questionmarkI once saw a video of a table read from NBC’s Scrubs on their video blog. The show runner, Bill Lawrence, read the directions and the cast read their lines. He read something like “We see J.D. running up to Elliot…” or “We cut to The Janitor…”.

Is this good writing style or does he read the directions like this on the fly? Do you think that what’s really written on the pages is more like “J.D. runs to Elliot…” or “Cut to The Janitor…” without the “we”? Or are scripts always written this way?

— John

P.S.: Good luck with the strike! We’re all behind you!!

I feel like I’ve answered a similar question before, but I welcome the chance to have a post that’s not about the strike.

Using “we” in scene description is perfectly valid, and is (in my completely unscientific guessing) a growing trend. My hunch is that Scrubs scripts are probably written very much like how Bill Lawrence read it, particularly given the show’s use of quick sight gags.

Screenplays can be written from a completely neutral third-person perspective (“the car SLAMS around the corner, tires SQUEALING”) or a first-person plural “reader as audience” perspective (“we SLIDE ALONG the steel skin of the 747, watching as rivets POP one after the other”).

“We” and “our” and “us” bothers some readers, who rightly point out that anything you describe using these terms could be adequately described without them. But I find it a handy way to avoid referring to the camera. It keeps the reader in story-mode, rather than thinking about the script as a technical shooting document.

So use “we” if you want to. But there’s no reason to overuse it. Always spend the 10 seconds to ask yourself if you need the “we see” or “we hear.” If it reads as well without it, drop it.