Stage Directions

Dear Screenwriter,


Don’t put line readings into your script.  The actor doesn’t need them.  The actor is not stupid. 


Do you need to write, “…she said intently, picking her teeth while smiling a fake smile”?  No, you don’t need to.  If the character and plot are developed, the actor KNOWS that she has some little nervous tic only when she’s lying; she knows that she is trying to fool the guy in the other chair.  And maybe the actor knows that her character does not lie intently: maybe her character would lie mo’ betta’ by being casual.  If you restrict the actor’s exploration, you will not be getting the best performance.


Don’t put stage directions into your script.  The director doesn’t want them.   The director is not stupid. 


Do you need to write, “…crossing slowly to the bookcase, she turns part-way to face him”? No, you don’t need to.  If the scene is exciting, the director knows when sitting still is more appropriate than walking and the DP knows whether the actors should turn half-way or three quarters.  If you restrict the director’s interpretation, you will not be getting the best scenes.


I read that in Risky Business, that whole scene (3 minutes, maybe…seemed very long) where Tom Cruise plays air guitar in his underwear and gets all wild on the couch was represented in the script by, “He dances in his underwear.”  That is nice.  Succinct.  And what results it got!


Perhaps some screenwriters put detailed line readings and detailed stage directions not for the director or actors, but for the investors.  Maybe the target audience of the detailed direction is a person who’s not as adept at reading screenplays and wouldn’t understand the film without extra help.  Maybe it’s to sell the script, not to shoot it. 


Writers,  please write me and tell me why you put these details in your scripts.




, ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes