Is it possible to put to rest the largest writing controversy (next to the appropriate number of brads), CAMERA ANGLES? There are a lot of people who say camera angles don’t belong in a spec. [But] if you read scripts written by the writers who do sell, they nearly ALWAYS have camera angles. What I see all over the net is a large subculture of new writers excluding camera angles and not selling, while those who have advised them to take this route ARE using them and selling. One professional writer who suggests they be used goes as far as to say that these other pros suggesting they not be used are doing so to deliberately misguide the younger writers positioned to take their jobs.

–ZD

You’re uncovered a vast screenwriting conspiracy, ZD. William Goldman and his crack team of Writer’s Guild assassins will be visiting you shortly.

You actually make a very good point. Most of the classic screenwriting books and instructors will tell you to never use camera angles, because it hurts the readability and angers the director. While they have a point, I’d caution you to be suspicious of anyone who lays down hard-and-fast rules.

Speaking as a member of the pro-angle faction, I’ll make the case that reading a screenplay should give you the sense of watching the movie. Since camera position is a crucial element in the cinematic experience, there are times when it’s appropriate to mention it, just as it can be necessary to point out costuming, or music, or effects in order to let the reader know what’s what.

That said, I almost never use the words "camera" or "angle" in my scripts, because I think those words do tend to disrupt the flow. Rather than write –

ANGLE ON: The truck SLAMS into the gunman. — I’m more likely to write —

THE TRUCK

SLAMS into the gunman. — which uses a slugline to indicate that this a new and important shot. Along the same line, rather than say, "The CAMERA CRANES UP over the field," I would say, "we RISE OVER the field." Since the camera is the audience’s eyes, using "we" or "our" makes sense to me.

But I’m not the last word on the subject, nor can it ever really be put to rest. Although none have said it to my face, some of the directors I’ve worked with probably hate the way I move the camera on the page and wish I would stop doing it.

Ultimately, writers have different styles that work for them, and my best advice is find an approach that suits your taste and the material. There are no absolute rules.

Except that the appropriate number of brads is always two.