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Let's say I'm writing a scene where Arnold and Jo are arguing over whether to go out tonight or not.

While they do this, though, Rupert is also in the process of constructing a house of cards, and Gertrude is quite noisily searching in the cupboard for some lasagne sheets.

Each of these things play out in their own time, only to simultaneously reach their conclusion:

  • Arnold finally gives in and cries, "Fine. Have your way. We'll go the post office!"

  • Rupert finishes his house of cards, only to step backwards from it and have it collapse.

  • Gertrude finds the lasagne sheets, and cries "lasagne!" in triumph.

(Assume, for the sake of argument, these will all be captured in a single continious wide shot.)

Are there any existing conventions about how simultaneous threads like these should be dealt with in a script? If not, what can be done to minimise the confusion for the reader.

  • I'm guessing this is a theatrical play? – Kyle Li Apr 1 '17 at 13:55
  • No, I'm asking about a screenplay (and I say so in the question header). I'm more interested in what the conventions are in this particular area than I am in solving a particular problem, so I've deliberately contrived a ridiculous example to avoid people saying things like, "Well, in your case you can just..." – TheTermiteSociety Apr 1 '17 at 15:09
  • So this is a script for a film? In that case, im confused how these shots would all occur on one frame. A scene like this would most likely be played out in a sequence of inter-cuts... – Kyle Li Apr 1 '17 at 15:19
  • I understand you just need to use repeated alternate cuts from one scene to the other. – FraEnrico Apr 5 '17 at 6:52
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...what can be done to minimize the confusion for the reader...

While I am not an expert on script formatting convention, it is my understanding that neither screen nor stage scripts are intended for just reading, but rather for performing by professional actors under the professional director's guidance. Author's notes (action or parenthetical) should suffice.

  • How are the actors and directors to perform their duties without reading it? At the absolute minimum, the director needs to. In practice, scripts tend to be read by a significant number of people. – TheTermiteSociety Mar 31 '17 at 14:04
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    What I meant is that the screenplay is not supposed to be read as a work of art. It is supposed to be performed. It is an internal document, and even extended notes to the actors and director are perfectly acceptable. – Lew Mar 31 '17 at 14:10
  • Well, I agree immediate comprehension isn't strictly speaking necessary, since - as you say - the script is just a guide for how to make the film, I still think attempting to ease comprehension is of value. A recipe for a cake doesn't need to be comprehensible at first glance, since the resulting cake will taste the same regardless, but it's still better if it is. – TheTermiteSociety Mar 31 '17 at 14:25
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    There is nothing wrong with the way you worded your question. It is clear enough, just edit it for brevity and put in the notes: "Rupert finishes his house of cards, only to step backwards from it and have it collapse. Arnold and Gertrude speak at the same time. ARNOLD ... GERTRUDE ..." some like that. – Lew Mar 31 '17 at 14:27
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As in any creative endeavour, it is up to you to decide how the scenes play out depending on what you want to convey. Are Arnold and Jo heading for a breakup because they are always arguing? Have the house of cards collapse in a cut-away straight after the argument concludes. Is the lasagne going to be a disaster? Have the cards collapse after that. Is Rupert orchestrating Arnold & Jo's contuinual arguments? Have him flick the cards so they collapse just before the conclusion of the argument. etc. You decide what you want the scenes to say.

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This seems like something for FunnyBackgroundEvent.

You might have the cards happening on screen, but not the primary thing, and the cooking as well, and then when the argument concludes, possibly with a doorslam, the cards fall, and the lasagna pan is dropped, or the souffle deflates, etc.

... Oh... You want how to write it into a script, like in words... No help there, sorry...

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