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06/09/2001 - Scene Construction

Teleplay Tips & Tricks

Scene Construction

Scenes are more than a means to an end. Each one is a mini-story in itself, with a beginning, middle, and end. Scenes need to be structured so that the intensity within them grows and then climaxes, like microcosms of your screenplay or teleplay.

Just as a good script starts as close to the middle of the story as possible, so does a good scene. On the old HAWAII 5-0 series I learned the trick of beginning in the middle of a confrontation between the main characters. And there was always a confrontation, because each scene had to be about conflict. That was one of the series' immutable laws. The audience very seldom saw a character enter a room and say, "Hello." Instead, the viewers got to the room while the characters were in mid-argument-and because of that they were instantly drawn in, suckered, hooked.

The arguments would be played out to their fullest, reaching their emotional peak, and then we would write a quick ending, anything from a slamming door to a shooting, and then it was CUT and onto the next rising argument. The scenes stood alone, as exciting-often violent-character vignettes. Write your scenes as short, two page stories and see how much more immediate it will make your entire script.


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