View Full Version : explain about SCENES

Michael Summers
07-31-2004, 05:16 PM
can someone please explain to me how scenes work? what would justify a scene change? how are scenes organized? how are they written, like scene one, scene two?

08-01-2004, 05:34 AM
Different people call different things "scenes".

I tend to follow the sequence-of-events definition: John and Mary have a knock-down drag-out fight...that starts in the bedroom, moves to the kitchen, and winds up out in the backyard. For me, that's the "scene" in which John & Mary discover their marriage wasn't made in Heaven. (But some people will call that a sequence, rather than a scene)

From a shooting/directing standpoint, a "scene" might be a location, i.e. do all of the bedroom scenes on Monday, the kitchen scenes on Tuesday, and the backyard scenes whenever it is sunny out. No regard for what is occuring, action-wise.

If the screenplay is for your use, number them if it will make things easier to organize. (And it most likely will.)


Michael Summers
08-01-2004, 10:42 AM
awesome. are scenes usually numbered out of order form the script or is scene 1 is the frist scene, scene 30 is the middle scene and scene 60 the last scene (literally, as a finished product)

08-01-2004, 11:53 AM
Numbered in order, if numbered at all.

Numbering them makes it a lot easier when scheduling. "Okay...tomorrow we're shooting 7, 3, 11 and 23...." That makes it an easy look-up for actors, props people, and whomever.

(I'm assuming you're doing this for yourself, right? Because if we're talking about a screenplay that will sent to someone else "on spec", you do NOT number the scenes. They get real huffy, if you do.)

Michael Summers
08-01-2004, 12:28 PM
yes for myself. thanks a lot for the info, i appriciate it

08-01-2004, 05:34 PM
A scene is a sequence of actions that happen in the same continuous time and space. In filmaking, we usually consider different scenes if the characters change rooms because we have the option of recording a bedroom in a studio in australia and the living room on location on zimbawe. But if you were on a theater and there were two different rooms on stage, and things happened *from one to another, it would probably be considered only one scene. So I guess it depends of your definition of space, if you call space "bedroom" or "evelyn's house". About time, if you don't chage rooms, but hide a passage of time, you would also be in a different scene, because if that passage of time includes wardrobe/prop/lighting changes, etc, you would probably film one after the other is wrapped.

So a scene is something like that: *


A Sequence is a "sequence" of scenes that have the same function to a narrative, for instance, *Jack, open a drawer, sees his gun and close it, Jack go to bed, Jack and wife wake up, Jack leave home, jack drive through the city, Jack's wife brushes her teeth, more driving, A secretary sorts some mail containing another intimation to a Jack Ross, more driving, jack listen to music, Jack's wife goes to the closet and start looking what to wear, Jack say hi to secretary and enters his office, Jack's wife see the gun drawer with the gun is missing, the secretary hears a gun shot from outside the office. That would be a lot of scenes, but one sequence: Jack kills himself.

Michael Summers
08-02-2004, 11:39 AM
you guys are better than going to film school

08-02-2004, 08:48 PM
You can really use scenes in whatever way is easiest for you to organize. I usually categorize scenes as different sections of the movie. Sequences I consider as something completely different and nothing to do with scripting or organizing a movie...

A sequence to me is a series of shots depicting a single action... someone picking up something or driving somewhere can be made up of different shots and locations, but are all part of one sequence.

I simply use scenes to chop up my script into sections. In whatever way you want to organize your script you can call it a different scene. It's usually indicated though by a location change or a change in time. It's for your personal use so whatever works best for you. Just use scenes to organize your script in the most efficient way for you and it'll work out fine...

08-03-2004, 04:24 AM
That will work fine for a director's viewpoint, since it's only about getting organized the best as you can. But if you are writting, and need to submit a proper format script, you should know to put scene headings whenever there is a scene change, and so the definition does count. Also, working within the standards will make sure everyone is on the same page, sound tech, DP, production designer, actors, etc... But sure enough, those are just conventions, don't let them get in your way.

08-04-2004, 12:27 AM
Is there an actual standard though as to where a scene ends and another begins? I don't think there is. It's simply a logical break in the film/story. That being said though, you do need to make them logical breaks so everyone will be on the same page and will make organizing your film work...

08-04-2004, 04:26 AM
Well, you have to know the consequences of what you write, for instance, if I don't change scenes when my character goes from the bedroom to the bathroom, I am clearly saying we won't do any shooting in the bathroom and it will all happen "Off". That will be clear after the producer sums up all the locations needed and prvides it. he won't find a bathroom unless there is one in a scene heading. About a rule, I'm not sure. But a standart definately exists. But all I have read about script formatting was from portuguese literature, so I couldn't guarantee it would apply in america as well.

08-04-2004, 08:47 PM
Alright, so what you're saying is that there's a standard in script writing when it comes to specifying the scenes but there's no standard in actually seperating scenes. You definitely have to include locations though so a producer will be able to get that location for shooting.

Another question would be: How specific do you have to be in your scene headings? If you're filming something in a bedroom that has a bathroom attached to it, I doubt you'd need to write two different scene headings from that, especially if someone is talking to someone in the bedroom from the bathroom.

08-04-2004, 09:16 PM
If it's self evident then it's OK I'd think...If it is clear to the producer that the bathroom *and* bedroom are needed, then you're OK...it's all about clarity, and making sure nobody doesn't know what's going on

08-06-2004, 03:39 PM
Ok, If you write:



Susan LEAVES to the bathroom.

No, Honey it's not here!"

Now What did that mean? Was susan off? Did we see her looking for John's shirt? Did we stay with john? That is not specified. So we can write:

"SUSAN (Off)"

There you go. There is no Bathroom



Susan ENTERS and open the dirty clothes basket.

No Honey, it's not here!"

You specified we followed her.

Of course it depends on the film, but the question is: Should the producer build the bathroom in studio? We found the perfect house. But the bathroom is useless. Do we need another location?

Now, of course the director can answer these questions himself, but also can a well written script. When someone is looking to make a list of locations, they shouldn't be looking, first hand, at more than the scene headings. Eve if they've read the script before (Wich of course they did). Of course leaving that open in the script is an option, so there is no right or wrong as long you as a writer know what you are saying or not saying.

Now it would really be a bitch to use scene headings if the scene happened in two places at the same time. John is reading a book and Susan is taking a shower. Then they start to talk about their relationship. It is clear that the scene is only one, just like the one I wrote before, so instead of using a scene heading (that defines a new scene) every time someone speaks, we can change rooms inside a scene using a room header (no such name) as this:



Susan goes to the bathroom

BATHROOM, Susan opens the Dirty Clothes Basket.

No, Honey, it's not here!


Nevermind! I found it!

In this case the scene is a whole, it would be stupid to film it in two different locations anyway (not that it couldn't happen)... But if you leave from an interior to exterior, then you HAVE to write the heading.

08-08-2004, 10:33 PM
Good explanation... yeah... it really just depends on how specific you want to be and make sure you're giving enough information to the people that will be making the film as to what's going on.

08-19-2004, 07:21 AM
How did this end up in the Directing thread?

The problem with standards in screenwriting is that even the "hard and fast rules" get changed from time to time. I've seen scripts with CUT TO and a scene heading every time a character walked into a different room, but then I've also seen scripts where there have been vast location changes denoted only by a capitalization.



Jerry hangs off the front of the pickup as it swings from lane to lane.


The two crooks fumble around in the glovebox for more bullets to fill their revolver.


...flies above. HANNA STORM surveys the action, struggling to hold on as the pilot keeps the truck in view.

I think the rule is to know what you're writing and who you're writing it for. Write in the most efficient way where everything makes sense. Action requires efficient, specific changes that indicate quick camera cuts. Drama allows more space in the writing to define each scene, suggesting lingering shots. If you're worried about the best way to denote your scene changes, read some scripts similar to what you're writing and cop what makes sense to use in yours.

I've seen scripts where scene headings never denoted interior or exterior, also ones where they've never specified day or night. I've also read some action scripts where pages have passed without a single INT or EXT type heading.

I think the rule is that if you can write your script where someone reads it from front to back without tossing it into the garbage after 20 pages, you're writing it correctly.

08-19-2004, 08:13 PM
True, I've read a lot of documentary scripts taht were not even in Courrier New 12. It's so good to change fonts from time to time... ;D

08-20-2004, 05:57 AM
I got a script once where the whole thing was written in times new roman and had vast pages describing the history of each character as they entered the scene. The writer even put internal thoughts and character directions between the spoken lines. "he doesn't belive her, he still remembers last fall when she ditched him in the rockies"

As a secondary side note - I read an early draft of "The Breakfast Club" that claimed to be the shooting script. There was an extra teacher in that script and she had several one on one scenes with Vernon.

Also, the script was awful.

11-06-2004, 02:51 PM
I like to break the scenes into beats so I can determine when intensity changes for the sake of storyboarding as well as what to tell the actors. Emotional intensity changes will dictate how I handle the visual intensity.