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Old February 7th, 2005, 09:13 AM   #1
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What does (beat) mean?

What does (beat) mean?
I'm reading the shawshank redemption and I've seen this in other scripts, but I never figured it out.
Thx
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Old February 7th, 2005, 09:25 AM   #2
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It means a pause in the action. The writer wants to make sure that the reader knows that nothing happens for a moment or two before the action/dialogue continues. Instead of using a line like:

Everybody stands silently and does nothing.

the writer uses BEAT.
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Old February 7th, 2005, 10:11 AM   #3
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In adition to creating a pause, a BEAT can signal a change in attitude and intent (and hence, delivery)

JOHN
I think chicken and dumplings would be
fine for dinner. You mothers recipe is my
Favorite
(Beat)
They laid me off at work today...
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Old February 7th, 2005, 10:24 AM   #4
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I think actors look at it as more than just a pause. Words have rhythm and a pace. A beat has a time length that fits in context with the rest of the line. It's a little hard to explain. I don't actually use it in my scripts. I agree with Philip. To actually write it in there is cheesy and presumptious.
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Old February 7th, 2005, 11:33 AM   #5
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_______Cliff________
Ok, I think I get it, Thanks.
(Beat)
I'm going back to analyzing the Shawshank Redemption.


........................................
Thanks
Cliff
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Old February 7th, 2005, 03:30 PM   #6
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BEAT, is what I do to my assistant when he doesn't label the tapes properly!

RB
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Old February 7th, 2005, 07:57 PM   #7
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imho, it's not neccessary. when you write a script, it's supposed to be about the STORY. that's the job of a screenwriter. if you start putting in what the actors should do or where cameras should be then yuo've stepped on the director's shoes... unless the writer is also the director... which makes it alright. that's just me opinion though =).
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Old February 7th, 2005, 10:15 PM   #8
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Yi,

Some elements in the script, are necessary to inform the READER what is taking place, not just the actors. The "beat" can be overused, certainly, like all script instructions, but it has its place.

As a reader, you don't 'hear' the beat that is ultimately delivered by the actor. Sometimes, in order to suggest the flow of dialogue, the lines are put on seperate lines... this suggests a staccatto delivery. Sometimes, you use -- to indicate an interruption. Sometimes you use...

To indicate a trail - off.

The "Beat" is just a tool. A good writer knows when and how to use it. And a good actor will understand the intent. It should be used sparingly, if at all. Much like 'wrylies'.
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Old February 8th, 2005, 07:21 AM   #9
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A friend of mine who's always at all these writing seminars. Says here's a way to write a beat in and it speeds up the read and the flow of the script and it helps because it dosen't stop the reader by him/her sometimes reading the word beat.

__Cliff________
Ok, I think I get it, Thanks.
(Beat)
I'm going back to analyzing the Shawshank Redemption.

The other way.

__Cliff________
Ok, I think I get it, Thanks... I'm going back to analyzing the Shawshank Redemption.

Now, if my friend would stop going to all these events he might get another script sold. He's had two low budget films made from his scripts.
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Old February 8th, 2005, 05:58 PM   #10
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like i said it's just my opinion.

in gary's example, the line without the beat looks better. i wouldn't even put the ... after Thanks. it's the job of the actor to make it come alive and the director to tell the actor which iam to annunciate... @least that's what it is today. i still say concentrate on story. old scripts (40s) never used to write beat into it. it read like a novel & is much more streamlined, literate and sophisticated =).
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Old February 8th, 2005, 07:57 PM   #11
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Yi,

Old scripts did indeed read like novels. Including vast stretches of descriptive prose that would get a script tossed in the circular file in an instant if sent out now.

Readers today, (The people you have to get your script past) Like to see lots of "white space" on the page.

Old scripts used to include lots of camera direction, and "We see, we hear" which is, nowadays the kiss of death.

Yeah, it's got a lot to do with what's current. The format is a dynamic and flexible one. A screenwriter who wants every chance he can get, will know what's current, what's standard, what's acceptable... before bending or breaking those norms.
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Old February 8th, 2005, 09:04 PM   #12
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i've read in certain film history books that the reason why older scripts read like novel (such as Eve) was simply because the screenwriters DID write novels! =). what a novel idea! no wonder twas called the "golden age of cinema". it was the writers. anyway, here's hoping for a great 2005. the guy behind kingdom of heaven i hear is a pretty literate writer =).
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Old February 9th, 2005, 01:12 PM   #13
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Owen Wilson's curious use of the word.

http://tinyurl.com/6lkr3
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Old February 9th, 2005, 02:02 PM   #14
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Marco,

"Beat" has a slightly different meaning in his context. If we think of a 'beat' as an in-exact element of timing , then it can be used in many ways.

As a musical expression "How many beats to the bar?"

Or as we've been discussing it, as an interruption and change of intent within a moment of dialogue.

Carrying the reference a bit further, there are 'beat's in a plotline, moments of dynamic break and change of direction for the story. I think that's the use he was reffering to.
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Old February 9th, 2005, 02:22 PM   #15
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I actually feel that it's the same thing. This goes back to my earlier point that actors have a deeper understanding of the concept. The beat, or pause, they might incorporate into a line is syncopated with the rhythm and pacing (or beats) of the whole scene. It's another reason I feel the whole thing is a more appropriate tool for actors and directors, and is much abused by screenwriters.
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