Transitions and Directing On The Page

by ScreenCraft on March 10, 2013

Clutter can be the death knell for your screenplay. The last thing you want is for your story to get buried under unnecessary and distracting details.


Here are two things we see a lot that scream amateur screenplay: overuse of transitions and directing on the page.  Strictly speaking, transitions rarely, if ever, need to be used. There is no need to write "CUT TO" between each scene; new slug lines inherently convey that we are entering a new scene.


Dissolves are appropriate when it is necessary to convey a specific passage of time between two scenes, or when we are entering a new scene that is occurring in the same location as the previous scene.


Fades are traditionally used to begin and end a screenplay but can be used at other junctures to signify a dramatic and lasting plot point that hugely impacts the protagonist's life.


Other than that, transitions are largely unnecessary. Another trap to beware of is what is commonly referred to in the industry as "directing on the page." While screenwriting is the blueprint for a fundamentally visual medium, stipulating specific camera angles is looked upon as encroaching on a potential director's turf.


Now of course, as writers, we want to control how our story is told as much as possible, so the trick is to write your action blocks in such a way that specific angles and the emphasis of specific visual details are emphasized...without making it obvious that this is what you're doing.


You can cheat a bit. Instead of writing close-ups and wide shots in, you can simply state "close on _____" or "wide on_____." The effect is basically the same, but the style is much less intrusive. If you want to emphasize key visual details, capitalize them, as this highlights their importance.


Be as seamless and economical as possible and first and foremost keep the focus on your story. Ultimately, that's what counts.


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