Screenwriting : Slugline Format by T. Chambers

T. Chambers

Slugline Format

Hello fellow screenwriters, Quick question that I'm a little stumped on, though I think it a little asinine. I have a scene in a film in which a character is standing in the kitchen in the day (INT. KITCHEN - DAY), then the next scene cuts to him sitting in kitchen at night (INT. KITCHEN- NIGHT). Both these scenes take place in the same day (in other words the kitchen scene in the day isn't on Monday morning, then the kitchen scene in the night takes place on Tuesday night. It all takes place Monday morning and Monday night). I hope this makes sense. My question is, would i need to write "continuous" here? (INT. KITCHEN - NIGHT (CONTINUOUS) ). I can't use "moments later" either because that would imply that the action takes place not too long after when it in fact it is hours later. Should i perhaps just write something in the scene description that alludes to the change in time? Thanks!

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

I'd simply do it like this: INT. KITCHEN - DAY Bozo sits at a small table drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. INT. KITCHEN - NIGHT While staring into space, Bozo sits drinking a beer. Any reader should understand the time difference without further explanation.

Elisabeth Meier

What about "12 hours later"?

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Elisabeth: I always think in terms of what can be filmed. Can you film "12 hours later" without saying SUPER? However, if Bozo sits in the kitchen and we see daylight, or sits at night, that can be filmed. I've read scripts where the narrative tells me what the character is thinking or feeling. I always ask the writer if that can be filmed. Certainly, if you use the parenthetical to convey angry or teary eyed, that can be filmed. I feel the same way when I read a character being introduced like JOE (25), a smart hipster with a sense of humor. Certainly, that can't be filmed. What can be filmed is JOE (25) walks into the room wearing a white shirt and jeans. And then we learn Joe is a hipster and funny during his interaction with others.

Elisabeth Meier

Philip E. I totally agree. My mistake. I meant it written as a text, which can be placed mid screen or as a subtitle as we all know from many films. Hence, I thought this would be clear when I just write here "12 hours later". Wasn't aware that I better should explain such things which are a given to me. What I don't get is what you mean "without saying SUPER" - pls explain. Probably a joke or ironic which I don't understand. Thanks.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Elisabeth: You're right. I was thinking you were inserting 12 hours later in your narrative; but you can definitely write it in your scene heading. I misunderstood what you meant. SUPERIMPOSE is used to write text on screen. Here is a great example: EXT. BEACH - DAY Hundreds of young, perfect bodies of college age kids frolic on the sand and in the warm water. SUPERIMPOSE: Daytona Beach, Spring Break, 1966 I also use text to put quotes at the beginning of scripts. Example: SUPER: Grief is like the ocean, it comes in waves, sometimes the water is calm and sometimes overwhelming. EXT. PHOENIX PARK PROJECTS - DAY

Pierre Langenegger

Exactly as Phillip and Elisabeth have already stated. You certainly don't want to use CONTINUOUS as continuous denotes continuous action, ie: EXT. SAM'S HOUSE - DAY Sam steps onto the porch, slides his key into the lock and opens the door. INT. SAM'S HOUSE - CONTINUOUS Sam enters his house. but in your instance, there is a time lag. Try using some visual reference to denote a time difference such as: INT. KITCHEN - DAY Sam sits down at the kitchen table with a beer in hand and stares at the wad of final notices. INT. KITCHEN - NIGHT Sam drains a beer and adds it to the pile of five empties on the kitchen table. He grabs the wad of final notices, scrunches them up and flings them toward the waste basket.

T. Chambers

Thanks for your replies everyone! I know I definitely don't want to superimpose. Though i know it is helpful and necessary in various cases, in this particular instance i would rather just show it rather than tell it. Not to mention that I'd be using it only once. In movies that I have seen that use it, I don't remember seeing it only once (not saying such movies don't exist. I'm just saying that I don't recall a movie that used it one time only). Pierre, I like your idea about the visual reference.

Elisabeth Meier

Phillip: Superimpose. What a nice word. :)) Never knew there's a word for this. Thanks for the explanation, this is exactly what I meant. :)) Pierre: With your suggestion we are again at the point that Phillip mentioned, I think. How will the viewer then know that it's the same day, just at night? (okay this sounds paradox, but you know what I mean). This only makes sense if Sam doesn't move and the light behind him is changing from daylight to early evening to night in fast motion. In case it shall be another night it will be easier, because then Sam will wear other clothes and sit there maybe simply in a different way. There is such a scene in Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley. She's standing in front of a mirror, staring at her own face, the viewer only sees what she sees - her face in the mirror and that Mr Darcy is coming in, leaving a letter and leaving again behind her back- while time goes by and the light falling in from the window at her left side changes. She doesn't move at all.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

@ T. Chambers: Quite right! Always better to show and not tell. That's why saying 12 hours later or just showing that it's dark outside are two different things. From where I sit, one can be filmed without explanation. Again, I always opt for the most generic sluglines possible. I just write day or night. One of my pet peeves is reading something like this: INT. 16TH STREET BAPTIST CHUCH - SUNDAY - DAY Inside the Baptist Church, the Sunday worshippers listen to the pastor quote scriptures. You'll note that both the slugline and action narrative say the same thing. Additionally, unless it has historical or geographical significance, who cares if its the 16th Street Baptist Church? Yet I frequently read scripts with these type of overly complicated scene setups. For me, better to say: INT. CHURCH - DAY During the Sunday services, the parishioners listen toe the pastor quote scriptures. You'll note I've eliminated repeating saying the same thing and eliminated non value added information.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Yup, redundancies, overly detailed slugs and descriptions are taxing to read and hinder the story. :)

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Beth: The stuff you mentioned drives me nuts. As I continue to write and read other screenwriters, I seek to economize and choose every word wisely. Sometimes easier said than done; but when I read others that do get it right I'm always impressed. And there are many here at S32 that do exactly that.

Pierre Langenegger

Elisabeth, I guess my DAY scene could have been a little clearer by describing the table as being empty. That way, during the NIGHT scene Sam adds another empty bottle to the five already there thus indicating that sufficient time has passed for him to have drunk six beers.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Phillip, I know, right?! That stuff drives me nuts too, especially when I catch myself repeating words or elements. Lol! The key is: during the rewrite process to specifically consider each scene, slugline(s) through dialogue and description, for any redundancies. Then, consider each page for redundancies -- verbal, conceptual and structural. It's a beautiful thing when you achieve a crisp, easy read. The story shines through. :)

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Pierre: I like what you did in your example. Last week, I was writing a script and did something almost exactly like what you illustrated. My lead character started with one beer and ended up with nine empties by his typewriter.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Beth: You're exactly correct about the crisp, easy read. And that damn robotic voice on Final Draft is such an amazing tool for catching those aforementioned redundancies. Also great for catching omitted words. Another thing that I see a lot of is dialogue with characters talking at each other as opposed to each other. For example, I read a script last week where I advised the reader to break up long passages of unanswered dialogue. I noted the writer's characters would talk at someone without the other character answering or interjecting. How many conversations do people really have like that? In several spots, I advised the writer to have the other character answer. I'm a big fan of ping-pong dialogue. This was masterfully done in screwball comedies like "His Girl Friday" and "Philadelphia Story".

Jorge J Prieto

Write CLOSE UP on KITCHEN DIGITAL CLOCK 10:00 am. Have camera PAN to window, now dark outside. PAN back to CLOCK - 9:00 pm.

T. Chambers

Phillip: "Talking at each other instead of to each other"....it's so interesting that you said that about dialogue. In the script I am writing now I do have the characters talking to each other (there's an argument going on) but I was beginning to think that is was overkill. It makes sense though as you say. In real life there is that cutting off before one finishes what they have to say.

T. Chambers

Hi Jorge. Thank you for your suggestion! I would like to steer clear though of using a clock. I liken it a little to the superimpose. The difference is just that one uses text on the screen while the other 'tells' you what time of day and night it is. I could see how it would be very important in certain shows/movies, where there is a countdown/race against time taking place, for example. Since my piece isn't like that I wanted to stretch the imagination a bit to have the right thing written on the script and to tell viewers without actually telling/spelling it out for them.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

@ T.C. Your scene sounds good. I like writing great arguments between well defined characters with their own voice that really bounce off each other. And cutting off is good, as it makes the conversations more real. Last year, I did a work for hire rewrite that had been written by an two writers from different countries. I couldn't believe the appalling, disconnected dialogue and I thought I did a good rewrite but they hated it; go figure.

T. Chambers

Phillip: Thanks. I agree with you. It does make it more real. Wow, that's interesting about the rewrite. It appears you had to change alot due to your description of the dialogue. How long did the rewrite take you to do?

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

@ T.C. I spent a week going from start to finish. Though the narrative action was generally good, the dialogue was really poor. My take was not to reinvent their story but to enhance it. I completely reworked the dialogue and took out all the cryptic bullshit that didn't make sense. I tried to help the characters connect, added some action sequences, including a film noir sequence a la "Touch of Evil" at a carnival with a knife fight inside a funhouse. Their estimated film budget was 2 million and the people involved went mad about the funhouse bit saying it would be too costly. I told them I know people who have built great Halloween haunted houses for less than 10 grand. Though I had them sign a collaboration agreement to avoid any bullshit liability hassles, there was so many personality issues and conflicts going on between the other two guys and advisors it turned out to be a waste of time. However, it was great experience working with someone else's draft and putting my touches on it. I still have my version of the script and stand by my work..

Pierre Langenegger

I wrote a short a couple years back. Most of it took place as an internet chat room conversation between two unseen characters getting to know each other over a lengthy period of time. The changing view through the windows beyond the monitors was my way of showing the passing of time, passing through not only night and day but also the seasons of the year.

Laurie Ashbourne

Continuous is for when a scene is shot continuously -- meaning there is no new camera set up the camera keep rolling. In this case the camera set up may be the same but the lighting is different and there would definitely be a cut. So just the Day and Night in the slugline suffice.

David Levy

Phillip: So you would do: EXT. AIR FORCE BASE - PARKING LOT - DAY A sedan pulis past a sign that reads “AERONAUTICS RESEARCH BUILDING 24D”into a packed lot next to a grassy quad. SUPERIMPOSE: 10 Years Earlier instead of: EXT. AIR FORCE BASE - PARKING LOT - DAY A sedan pulis past a sign that reads “AERONAUTICS RESEARCH BUILDING 24D”into a packed lot next to a grassy quad. TITLE ON SCREEN: 10 Years Earlier

Laurie Ashbourne

SUPER: 10 YEARS EARLIER

David Levy

Muchas gracias, Laurie!

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

David: Yarp: Da Super be right!

David Levy

Awesome! I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue!

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

David: there's never a right week for that.

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