This might seem worthy of scorn for some of the seasoned screenwriters around here. Google wasn't helping me a lot with this question, so I thought of putting it here.

I am wondering how good a practice it is to put the description of the sky and the light that it casts in the ACTION.

Do any screenwriters use it and more importantly, is it recommended?

2 Answers 2


Sounds like a director/cinematographer's choice more than yours. The screenwriter's role is to build the story, right? So unless that sky has an absolutely irreplaceable effect on the scene (unlikely) or it has strong thematic resonance that truly elevates the work (unlikely) you're getting too focused on details.

Even a third-person novelist, who has license to describe anything anywhere, still has to have a reason for describing. In Old Man And The Sea, Hemingway spends a lot of time describing the ocean, the sky, ocean birds, but the descriptions function as more than just that. They communicate the passage of time, and accent the almost insane solitude the protagonist endures on his adventure of absurd persistence. In any other book those descriptions would probably hurt, not add.

If you have an amazing, just brilliant vision of the scene and how the light makes it unique, then suggest with a minimum of description. Be prepared for it to be ignored. No reader or agent gives a s*** as I understand it. They are bloodhounds for story structure alone, and the script will be re-written by someone somewhere.

  • Weather is important for film. Of course you should mention if there is a rain storm drenching your characters or the sun beating down on the murderer from an unforgiving sky.
    – user5645
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 7:07
  • @what Weather sure is important. If you are the producer planning the shoot, you are dealing with a tight budget and actors with finite availability. In the spirit of my answer, if for story purposes a scene doesn't HAVE to be in the rain, it will quickly be re-written. Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 22:59
  • Contradicting my own comment here, I'd like to add an illuminating quote from Nicholas Ray: "If it were all in the script, why make the film?"
    – user5645
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 11:32

I don't know much about screenwriting, but I do know about stage plays. In many cases, the stage directions fill in the writer's vision and set up the atmosphere. For example, from "A Streetcar Named Desire": [The sky is] "...a peculiarly tender blue, almost a turquoise, which invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefully attenuates the atmosphere of decay. […] In this part of New Orleans, you are practically always just around the corner […] from a tinny piano being played with the infatuated fluency of brown fingers. […] New Orleans is a cosmopolitan city where there is a relatively warm and easy intermingling of races." (Act I, scene i)

I have the feeling that a screenwriter is not at the same level as a playwright, and where a stage director might feel compelled to hold to the flavor of the stage directions, perhaps a film director feels no such compulsion? I'd put them in anyway, where necessary, where they add to the vision and impact of the scene.

  • FYI Once the screenplay is sold or goes into preproduction the screenwriter has zero say in what happens. In theatre the text is holy
    – paulzag
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 13:47

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