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Are You Overusing LATER? May 23

LATER Hater

- LATERAfter reading a few client scripts recently where LATER is actually used more often than DAY or NIGHT in scene headings, I figured it was time to address this issue.

If you’re fond of using LATER in your scene headings, then what I’m about to tell you might blow your mind…

Unless you’re dealing with a flashback, it’s already understood that EVERY subsequent scene in your script takes place later than the one that preceded it.

So expressly telling the reader that your scene takes place LATER is unnecessary… most of the time.

When should you use LATER?

As far as I’m concerned, there’s really only one legitimate use of LATER:

When you’re indicating that we’ve jumped ahead in time, in the SAME scene location.

Let’s take a look at the standard, recommended usage. Say you’ve established a scene heading with some description. For example:

INT. PRISON CELL – DAY

The Brooksville Killer paces back and forth, eyeing the steel bars. A rabid animal in a cage.

Now, suppose you want to jump to a moment that comes later in that same location. There are two methods you could use. 1) Write a new master scene heading:

INT. PRISON CELL – LATER

Or 2) Simply write a secondary scene heading (preferred)…

LATER

… and then write some action lines.

What you do NOT want to do is use LATER if your following scene takes place in a new location. Example:

EXT. PRISON YARD – LATER

There’s no reason to write LATER for the scene heading above. It’s not like the reader is going to get confused and think your character is somehow simultaneously in his cell and in the prison yard. Obviously, he’s moved from one location to the next over some unspecified time.

So you would simply use DAY (or NIGHT as the case may be) for the new location scene heading and then add your action lines:

EXT. PRISON YARD – DAY

The maniac hammers his fists against the concrete wall, over and over again.

Bits of the aged wall crumble in his hands... and an idea sparks in his eyes.

Who So Serious?Why so serious? What’s the big deal?

There’s technically nothing wrong with writing LATER in subsequent scene headings. The problem is if it goes on for too long, it can confuse your reader.

If you keep writing LATER in your scene headings, eventually I’m going to forget whether it was day or night, or wonder if it has since transitioned from one time to the other. You’ve now made it more difficult for me to visualize the scenes.

When you make your reader struggle, that’s a bad thing.

Take this example:

EXT. PARK – DAY

Josephine and Tommy share a hot dog, each nibbling from opposite sides of the bun.

EXT. BAR PATIO – LATER

The lovers share a tropical drink... sipping from straws... gazing into each other’s eyes. If they weren’t so adorable, it would be cringeworthy.

The description is fine, but am I supposed to picture a brightly lit daytime patio or an atmospheric nighttime patio? The LATER throws me off.

One of the key jobs of a screenwriter is to set the scene for the reader. Do yourself a favor and use DAY or NIGHT in your subsequent scene headings to help you with that task.

What about  MOMENTS LATER?

Typically, MOMENTS LATER is used like LATER — when you want to indicate a jump in time within the same scene location. However, in cases where the location has changed, and the context of the scene is such that the reader might incorrectly think the scene takes place long after the previous one (when it really takes place shortly after), it’s just fine to use MOMENTS LATER for clarity.

Here’s an example of it NOT being necessary:

INT. CLUB CRAVEN – NIGHT

Brandon flexes his muscles in a mirror as Lisa sidles up to him.

LISA

My uncle’s on his way. I told him how you cheated on me, and he said he wanted to... uh, talk to you.

BRANDON

(scoffs)

Whatever. It’s not like he’s--

LISA

He’s the UFC heavyweight champion.

EXT. CLUB CRAVEN – NIGHT

Brandon bursts out the front entrance in a full sprint. Races to his car as fast as his cowardly legs will carry him.

It’s not necessary to use MOMENTS LATER in the above example, because the context of the scene already tells us that it takes place moments after the previous scene.

But if you come across a situation that isn’t so clear cut, and it’s important to know that the scene takes place shortly after the previous one, using MOMENTS LATER instead of DAY/NIGHT will help to avoid any confusion. Take the following example:

INT. JIMMY’S BEDROOM – NIGHT

Little Jimmy sits alone in his room, sulking. He stares at the Einstein poster on his closed door.

JIMMY

I loathe all of you imbeciles. I shall never leave this room! Ever!

A warm voice calls from downstairs:

MOM (V.O.)

Jimmy, the cupcakes are ready.

INT. UPSTAIRS HALLWAY – MOMENTS LATER

Jimmy cracks open his door. Peeks into the hallway. Breathes in the intoxicating aroma of chocolate and frosting. Sighs.

JIMMY

The flesh is weak.

He hustles downstairs.

Using MOMENTS LATER in the above example helps to reinforce the timeline. If NIGHT were used instead, the joke of how quickly Jimmy caves may not be as clear.

Are you a LATER overuser?

Interruptions Revisited May 17

The Problem

In a previous post, I discussed the difference between using dashes (hyphens) and dots (ellipses) at the end of a sentence — a common source of confusion. Recently, I’ve discovered a new and erroneous trend with hyphens.

With increasing frequency, I’ll see a writer use hyphens to both indicate an interruption (at the end of a sentence) and also to start off the next speaker’s dialogue (at the beginning of the following sentence).

Let me show you what I’m talking about.

PETER

You never let me finish a single sent--

JANICE

--That’s because you never have anything good to say!

Those two hyphens in front of “That’s” in the sentence above? Completely unnecessary. The two hyphens at the end of Peter’s sentence are all we need to indicate interrupted speech.

The Exception

The only time you’d use two hyphens to begin a character’s dialogue is when the second speaker is attempting to complete the first speaker’s sentence.

For example:

PETER

You never let me finish a single sent--

JANICE

-- Sentence? Yeah, because I always know what you’re going to say.

In the above exchange, Peter’s dialogue could also have been written with the double hyphens coming after the word “single,” without the partial word “sent.”

Do you have any other hyphen-related questions or need me to proofread your script? Let me know!

Valentine’s Day Sneak Peek of TRIPLE TIMe Feb 16

Time for a montage…

Last year, I wrote and directed a little time travel short film called TRIPLE TIMe. It’s due out in a few months, but since it was Valentine’s Day, I figured I’d release a fun little “falling in love” montage from about the midpoint of the film.

TRIPLE TIMe tells the story of Tim, a theoretical physicist, who discovers his life is in danger when he comes home to find two future versions of himself.

Category: Shorts  | 2 Comments
The Making of a VFX Shot Mar 19

Tim-GreenScreenA lotta work for a few seconds of screen time

Thought I’d share a behind the scenes “making of” video for a VFX shot we couldn’t fit into the TRIPLE TIMe pitch video.

Speaking of TRIPLE TIMe, if you’d like to contribute to the making of the actual short film, the time is now! Only one day left to help us reach our funding goal, and earn my eternal gratitude. Every little bit helps tremendously.

TRIPLE TIMe Crowdfunding Campaign Now Live! Mar 01

clock-r4What is TRIPLE TIMe?

TRIPLE TIMe is the next short film I’ll be writing/directing (and doing the visual effects for) with filming slated to begin at the end of March.

It’s a sci-fi, time travel extravaganza that tells the story of Tim, a theoretical physicist, who discovers his life is in danger when he comes home to find two future versions of himself.

If you love time travel movies like I do, or just want to see how weird I look in real life, please head over to the TRIPLE TIMe Indiegogo Crowdfunding page to watch the video.

I’ve been posting to Scriptwrecked for over five years now. If you’ve ever learned something important or picked up a great nugget of advice from my blog, contributing to this campaign would be an amazing way to say thanks. I know most screenwriters (like myself) aren’t made of money, so even if you can’t afford to contribute, simply sharing the campaign link with your friends will help tremendously.

The ultimate goal is to turn some heads in Hollywood and turn TRIPLE TIMe into a single-location feature film. That it all begins with a kick-ass short film. I’d love for you to be a part of the journey with me. Please click the campaign link below to find out more about TRIPLE TIMe and all the cool perks we’ve set up for contributors.

Crowdfunding Campaign Page
http://igg.me/at/tripletime

TRIPLE TIMe Facebook Page
https://facebook.com/tripletimefilm

My team and I will be providing updates on the crowdfuding campaign, and all things production related, right here (and on our Facebook page). So stay tuned and thank you for your support!

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