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The Screenwriters Toolkit

Lesson 2 of 21

Vocabulary & Basic Style Rules


The Screenwriters Toolkit

Lesson 2 of 21

Vocabulary & Basic Style Rules


Lesson Info

Vocabulary & Basic Style Rules

So let's talk about the very basics which would be the vocabulary of the elements that appear on the page of a screenplay there's what's called the slug line that's casual term for it it's the scene heading slugline begins with either interior or exterior abbreviated I n t e x t period hyphen followed by the location which is the shot on we'll talk about master scenes as we go along action it's usually just called action it's action description this is where you skip down a double space slugline is all caps and you write in regular pros um you know, capitol of small letters, big letter um descriptions and actions the the next thing is character that's in all caps that's more toward the centre of the page and write underneath the character's name is there dialogue and it's in smaller margins on the left and right than the rest of it and then there's transitions cut to the bottom of the sea um you have to write in twelve point courier fot you have to do it. The reason is, um from the old...

days of typewriters, timing of a page basically is approximately one minute if screenplays in proper format if you have some other type of font it's going to throw off the timing of a page and it's the accepted font to write in the industry standard um now let's go back to those elements I was talking about and see how to use them in a basic way that you actually need to do the scenes the slugs what I call the scene heading you need to write in master scenes what that means is interior living room dash day it always has either day or night and then write the scene what happens who says what all that all the way through in filming a master scene is the scene that covers from one camera the shot that covers the whole scene that's what you need to write in it's called not directing on paper directing on paper would be every time you want to say there's a close up and a close up of something else and you don't want to do that however what we will discuss is you can put occasionally you can put shots into the middle of your master seen if it's a germaine part of the story telling um and I'm going to go to some examples on with script pages that you'll see but it's not every particular shot you want to put in a ziff you were filming it um action of description right on ly what the camera sees and hears in other words you can't say john comes in he never graduated college his father beat him up when he was three he never got over I mean you can't write that that's you can write it in a novel that you have to write what the camera sees in here's in present tense it's not john went to the store and knocked on the door but nobody was opening it so he left later and it's all present tense it's just describing what the camera sees and hears um when do you use all caps? You use all caps the first time a character is mentioned that name is in all caps. You don't capitalize it again after that in the action description you always do above dialogue. Um stage plays they put it in all caps every single time they say the name but screenplays is the first time also significant information that you really need the reader toe focus on some examples are somebody moves out of frame out of frame would be capitalized in your action description um stylistically you can kind of get a feel for when you really think something needs to be capitalized there's a little leeway there. I wouldn't do it all the time, but if you said he's looking through a drawer and he throws aside some pins and memo pads and and then there's a gun, you might capitalize god um yes, did you have a question? Yeah, I see that and I wasn't sure if it was like just for props that they're highlighting you're saying it's a uh whatever has great significance, right? Right because you're not really writing for props or technically it's it's what you think is needs to be seen by the reader that significant to the story so it's something to use sparingly um okay dialogue as I said it's the character's name in all caps and then margins they're shorter on both sides then um your action description which is where the dialogue takes place on screen dialogue is basically simple it's the character's name and with they're saying off screen with the characters named named followed by prince theses o period s period and that means that the person that character is in the environment but they're not in the frame which is very different from voice over if somebody's doing a voice over it's the character's name and in parentheses v periodo that's different that means that that is a soundtrack that is not in the environment of the scene obviously narrators in a movie or doing the l sometimes it's a stylistic choice to bleed over dialogue from one scene into the next one as a voice over or possibly even more frequently what's done is a linus started from the next scene while you're still looking at the previous scene, john drives away in the car thinking and then you have a voice vo mary, what did you decide then you go to your next scene and that's the conversation they've already they started that's a vet savio um parenthetical ls this happens right below the character's name in parentheses obviously and before their dialogue now these air greatly misused they should indicate things like if it's not clear who the person speaking to john to marry well, you don't have to obviously do that every time, especially if it's just john and mary in the scene but if george is over here and he said something to george and then he said something to mary and you wouldn't know it by the context you put in to marry uh it's not for significant action you could put rises in parentheses, but you wouldn't put a person's name parentheses he goes over into the other room, he gets something dd comes back in all on princes before he talks that has to be in the action description section it's not four emotions this is really, really hard to believe I can't believe I have to I have to catch myself on this one. Um john angry this dialogue it's not for that um you khun do yells because technically what you're doing is you're talking about the volume well and it may not be done that way or whispers it might be important because there's another character in the vicinity and if you don't say they're whispering reader might think, well, this person can hear what they're saying but hurt angry defensive that's not what it's for and it's not what actors and directors want to see in the script telling them how to do the performance um transitions are interesting because they sort of evolved um you don't put cut to the end of every scene before you go to your next slugline um cut two and cross fade to are the most common ones to use they now kind of imply a relationship between what you were at and where you're going in the next scene for example a time cut somebody's in their office in the afternoon cut to same office sluglines the same except it says night and they're tired those had a relationship to each other so you said cut too but if you're in a scene here that's you know your master scene plays out and now you move the story to whatever your next master scene is going to be there's no reason to have to say cut to cut to is also used between parallel action we're watching two things that are going on at the same time in a movie the protagonist is doing all this the villains doing this and you cut to and see some of this cut to see some of that and that's building a sequence which is a whole series of scenes and they are connected by cut too, because you're implying to the reader that there's a relationship between those parallel actions uh so if you didn't have cut to it might seem disoriented he's like where are we always in the new whole new beat of the story um so what I want to do is go to my pdf on um script page okay, we start we have slugline interior jack's office day description jack sits at his desk talking on the phone through your buds while typing at his computer jack into phone parent's medical that's a proper use of it don't worry, I'll be there tonight. I wouldn't miss it. You know that mary enters the office tapping on the door. Did you hear about said jack to mary because he's also on the phone what about him? He quit, so the whole department is going to be pulling late night. This is really exciting script I just wrote this for this. I had, um, jack stares that are shocked cut to um and I had a reason for cut to show you, but as you know that we've got slugline action character dialogue in our transition I put cut too, because we've had to jack's office at night it's the same place it's just later, so I used it jack bleary eyed hi lucien's working his computer while talking on the phone again into phone I'll be there in time for the cake now what did I do know cut too and I triple spaced this is a common way to go to your next master scene that's your next story beat um it tells you that you're going to basically the next master scene which I said uh he comes to his house exterior jack's house he's sad he's looking like hella gets out of this car goes his front door he finds a note she was so disappointed you didn't make it that's in all caps things like notes headlines uh yeah so I've often seen like inner cut happened and the on the slug and then would use cut two between actions or is it still appropriate to just separated by slugs? Uh that's a good question I don't actually have a, uh script page for that but often when phone calls were written as intercut um intercut is all capitalized it's on the left side of the page is technically not a shot it is a piece of action description but it is all caps intercut with you start a phone call hi how you doing? Intercut with slugline where the other person is and a little description that persons on the phone and they talk and you don't put in the cut twos or sluglines we understand that we know where the first person wass you've told us we're going to intercut with the second person, then let the conversation play out they still have to say it you still say into phone on all the dialogue unless they suddenly talk to someone else then when the phone calls over if you want to do it this way, stay on one of the people you type out and capt again end intercut with colin and restate the slugline of the person you're gonna stay with the end of the phone call might have been the first person that might be the second person er and so that's that's how that kind of intercutting takes place that's not quite the same thing is parallel action where you have the protagonist and the antagonist doing something that cut to cut to cut to it's just intercut because it's a phone call um okay here's an assignment for you transcribe the film everybody has a way of pausing and rewinding films is there watching him? This is a big assignment it's a big job but it's a very, very valuable thing to do when we're writing we're seeing a movie while we're writing our movie, we're imagining it so that similar toe watching a film and transcribing what's happening don't read the screenplay first and cheat that way transcribe it the way you're experiencing it put in the slug lines put in the action description lines transcribed that dialogue um, put in the parents radicals where you think that makes sense. It's a very, very good exercise, and what it will eventually do is create a facility to handle transcribing your own imagination as you're thinking of your film story. So when we're done here today, I want you to go home and do that you should transcribe the whole film without question the whole film now, I don't know how long it will take you, but like I said, pause it, stop, come back to it, you know, don't take a month to do it, but it should be a very, very invigorating exercise. You're sort of having to translate what you see. We all watch movies, and that's what's sort of gives us the feeling of a screen story when we're writing one. So this is a direct connection between the experience we all have. We all learn from watching movies to your process of writing and making you familiar with the basic style rules and how to put something down that you're seeing and hearing in your head in this case, it's something here, literally seeing and hearing on the screen.

Class Description

Screenwriting classes often either lean too heavily on theory or simply study the technical approach to writing without a greater context for its use, as if the act of screenwriting exists in a vacuum – it does not. In The Screenwriters Toolkit with Jim Uhls, you’ll learn both the nuts and bolts of the craft, as well as its relationship to getting your work read and ultimately produced.

Jim’s sceenwriting credits include the modern classic “Fight Club” the feature-film "Jumper" the NBC television film "Semper Fi" and the SyFy miniseries "Spin" In this class, he’ll share lessons from his extensive experience writing for Hollywood and the small screen. He’ll teach you how to develop better scripts, get traction for your projects, and navigate the complex professional landscape of script development.

You’ll learn about screenwriting form and content, including:

  • Vocabulary and formats
  • Dialogue vs silence
  • Adapting existing works for the screen
  • Genre-writing

Jim will also share essential insights on developing a career in screenwriting. 

You’ll learn:

  • The differences between writing for television and features
  • Who to work with: agents vs managers vs lawyers
  • How to obtain and manage projects of various sizes and contexts

The Screenwriters Toolkit is a comprehensive examination of screenwriting form, content, craft, and traffic. You’ll learn how to adapt your content to the size, genre, and desired professional result of the script while also learning about the best on-ramps for aspiring writers.


Karla KL Brady

I would definitely recommend this class for first-time screenwriters and writers in general. I'm a novelist that would like to turn a couple of my stories into screen plays. I was mostly interested in the "dos and don'ts" which he supplied in a generous number. He gave a lot of great examples. I enjoyed the format with the students and he pretty much walks you through the entire process, including and especially the three-act structure which can be applicable to novel writing, too. He gave a lot of great examples. I would have liked a more extensive discussion on loglines and writing the action, but this certainly is enough to get you started. For the price, you can't beat it.


I came to this site by accident and then found some well known internet marketers here, who had already been sending me helpful emails and offers for some time, which I have used. What I like about the video contents is, that it is good old-fashioned skills and crafts development, rather than just formulaic, churn it out in big numbers advice. Whether screen writing, script writing, creative writing, news writing, etc. there is a structure and guideline for contents, order, grammar, etc., but the appeal is towards the development of one's creative side. I am normally involved in non-fiction writing, so this is a nice, creative side-kick, which no doubt will help my other work. As prolific author Isaac Asimow said, "If you want to learn to write, then you must write".


I would certainly recommend it to others, as there are some really great tips throughout the courses, across various aspects of film script writing.. That said, I would like to recommend however: - to have one version that is focused solely on film writing; eliminating the parts about teleplays and series, as those one or two did not relate to the rest of the course. - in its place, I would have loved to observe the coaching and critique on the writers film ideas, loglines, titles and such. I was very interested in knowing the do's and don'ts, what works and doesn't work, and what the proper approach is. Although he made mention of some of them in his overall content, relating them back to the writer's specific work would have been very beneficial.