What are “A Scenes and B Scenes”?
Rancho Santa Fe, CA
In film production, A’s and B’s are used to squeeze extra scenes or pages between two pre-existing numbers. Otherwise, you would have to renumber and redistribute all of the relevant scenes or pages, which would be confusing for everyone, and mean a lot more photocopying.
If you need to insert a page between 95 and 96, the new page is labeled 95A. If you need to insert three pages, they would be labeled 95A, 95B and 95C. The tricky part comes when you need to insert a second round of new pages, for instance, two new pages between 95 and 95A. Technically, the new sequence would go 95, 95AA, 95AB, 95A, 95B. In practice, however, this gets too confusing for everyone. In my opinion, you’re better off just generating new pages to replace the current 95A and 95B, which means the sequence would run 95, 95A, 95B, 95C, 95D.
As a kindness to the production team, it’s a good idea to include a memo with any production revisions, listing which pages have changed, and clarifying page order in case there’s any possible confusion.
I learned to do scene numbers the same way as page numbers, so scene 47A would come between scenes 47 and 48. Katterli Frauenfelder, the 1st AD on Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, prefers to do it differently: 47, A48, 48. I chafed at first, but it makes sense.
During production, each new camera setup is given a sequential letter. For instance, the master shot might be labeled Sc. 47, while the first closeup is labeled Sc. 47A. Subsequent angles become 47B, 47C, etc. If the scene itself were numbered 47A, this would obviously get confusing. But Sc. A47A is unambiguous.
In my experience, Final Draft does a pretty good job handling both scene and page revisions, but don’t let it make the decisions for you. By thinking ahead, you can almost always simplify the process and keep your screenplay more reader-friendly.