Monday, January 30, 2012

Book into a Movie : What Each Screenplay Scene Must Accomplish

Book into a Movie--What Each Screenplay Scene Must Accomplish

Author: Danek S. Kaus

The scene is the basic building block of a movie. In screenwriting, every scene must move the story forward in some way, that is, show the protagonist taking the next step toward the goal, the antagonist attempting to thwart the protagonist or reveal information. If you write a scene that doesn't do any of these things, cut it.

[caption id="attachment_178" align="aligncenter" width="650"]Book into a Movie : What Each Screenplay Scene Must Accomplish Book into a Movie : What Each Screenplay Scene Must Accomplish[/caption]

A scene usually takes place in one location and for a particular period of time, unless the scene dissolves to a later moment. Then it is usually considered to be another scene, even if it is still the same location.

According to who you ask, the definition of a scene may vary. Robert McKee, one of the gurus of screenwriting and author of the book 'Story,' says that a scene may take place in several locations if it is the continuation of a particular event. He gives the example of a couple arguing as they get ready for work in the bedroom, eat breakfast and drive to work. By his definition, that would all be one scene.

I believe it's best not to get too hung up on definitions, but focus on understanding the concept. A scene is a usually single event happening at one point in time that moves the story forward. But even this idea can get tricky.

Say you're writing a courtroom story. You come to the scene where the prosecutor, who is the protagonist, interrogates a defense witness. He forces her to reveal that she is the girlfriend of the bad guy and that she has been lying. That's one event.

She cries. That's a second event. The accused grabs the bailiff's pistol and shoots the judge, That's a third event. The detective who arrested the criminal shoots the bad guy in the arm. Fourth event. Reporters rush out of the courtroom. Fifth event. And so on.

Still, despite all these things that are going on, this is essentially a single event-the prosecutor questioning a witness. Information is revealed, and the DA has moved closer to his goal of putting the bad guy behind bars.

Just like the entire script, each scene must have a beginning, a middle and an end. It must be a complete unit of your screenplay.

Begin each scene at the last best possible moment. In the kitchen example above, don't waste time with a lot of set up. Don't show the wife or husband, rooting in the fridge, cracking some eggs, putting bread in the toaster, dropping the eggs in the frying pan if these actions don't move the story forward. Start the scene when the second person enters and continues the argument that started in the bedroom.

Another critical element of constructing a powerful scene is to consider, and reveal to us, what each character's attitude is at this moment. Are they happy or sad? Depressed or confident?

What does each character want? And what is his or her attitude about getting it?

Finally, who gets what they want and who doesn't? What is each character's attitude about that?

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About the Author

Danek S. Kaus is a produced screenwriter of an award-winning feature film. He has two movies in development and three more of his screenplays have been optioned. Check out his his screenwriting site for more articles on screenwriting. You can also request his Free Ebook screenwriting for authors

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