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After the organic writing process of creating the script, it’s time to reformat the script in preparation for the shoot. Make the script what it is: a road map for making a film production.

What if the action moves from one room to another within a scene?

If the plan is for the set of rooms to be open concept, then one scene label in the script is fine; however, typically you need to breakdown the scene into several, labelling each scene separately, i.e. Int – Living Room – Day; and then Int – Dining Room – Day; and finally Int – Kitchen – Day… giving each one a different scene number. Even if the plan is to shoot a long take, moving the camera from room to room without cutting, it may be worth breaking down the scenes separately. Best to discuss the shooting plan with the 1st AD and Director in order to prepare the script appropriately.

What if there is more than one descriptive name for a location?

Sometimes you’ll see the same location described in a variety of ways: Int – Living Room – Day; and then Int – John’s Living Room – Day;  and then Int – House – Day;  and even with slight spelling differences like: Int – Livingroom – Day. Script formatting software is picky about how you name things, and presumes if you make a slight spelling difference to a script location, then you expect to shoot each one in a different set location. In this case, the software would expect you to shoot in 4 locations instead of 1. Do one complete pass of the script combing through the script as you are numbering the scenes for the first time to check for these script location references with multiple names and spellings and fix them. Your focus on this one (very common) error will be time well-spent.

Since the script is a interim product – and not a final product (like a book is) – don’t worry about changing the formatting for the shoot. The goal is to capture the writer’s intention… and to do that, you need a good road map.

Cheers & happy script formatting to you,
Deb

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Scripting a story can be an organic process, and methods of screenwriting will vary depending on the writer. You’ll see the variances between completed scripts of different scribes. A shooting script, however, is not a completed work, like a novel is.

A shooting script is a road map – a set of instructions to be really basic about it – to a movie yet to come. That’s why clear and consistent formatting of the shooting script is essential.

What if the character is “unknown” when first appearing?

When, for example, the character “Fred” is first off screen and speaks the lines labelled in the script as “Voice” or “Unknown Voice”, revealling himself later in the scene to the rest of the on-screen characters… well, the set crew cannot be certain the “Voice” lines are Fred’s and not someone else. To retain the writer’s intention, and to make the road map clear to the shooting crew, in this type of case, label Fred’s off-screen lines as: “Unknown Voice (Fred)”.

What if the character changes names during the story?

Say “Fred” began in the story as “Mr Smith” and only became “Fred” as the other characters got to know him. As your guide, consider… will the different characters (2 different character names) be played by two different performers or by one? If the answer is one performer, then use the same principle as for the “Unknown Voice” above. In this example, start “Fred” as “Mr Smith (Fred)” and let him become “Fred” as the characters get to know him. Alternatively, of course you can label him as “Fred Smith” all the way through the script; however, with this choice, you’ll never really know when the writer intends for Fred to change his name among the other characters in the story.

Overall, remember that yes, you’re creating a road map (of instructions) for the shooting crew, but you must try to keep the writer’s intention wherever possible. The writer’s intention is an integral part of the road map too!

Cheers & happy script formatting to you!
Deb

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