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More script terminology (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
sorry, but again, some of this is not really correct, in re current standard industry usage... for instance:

pause and beat are no longer in common use... they go way back to the old days and an ellipsis [...] is now most often used for a pause, and bits of business take the place of 'beat'...

when dialog is interrupted, (continuing) goes under it as a wrylie [parenthetical]... or, (CONT'D) goes after the character name...

FRAME, SHOT, INTO VIEW should not appear in a spec script, as they are some of the verboten 'camera directions' that newbies indulge in at their own suicidal peril...

also, the slug line [scene heading] is typed incorrectly here, with the hyphen missing between the location and time of day...

it's very nice to provide some basic info for beginners, but if it's not accurate, it can do far more harm than good...

i mentor hundreds of aspiring screenwriters per year, and getting the format right is one of the most important things they need to do, if they want their work to be taken seriously... badly formatted work may be tossed by an agent's/prodco's reader after one glance at the first page, no matter how good the story may be... they may get thousands per week and look for any excuse to pare down the piles...

the books one should consult for all of this are:

syd field's 'the screenwriter's workbook'
dave trottier's 'the screenwriter's bible'
paul argentini's 'elements of style for screenwriters'

well-meaning posters' instructions are no substitute for the more or less 'official' word from those who know best, such as the above how-to gurus... or for examples of the best scripts by the best writers... the problem with scripts is that you won't find specs by pros... theirs will be director's or shooting scripts and will have all the stuff in them that you are NOT to put in a spec by an unknown...

sorry to be sounding negative when you're trying to help, jp, but to really help, the info has to be accurate... get those books and check with the pros and readers at agencies and prodcos, and you'll see what i mean...

love and hugs, maia


Senior Member
JP.... There are tons of websites I have visited and each one is different. According to what I have read there is no set format to writing screenplays.... There are dozens of screenwriting programs such as Final Draft but they are VERY expensive. Again, check out that book by Christopher Keane entitled "How to write a selling screenplay"


Senior Member
According to what I have read there is no set format to writing screenplays....

Then what you read is wrong. Dead wrong.

I've been working in film and TV for 15 years now and I will back up Mama's statements 100% from direct experience. There is absolutely a set format that spec writers are expected to adhere to, and anything short of that is tossed without a second glance. Granted, there are small deviations in scripts that vary from company to company, but they are minor at best and cover only supperficial details. The fundamentals, however, are as good as set in stone.

For instance, I have recently heard that some places are becoming lax about including the hyphen in the scene heading (EXT -DAY), and are happy with just a space (EXT DAY). But such minor variations represent the full extent of the latitude you are given, and even then they may still toss you.

The thing to remember is that people in this business are extremely paranoid and territorial. No one wants you telling them how to do their job and they will shut you out the second you even hint at it. The director doesn't want you telling him how to frame his shots, hence camera direction is verbotin. And actors don't want you telling them how to read their lines, hence no beats or pauses. Those things are up to their individual artistic expression and any intrusion on you part is seen as stepping on their toes.

Furthermore, in Hollywood the writer's job is seen as laying out the plot and the dialogue. That's it. You do nothing else. Not only do they not want your advice on the rest, but they won't tolerate it. All they want from you is a naked skeleton for them to flesh out.

And lastly, as I believe Mama pointed out again, the only people who get away with camera direction in the scripts are the directors themselves. Those camera directions are their notes on how they want to shoot the scene, and everybody knows that that's what it is, their notes. Writers don't get to add notes. Just directors.

The thing to keep in mind when writing a spec script is the delicate little egos that will be reading it. Put something in there that steps on another artist's toes and they will shun it out of pure vanity and pride. And they won't give you a second chance either. What they want to see is a bare framework for them to start with in order to create THEIR art. Because that's how they see it, their art, not yours. The director wants a good plot for him to add visuals to and the actors want good dialogue for them to play with.

The key is that they demand full license to interpret your work however they see fit. If you can't live with that, then stop writing scripts now, because you are only going to be heartbroken when they butcher your work and turn it totally on its head.



Senior Member
What I meant to say is that I have ONLY heard there can be some variations to screenplays. If you have the money, you can purchase screenwriting software.

As far as camera angles, ect...that's entirely up to the producer. When writing a screenplay aren't you supposed to give basic screen actions? Just wondering is all b/c i've heard different things from many different people.


Senior Member
oz laid it out quite clearly... and from years of EXPERIENCE...

you're not reading what was said, if you still claim that camera directions are up to the 'producer'!... the producer has nothing whatsoever to do with how a film is shot... only how it's funded and scheduled, etc.... it's only the DIRECTOR who has the right and the ability to decide how to frame a shot, time a scene, et al...

when writing a screenplay, writer IS supposed to provide 'BASIC screen actions'... not to tell anyone how to shoot the scene... or act in it, beyond the simple actions set out for the actor, to carry out the plot...

all those different people you're listening to probably have no background in screenwriting to speak of and thus don't really know what's ok and what is gonna get your script dumped before anyone reads the second page...


Senior Member
Well i'm sorry I meant to say Director.... I've been reading Christopher Keane's book "How to write a selling screenplay." He has written dozens of screenplays...... In his book he has written a sample screenplay and i've been trying to follow it as much as I can.


Senior Member
Thanks Mama, nice to know that I'm not the only one trying to keep these kids in line. :lol:

What I meant to say is that I have ONLY heard there can be some variations to screenplays.

And like I said, you heard wrong. Only the tiniest of variations are allowed, and camera directions are not tiny details. They are very significant.

As far as camera angles, ect...that's entirely up to the producer.

And again to backup Mama, the producer has nothing to do with the camera angles. That's the director's job. And even though the producer is the director's boss, not even they will try and tell him how to frame his shots. That's how rigidly defined these roles are and how jealously people will defend their turf.

In point of fact, when on set you are not even allowed to talk to the director. If you have information that he needs to know, then you take it to the 1st Assistant Director and HE talks to the director. The only thing you are ever allowed to say to the director, or the actors for that matter, is "Here's your coffee, sir."

When writing a screenplay aren't you supposed to give basic screen actions?

Yes, BASIC actions like "John sits down at the desk." Not, "Closeup of John sitting at the desk.".The first is action, the second is camera direction. One will get your work, the other will get you fired.

Argueing with us over what your friends have said won't get you anywhere. Listening to people that actually do this for a living will. And I do do this for a living. I started out as a grip on set, moved up to lighting, then camera, then on to special effects. I've been at production meetings when we went over the scripts. I've taken them apart to decide how and in what order to film them. And I've been on set with my face pushed up against the camera trying to get the shot the director asked for.

I have been there. I have done it. And I'm telling you that no spec script with camera direction of any kind EVER gets accepted and never sees so much as the first frame of film. IT DOES NOT HAPPEN.

Furthermore, scripts are rigidly formated because hundreds of people will be reading it and working from it, and we need to know exactly where to look, and at what, in order to do our jobs efficiently. We simply do not have time to interpret a poorly formated script or weed out needless camera direction that will only be ignored anyway. It confuses the process and makes our jobs harder. That is why we don't accept them.

The cardinal rule of film employment is that your job is constantly in danger and you can be replaced within moments. If you can't be bothered to take the time to stick to format and do it the way we want it done, then there are a thousand people right behind you that are. I have litterally lost count of the number of young interns I have seen escorted off the set because they wanted to try and reinvent the wheel and thought that they knew everything about how this buisiness works. We get a new one every week because they are constantly being shown the door when they demonstrate a lack of temperment for the job.



Senior Member
Oz....Could you take a look at my screenplay then? It's under critique and advice...entitled THE CAMEO....there are several be sure to read all of them...Tell me what i'm doing wrong OTHER than some things in all caps..which I know is wrong....