Happy New Year MEGANDA FILMS !
We are starting 2013 with some Writers Words with Caitlin Durante.
JANUARY 2013: Writing Scenes
Most films are comprised of a variety of scenes, which can be identified as any segment that has its own slugline (for example, INT. LOCKER ROOM – DAY or EXT. CENTRAL PARK – NIGHT). There are a number of different types of scenes, including master scenes, scenes of preparation, and scenes of aftermath. No matter what type of scene you are writing in a screenplay, there is a list of items to consider to ensure that each scene is meaningful and effective.
Pick a few scenes, either from a movie you know or from your own screenplay, and ask if each scene accomplishes the following:
Has a purpose. Does the scene establish character, tone, setting, or story? Does it raise the stakes for the character or offer a turning point or choice for the character? Does it show character arc? Does it propel the plot forward? Does it plant something for a later payoff? Does it change the value or power between characters or circumstances? Does it enhance the theme or the dominant image system? Scenes do not have to do all of these at once, but any scene that has more than one purpose will be all the more effective.
Has its own structure. Similar to an entire film, individual scenes should have a beginning, middle, and end, though not every scene needs to end conclusively. A question can be posed at the end of a scene and does not have to be answered until one or more scenes later. This is a good way of keeping the audience interested in what’s to come. Scenes can also end on a “button,” a punch line, so to speak.
Is economical. How quickly and economically does your scene get from the beginning to the end? Scenes should start late and end early. Any dialogue or action that does not have a significant purpose to the story or character can be cut. For example, if a scene involves two characters exchanging dialogue in a car, we probably don’t need to see them get in the car, start the car, exchange small talk, and finally get into the important dialogue, then drive around some more, park the car and get out. We can cut straight to the important dialogue and remove any excess before and after.
Elicits emotion. Does it make us laugh? Does it make us cry? Do we sympathize with the character and their desires and struggles? Do we fear what might happen to the character if they don’t succeed? Do we feel tension from the raised stakes and the mounting conflict? Emotionally engaging your audience is important to effective storytelling.
These are some of the primary components of creating effective scenes in movies. As long as each of your scenes has a meaningful purpose, has its own economical structure, and elicits emotion, they will be solid building blocks for your script as a whole.