I was reading a friend’s script recently, and one of the comments I made was it was difficult to read the scene headings because a lot of the locations were in the same building, a hotel.
Not in itself a problem, but the scene headings were formatted like this:
INT. HOTEL RICHARDSON, LOBBY – DAY
INT. HOTEL RICHARDSON, BAR – DAY
INT. HOTEL RICHARDSON, BEDROOM – DAY
Obviously, the name of the hotel has been changed to protect the innocent.
The reason I found it difficult to read was because I tend to skim quickly over the scene headings in my hurry to get on with the story. Once you know a batch of scenes are in the hotel, there’s no need to keep reading HOTEL RICHARDSON at the beginning of every line and so my eye was searching for the pertinent information: LOBBY, BAR, BEDROOM. Obviously, this doesn’t take long, but it does slow down the read ever so slightly. With a lot of scene changes, this becomes quite annoying.
My reasoning was, if the smaller location came first, it would be easier to find, hence easier to read. My friend agreed and we were all happy.
A few days later I opened one of my older screenplays, one written when I was really, really paying attention to every little piece of format advice I could find. Lo and behold:
INT. DAVE’S HOUSE, DAVE’S BEDROOM – DAY
I’d done exactly the same thing. Big location, small location.
Hmm, maybe that was right after all? I now vaguely remember reading something about this format being easier for some production department (art, location, catering?); but if the other way round is easier to read, then which is the best way to go?
I know in the grand scheme of things, this really doesn’t matter and the amount of annoyance caused anyone is small enough for them to just lump it.
But I’m an anal old soul and these things pique my curiosity. I soon forget them (as I obviously did last time) but I do like to know things.
A quick check of the net showed a lot of format examples went large to small. Annoyingly, my friend checked the net too and came up with the opposite opinion: small to large.
So which one’s ‘correct’? Like I say, I know it doesn’t really matter. I’ve sold and optioned scripts and not once has anyone complained about any aspect of the format; but this is just pure curiosity. Which version do you use?
a) Large to small.
b) Small to large.
c) Something completely different.
d) Stop thinking about insignificant details and do some writing, you retarded freak.
Don’t be shy now.