How do you write a series of short scenes with no dialogue in a screenplay?

If I'm writing a scene that is basically short clips of several scenes with music in the background, what is the format? What is the terminology? I've seen "intercut" for a phone call, alternating from one party to another but I'm not sure if that applies here.

1 Answer

  • 1 month ago
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    First off, you DON'T write music in the background in your screenplay at all. It is not your job as the screenwriter. The decision on what music to use will be made during the post-production stage, by the director. The only time you should consider including something like that is if there's no way around it. Meaning, if it's necessary for the story. If there's no way around it. Otherwise, avoid, it just makes you look like an amateur.

    Now. I'm assuming you're already reading screenplays and learning from them? If not, start doing so. But don't read from those "screenplay directories" - the screenplays there are more like transcripts. Instead, Google: PDF screenplay, and add the title of a specific movie. This will give you the PDF version of the screenplay - of the shooting script. Note that what you're supposed to write is a *spec* and not a shooting script, so make sure to learn the differences; what you're supposed and not supposed to include. Again, writing a shooting script will make you look like an amateur from page 1.

    To answer your question, INTERCUT is something else. It's when you go back and forth between two or more scenes. Instead of wasting space and time on sluglines, creating a mess, you just write something along the lines of "INTERCUT PHONE CONVERSATION" and then just the dialogue between the characters. Then the editor takes care of the cutting back and forth between the locations. So by the sound of it, it doesn't apply here.

    What you're referring to is a MONTAGE. Or, if it's a series of quick shots, a SERIOUS OF SHOTS. The latter usually describes flashbacks. For example, when a character realizes something horrifying and there's a series of quick shots showing how they've connected the dots by picking up on the clues along the way.

    There's more than one way to format it. It depends on your style. On what you choose to do. When writing, always always always keep this in mind: Your job is to convey what you see in your head to the reader (who's not a mind-reader), including the tone, pacing, action, character's mood, etc. and by using just the right words, order of words, sentence structure, punctuation, by breaking paragraphs in the right places, etc. Screenwriting is a language. Get used to thinking this way - and you're golden.

    So if you're aiming for the second type, the series of shots, you could try something like this:

    Lance stops. Something clicks.

    SERIES OF SHOTS: Mary going in to the cave. Mary giving him the knife. His brother is dead.

    Horrified, Lance drops the phone and storms out.




    Lance stops. Something clicks.


    Mary going in to the cave.

    Mary giving him the knife.

    His brother is dead.


    Horrified, Lance drops the phone and storms out.



    Lance stops. Something clicks.SERIES OF QUICK SHOTS: Mary goes in to the same cave from the beginning... Then Mary gives Lace the knife... Next, his brother is dead...Horrified, Lance drops the phone and storms out.

     THE END

    Just play with your options. It doesn't matter so long as you convey exactly what you want to convey.

    If it's a montage, again, play with your options. But generally:

    Mary wakes up. Tired from last night, she crawls out of bed.

    MONTAGE: Mary sits on the toilet, barely keeping her eyes open. She goes in the shower. She puts on her uniform. She grabs a cup of coffee and heads out.


    In and out. Don't waste time or space. Take into consideration pacing and tone. 

    Another thing. Technically you're not writing a scene. You're writing *scenes*. If it's a different location and/or time, then it's a different scene.

    And lastly, keep it up! It's great to see that you have the self-discipline and the will to read, understand and learn. That's the key.

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