Do you use the "index card" method when preparing to write a script and if so do you find that your screenplay fleshes out in the same order as you wrote it in the index cards?


For those who don’t know about index cards, it’s a technique a lot of screenwriters use. Each scene or sequence is given its own card. Then the cards are laid out, pinned up or otherwise arranged to figure out the best structure for the movie.

While I always outline scripts, for me it’s 50/50 whether I use index cards or not. For the CHARLIE’S ANGELS sequel they were a big help in pitching the movie, partly because each card had funny stick figures (e.g. "Car Wash Angels get the evidence"). I also used different colors for different types of sequences: action was always on purple cards, while narrative was blue. When you looked at the whole movie layed out on the table, it was easy to see the pacing. In discussing an individual scene, you could point at it.

For a lot of scripts, particularly those without action sequences, index cards might be a waste of time. A better bet would be to write up an outline or a treatment that lets you get a sense of the feel of the movie, not just the big beats. Whatever technique you use, remember that scripts develop their own logic. Use the cards or the outline as a map, not a Bible.