questionmarkI’m working on a script that includes a few scenes where characters talk on police radios, or on megaphones.

So my question is this:

How do you write that? I suppose it’s just a matter of picking a format and sticking to it throughout the script, but I thought I would fire this question across your desk in case you’ve already standardized how it might look. Currently I’m toying with something that might go along the lines of:

INT. POLICE CRUISER – NIGHT

The radio crackles with three call tones. Perry grabs the receiver.

PERRY

Go for Perry.

DISPATCH (ON RADIO)

(filtered)

Your mother’s calling 9-1-1 again, Perr. Says you’re grounded.

PERRY

Tell her I’m working. I’ve got a job, and I’m working. I’m already on patrol, Walter...and I’m 30.

DISPATCH (ON RADIO)

(filtered)

She’s threatening the Playstation.

PERRY

Tell her I’ll be right there.

He tosses the handset, floors it, and cranks up the siren and lights.

The other format I’m trying to crack is when someone picks up a megaphone to address a crowd of people. So far I have something like:

EXT. PERRY’S HOUSE – NIGHT

The squad car screeches up in front of the house. Perry’s mom opens the top floor window and extends the Playstation over the ledge.

Perry jumps out, holds up a megaphone.

PERRY

(filtered)

Don’t do it, mom. Go back inside, and keep the Playstation where I can see it.

PERRY’S MOM

You’re a rotten kid, Perry. Rotten to the core.

PERRY

(filtered)

I mean it. I’ll use force if I have to.

I’m not sure if you need the word “filtered” in parentheticals in both examples, and if I do, should I put it on each line, or just the first? With the radio lines, I’ve put “ON RADIO” next to the name, and on each line. Do I need to include it on more than one, or is the first sufficient?

– Scott Benton
Los Angeles

In both cases, I would drop the “(filtered)” tag on the second line of dialogue. We get it, and reminding us that it’s filtered is just getting in the way of the jokes.

While we’re on the topic, I’m a fan of how you used DISPATCH (ON RADIO) in the first example. I find myself doing that a lot in situations where the speaker is not physically present in the scene. In some cases, it indicates a character we’ll never really meet (perhaps your Dispatcher), or a character we do meet who happens to be on a speakerphone or similarly off-screen.

Putting the parenthetical as part of the character name helps reinforce that the person won’t be seen. That’s clarity for the reader and for 1st ADs when it comes time to write the shooting schedule.