I’ve searched the questions and couldn’t find this. I don’t quite understand how to notate/show a flashback in a screenplay. Not just the format, but also the actual text and tense.

I don’t know if you create a new scene heading with (flashback) or something or if it stands alone. And how do you show that it has ended, etc.?

1 Answer 1


According to http://www.storysense.com/format/flashbacks.htm, you should bookend it with "BEGIN FLASHBACK" and "END FLASHBACK" as action lines, and then treat it as any other new scene, even if it is the same location. Changing tense is not necessary.



[flashback scene]



You can include dates or other indications of time in the slugline, as above --you'll especially need those if it is the same location at different periods of time. If it's your first visit to that time, you might also include some time specific details in the scene description. You can also indicate that the date should be flashed onscreen:


The same room, but with an 8-track cassette player instead of Amazon Echo.

SUBTITLE FADES IN: June 1st, 1980


The main thing to remember is that your script should have ALL and ONLY what is needed for a director to turn it into a film. Everything that is important for the final audience needs to be on the screen. They will never see anything (from you) except what you tell the director to show them.

SHOW NOT TELL is not necessarily great advice for novels, but it was tailor-made for movies. It's neither necessary nor desirable to include a lot of explanation about what is really going on. Instead make it visible in the script. Here's a great example of how it was handled in a big budget movie with complex timeframes and levels of reality: http://www.raindance.co.uk/site/scripts/Inception.pdf

  • Thx a lot, exactly what I needed
    – Matt
    Jan 23, 2018 at 21:26
  • Another question: what if the script starts present day he is in jail and then it tells the story of the previous week leading up to it? Technically all the script aside from jail scenes are flashbacks
    – Matt
    Jan 23, 2018 at 21:40
  • It depends. Are you returning to the jail between scenes? In that case each scene is a separate flashback. However, according to the source linked, you can also do multiple scenes in a single flashback. If the entire movie is a flashback, I would just omit the "Flashback" tags and treat them like ordinary scenes. You just need to make sure you specify when each thing is happening. Jan 23, 2018 at 21:55
  • There would be two jail scenes, one beginning and one end, The in between would all be flashback
    – Matt
    Jan 23, 2018 at 22:06
  • If you want to treat the whole movie as a flashback, wrap one "begin" and "end" flashback lines around everything except the first and last scenes (first scene ends with "BEGIN FLASHBACK", last scene begins with "END FLASHBACK"). Jan 23, 2018 at 22:12

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