• Sean LaFollette

LET YOUR SCREENPLAY BREATH


Advice from Sean LaFollette
Pace Your Script Properly

As I edit 'What About Molly?' for the 10th time, I'm starting to realize a few things. One, the film improves with each pass. Two, I am falling into analysis paralysis and three, I didn’t let my screenplay breath enough.


Working through the edit there are several moments where I wish I could slow things down just a bit. The pacing is rush, rush, rush, all the way through and I really want a little breather. Because of this, I was forced to shoot additional scenes that aren’t scripted. Transitions really, just to get the audience relaxing back into their seats before that next moment.

So why did this happen?


Part of the issue is the scene transitions I chose to write in the script. I didn’t bring enough variety and it’s starting to show. So, with that, let’s dive in.

A VARIETY OF TRANSITIONS

It’s important to mix up your scene transitions as your write. What do I mean by this? Take the below as an example.


A simple transition, easily utilized, is to end a scene on a question and answer it at the start of the next scene.


“Wait…you’re not thinking...?”


BOOM! The next scene shows our character doing whatever it was they were considering.


Simple and effective…Until you use it repeatedly. That’s when it becomes annoying and predictable. That’s when we look like amateurs and we certainly don’t want that. So, let’s fix it!


As you navigate through your story, keep your transitions in mind. If you use a quick, snappy transition from scene 3 to 4 then considering taking a slower approach between 4 and 5. You could use a montage or a simple shot where your character is traveling to the next scene about to take place.


Another thing to take into consideration is the emotional impact of the scene you’re transitioning from. Was it a highly emotional scene, full of fuel and fire, leaving your audience on the edge of their seats? This might be a great moment to throw in a slower transition into the next scene. Give the audience a much-needed break.

So, what are the different kinds of transitions at your disposal? Below I name just a few.


  • End a scene on a question and answer it in the next scene.

  • End the scene on an image, starting the next scene on a similar image.

  • End a scene with music which leads into the next scene.

  • End a scene with the dialogue that starts the next scene.

  • Use a montage.

  • Use a character is traveling transition.

No matter your transition of choice, remember to keep variety and try to get creative. Look for originally, a way to transition from scene to scene that hasn’t been done before. I’m sure there’s something that hasn’t yet been done.

SCREENPLAY SCENE LENGTH

Your scenes should never go over 3 pages. This is something I learned at the beginning of my journey and I call bullshit.


A scene takes what it takes. If it’s super interesting and takes 5 pages, then let it take 5 pages. If it’s a quick-witted cut scene and takes half a page, then let it takes half a page. Hell, Tarantino runs scenes for 10 minutes or more and those are some of my favorites.


This is another way to let your script breath. If your scenes continuously run 3 pages or less, your stories pacing might move rather quickly. If that’s your intent, then good on you! Keep up the great work. However, if you want to slow things down and modify the tone, you might consider increasing the number of pages on a few of your scenes.


There’s a big difference between an action scene that starts with a character running into trouble, guns blazing and a scene where the character methodically stalks their prey prior to running in, guns blazing. Same scene, different tone, all done by adding a little length.


CONCLUSION

I learned the hard way on this one and you don’t need to. If you read your script and it seems as though you’re flying through, it’s because you are. SLOW DOWN. It’s not a race to see who can get to the finish line first, it’s a journey we need to take the audience on, and we want to do so with a well thought out and effective pace.


Do you have questions, comments or additional methods swirling around in your head? Put it in the comments and let’s have a chat!


- The Failed Filmmaker

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