Movies are a visual medium that communicates with action, scenery, words and sounds. A movie transcript contains only one element from a movie -- the dialogue. It is not the same thing as a movie screenplay, which is used to make a movie. A transcript is constructed after the movie itself is already completed.
What's In a Transcript?
A movie dialogue transcript is basically the same as a transcript for a television show, such as a news program or interview. It only lists the words that are spoken by the different characters within the movie, in the order in which they are spoken. In a dialogue transcript, there is no listing of where the characters are, or the context of their words. Other movie transcripts go one step further and include a brief description of the setting, or mention what the characters are doing.
Transcripts Versus Screenplays
A screenplay is a blueprint for a movie, compared to a transcript, which is a retelling of what happened or was spoken. Also, a professional screenplay follows a specific format, with established positions on the page for the scene headings, character names, dialogue, action and descriptions. The most noticeable difference between a screenplay and a transcript is that the transcript lacks any scene headings, which tell the reader where and when the scene takes place, or any descriptions of the characters, and everything is left-justified. Setting and time in a screenplay is given in a slugline, followed by the screenplay narrative, which vividly describes the characters, action and scene details - all items that are usually left out of transcripts.
Making a Transcript
Transcripts are normally written by someone who watches the finished movie, and transcribes, sometimes painstakingly, exactly what each character speaks. If you compare a movie's screenplay to its transcript, you often find many differences, especially in what is spoken. Dialogue is frequently altered as the story transforms from a screenplay to an actual movie, with actors, directors or even others making tweaks and updates to what is spoken.
Who Uses a Transcript?
Because a transcript is not used in the making of a movie, it's value is often as a tool for screenwriters, aspiring or professional, to study dialogue from other movies. Unless you have watched a movie beforehand, you have no idea who each character is, or why they say what they do. Therefore, movie buffs who want to relive a movie in literary form, or who appreciate the strong, witty or unusual dialogue of certain movies, may enjoy reading the transcript.