Directing the Camera
The example of the scene description above depicts a few key elements that explain the flow of visuals, and an indirect way to direct the screenplay. *REMEMBER * the industry standard does NOT appreciate a screenwriter writing in camera cues! This would be considered writing a shooting screenplay and should NOT be done. (unless you’re producing the film yourself) Regardless, it’s always considerate to allow the Director and the Director of Photography to direct the camera. Let’s take a moment to examine some techniques with framing, lighting, and sound. Again, here is the same scene description as above:
Autumn sunlight shimmering. Warm. An Antebellum house sits in the distance behind a LONG brick paver driveway and an elaborate OPENING IRON GATE -- HIGH-PITCH SQUEEEEEAK
Old oak trees adorned with Spanish moss line the way, creating an outstretched arching tunnel toward the old house.
A light breeze begins to blow -- Autumn leaves -- all colors -- some fall to the freshly cut lawn. One single RED LEAF falls. Falling. Falling. Falling --
onto the driveway.
A LOW DRONING SOUND grows louder. LOUDER. The sound of an ENGINE nears -- A 1926 FORD MODEL T rolls along the driveway, crushing --
THE RED LEAF
Notice the incomplete sentences. Unlike your traditional rules to writing guidelines, single words and incomplete sentences work perfect in screenplays, and serves as a visual representation and also an indirect approach to ‘safely’ direct the camera without directly slipping in camera cues (ex. ECU (Extreme Close Up). Incomplete sentences also help dramatize the action by smoothly flowing the visuals. Much like poetry.
Another approach to use is to add spacing and dashes. Spacing adds more camera direction than you can imagine and flows your action! When you space paragraphs or even add dashes you create directional flow with the eye. It’s a way to actually see the visuals, whether far away or up close, moving from one side of the frame to the next, and so forth.
ALL CAPS may also be used to depict Extreme Close Ups (ex. RED LEAF). When you read the line where the red leaf is falling, you can actually see it up close and follow it as it falls.
Sounds may also be heard. ALL CAP SOUNDS add the sound effects you want to highlight. (SILENCE is also considered a sound!) The long squeak sound signifies the squeaky sound that an old iron gate would make. Don’t be afraid to misspell words either. You want the reader to not just see the visuals but also to hear the visuals.
Altogether, in the above scene description, the reader may first visualize an establishing shot (WIDE ANGLE) view of the house, driveway and trees, perhaps from a high crane shot. Then when the red leaf falls, the camera tracks downward, following the red leaf all the way down toward the driveway into a LOW ANGLE of the driveway and house in the background.
So, now that you’ve got the fundamental tips to writing a selling screenplay, from script development, proper industry format, plus a few insider hints you are ready to write a selling script!