Thursday, November 25, 2010

Screenplays and screenwriting is, in and of itself, a very unique writing form because it has a standardized screenplay format that is common among the industry; because it has to be read and interpreted by a lot of different types of professions and individuals.

This means that the screenplay format and screenplay structure is going to be much more common between different screenplays than other literary forms, which allows screenplay terms to become much more common and used. When you work on screenwriting you need to address many of the common screenwriting terms so that you can keep in mind the standards set for both the screenplay format and the screenplay structure that is often followed.

And this is a common question from the many who attend my screenwriting programs at Screenwriters' Academy - ScreenWrite.In.

Here is a basic screenplay glossary, outlining different screenwriting terms that you are going to need to know when working on your screenplay.


A screenplay beat can actually refer to a couple different things. First, a beat in a screenplay can indicate a literal beat in the dialogue. What this means is that you have placed the word BEAT in between two lines of dialogue to indicate that a little time has passed between these moments and that there has been a little bit of a shift, or beat.

The other type of beat that would be indicated in a screenplay glossary would be the story beats that would be in a screenplay. This would indicate the main beats that would happen a few times in a story that indicate action/dialogue/emotional-shift moments that mark moments in the script.


FADE IN is a specific line, and format, used in your screenplay to indicate a literal fade transition. This FADE IN is display in all capitals followed by a colon (:) and is only really acceptable at the beginning of the opening scene.


In the opening slug line of a scene in your screenplay you are going to have an indication of DAY or NIGHT, which is in line with the screenplay format. Instead of this you can put CONTINUOUS if it is a scene that is continuing directly from the previous one. You could actually use this device on several scenes that run into each other, such as in a chase scene.


In your slug line you are always going to indicate if it is in an INT, or interior location, or EXT, an exterior location. These abbreviations are always included and cannot be left off because it will help the production coordinator to know what they have to prepare for.


What FAVOR ON means in the screenplay format is that in a scene the camera is supposed to favor a specific character more than others. Only indicate this if it is absolutely necessary as you are not going to want to be including directions that the director or the director of photography would be giving in the production situation.


V.O. simply means voice over, and you may want to note that a specific series of lines are in V.O. This will often happen for a narrator or someone who is talking over a series of images, but not indicated to actually be in the physical space where those images are coming from.


Off Screen dialogues are meant for characters who you want to indicate as present in the scene but are not shown at the time the dialogue is delivered.


CUT TO is a transition direction that means a direct cut from one shot to another. This can happen more often than the FADE IN: in the screenplay if you need to indicate that a certain shot is important to come after another.


The insert is a type of shot that is going to be the direct view of the camera even though it may not be indicated by the scene as a whole. These inserts will likely be shot outside of the pattern of the regular film coverage, and may be a specific look on a face or object. For example, in a scene where the girl is very conscious of the time of the day when she talks with her fiancé, you may want to show her concern about the time by putting the insert of her wrist watch. Only include the insert if it is vitally important to your screenplay.


A parenthetical is a device that is permissible in the screenplay format that is included in the dialogue. It is a direction to the character (how to say the dialogue, or show some pertinent expressions during the dialogue) and is included only if the reader may not be able to decode the intent of the line.


SUPER means superimpose and is going to indicate that one image is to be superimposed onto another, if that is the intent as listed in the screenplay. Superimposing images is not the most common filmic device, so its inclusion will likely indicate a visual theme you are trying to establish in your film.


Though it was a relatively common practice in the past, very few filmmakers use Point of View in their work. Point of View is essentially the positioning of a camera so that it appears as though it is the sight line of a specific character, where this is their “Point of View.” This often only happens briefly in a film where you are not intended to see a character yet or if they are intoxicated.

In other generations, this was an entire device, such as the ability to hide the killer’s identity in the original Friday the 13th. Point of View can fit wherever you feel as though it can be worked with, but you still have to identify this in your screenplay. As with almost any film element, there is a format for Point of View in your film’s screenplay.


For brevities sake, you are always going to abbreviate Point of View as POV. In all places of your screenplay where it is indicated that Point of View is taking hold as a perspective you should be writing POV.

POV is a camera direction inherently, and therefore many people will not want you to put it into your spec script. The reason for this is that it should be the director’s choice and will only be put into the official shooting script. The point here is that in most cases that you are going to have a POV in your film it does not need to be in your screenplay.

If you are going to put it in there, as when you are transferring a spec script into a shooting script, or if you are directing your own screenplay, you are going to identify this at the beginning of the area. This could be the direction that comes right before a short sequence though it has to not include too much action because POV is so limited.



John can see something glowing at the end of the corridor as he scurries to find the obscure thing.

This will then indicate both what is about to happen and exactly the camera position to capture this. With this, the POV will just be a brief indicator before the main action is there.


highsteptd said...

You know, you should probably give the proper attributions when you copy & paste content from someone else's page/site.



I'll give you the benefit of the doubt here.

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