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Old June 5th, 2003, 11:36 AM   #1
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Script writing question

I'm stuck how to write a certain little scene in an official manner.
Now this script isn't going out, but I would like to do it in the
approriate way. I own the The Screenwriter's Bible but could not
find it the answer in there. Currently no access to my Scr(i)pt
magazines either.

The scene goes as follows. I want to start with a black screen
while we hear someone run. Then we cut to the characters
legs running and then to a full view of the person. I don't know
how to write the first part with the black and the footsteps
(running) .

Anyone have an idea how to format this?
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Old June 5th, 2003, 12:48 PM   #2
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I don't know of an official version, but here's how I would write it.

Screenplays typically begin with FADE IN. If this scene is the first one in the script, I'd do it like this. (I try to avoid using "We see," but here I think it's appropriate.)

The sound of heavy breathing and feet hitting the pavement as someone runs.

FADE IN

JAKE sprints down the street. We see nothing of him but his ghostly white legs.

He turns a corner. We now see his arms pumping wildly and his face full of fear.

If this scene is not the first scene in the script, put FADE TO BLACK at the end of the previous scene. Then,

The sound of heavy breathing and feet hitting the pavement as someone runs.

FADE IN (or CUT TO)

JAKE sprints down the street. We see nothing of him...
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Old June 5th, 2003, 12:58 PM   #3
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FADE IN

EXT. STREET - NIGHT

Someone is running but we only see the feet at street level.

CUT TO

We can see who is running now. It's [description].
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Old June 5th, 2003, 01:13 PM   #4
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If was writing this as an assignment or writing it for myself (versus writing it for some ninny hollywood reader who thinks they know what should be on page 1, 9, 32 and 97 and dont' care what's on the other pages)

I would write it like this:


OPEN IN BLACK

The sounds of dress shoes hitting the pavement. Fast. Running.

EXT ____ - DAY
The feet are attached to legs in blue striped suit pants and they and pounding away as fast they can. You can see the black socks peek out. This is an outfit not meant for running.

CUT TO:

EXT _________ - DAY

Bill is tear- assing down an alley at full speed. The rest of him is just as dressed up at the shoes and pants, his tie flying over his shoulder like a kite. Even though he's only 33 he looks like he's going to have a heart attack.

But he doesn't stop.

He's scared.



====

I'm a firm believer in getting the FEEL for a scene across... the vibe of how it will look on screen so people know what the hell you are talking about.
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Old June 5th, 2003, 01:42 PM   #5
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You have to be careful also not to overdirect in a script, unless you are the one assigned to write the shooting script or you yourself are the director. In a first draft it might be something as simple as this:

EXT. STREET - NIGHT

A man is running down the street. It isn't clear at first who it is but gradually they're identity becomes known.

Obviously, you lose the direction that you wanted, though. Just pointing it out.
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Old June 5th, 2003, 03:15 PM   #6
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Well, I understand where you are coming from (and my response is NOT meant to dismiss you or your opinions so please don't take it that way) but at the same time I didn't call any shots.

I didn't call for a tight shot on shoes running... didn't call for a wider shot of the whole man... granted I called for a cut but I could just have easily left that out and used the Scene Header "EXT." to do that for me or even just started another paragraph to do it.

I gave the visual cues for it and lead you into MY story.

I think that people in Hollywood have treated writers like sh*t for too long and have dismissed their ability to tell a visual story, for film IS a visual form.

I'm just saying that you can write an exciting, visual script and give it a feel and an essence and a vibe and it will serve everyone involved better.

Granted if I was writing a spec script for some hollywood machine I would probably write it very dull and very plain.

(shrug) Each writer has a style or the guy(s) who wrote "The Hot Chick" would be as well thought of as William Goldman.

; )
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Old June 5th, 2003, 03:28 PM   #7
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BLACK

We hear the sounds of sneakers pounding wet pavement.

LEGS

cut a hurried path through the urban jungle.

CHAS PAPERT,

25 and with an Adonis physique, hauls an enormous steadicam rig down a 42nd St. sidewalk at breakneak speed. His footwork is a symphony of velocity and balance as he pursues his subject,

ABE VIGODA.

Write what you see and don't let anything else get in the way. The paragraph break is your biggest tool to let the reader know that we're looking at something different.

CUT TO is obsolete and a waste of space.
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Old June 5th, 2003, 03:50 PM   #8
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Agreed on CUT TO and on breaking with a paragraph. Same with ANGLE ON or ANGLE unless it's a shooting script and you are working closely with the next on in the production such as the storyboardist and director.

Kevin, I wasn't actually replying to what you said but agreed on the style issue. I've read many kinds. What I posted was more of an FYI in general.

Most importantly, you want to tell a story. Being able to paint a visual picture is important when you want the reader to know that you've thought of a way to break it up visually.

Also, something not seen in any of these examples is the CAPITALS when it comes to objects.

EXT. STREET - NIGHT

We see the SNEAKERS of someone running, as if pursued. The shoes are of grimy and holey. The shoes of a street person.
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Old June 5th, 2003, 04:43 PM   #9
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Good advice, and some different approaches. Here's mine.

OPEN ON BLACK

FOOTSTEPS echo in the darkness.

EXT: ALLEYWAY - DAY

Combat boots pound the rain-slick pavement.

A Uniformed SWAT OFFICER swivels his head left and right as he checks the open doorways.


You get the idea. Stay away from "We hear, we see." It's just not needed, and tends to remove the reader from the action. As a rule of thumb sound FX are in Caps, as is the Character's first appearance. Write in master shots, direct the reader's "inner eye" by your sentence structure and pacing.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words... in writing a screenplay you have to make each word worth a thousand pictures.
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Old June 5th, 2003, 06:09 PM   #10
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Amazing how many replies I got this fast. Thanks a zillion times
guys. It is okay for "directing instructions" to be in there, it is
not a hollywood script. I also agree with that since film/video/movie
is such a visual medium we perhaps should write a little bit more
as to how we intended it to see.

But since most of us write to direct/make the movie then ourselves
this doesn't matter much (at least for me).

Again thank you very much for all of your insights! I'll ponder
over them with a good glass of wine.

(I'm always fighting the lines of what to tell and not to tell
when writing a script.. argh)
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Old June 9th, 2003, 04:39 PM   #11
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<<<-- Originally posted by Richard Alvarez : Good advice, and some different approaches. Here's mine.

OPEN ON BLACK

FOOTSTEPS echo in the darkness.

EXT: ALLEYWAY - DAY

Combat boots pound the rain-slick pavement.

A Uniformed SWAT OFFICER swivels his head left and right as he checks the open doorways.
-->>>

I'd say this is the best way to write your screenplays, whether they're for "Hollywood" or not. Richard's description is concise, visually exciting, and directs the camera without using "CUT TO", "We see", etc.

"Combat boots pound on the rain-slick pavement."

Even if you handed this off to a novice director, they would almost certainly shoot a low-angle closeup of the boots before cutting back to reveal the character running.

Actors and crew members - especially the amateurs most of us work with on our no-budget projects - need to know the STORY and MOOD of the film, and don't care about (or often don't understand) the industry jargon most writers use in their screenplays.
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Old June 9th, 2003, 04:41 PM   #12
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I just wrote something where I tried to eliminate my excessive use of "we see" etc. That was a valid criticism.
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Old June 11th, 2003, 12:07 PM   #13
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yeah, I broke myself of that ('we see') a while back... I can't remember who it was that popularized that. (scratches head) There was some major player that first used that and it caught on, I remember reading about it.

I just write like prose and guide the mind's eye and the tone.
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Old June 11th, 2003, 02:21 PM   #14
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If you read a lot of the OLD scripts, (From the 40's and 50's) the "We see" is part of the style. Style changes though... it's good to keep current on the spec formats that are relevant now. I usually buy the latest guide to spec formats every other year. It's good to at least KNOW what's "in" whether or not you chose to use it or ignore it.
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Old June 12th, 2003, 02:53 PM   #15
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Most scripts today still use "we" as the directive of the action. It's completely standard. Kevin B's use of description is absolutely fine. Some people are real sparse with their description others go all out. It's far from over-direction, in fact in screenwriting classes you're encouraged to describe clothing, the way the person looks and acts and emotional cues. It's the screenwriter's story and a well written screenplay is much more likely to get picked up. To see some differences check out the screenplay for taxi driver as compared to a newer comedy (Kevin Smith) or something. If the work is heavily emotional or visual both the director and the actors appreciate explicit description. Overdirection in screen writing is classified as trying to direct the tone of every spoken line with either descriptions between lines of dialog or notations under every heading:

SIMON
(angry)
What the hell!

The tone of the scene should be dictated by the writing but actors don't like having zero flexibility in trying to get what they think the scene is saying across. As for the original question there's a number of things you can do and every suggestion so far would be considered valid. You can open with:

BLACK

There's no need for the CUT TO:'s at this point unless it's a shooting script and even then sometimes scenes are just numbered to show cuts. It saves on pages. Anytime the is an INT. or EXT. there is a new scene. In fact what a lot of people do if it's all one shot or scene say in a house where two people are in different rooms is

IN THE BATHROOM

She's putting on her makeup.

IN THE BEDROOM

He hasn't woken up yet.

So long as the INT. has been established. It just makes it easier to read. So long as it is capitalized and the spacing is there it is assumed to be a cut. Sounds and all other effects are supposed to be capiltalized but that's really only for a shooting script too.

So do what you think sounds best. Hope I was a help.
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