Time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking… me off

I’ve been seeing a lot of these kinds of shenanigans in the scripts I’ve been reading lately:

Sarah watches the front door for a few minutes, anticipating 
Dan's return.

A “few minutes”?! You actually want the audience to sit and stare at a door for a few minutes of screen time? No, I didn’t think so.

Passages of time longer than a few seconds should be indicated with MOMENTS LATER or LATER, depending on how much time has passed. As in:

Sarah watches the front door, anticipating Dan's return.


The door bursts open. Dan staggers in, holding a case 
of beer and a lawn flamingo.

Other Methods

For long passages of time, like days, weeks, months, or years later, a DISSOLVE TO: transition may be in order:

Sarah watches the front door, anticipating Dan's return.

                                            DISSOLVE TO:

Sarah, older now, gray hairs and wrinkles, stares at a 
television. She steals a glance at the front door. Wistful.


Some people advocate for using a TIME CUT TO: transition (instead of DISSOLVE TO:) for pretty much any length of time. I personally think that’s a mistake, at least for shorter periods of time like minutes or hours. All you’re doing is wasting a precious line space on a transition for no good reason.

If you simply use MOMENTS LATER or LATER, that’s all the information the reader needs to get it.

NOTE 1: Writing LATER or MOMENTS LATER by itself on a line has the same effect as writing the full scene heading (INT. LIVING ROOM – LATER). It’s just leaner and meaner.

NOTE 2: Many writers overuse LATER. Only use LATER or MOMENTS LATER if you’re in the same location. Otherwise, just use your standard DAY or NIGHT.

NOTE 3: I don’t feel like JUMP CUT TO: has any place in a spec script. A jump cut is where you suddenly jump ahead to a later point in the same shot. Leave that type of specificity to the editor unless you have an urgent story need to depict a shot in that way.

Do you use any alternatives to show the passage of time in a script? Let me know!