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Question : In a screenplay, how should I format a scene in which the action and dialogue alternates between 2 or more spots in an open space?

Example: I have a scene where the action and dialogue (let's say, with James and David) occurs on an outdoor stage, viewed by a large crowd. Then another character (let's call her Scarlett) emerges high above on a nearby balcony, shouting down at the crowd. I currently have it formatted as below. Is this right? Could or should I do it differently?

EXT. LANDSVILLE TOWN SQUARE - THE STAGE - DAY

James and David do A and B and C.

SCARLETT'S BALCONY

Scarlett bears down from her Juliet balcony in Landsville Hall. All eyes on her.

                  SCARLETT
            Blah blah blah ...

THE STAGE

James does X.

                 DAVID
            Blah blah blah

SCARLETT'S BALCONY

                 SCARLETT
            Blah blah blah ...

THE STAGE

David does X Y and Z.

THE CROWD

The crowd do this and that.

SCARLETT'S BALCONY

                 SCARLETT
            Blah blah blah ...
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Imagine your screenplay on stage as a live drama.

If each of your spot is a separate part of your stage and a drama is being performed live then how would you have arranged the scene? The answer is simple, you'll have to arrange the scenes in the order of the attention you require audience to pay onto. So if you want that out of 3 spots audience should view spot1, then spot 3 and then spot2 write accordingly. Same applies with camera. Camera will focus the spot that you want to show to maintain continuity. So write on the perspective of audience or camera and in sync with order of your screenplay (even if it demands continuous and simultaneous spaces)

Second thing to consider is Action and Reaction. If one of the spot is active or is being focussed (as explained above), other actors in other spots will still react to the things happening. You can definitely write for actors of other spots about what to react when one spot is in action.

So in your example, If Scarlett appears in balcony before James and David completes doing A,B and C, then write in that order. When Scarlett is speaking, write what other spots will react to because current focus will be on Scarlett's balcony.

  • Thanks for your response Karan. The aim of my question was to focus on the formatting of the scene in a screenplay. For example, was it correct of me to use secondary sub headers such as 'THE STAGE' and 'SCARLETT'S BALCONY'? Or is that over complication? Maybe there are alternative formatting options available to describe different things happening in different places of one large open space? Should I use INTERCUT maybe? – Andy A Apr 7 at 14:52

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