When aspiring screenwriters connect with me for various academic and industrial reasons, they ask me what it means a script and a screenplay.
Are they the same? Though both the names come under the same classification of writing for the screens, there is a slight difference between the two.

A script is a generic term for writing for any of the screens presently available for screening, for example movies for the theatres, movies for television, documentary movies, for OTTs and videos in particular these days for online releases, theatrical plays, audio dramas etcetera. Also, it’s interesting to know that there are even scripts written just for publishing as book and not to be produced and released as movie.

So, you say, it’s a script for a movie, or a script for the OTT web-series, or script for a play, script for an audio drama, script for a documentary, a script for a play, script for publishing and so on.Otherwise, you say, it’s a screenplay, it’s a tele-play, it’s a web-play, it’s an audio drama, it’s a documentary-script, it’s a play, it’s a closet screenplay and so on.

So, this’s the difference. A screenplay is a script for a movie, a web-play is a script for long web series for an OTT, a tele-play is a script for television series, an audio-drama is a script for an audio drama and a closet screenplay is a script exclusively for publishing as a book etcetera.
Again, a screenplay can be a speculative screenplay (spec), a commissioned screenplay or a shoot-script.

Speculative Screenplay or called ‘spec’ is that one writes without any contract from any producer, but of course, intended to impress one to get it produced. For the same reason there’s no payment involved in the spec screenwriting or any promise for payment foreseen. ‘Specs’ are generally written by aspiring screenwriters to establish their talent as a writer; or to direct the movie themselves. So, the intention is to impress the reader – a producer or a representative or sometimes a prospective director or an actor. And the intention is also for easy reading of the structure and content, not giving too much possible distractions as to the technical aspects of the picture-making process viz. camera angles, edit suggestions or any other technical advice.

The Spec Screenplays don’t necessarily carry scene numbers. Specs usually tend to be accepted as originals, but can also be based on written works, real events, or on people living or dead.Here’s a film that shows how screenwriters move around with their ‘specs’ to get identified in the industry: Dreams on Spec (2007).

COMMISSIONED SCREENPLAY is usually written under a contract. As I find through my experience, a professional writer is called to work on a topic of interest of the Producer or Studio, for a screenplay already made, or a story already written and/or the rights of the story bought out, or to
remake a movie etcetera.

The writer is under a contractual commitment, a mutually agreed remuneration is absolutely present at the very outset, the writer may even have to work in collaboration with other writers sometimes. The format is almost the same as Speculative Screenplays, but most of times may be written as a shoot script with technical details and scene numbers (for the simple reason the project is already on).

CLOSET SCREENPLAYS, strange enough to be curious about, are screenplays written purposely not to be produced. The intention of the screenwriter here is to write a screenplay to be read by a lone reader or a group (or just for publishing).
The first thing to understand here is that the SHOOT SCRIPT is not another edition of the screenplay. A shoot script is written to help the production of the film go efficiently well. The most important component that makes shoot script any different from a spec is the scene numbers, and some definite formatting rules to help revisions and rewrites work easier and effective. To look at Shoot Script in another perspective, is to make the script pages and content convenient for direction and planning to the various departments of production.