Last week on Twitter, I expressed my incredulity that a Done Deal Pro thread on whether or not to use "we see" in your screenplay had grown to 8 pages in only about a day or so. I know in the past that both Scott Myers and I have been surprised at just how drawn out and contentious these arguments over formatting minutiae can become. It's almost as if people are more passionate about how they write than they are about writing good material, and that's just sad.
Naturally, this only provoked a dozen or so people to ask me on Twitter what I thought about the use of "we see."
As with a lot of these nuances, the answer tends to be "It's okay if you use it in moderation, preferably sparingly."
When I write, I try not to use it unless absolutely necessary. I know there are a few pros who took such exception to the "NEVER use this" advice that they actually counted how many times they used it in their writing and then noted that such usage surely didn't prohibit the script from being sold.
My feeling is that 90% of the time it's redundant. Your action descriptions are supposed to be all visual, so if you're writing it, the assumption is we're seeing it. After all, you don't write "We hear" before every line of dialogue, do we?
The one clear exception has already been pointed out somewhere in that thread - that "we see" is valuable when we're trying to limit what the audience sees and then replicate that limitation for the viewer. Someone noted that in an Indiana Jones script, there's a "we see" that introduces a character wearing a fedora and leather jacket, though he's only shown from behind. Obviously, the "we see" is used to offer that description and give the impression that the character is Indiana Jones when that is not in fact the case.
So it's definitely useful when limiting the information the reader has. I wouldn't dispute that at all.
However, as with capitalizing and underlining, this "rule" exists because there are always a healthy sampling of newbies who overindulge. I once read a script that started nearly every paragraph with "we see" and after a while it just got to be annoying. It was a pretty clear PASS. However, I hasten to add that the Pass wasn't because of the "we sees," just that the "we sees" were merely symptoms of this writer's lack of skill.
If all the dialogue in a script sucks, the answer is not "Never write dialogue," it's, "learn to write better dialogue." And if all the uses of "we see" in a script reach such an epidemic proportion that it becomes cluttered and annoying to follow, the answer is "learn to use the tool properly."
Just my take. Bring on the pitchforks!
1 week ago