Screenwriting : Putting songs in screenplays by Ian Lynch

Ian Lynch

Putting songs in screenplays

Okay, I've got a question that I need help with. I'm writing a script that has a scene where two characters play a song they've written together. It acts as a bonding moment between the two. How do I write something like that into the script? It's not a musical. It just happens to be two muscians playing this one song together. Do I write the lyrics in the script, and explain that they're singing in parenthicals? Do I just describe the action, like "The two play the song together" and leave out the lyrics completely? I've read a few musical scripts, like Frozen, that write out the lyrics in their entirety. I'm just wondering if it's any different for scripts that aren't actually musicals?

Derek Ladd

You could write it as action, but the problem is the reader might not know the song. If two characters sing the same words together at the same time you can indicate as much beneath the character names with a parenthetical: JOHN AND SUE (singing KISS) I love it LOUD, wanna hear it LOUD, right between the eyes... I prefer to indicate (singing) as a parenthetical, though some may disagree. If two characters sing DIFFERENT lyrics over each other (or talk over each other) you'll have to use the 'dual dialogue' oddity, which I've never used. Here's a page showing it Hope that helps! ;-D

Bill Hunter

I asked this question on a different website about a karaoke song and this is the answer I got. Use SINGING: aligned left and Action to note that they are singing and then Action should be descriptive enough to note they stop singing. Example(Format not correct in post): Sara has a smile on her face as the guys meet in the middle with microphones setup on stage. Rick uses a remote to start the song which is “The One” by the Backstreet Boys. The song starts and the guys drop into character of a boy band, the crowd goes wild. They have seen this before. SINGING: ALL THREE I'll be the one. BUD I guess you were lost when I met you Still there were tears in your eyes So out of trust and I knew No more than mysteries and lies There you were, wild and free Reaching out like you needed me Then ending it like this: He looks back at Sara, she is beaming. He sings the last lines to her. BUD To hold you And make sure that you'll be alright I'll be the one The crowd goes completely bananas. All three guys bow and mouth thanks you. They put the mics back on the stands. Bud leaves the stage and goes back behind the bar with many girls looking at him as he does. Louie meets him there. Hope this helps.

Ian Lynch

Yeah, very hepful. Thanks guys!

William Martell

I'd do (singing) as a wryly. But the main thing to do is make it clear to the reader. Any time you come up with some odd format thing, the key is just to make sure the reader gets it.

Neva J Howell

My intial reaction is that I'd want to know the lyrics if it's a bonding moment with the characters. I think the lyrics could (maybe should) strenthen the sense of bonding for the reader.

Danny Manus

Hm, I will differ from Bill on this one. I actually would suggest keeping it in Dialogue format, but italicized, and with a parenthetical before they start singing that says (singing). Or you can tell us they start to sing the song, but then have it in dialogue/italicized. I do think you should write out the lyrics but be careful it's not a 3 minute song. Keep it to a page at MOST. But I think having it be italicized will let us know it's different than regular dialogue.

William Martell

My Underwood doesn't have italics...

Michael L. Burris

Good question I was kind of wondering that too. I would use transition italic Background Song or Song or Singing or Lyric with music. Write the song out in italic. Write the action of the scene non italic, then transition italic Song, Music or Lyric Over. I think this conveys better than action description before the song and let's us know the action is taking place during the song or singing. Maybe that doesn't make sense or considered wrong but that's the way I picture it. I wouldn't break the stride of the italicized song with action either. This is why say during line 2 verse 2 of the song, singing, etc. some action such as leaning in tearful occurs, you can reference the above italicized lyric within the non italicized action sequence right when it is supposed to take place within the song. Hope that makes sense.

Alan Rubinoff

I wouldn't put it in at all unless you are a seasoned writer that also writes lyrics. No matter how good you are leave the song out and just describe, they brows into song... They look in each other's eye... Describe the bonding etc.

Michael L. Burris

It's not that hard here is an example. INT- ANY THEATER- ANY PLACE- ANY TIME Dick and Jane are backstage. Holding hands and smiling they walk upon the big stage waving to the crowd under the bright lights then sit on stools across from each other. (Not italicized) MUSIC AND SINGING (Italicized) along with next four lines of the song Oh Jane, Oh Jane you keep me from going insane. Oh Jane, Oh Jane even in your sleep I know your name. Forever a woman like you I have imagined a match for me humble man Dick. You are the one woman I know never upon my heart you would play any trick. Dick and Jane are performing one the best duets in the history of duets, beautiful melody is in the air. Dick and Jane are so in sync smiling at each other sitting across from each other singing. Right when the one woman I know never line occurs Dick's voice cracks. Dick can no longer look Jane in the eye. (Not italicized) Except for " the one woman I know never" MUSIC AND SINGING OVER(Italicized) The Music and Singing would be italicized as well as the lyric. The action right before and right after would not. Anyway you can use this as a template. Don't be afraid of writing whatever you think really needs to be there. Hope this helps and those that think this is amateurish sorry your so stuck in your ways of robotic knowing. It works and I know it does.

Aamir Anjum

watch " khuda ke liye" a Pakistani movie - there is a particular scene when the protagonist moves to USA in search of music and finally ends up composing a song which pictures him and his future half bonding up. " Bandya ho " - Name of the song , available on youtube

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