As promised, we're going to talk about LATER and CONTINUOUS today. I'm also tossing in INTERCUT because several clients have written out scenes the long way recently instead of relying on the trusty and easy-to-use INTERCUT.
So - LATER. I'm going to make this very simple. Only use LATER if you are staying in the exact location where your previous scene took place, and you need to indicate a passage of time.
So, let's say we were in:
INT. LISA'S KITCHEN - DAY
Lisa takes a dozen eggs out of the refrigerator.
Now, we don't want to watch Lisa make scrambled eggs. And we don't want to show her saying boring "good mornings" to her children. So we just need to jump time ahead to what we do want to show. The next thing you type is:
INT. LISA'S KITCHEN - LATER
Lisa and her two children shove scrambled eggs into their mouths.
That's it. This is the basic reason LATER exists - to indicate the passage of time within the same location/header.
If you wanted to go from this scene to Lisa getting into her car an hour later and heading to work, you could write:
INT. LISA'S GARAGE - DAY
Lisa tosses her briefcase into her car.
A lot of writers try to use LATER or LATER THAT MORNING in situations like this one. But as we discussed last week, your header does not exist for you to explain story details. When you move a location, you almost always just use DAY or NIGHT in the new header.
Of course, sometimes you can use CONTINUOUS. However, I think CONTINUOUS gets overused in a lot of the scripts I read. Again, the writer is trying to make sure that I realize that things are happening one after the other or at almost-simultaneous times. But by relying on CONTINUOUS, writers sometimes forget to make sure that what they’ve written will be clear on screen and not just on paper.
CONTINUOUS, in my opinion, just doesn't need to be used all that often. If you have:
INT. MIKE'S KITCHEN - DAY
Mike picks up the mail and walks into -
INT. MIKE'S LIVING ROOM - CONTINUOUS
Mike carries the mail to the couch and sits down.
I think this works. CONTINUOUS indicates that there hasn't been a passage of time, just an immediate change in location. You can think of CONTINUOUS as being dependent on a clock. If a clock has jumped ahead in time, CONTINUOUS won’t work.
However, if you are jumping between locations and want to make it clear that the action is simultaneous, don't rely on CONTINUOUS. In general, I would say to just use DAY or NIGHT in the new headers, and then make it clear to the viewer that things are happening at the same time. You can show a clock in both locations or use some other device, such as the same TV show playing in the different rooms.
The final topic for today is INTERCUT. I love using INTERCUT. It allows the writer the most freedom with the fewest headers, and I recommend that you try to use it where appropriate.
In several scripts that I’ve read recently, the writers kept going back and forth between two people on a phone call. During one phone call, they may have changed the header six or seven times.
This just takes longer to read, plus the writer has to remember which character is V.O. under which header. It's much easier to just call for an INTERCUT and write the scene as if you were under both headers. You can also use an INTERCUT for more than two locations.
First, introduce each character and his/her location. Something like:
INT. A STORE - DAY
A miserable Joan looks at candy on a shelf. Frustrated, she dials her cell phone.
INT. A BAR - DAY
John drowns his sorrows in a beer.
His phone RINGS. He answers.
We have to solve this. I'm conferencing in Mike.
INT. A BOWLING ALLEY - DAY
Mike bowls out his anger. His phone rings. He answers.
INTERCUT THE THREE ON THE PHONE
Once you've called for the INTERCUT, you just tell us what's happening in all three locations without any regard for changing headers or using V.O. You write the action for all of them as if you were in their location with a proper header. So you can tell us what they say and do without worrying about camera placement. Basically, you just stay here under the INTERCUT until someone hangs up or you want to change scenes. It's really very easy to write and to read.
OK, that’s it. Next week’s blog will cover something other than headers. I think we’ve said all we can say about them. As always, if you have any questions, post them in the comments section or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have fun writing!