Screenwriting : Correct Screen Heading by Brian McAndrew

Brian McAndrew

Correct Screen Heading

In a scene I have in the script the scene starts from outside the protagonist house and they enter the house. I have the screen heading as EXT./INT.- MCALLISTER HOUSE- DAY. Is the correct?

Beth Fox Heisinger

Nope. A scene can only be EXT or INT. :) See example below. I hope it helps. :) EXT. MCALLISTER HOUSE - DAY Rory sharply pulls up. Jumps out of his car. He sprints up the front lawn. Tension mounts with each step. He flings open the front door. INT. LIVING ROOM - CONTINUOUS Rory stands breathless, his eyes scan the room. A sudden sound whips his attention.

Daryl Powell

The only time I've ever seen EXT./INT. used is when a shot takes place around a moving car. But for the example you posted, Beth is correct. If you're looking for a book on script format and style, I'd recommend The Hollywood Standard, by Christopher Riley. It does a great job of covering all kinds of questions like that and covers several different ways of putting something on the page.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Brian, a great formatting book is "The Screenwriter's Bible" by David Trottier. It's considered to be the standard and a fantastic resource. :)

Mark Souza

It is correct. If your characters are in motion during a scene, moving (and maybe talking) from outside to inside the house, this is perfectly fine. "The Screenwriter's Bible" covers how to use this and is a great resource.

Adam Pachter

Second the Screenwriters Bible suggestion -- very good book.

Kim Nunley

Yep, that's how I've seen it handled in the scripts I've read. I feel like it's easy to understand too.

Danny McIvor

Usually when you move from one physical space to another- from inside to outside, living room to dining room etc these are considered scene changes. Even if the characters are in the middle of a conversation or say one is chasing the other as they move from place to place it is considered a scene change. There is really no such notation as Ext/ has to be one or the other.

Mark Souza

Yes but EXT./INT. can be a smoother way to handle it. Example


Rex's mother clutches his hand and drags him up the steps, past the front doors, into


A crowd of curious students follows.

She turns sharply and pushes through a set of double doors into


The doors automatically swing shut behind them staunching the crowd like a breakwater. A large woman, a SECRETARY, sits behind a Formica counter and raises a pair of cat eye glasses, peering at Rex and his mother in disbelief.


May I help you.


Get the principal.

The PRINCIPAL, a small man wearing a red cardigan, pokes his head from inside a doorway.


Is there a problem?


We need to talk.

The Principal makes a come hither motion. Rex's mother tows him into


(End of Example) See, it reads easier than being blocked by bulky slug lines every few lines. Does the reader really need to be reminded that they are inside the high school, or constant reminders of where in time they are? Now if the scene is more complicated due to time or space manipulation, then maybe a full slug line is called for. Hope this helps.

Danny McIvor

Actually we are both right. For the basic script, the one used by the Actors and non technical production crew, the way the scenes are described that Mark talks about is correct. But the Shooting Script, which is what I was talking about, must break the scenes into individual shots plus a technically detailed description of camera placements, camera moves and physical spaces where the action takes place as well as dialogue and Actor's blocking. This version of the script will be used by the Director, Camera Crew and pretty much all the technical people plus, most importantly, the Script Supervisor and the Editor during the production of the film. In my experience more than a few Actors have also asked for a copy of the Shooting Script just to have a written record of shots and camera placement (angle, lens, movement etc.) they can refer to during production. It sounds Brian, like your are writing a first draft production script so doing it the way Mark describes is perfectly fine.

Beth Fox Heisinger

I believe we are talking about a first draft spec script here, not a shooting script. :) But, more importantly, it all boils down to individual writing styles and preferences. Choices that one makes to help a scene's action read smoothly. Keeping it terse. I do stand corrected, EXT/INT can be used, but used sparingly for a complicated scene -- as in the example Daryl used; an action scene taking place inside and outside a moving car. (Personally, I've never seen EXT/INT used.) The scene that Brian originally asked for help with is pretty simple -- his characters start outside a house, then they move inside. And, a simple treatment for that scene would probably serve him best. :)

Diana Amsterdam

There is no one way to do a lot of things in formatting, and from what I hear, personal style is returning as a value that producers appreciate.

Eve Morton

I use it in my script to describe scenes where action is taking place inside and outside. I received feedback from a Page Awards contest judge and the lonely score of "10" I did receive was for my was perfect according to the judge. Hope this helps.

Wayne Taylor

I write the way Mark Souza's example shows. It flows easy and is popular with younger readers/writers. Of course it will be replaced in a few years by another quicker style I'm sure.

Joseph Simas

Perfectly fine Brian, if the scene makes sense. I use I/E. which is acceptable as well. Remember that this merely indicates that the scene goes from exterior to interior or vice versa, I would not expect anyone to stop and think where the action starts. That will be obvious from the first few words in the scene. Globally, I/E. among professionals does the job. That is of course if you are writing a story script. It is not your job as screenwriter to compose the shooting script. That breakdown is generally done without you, by the director and continuity. Too much damn time is wasted on these very minor details that no true professional gives a lick about. Write strong scenes, correctly labeled, and tell a good story. Let the telling dictate the minutiae and not the other way around.

Mark Souza

Let the telling dictate the minutiae and not the other way around." Well said, Joseph.

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