Ordinarily, the scripts I tend to write are by nature shooting scripts. In all probability its due to the fact that I know that I’m going to be the one directing them, so they’re very "CUT TO" and "FADE TO" heavy. However, I’ve recently been entertaining the idea of entering a few in screenwriting contests and most of the feedback I’ve received from peers has been that shooting scripts are often dismissed as being "unprofessional." Have you found this to be the case? If so, what sorts of things need to be avoided and why?
It’s truly a matter of personal style. I’ll explain how I approach it, but you should know that there is not one right answer.
I use "CUT TO:" when it’s meant to be an especially blunt transition. The classic and bad example is when a character says, "I will never, ever get on a train." CUT TO: He’s on a train. (This is a situation where some writers use, "SMASH CUT TO:", but that’s always seemed tacky to me, like a cymbal crash.)
CUT TO: is also helpful when you’re finishing up a series of short scenes in one location, and then need to make it clear to the reader that you’re jumping to a new place and time.
Overuse of fades can feel like the writer is trying to "direct from the page," generally a no-no. One or two in a script won’t raise any hackles. Fifteen will. So be judicious.