Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Secondary Headings and Other Advice

While scrolling around the internet on various movie sites and screenwriting blogs today on my "lunch break," I stopped by the read the Unknown Screenwriter's newest post. Worth reading, especially if you're gearing up to begin sending your script out to producers and agents, the post is a short guide to ensuring that you don't screw yourself over with avoidable red flags in your spec.

One of the things that Unk talks a lot about is Secondary Headings (as in, use them). (If you don't know what these are, Mystery Man on Film did a great summary of the ins and outs of Secondary Headings just over a year ago). I'll admit, I didn't know these by name, so I had to do a quick search to see just what he was talking about. I was pleased to see that this is one of the screenwriting tools I developed a while ago, so I didn't freak out about something I should have been doing differently. However, since I now know them by name and from experience, I can tell you that they make a HUGE difference.

If you have particularly long scenes - or chase scenes, especially chase scenes - you'll find that these babies do an excellent job of breaking up the page and helping you highlight the key action and dialogue, without burying it with other text. As a quick example, say you have a chase scene through a supermarket. While it'd be easy to just begin with INT. SUPERMARKET - DAY and write a two or three page scene of people running after one another, that much uninterrupted action will bog down your script and the reader. Try it this way instead:


Bill spies Dale in the checkout line. Dale catches sight of Bill and takes after him. Bill flees down the


Arming himself with ketchup and mustard bottles as he goes. He chucks them backward as Dale takes off after him. Bill turns the corner. Dale follows.


The men sprint past fresh bread and an endless shelf of cakes. Dale grabs a PIE off of a rack and hurls it at Bill.

The pie nails him in the back of the head. Bill trips and falls headfirst into the


He grabs a 5 pound bag of ice and waits for Dale to round the corner.

In this (ridiculous) example, CONDIMENT AISLE, BAKERY DEPARTMENT, and FROZEN FOOD SECTION are the secondary headings. See how they break things up and keep the fast pace necessary for action scenes?

Do you use Secondary Headings?