Camera Angle Descriptions --- IN A SCRIPT | Writing Forums
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Camera Angle Descriptions --- IN A SCRIPT (1 Viewer)

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Senior Member
NONE of these belong in a spec script [one you hope to sell]...

they should only be used if you're producing/directing your own work... or if you've been hired to turn a spec script into a shooting script...


That is correct!

Unless it is a shooting script, is does belong there!


Senior Member
...i'm confused:

"That is correct!

Unless it is a shooting script, is does belong there!" there a 'not' missing from the second sentence???
mammamaia said:
...i'm confused:

"That is correct!

Unless it is a shooting script, is does belong there!" there a 'not' missing from the second sentence???

when writing a script for actors and produceers to read you dont' include camera angles and such. angles and lenses are for the director and cinematographer to really decide. then they might at it and making a "shooting script". that's how i understood it at least


Senior Member
you're right, of course, mike... but i was just questioning the previous poster's claim that 'is [sic] does belong there'... she seemed to be saying, 'right, that's wrong!' and i thought she needed to clarify what it was she was saying...


Senior Member
This topic seems to keep popping up, and since I've got some time tonight, I'm going to address this in some detail and hopefully put it to be for good.

NO SCRIPT CONTAINS CAMERA DIRECTION. EVER. Not spec scripts, not shooting scripts, none that any of us will ever write. Only directors who write their own scripts are allowed to do it, and even then it is only considered to be footnotes and are not used by the camera crew.

Here is the process for further clarification:

1. A writer writes a script and sells it.
2. A producer hires a crew to shoot it, including director, actors and crew.
3. Production meetings are held in which the Director, often working closely with the DP (Director of Photography) and the Effects Designer decide how the film should be shot. From these meetings a shooting script, scene breakdowns, and shot-sheets are developed.
4. Using the shooting script, scene breakdowns, and shot-sheets an artist draws up storyboards, which lay out the film in a visual format similar to a comic book.
5. Principle photography begins and the camera crew uses the shot-sheets to shoot by. The director and actors have their shooting script to work from. And the whole crew has the scene breakdowns to keep it all together.

Now, what are shot-sheets, shooting scripts, and scene breakdowns? We'll start from the top.

A shooting script (in preproduction) is where the script is broken up into scenes and the needs for shots are determined. This is done with colored pencils where boxes are drawn around individual scenes, shots are denoted by lines, and special effects and sound effects are highlighted. A different color corresponds to a different need (blue for sound, brown for special effects, etc) and shots are listed by numbers that correspond to the accompanying shot-sheet. Again, NO CAMERA DIRECTIONS ARE TYPED IN. They are only referenced by number and show the duration that the shot should be held.

This is the pre-production shooting script that is circulated to each department so that they can figure out what they need to do to deliver for each scene. For example, the sound department knows that they only need to look for the blue underlined segments to find out what special sounds they need to add (blaster bolts, tires screeching, stuff that you don't normally hear). Foley is another matter that we won't get into. From here Scene Breakdowns are made.

Scene Breakdowns are a single page, made in a spreadsheet format, for each individual scene. On that page is listed everything that is needed to complete that scene. For example: what characters appear, how many extras, props needed, special effects, sound effects, location or set, time of day, makeup, wardrobe, etc. It is a categorical list of all the components that will go into making a scene happen. From there a series of shot-sheets are generated for each individual camera shot.

Shot sheets are organized and laid out just like a scene breakdown, only much more specific. All of the factors laid out in the scene breakdown are also present here, but only the ones dealing with what will be on camera for that single shot. In addition they also include the lens size and camera equipment needed (dolly, crane, handheld), and the begining and ending segments of dialogue so that the camera crew knows how long the shot needs to last. From here a second shooting script is then generated.

The second shooting script is for prinicple photography and is given to the actors. Many times the actor's shooting script will only have their dialogue and no others. The director and crew however still use the original shooting script so that they can keep all the logistics in order. Yes, it is confusing to have two different versions of the shooting script floating around. But that's just how it is. But since they don't see ours and we don't see theirs, it's never really a problem.

However, let me point out for the hundreth time that no version of any script ever has camera directions on it. And even the camera directions on the scripts written by directors are either ignored completely or written out for the shooting script. The crew goes by the shot-sheets, not the script.

Shooting a film is a massive undertaking requiring hundreds, if not thousands, of people. To try and keep all the information needed on the script alone would be asinine in pre-production and utter chaos on the set. Only rank amateurs ever attempt it that way, and never more than once. It's just too complex.

The bottom line is that camera directions in a script are pure dead weight. They are useless to the crew and an annoyance to the actors. That is why producers don't want to see them in a script, because you are trying to sell them something that they don't need or want. All a producer ever wants to see in a script is interesting action and good dialogue. That's it. Nothing else. The best spec scripts are light and lean. Descriptions are tight and clear and the dialogue is punchy. Any consideration of camera angles on your part is a waste of time, both yours and the producers and will only get you rejected.



Senior Member
...despite a major self-contraction [see below], oz, this is a good [if lengthy] rationale for not including camera directions in a spec script...

"NO SCRIPT CONTAINS CAMERA DIRECTION. EVER. Not spec scripts, not shooting scripts, none that any of us will ever write. Only directors who write their own scripts are allowed to do it,..."

... you can see the impossibility of 'never' when you follow it with the exception that writer/directors do it ;-) ...

...unfortunately, many of the downloadable scripts that newbies study DO contain camera directions and that makes my job a lot harder when my mentees keep trying to emulate the wrong kind of script... here's a couple of examples:

THREE KINGS [shooting draft]

a screenplay by
David O. Russell
Story by
John Ridley and David O. Russell



WIDE ANGLE POV of wide open desert, flat grey sky.

THE CAMERA is running forward, toward a big sand berm in the
distance. There are O.S. sounds: SOLDIER'S EQUIPMENT


An original screenplay by

David Peoples &
Janet Peoples

Production Draft



CLOSE ON A FACE. A nine year old boy, YOUNG COLE, his eyes wide
with wonder. watching something intently. We HEAR the sounds of
the P.A. SYSTEM droning Flight Information mingled with the
sounds of urgent SHOUTS, running FEET, EXCLAMATIONS.

YOUNG COLE'S POV: twenty yards away, a BLONDE MAN is sprawled on
the floor, blood oozing from his gaudy Hawaiian shirt.

...the first IS written by a writer/director, but terry gilliam has no writing credits on the second... so, many shooting/production drafts DO contain camera directions and not just the ones written by the films' directors...

...i wish it were easier to get your valid point about them being useless in a spec script across to beginners, but i'm afraid we're going to have to keep repeating ourselves... thanks for giving this so much time and attention, nonetheless... it's truly one of the most common major goofs newbies commit and probably dooms more first submissions to the round file than any other single factor...

love and hugs, maia


I have already encountered this problem while writing my current piece. When your writing a script you can't help but think how it should look. It is your story afterall, you want it to go the way you want it to because you feel your way is the best way. There's nothing wrong with wanting that, but it is wrong to put the directions into a script as it makes it very bad to read.

My way around this is to have open another page on which I write in any camera angles that I especially feel would suit. This way I can keep my script looking proper while still keeping my cinematography ideas in tact and having the ability to vent the need to write them down somewhere. Should you sell your piece and fancy a go at directing it yourself, as I think I do still in two minds about that, then you'll have your original camera ideas ready to go.

That's my way of dealing with it although maybe that's a stupid thing to do. Is it?


Senior Member
stupid?... sorry to say it is, sort of, david... because you won't have the option of 'fancying a go at directing'... that only happens when the writer has a good track record as a director and major clout with the prodco who bought the script... neither of which you, as a newbie, is gonna have, right?

why don't you do what the pros do, instead?... there are lots of ways to sneak in camera directions covertly... a good writer never really has to go the all-caps technical jargon route... all you do is use the action element to 'direct without directing'...

if you don't know what i'm talking about, here are some examples... first, the verboten cd's, followed by how a pro will slip it in without getting caught at it:

CLOSE IN ON Mary and Henry in an embrace.

Mary is in Henry's arms. A single tear rolls down her cheek and lands on his lips. He catches it with his tongue, gives it back in a kiss.

...ok... now all after the 'in his arms' part can't be seen, UNLESS it's a close shot, right?... so you're giving camera directions without doing it...

here's another one:

PAN back and forth across the parking lot. ZOOM IN on Jerry's car.

The big lot is quiet under the green glare of sodium vapor lights. Jerry's TransAm is pulled up to the bowling alley and an SUV and an old pickup are at the far end, in front of the cafe.

Jerry lights a cigarette from the car lighter, keeps a close eye on the access road., the camera will HAVE TO 'pan back and forth' in order to show what i've called for, right?... and if it doesn't 'zoom in' on jerry's car, we can't see what he's doing, can we?..., that's how you can give camera directions without doing it... and how seasoned writers control how their screenplays will be shot... till the rewrites, anyway!...

...thing is, once you sell your baby, you've no control over how it's gonna be 'raised'... if you can't accept that, then screenwriting's not for you...


Senior Member
My way around this is to have open another page on which I write in any camera angles that I especially feel would suit.

I have to respectfully disagree with Mama on this one. Keeping notes on camera angles for your own use is actually quite a good idea. The reason for this, I believe, is that it keeps your mind focused on the visual side of the art form and helps you to better write for the camera.

A big flaw that many begining script writers have is that they forget the visual aspect and concentrate on the auditory (dialogue and the prose of their description). What then happens is that their beautiful dialogue winds up falling flat because it doesn't have the accompanying visuals to move it.

For a good example, just look at the Star Wars movies or even the Lord of the Rings. Without the sweeping vistas and powerhouse visuals, the dialogue would sound positively ridiculous and the action would be lame.



Senior Member
that's not a disagreement, oz... because i didn't say no one should do that... all i did was to show how you can WRITE VISUALLY so that you DON'T NEED camera directions either in your script or on a separate list...

if some beginning writers want to go to all that trouble and duplication, that's up to them... if they think they need to do it, i'm not going to say they shouldn't...

but the pros don't, as a rule... because they know how to visualize their scenes AS they write... and they get that vision of the scene into the script without having to resort to specifying camera angles [unless the writer is also the director]...

no one knows more than i do, how many beginners forget that film is a VISUAL medium, not a MENTAL one, like novels...

and the examples you gave didn't put those 'vistas' across with camera angles, but with vivid visual writing...

so, why would you say we disagree?

hugs, m


Senior Member
because i didn't say no one should do that

Sorry, didn't mean to imply that you meant that. My disagreement was that it was a waste of time, as I think that it is a good exercise. That's all.

and the examples you gave didn't put those 'vistas' across with camera angles, but with vivid visual writing...

That's true enough for traditional filmmaking, but it doesn't really take into account more experimental visual styles such as the ones Ang Lee and Michael Bay tend to go for (both of which I detest, by the way). There is no amount of visual finesse on the writer's part that could ever reign in those two hacks. And, sad to say, their styles are becoming the norm. :?



Senior Member
I don't use camera angles in my scripts...I do however keep a visual note in my mind as to how I would like to see the scene filmed.... All I want to is to see if the script is working or not, whether the dialouge seems "real" enough... I want the characters to talk like normal people would...using uh's, and ums, (if that's acceptable or not in a screenplay)...

Once I get the basic script finished, then I go back and look at grammar, style, ect....Please tell me if i'm wrong in doing this.



Senior Member
I want the characters to talk like normal people would...using uh's, and ums,

Just as camera direction is considered stepping on the director's toes, so are delivery cues (uh's, ums, beat, etc) are consided to be stepping on the actor's toes. Like I said earlier, they don't like you telling them how they should read their lines, so it's best to leave them out.

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