RJ Wattenhofer

Tech writing, 3D model building and game design.

June 26, 2017

How to Format a Screenplay Part 2

details on formatting scene transitions, montages, camera shots and flashbacks

Feel free to read Part 1 of this article...

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Jump to:
Scene Transitions
Montages
Camera Shots
Flashbacks

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SCENE TRANSITIONS

A transition refers to how the writer would like to cut from one scene to the following scene. These are never used in a spec script, as it is obvious that when you begin a new slugline a new scene is beginning. Transitions are primarily used to advise the director on the feel or jump from one scene to the next. An exception to this rule is when we used the INTERCUT transition during our discussion on phone conversations. These transitions are placed on the far right of the page, as in this EXAMPLE:

(NOTE: If you are viewing this on a mobile device, the far right examples may be cut off...

Black divider bar FADE IN:

 

INT. ROMANIAN CASTLE - GARAGE - DAY

Laney revs the black Jag, yanks the stick shift and punches the gas

Rubber smokes and the vehicle lurches forward.

 

CUT TO:

EXT./INT. COBBLESTONE STREET - BLACK JAG - DAY

The Jag tears into the street, veers left.

Laney grits her teeth, leans into the wheel.

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CUT TO: Cut to is basically telling the reader that we are now cutting to another scene. This is quickly falling out of fashion, as it is redundant: The reader can very well see we are cutting to a new scene.

DISSOLVE TO: This is when one scene slowly fades and dissolves, replaced with the following scene which fades into view. You would most often see this at the end of a very emotional or poignant scene that desires to carry the feeling over or leave an impact on the viewer.

MATCH CUT: This is utilized when the primary element in a scene is also the primary element in the following scene. An example would be an officer placing a medal on a soldier's chest while standing in a smoky battlefield. The next scene would show a young boy (the soldier's son) standing in front of a bedroom mirror, proudly looking at the medal pinned to his tiny chest.

A variation on the standard match cut is seen most often in horror movies. The fiend lifts the knife and brings it down toward the victim's chest. We then cut to the following scene, which finishes the action by showing a young girl sitting in a diner and bringing her pudgy fist down into a pile of fries, the ketchup squirting everywhere.

SMASH CUT: Smash cuts are most often used for intense action happening back-to-back in separate locations. It creates intense anxiety that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, biting their nails, waiting in nervous anticipation for the culmination of all this excitement!

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MONTAGES

Montages are used to connect a series of shots into a sequence. The most famous one we have all seen is the Wardrobe Montage (Hollywood loves this) whereas our main character (probably some ugly duckling) is dragged reluctantly to the clothing store and we watch him/her try on a variety of silly outfits until the perfect ensemble is stumbled upon and they are instantaneously transformed into a real looker.

Montages are also used to quickly fast-forward through a span of time. An example would be a neophyte Kung Fu student pushed through the paces by his master. He suffers inexorably throughout the training montage and in the following scene is kicking ass at the secret underground cage match.Here is how it is formatted:

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BEGIN MONTAGE

Ling Chow does a pushup, falls to the dirt, curls up like a baby and cries.

Ling Chow blocks a punch from his master; the master kicks him in the groin.

Ling Chow does ten push ups, winks at the master.

Ling Chow blocks all of the Master's punches, winks at the Master. The Master kicks him in the groin.

END MONTAGE

CAMERA SHOTS

Camera shots and angles are used only in shooting scripts. A shooting script is written when your spec script is purchased, optioned or (in the case of indie filmmakers) when you are in development and prepping to shoot your feature film.

POV:The POV is your Point-of-View shot; what is seen through the character's very own eyes. This can be very powerful, especially when we want the viewer to literally get inside the head of our character. EXAMPLE:

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EXT. ROMANIAN CASTLE - CAVERN - NIGHT

Laney enters the underground cavern, scans the interior with her eyes.

LANEY'S POV

Evil red eyes stare at her from the top shelf of the bookcase. They blink.

BACK TO SCENE

Laney turns and hightails it out the doorway.

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INSERT:An insert is used to draw particular attention to a small detail in your scene. It is used briefly to focus on a specific element and they we quickly return to the scene. EXAMPLE:

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EXT. ROMANIAN CASTLE - CAVERN - NIGHT

Laney enters the underground cavern, scans the interior with her eyes.

INSERT - DUSTY TOME

A hairy spider tracks through the dust on the battered book cover.

BACK TO SCENE

Laney picks up the tome and flips it open.

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FLASHBACKS

Flashbacks are used to interrupt the scene at a critical juncture because there is some important information to be gleaned at that moment by transporting the viewer into the past. After the flashback scene or images are shown, we are then transported to the original scene where we left off and then continue forward in the present. EXAMPLE:

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EXT. ROMANIAN CASTLE - CAVERN - NIGHT

Laney enters the underground cavern, scans the interior with her eyes.

She spots a very hair spider crawling toward her.

FLASHBACK TO:

 

EXT. SCHOOL PLAYGROUND - DAY (FIFTEEN YEARS EARLIER)

Little Laney trips in the grass. A giant hairy spider leaps on her nose and bites it. She screams.

BACK TO PRESENT

Laney screams and hightails it out the doorway.

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What you have learned here today will give you the knowledge to fully construct a professional screenplay set to Hollywood standards. Now it is time to cut you loose so you can write your script!

written by , 2012

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PREVIOUS: How to Format a Screenplay Part 1

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