Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Screenwriting Mistake #31: No slug line when location changes

This is a simple rule that takes a bit of practice to get used to – every time the camera moves, you need to write a new slug line. When I was first starting to write scripts, it didn’t occur to me to pay attention to exactly where each scene was taking place. I would write a slug line each time there was a new master location, but then would just describe in action when the characters were moving around that location, such as, "Charlie walks outside and gets into his car." I didn’t realize that I needed a new slug line each time that the action moved around the same general place.

The most common ways that I see this mistake now are when characters move in and out of buildings, among different rooms in the same building, or in and out of cars. Each one of those transitions needs its own new slug line.

Alternatively, a great way to denote when you're changing locations within a single master location is to write just the name of the room that the characters are moving into. For example:

INT. JOHN’S HOUSE – DAY

John and Diane stumble inside, pausing to tear each other’s shirts off and kiss in the doorway.

HALLWAY

Diane drags John down the hall, kicking off her heels as she goes.

BEDROOM

Diane shoves John onto the bed and launches herself at him.

BATHROOM

Ronald watches John and Diane from behind the bathroom door. He flosses as he enjoys the show.

Did that last example have to be about sex? No, it did not. Did there need to be flossing? Yes, because oral hygiene is very important. Besides, gratuitous sex can add interest to a seemingly lackluster topic, which was hopefully all you needed to help you remember to write a new slug line or one of those mini-slugs every time the cameraman has to haul his equipment to a new location. And I'm serious about the flossing.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for your informative posts! Will EP scheduling accept the following sluglines (uploaded via FInal Draft) and which is the correct master slug format:

    1. INT. SARAH'S APARTMENT - KITCHEN - NIGHT
    2. EXT. JIM' CAR - JOE'S CAR - TROPICAL ROAD - DAY 6 - DAY
    3. INT./EXT. TOOL SHED - DAY
    4. 2. EXT. JIM' CAR / JOE'S CAR / TROPICAL ROAD - DAY 6 - DAY

    Thanks.

    Richard

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  2. Thanks for your comment, Richard. I'm not sure what you're asking about the correct master slug format, but a master slug line is just a regular slug line. The ones that follow, such as "KITCHEN" or "BEDROOM" are the only ones that are different from regular ones in that you don't need the "INT." or "DAY" since you have established that the characters are moving around within a single location.

    Here's what I think about the 4 slugs you provided:

    1. Perfect
    2. I would write this as, "EXT. TROPICAL ROAD - DAY" and then write a description saying that Jim and Joe drive down the road. I'm not a fan of putting things like "DAY 6" in slug lines, but they do make it easier for a reader to keep track of dates. Just remember that if you want the audience to know this information, then you need to use a SUPER or to reveal this information in the description or dialogue that follows.
    3. This is fine, but I personally don't like "INT./EXT." in slug lines. I would only use this if a lot of rapid action is happening in and out of the tool shed.
    4. Same as number 2.

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