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Using Camera Directions in Your Screenplay

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Misty Faucheux•updated: 8/4/2009

Here is a quick guide to the complicated process of adding camera directions to your screenplay.

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    Not Usual

    Though you will likely be writing in spec script, not shooting script form, you will probably still want to insert some type of visual commandments into your screenplay. This means putting a little bit of direction as to the placement of the camera.

    You are not meant to get carried away with this because it is up to the director and the director of photography to interpret the screenplay as they see fit, but you can still include some basic direction.

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    Positioning

    The main focus of this will be movement in the camera’s general position. Much of this will be indicated by the basic headings, where it states whether the camera is in an interior or exterior, marked INT. and EXT.

    When you are talking about an environment for a scene you then mark INT. or EXT. as a position for the camera inside or outside. If the scene is in an interior location, and it is still marked EXT. then you are likely indicating that the camera needs to be outside of that location, missing the primary action. From here, you can begin to make paths of movement for the camera, such as the case would be if it moved from inside to outside seamlessly.

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    Inclusion

    If your spec script is intended to be extra stylized, you may have to include some specific camera directions and angles. This would be the case if you are using long-tracking shots, steady cam from behind the actor or Dutch angles. Again, this is not usually going to be appreciated by the director, but still may have to happen if the style is crucial to the script working.

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    Shot Types and Angles

    For basic camera directions in a script, you are going to describe the angles. This is done by shortening common camera directions to their base letters. Medium Shots become MS, Extreme Close Up becomes ECU and Over The Shoulder becomes OTS. From here, you put a statement about the type of angle before the description of a shot or series of dialogue. This can be in a simple statement independent of the prose passage, or included.

    Example: Low Angle – President looks strait into the mirror as he fixes his tie.

    Example: Low angle of the President looking strait into the mirror while fixing his tie.

    This really depends on the style of the script, but it is often better to include it as a prose passage if it is in a spec script. Either way this is not going to help you sell your script