Keep scene headers simple

[question mark graphic]I’m struggling with how to format (another way to say procrastinating on telling the story) a rather large location. It’s a massive complex that has all kinds of sub-locations. Some scenes take place inside a PENTHOUSE APARTMENT inside the complex, some in a BOARDROOM, some in a FACTORY, etc.

Would it be better to say:

  • INT. COMPANY COMPLEX — BOARDROOM — DAY
  • Action, action, action.
  • INT. COMPANY COMPLEX — PENTHOUSE — DAY
  • Action, action, action.
  • or
  • INT. COMPANY COMPLEX — DAY
  • BOARDROOM.
  • Things happen. Blah, blah, blah.
  • In the PENTHOUSE -

etc?

I’m sure either is fine, but the first doesn’t feel right. And the second feels like I have a single giant scene, when it’s really a bunch of smaller scenes. Any insights would be great.

– Trey
Dallas, TX

Unless there’s a reason you could expect the reader to get confused, try to keep the location scene headers short. You could probably omit the “COMPANY COMPLEX” in all of these examples, or at least find a simpler way to distinguish it. For example, if the company in question was named SuperCorp, you could simply label it “INT. SUPERCORP BOARDROOM – DAY” and leave it at that.

(But if the movie never goes to any other corporation, just leave it at “boardroom”.)

In cases where you’re going to be intercutting between two environments which have similar-sounding rooms, then yes, it is a good idea to be specific. The classic case is when you have dueling ships, each with their own bridge, engine room, etc. Then, INT. NAUTILUS – GALLEY – DAY makes a lot of sense.


Archives section working, sort of

The Archives link, which has been broken ever since switching hosts, is now un-broken — which is not to say fixed.

In its previous incarnation, the Archives section could be sorted by category and date, in a variation on the familiar Sortable Nicer Archives kludge for WP. However, the database gods must have been angered, for all supplication cannot coax them to offer up their insight. Translation: something got broken, and damned if I can fix it.

So in the spirit of Something is better than Nothing, a click on the Archives section will show you every article in the system, from most recent to oldest. It’s not very user-friendly, but the Googlebots will love it.

The Show by Category buttons, incidentally, still work great. So that’s a better choice if you’re interested in reading just the Q and A’s, for example.


Random slowdowns and non-existence

geek alertA heads up for readers who occasionally get gibberish or worse when visiting johnaugust.com: it’s not just you. The front page occasionally takes forever to load, or fails completely. I’d be tearing my hair out, but I keep it very short (a “1″ on the clippers, thank you very much).

For once, I’m glad to report it has nothing to do with WordPress or my questionable coding skills. Rather, there are some load issues on the server that hosts the site. Hopefully, we’ll have things running better within the week. Until then, please check back later if you have trouble getting to the site.


Introducing off-screen characters

questionmark Ok, I have a question. Opening scene, no characters introduced yet and I’m starting close on a pair of hands with a short dialogue over. We then widen to the characters that are speaking.

Since all we see are hands, would you designate any of the dialogue as (O.S.) or is that just too much of a “duh” situation? If yes, would you designate both of the characters or just the one we see no part of? Example…

INT. HOUSE – DAY

A PAIR OF ROUGH HANDS open a fresh pack of cigarettes.

CAIRO (O.S.)

Can I get one of those?

JULES (O.S.)

Do I look like I like to share?

JULES, 64 and confined to his bed, removes his oxygen tube and puts the unlit cigarette to his mouth. Blah, blah, blah, grabs a lighter, blah.

Share your wisdom, oh great one.

– Doug
New Orleans

The way you’re doing it is fine. I might be a bit more specific in the last line:

As the hands lift a cigarette to the man’s lips, we REVEAL:

JULES, 64 and confined to his bed. He pulls off his oxygen tube. Flicks open a lighter.


To Do: Destroy the world

So far, I’ve worked on one movie in which the Earth is destroyed. In Titan A.E., a mysterious alien race called the Drej show up one day and blow up the Earth because…

…well, I don’t actually remember the motive. Plot wasn’t the strongest aspect of that movie.

What’s important is this: aliens did it. So if scientifically-minded viewers questioned the physics of how exactly the Earth was obliterated, I could simply point to the semi-transparent Drej and say, “With their superior technology, far beyond anything we can imagine!”

It’s a lucky thing that Titan A.E. had villainous aliens, because it turns out that destroying the Earth is extraordinarily difficult. With this site, Sam Hughes examines 18 possible methods for “geocide” — a terrific word that you just don’t get to use very often. His conclusion? Aspiring supervillains need to be patient, or very lucky, because mere mega-wealth won’t guarantee you the chance to smash the Earth to smithereens.

Keep in mind that Sam focuses strictly on physically destroying the planet. Merely making it uninhabitable is several orders of magnitude easier — and we’re already well on our way!

(Via Cruel.)


Google cheat sheet

Everyone knows how to Google, but there are some special functions that can really help when you need specific information on, say, atheist penguins. (Yes, that was my attempt at a Google Whack. No, it didn’t work.)

Google has a great cheat sheet with hints for finding just what you need. If you have a few minutes to kill, it’s worth taking a look and trying out some of the less-common helper-terms. In particular, I find the info: and site: delimiters useful.