Sign up for our Script newsletter and receive the latest in screenwriting news, plus a copy of
The "How to Write a Screenplay" Workbook - A Free Gift.

Chapter 11


The Rules:
Shots are formatted like Scene Headings, flush left margin, all uppercase. Blank line before and after.

A SHOT tells the reader the focal point within a scene has changed. Here are some examples of shots:

Writing Tip:
As the writer, for reasons already mentioned you should be very judicious using a SHOT to redirect the reader's focus. Your "directing" runs the risk of interrupting the flow of your storytelling. If what you really want to do is direct films, do yourself a favor and DON'T do it in a script you're trying to sell... wait until it sells and try to negotiate a package deal with you on board as the director. This most often is a possibility after you've already had one of your screenplays filmed.

Once in a while, calling a shot is necessary. You want the reader to see something not obvious in the scene or you want to achieve a particular emotion or build to a climax. This device allows you to achieve this goal.

If you are describing a prison riot, with a prisoner holding a guard at knifepoint, and you want the audience to see a sharpshooter aiming at the prisoner, you might use a shot like this:

A PRISONER shoves a homemade shiv against the throat of a PRISON GUARD.

                        I'll kill him! I mean it.

                                        PRISON GUARD
                        Take him out! Now! Do it!


as he lines up the shot, finger poised on the trigger.

                        I want to talk to the Warden. NOW!

Another shot used from time to time is INSERT. INSERT is used solely as a direction - to focus on something integral to the scene, often something that the audience needs to read or what would otherwise be too small to be clearly seen in a full, wide scene.


Writing Tip:
A well-constructed action paragraph or a single line might achieve the same goal without distracting the reader. Be vigilant of the flow of the story, and try not to interrupt it.