Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reader question - Formatting

Shane writes:

So I had a couple questions regarding the aesthetics of formatting. The first concerns my opening: Im doing a cold open with a couple voices having a phone conversation over black, then I do a "fade in" over the opening image I want for the script and to get the story underway, but If I've already started with a cold open, then should I just start the next scene with a basic slugline and get on with it? If I do start with the fade in, should this automatically start on the next page regardless of how long the previous page was? Having a "Fade In" start in the middle of the page looks awkward, but then so does a half blank page.

If I understand you right, the way you probably want to do it is put VOICES OVER BLACK at the top of the scene during the phone conversation. Then at the conclusion of that talk, do FADE IN as opening of the scene.

My other question regards superimpositions: Do I always have to use "superimpose:" or "super:" What about just centering the locale or date or what have you, and being done with it? I feel like the less "script jargon" the better, it keeps the reader in the story and makes it more visual, but I also don't want to confuse my reader... I know these may seem like trivial questions, but if you've got a great handle on your story, structure, and character development (Which of course is always the primary concern) all those little formatting tricks help make a great script stand out from all the other great scripts because it LOOKS as good as it READS; you see and hear the film even better. At least I've noticed that I do.

This is probably one of those "if it feels right, do it" responses. I think it needs to be clear that the text will be superimposed on the screen and the way you say you're going to do it doesn't necessarily make that clear. Putting the date and time in quotes might make it more apparent, but if everything else in your script works, I don't think this can hurt you too much.

Does anyone have a differing view?


  1. I have a couple of these in my current script. I did it this way...


    Insert fabulous description to set the mood and give an over all impression of the establishing shot. SUPERIMPOSE: "One Year Later"

    It doesn't draw too much attention and it's clear which shot you want it attached to. It also has the benefit of coming to the reader the same way it would on screen. First they get the picture in their mind, then they get the words on top.

  2. Oddly enough, John August fielded a similar question about the "black screen" voiceover the other day.