Screenwriting : Define 'contained script' by Peter Roach

Peter Roach

Define 'contained script'

Is a script with four locations and five actors contained?

Is a screenplay with eight actors and two locations contained?

What is the priority when containing? Locations or characters ?

For locations; is an outdoor location ‘cheaper’ to produce and hence more contained?

Let us say the entire movie is set in a small village; does that count as one location?

My favorite ‘contained’ movie has nine actors and minimal locations; maybe three if you count a body falling outside an apartment. It is a Hong Kong black comedy gem;

Everly has one location and twenty actors. Is that contained?

Asking for a 'friend' who has a script with four locations and ten characters.

Lou Lap (2015) - IMDb
Lou Lap (2015) - IMDb
Directed by Fire Lee. With J. Arie, Aaron Chow, Anita Chui, Stanley Sui-Fan Fung. A down and out guy called Ping (Derek Tsang) gets a job at a convenience store one night. Ping decides to have some fu…
Craig D Griffiths

Less is more. A village isn’t contained.

I have a script set in one room. We are in production and I am writing more scenes as locations become available.

Think about moving the crew. If they don’t have to pack and unpack it is contained. A haunted house would be contained. One house..

I know the crew will do a lot of work on a contained film. I was giving an example. Even in a village moving more.

I have a script that is 80% a single location. There are three other locations that have only a few scenes. It is nearly a contained story. But not really. It would have that feel.

Dan MaxXx

If you have Netflix, the number one ranked movie last week was “1BR”, a low budget horror about a single woman moving into an apartment complex. The plot isn’t groundbreaking but the filmmaking execution is excellent.

Doug Nelson

I put 'em in 3 ring binders between a front and back cover.

Craig D Griffiths

They are the domain of the horror for two reasons.

1) Horror has a stable audience and if you can keep costs down you’ll make money. Limited is cost effective, that is why it is popular in horror.

2) The feeling of being trapped is a good way of ramping up the scary.

I like taking this approach and giving it to other genres. I have a ScFi and a Crime Drama both contained in story telling.

Kiril Maksimoski

Locke and Buried are more recent examples..both had a fairly success too, but I agree with Craig. You wanna do contained story, better do a horror... As for the script, I think best definition is challenge: trying to make most of story development with most limited number of characters and locations. Best ratio of course is 1:1 :)))

CJ Walley

Worth noting that single location is considered a dirty word by a lot of experienced producers. People want production value and terms like “contained” scream dull. I say this as someone who’s invested years in tightly contained single location thriller specs.

Horror is the exception because they are supposed to be unpleasant to watch.

People focus on the outliers, which themselves are often more niche than people think, and ignore the hundreds that make a loss.

The cost and logistical impact of multiple locations isn’t that bad, especially when set against the increased value of the end product. Smart indie filmmakers know how the get the most dollars on screen.

Peter Roach

Thank Craig. CJ: Your response gave me something to consider. Movies are about movement; constraining movement will make a movie static.

Craig D Griffiths

Peter Roach yes and no. CJ Walley is correct. If done well, you have no idea how many locations go into a film. So limited locations can be unimportant.

Most single location stories suck because they let the location dictate the story. If a story doesn’t need to leave a location it won’t.

Single location films are definitely the domain of the micro budget film. These have really poor production value and this is underlined by the entire film not leaving a lounge room (for example).

Carl Pepper

The master of one set films and probably the greatest director in my opinion was Hitchcock! Watch Lifeboat, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and Rope for great examples and brilliant movies in one set situations. I was fortunate to work on Hitchcocks last movie before he died. This was an un-named feature in the late 70's. I was one of the set designers under the Prod. Designer Boris Levan when I met Hitchcock. I will always remember that night in the Art Department!

Doug Nelson

A couple of days on set with Hitch was like a full Director's University course. I met him in the early '70s and recall a couple of patio parties at his Belvedere home. A truly unforgettable event.

CJ Walley

Very cool, Doug Nelson.

Phil Clarke

Would love to hear more about this, Doug Nelson . Sounds fascinating.

Peter Roach

Whoa Carl and Doug; you met the Master! Thanks guys for the input. I can take a hint.

Richard P. Alvarez

I optioned my limited location/contained sci-fi thriller. The producers were amazed at how 'big' it felt. It takes place in and around a modest suburban home. (Including the back yard and front yard). During the rewrite they got a budget bump and asked me to 'open it up' a bit. A few incidents that took place OUTSIDE the single location but were retold to the principal character - I got to 'show' instead of tell. Not HUGE scenes, but it does let the story breathe a bit. But the script was optioned without them.

William Martell

Limited locations. One main location.

DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED takes place in a 2 room apartment (3 if you include the bathroom). Probably 95% of the story in those 2 (or 3) rooms. Wall to wall suspense and dozens of twists.

There are "stunt contained" scripts like BURIED or BRAKE. One takes place in a coffin, the other in the trunk of a car. BRAKE is like DIE HARD in the trunk of a car - lots of action!

For budget reasons you are usually going to limit the cast, too. How many people can you fit in the trunk of a car? ALICE CREED has 3 characters total, which is a good number - two can plot against the third. Only 2 characters means fewer combinations (as in - none).

Lots of movies that began as stage plays like WAIT UNTIL DARK are contained.

Matthew Allen

Yeah, I'd say it's an analogue and not digital thing (in the philosophical sense of a continuum vs. on/off). Meaning films are more or less contained. But people usually assume it to mean stuff as extreme as Phone Booth, Buried, or Locke.

Other topics in Screenwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In