Montage, series of shots, or what?

I want to show a series of quick images that circle around one theme but I'm not sure how to format it. For example:


-- A dish drainer filled with ONLY spoons.
-- Soft impact corner cushions on ALL table edges.
-- Five fire extinguishers.
-- Twenty three fire and carbon monoxide detectors.
-- Eleven wall outlets, all plugged with a plastic covering.
-- A bath tub and bathroom floor, COMPLETELY AND EXHAUSTIVELY covered in non-slip yellow duckies.

This way feels right... but is it? Most definitions of "series of shots" say that it has to be a chronology. What I'm trying to do isn't exactly an order of occurrence. On the other hand, labeling it as "montage" feels off.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated. Thank you!

Beth Fox Heisinger

Generally, a MONTAGE is used to describe a series of images that convey a concept, like falling in love or someone's saftey measures. The SERIES OF SHOTS is used for a straight narrative, a chronology of events. So MONTAGE is a better fit. :) I would also suggest not using ALL CAPS to emphasize certain words within the montage -- as currently written, it's rather a misuse and not necessary. Hope that helps!

Beth Fox Heisinger

Oh, and if the montage arises from a scene in progress (is clearly set up within context) you could just slug, MONTAGE, then list montage elements, then slug BACK TO SCENE. There are different ways to handle quick images. ;) Perhaps seek out examples, see how others handled it on the page. Happy writing!

Marjolein Smit

Beth is on fire :) love it!

Aray Brown

I agree with Beth

Dan Guardino

I am not exactly sure what you are doing but SERIES OF SHOTS seems like your best choice.

MONTAGE is a series of small related scenes, grouped together. Think of a couple falling in love over time. The first line "Montage of..." is a scene heading. The other lines are Action elements.

SERIES OF SHOTS is like a montage, but takes place in one during one piece of time. Think of a car chase through the city.

Shaun Michael Goldsmith

Hi Nicholas:

Another way to distinguish a montage from a series of shots is montages (although cliche) are often set to music: the "Rocky" training sequences are considered montages.

Hope this helps.


Robert Parera

if I may be allowed my two cents. Either or will do. Just remember to stay consistent so as not to make the read more complicated. Not sure if I would use a montage for this particular scene. I think a montage works well in connecting scenes with some sort of viable action. Ex - a women poring coffee in her kitchen -- a weirdo ducking down behind a wooden fence in motion - a child playing in her bedroom - the weirdo cutting the power to the power box out side the house. When I think of a series of shots, I think of (still shots, no action) in equal time lengths one after the other. This will be the first time I'm not one hundred percent in agreement with Beth, (sorry Beth) I give only eighty five percent to Beth. Now Having said that most likely Beth will come up with some sound reasoning and I will have to hide for a few day!!

Beth Fox Heisinger

Dan, and all, just for further discussion... Nicholas is showing quick images, a catalog of what various things his character has done (in the past) for safety measures at various times around his house. Not really showing anyone doing anything in any kind of order, just the end result, giving visual evidence he's a safety nut. Correct, Nicholas?

It reminds me of quick image flashes, say, in a comedy—if that is what's happening here? There's not much additional context.

I know these two terms, MONTAGE and SERIES OF SHOTS, have kind of morphed together these days or are used interchangeably, but I tend to lean more towards David Trottier's explanation of both as shared above, and why montage (series of images used to describe a concept or theme, like falling in love or passage of time or saftey measures) seems to fit here. ;)

Me, I'd probably just type, QUICK FLASH OF IMAGES, list them, and BACK TO SCENE, a version of montage-like formatting.

Anyway, below is an example of SERIES OF SHOTS (as a straight narrative, a chronology of events) provided by David Trottier:

SERIES OF SHOTS -- John gets even.

A) John lifts a gun from his desk drawer.

B) John strides down a sidewalk.

C) Mary answers the door. John pulls the trigger. A stream of water hits Mary in the face.

Hope that helps! :)

Beth Fox Heisinger

Robert, too funny! My comment above was made before I even saw yours! And disagreeing or not being in total agreement is totally fine! Totally cool! Fantastic! It helps to suss out various thoughts and approaches on how to handle something on the page. There's no one way. ;)

Robert Parera

I can't believe it. Beth actually responded to me. I must be on a really good learning curve. All joking aside. I pay attention to your writings. So thanks Beth.

Dan Guardino

Beth. I really didn't know what he was trying to do. I noticed here these two terms, MONTAGE and SERIES OF SHOTS, have kind of morphed together and used are used interchangeably, but in the real word they aren't. A montage a series of scenes and the first line is a scene heading and a series of shots are shots so the first line is a shot.

Nicholas Benson

Yes Beth! That is exactly what I'm trying to do! Couldn't have put it better myself. I pretty much stick to Trottier's model for montage and series of shots as well and that's where the confusion arose. By his definition, I should be using MONTAGE but it just didn't feel right in this instance. QUICK FLASH OF IMAGES looks and sounds right to me. Is that commonly used in screenwriting format? It's just, I don't remember ever seeing it. Anyway, I will probably do it that way, so long as I don't get slayed for it by readers hahaha. Thank you everyone for your help!

Beth Fox Heisinger

Oh good, I'm glad that helps, Nicholas. As Robert said, as long as you are consistent, and clear, you should be fine. Clarity is key. It has to be crystal clear to your reader, certainly within context. I'd suggest still hunting down examples, see how various pros handle something similar on the page. I've seen similar constructions handled just in description. In Wild, A SUDDEN RUSH OF IMAGES, then a paragraph. Juno has a lot of little flashbacks and image series, one of Bleeker getting ready to go for a run. Although, if I recall, I think Cody used C.U. (close up) in front of each line. Typical slugline, INT. BLEEKER'S BEDROOM - DAY, then single lines of action. It looks like a series of shots, but no 'back to scene.' Anyway, keep in mind with a spec script always try to keep camera direction at a minimum -- with the Juno example you could just omit C.U. and put a dash in front of each line. A lot of this boils down to personal writing style. There's no one way. But, again, clarity is key. Myself, I'm a minimalist when it comes to formatting. Whatever is quick, simple and clear. Good luck!

Rent A Space Creative Locations
Rent A Space

Peerspace provides space rentals for creatives like you. Find a creative space near you.

Other topics in Screenwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In