Jerry Bruckheimer and executive producers Mike Stenson, and Chad Oman for approval during the writing process.
Filmmakers Kriv Stenders and Richard Green used the scripment format to make their 2007 film Boxing Day.
The 2008 improv comedy movie The Grand, written by Zak Penn and Matt Bierman, was filmed using a scriptment. Penn said their scriptment "started at about 25 pages and it was just a document that explained who the characters were and what the scenes were."
It was reported on the movie news website Ain't It Cool News on December 1, 2008 that a scriptment was involved in developing a possible new Speed sequel or remake: "There's a scriptment floating around that reintroduces Jack Traven. So the studios are hoping to get Keanu back on board."
"King of the World: The Complete Works of James Cameron". Total Film (special supplement). London UK: Future Publishing Ltd: 30. January 2010. "After the success of The Terminator, Cameron was announced as writer and director of a $60 m big-screen adaptation of the comic book classic. But thanks to a tangled web of litigation, studio bankrupticies, and wrangling over screenplay credits, that movie never saw light. . . . What remains, however, is Cameron's tantalising 57-page Spidey 'scriptment', a compacted screenplay-cum-narrative that mapped out his entire film in brief. . . . Koepp's first draft is taken often word-for-word from Cameron's story, though later versions were heavily rewritten by numerous screenwriters. Despite this—and much to Cameron's chagrin— Koepp's name is the only one on the screenplay."
Jermyn, Deborah; Redmond, Sean (2003). The Cinema of Kathryn Bigelow: Hollywood Transgressor. London UK: Wallflower Press. p. 190. ISBN1-903364-42-6. Cocks (Last Temptation of Christ, Age of Innocence, [uncredited] Titanic) entered into the writing process when Cameron finished his 131-page 'scriptment' and turned his attention to True Lies.
^"Revolution 09: Avatar". Total Film magazine. London UK: Future Publishing Ltd. January 2010. p. 74. This 80-page scriptment was about a paralysed man who can control an alien body with his mind. It flowed out of him, wrote itself in just two weeks.
Brodesser, Claude (August 23, 2005). "Sony ponies up 'Gray' pay: Little green men means big green for Nolan". Variety. Retrieved 2009.Variety, August 23, 2005, reported by Claude Brodesser. "Sony Pictures will pay Black Hawk Down screenwriter Ken Nolan $3 million for his 75-page 'script-ment' (less than a script but more than a treatment) of Whitley Strieber's as-yet-unpublished alien sci-fi novel The Grays, marking one of the studio's largest payments for a treatment."
Cohen, David S. (2008). Screenplays. New York: HarperCollins. p. 82. ISBN978-0-06-143157-9. He'd heard that James Cameron would write detailed fifty- to sixty-page treatments he called 'scriptlets [sic],' including dialogue and action. ... He [Nolan] did three drafts of the [Black Hawk Down] scriptlet [sic], taking notes from Jerry Bruckheimer and his lieutenants Mike Stenson and Chad Oman on each draft, before actually turning it into a screenplay.
Cieply, Michael (January 13, 2008). "Remaking Paramount by the Seat of His Pants". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009.New York Times, January 13, 2008; interview with Brad Grey, the Chairman of Paramount Pictures discussing the film Cloverfield. Quote: "What do you mean, you're going to greenlight the movie with a kid named Matt directing?" Mr. Grey said, according to Mr. Weston. Yet with just a 65-page "scriptment" (more than a treatment, less than a script) laying out a film about a bunch of friends who happen to capture on camera the utter destruction of New York by a monster, he went with Mr. Weston's judgment, hedged by Mr. Abrams's assurance that he would be closely involved with the film.
^"The New Masters of Hollywood". Retrieved 2009. Portfolio.com interview with Producer and director J.J. Abrams. February 21, 2008. Quote: "Abrams hired a relative unknown, Matt Reeves, to direct the film, which was shot handheld from a 'scriptment,' an outline around which dialogue was improvised."
^"Reno: 911!'s Carlos Alazraqui". Retrieved 2009. Cracked.com, February 22, 2007 article. Quote: "With the movie there was something they called a scriptment, a combination of a script and a treatment, which was to please both the Fox and Paramount executives."
Stoval, Adam (July-August 2009). "Now Playing: I Love You, Beth Cooper, Screenplay by Larry Doyle". Creative Screenwriting. Los Angeles: 63. "Doyle quickly had his theme, characters and obviously his inciting event—which led him to write an 85-page combination script and outline that everyone passed on. ... In between meetings [with New York publishers], his film agent called to tell him that Hollywood had read the hundred pages as well and wanted to make the movie."
^"Chicago Reader - Review: I Love You, Beth Cooper". Retrieved 2009. "Ironically, I Love You, Beth Cooper had its origin in a 'scriptment' by Larry Doyle that an LA talent agency rejected as uncastable. Now it's been optioned by Chris Columbus and picked up by a studio;"
The dictionary definition of scriptment at Wiktionary