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A screenplay is the written version of a film. It’s a set of plans to guide the crew or team of artists, craftspeople, and engineers as they produce a film.
All screenplays are formed by three basic elements: slug line, action and dialogue.
The slug line is written in capital letters and bold type. It’s a code that gives the crew some important information to consider to produce a scene into the film.
This is an example of a slug line:
The “EXT” means exterior and it’s used to indicate that the scene will be shot in an external place. In contrast, when “INT” is used, means the scene is shot in an internal place.
The second word, in this case: “KITCHEN”, shows us where the scene will be shot. This is a very important information for a lot of people in the crew. In fact, thanks to this information:
- The line producer is able to make an estimate of how much the film will cost.
-The location scout will find a place to shot the scene.
-The production designer will start to find all the things the scene needs. In this case, he or she will find things that we can usually find at a KITCHEN such as a stove, a fridge, plates, etc.
- The cinematographer will start to imagine how to light the scene.
The last word at the slug line indicates when the scene will be shot. In this part we usually write “DAY” or “NIGHT” but it can be a little more specific if it’s really necessary. This will also help the line producer to make an estimate of the cost of the film, the cinematographer to know how to light the scene, and a lot of more people at the crew.
After the slug line, comes the part called action, which is a phrase that explains who is in the scene and what they’re doing. This phrase is written in present tense because the actions in a film are happening at the moment.
Here is an example:
Marcos is translating a Japanese text in his office.
This phrase is totally correct and we cannot write it in another tense.
If we write instead: Marcos translated a Japanese text in his office, it would be a mistake because Marcos has to be doing it at the time. We have to watch him translating that text on the screen.
The action is also limited to what the people will watch and listen. We cannot write something like Marcos feels really good translating the text, instead we have to explain how the people who will watch the film will realize that he is feeling really good. We may write Marcos has a big smile on his face while he translates the text.
And the last part, the dialogue, shows the name of the character who is going to talk in the first line. Below this line, another line with an action can be added like smiling or crying. These details help the actors to know better how they should to play the character.
Following these lines, comes the dialogue line, which basically includes what the character will say.
It looks like this:
I love translating texts in Japanese!

After knowing the three elements, you should also know that you can add as many slug lines, actions or dialogues as the film needs!

screenplay 02

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