Conflict scene some challenges
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Conflict Scene Some Challenges. Houston Wood. What is a scene?. A single unit within a screenplay In screenplay format Not a short film, not a treatment Often marked by one SLUG LINE INT. HPU CLASSROOM – DAY. What is an action line?.

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Conflict scene some challenges

Conflict SceneSome Challenges

Houston Wood

What is a scene
What is a scene?

  • A single unit within a screenplay

  • In screenplay format

  • Not a short film, not a treatment

  • Often marked by one SLUG LINE


What is an action line
What is an action line?

  • Goes against left margin to right margin (e.g. 17 to 75)

  • Describes who is in the scene and what is happening

  • Beginning writers overwrite action lines

  • Professional writers pen screenplays with a minimum of action lines

  • Let actors act, director’s direct, cinematographers shoot

Why have scenes
Why have scenes?

  • Each scene advances the plot

    • Adds new development—alters the situation and/or character

    • Reveals new information

    • Alters mood or atmosphere

  • If the scene does not do one or more of these three, get rid of it.

What happens in a scene
What happens in a scene?

  • Usually the situation changes

  • I.e. scenes are dynamic—not static

  • Usually the situation changes not all at once but drip by drip

  • Usually new obstacles and confusions arise one by one—not all at once

  • Usually the scene grows in interest as the scene time passes

  • I.e. it is more interesting at 40 seconds than at 20 seconds

How long is a scene
How long is a scene?

  • One page = about one minute on screen

  • Often your talky one page is more than one minute

  • Ask: Does this e.g. 4 minutes fit my movie?

  • Ask: If it takes 4 minutes to do this scene, how long will the entire film be with all the other scenes added?

  • Screenplays read quickly because screenplay are picture shows—NOT talking shows

  • Time your favorite scenes in your favorite films

  • Most scenes today: two to three pages/minutes

Scenes are paced think variation in music
Scenes are paced—think variation in music

  • Problem> “This scene seems to start and end at the same level of conflict.”

  • “This scene has one pitch, one tone, one scream, the same intensity, throughout.”

  • Conflict scenes need arc, growth, development

  • Think—beginning, middle and end of each scene

  • Pacing, rhythm, must change

  • Action films are heavy metal music

Scenes are cinematic
Scenes are cinematic

  • Scenes are written to guide the making of movies, not for themselves

  • Problem> “This is fascinating, but seems like a short story, or maybe a stage play.”

  • Problem> “Can you see yourself sitting in a theatre with your friends and watching this scene on a big screen?”

  • Scenes are usually visually interesting

  • Scenes usually offer variation of camera angle, movements, or character movement—things to entertain the eye


  • Not one-dimensional (unless cardboard, cliché, genre)

  • Not robots with one-track minds, desires

  • Not action heroes

  • Are not there to do but to achieve

  • To realize personal goals

  • With personalities, complexities

Conflict protagnonist and antagonist
Conflict: Protagnonist and Antagonist

  • “A scene of a murder is not a conflict scene . . . a scene of increasingly complex resistance to being murdered is a conflict scene.”

  • Problem> “This is a strong scene, a solid opening scene, as you suggest. But it is not a conflict scene.”

Dialog in screenplays
Dialog in screenplays

  • Problem> “Everything said here would have greater effect if you used 70% less words.”

  • Read screenplay dialog—it is not like the theatre; it is not like you and your friends talk to each other

Dialog that sparkles
Dialog that sparkles

  • Often indirect

  • I.e. avoid explicit statements

  • Seek self-deluded statements—ones reflecting character of the speaker but not the truth of the speaker

  • Unstated speaking is very common in films—let the actors act, let them “say” what you want them to say through acting, not direct words.


  • Could this happen?

  • Could you make a film that convinces your audience this could happen?

  • Or are you making a fantasy film, sci fi, or horror?”