How to Line a Film Script

This is something I learnt in my days of Script Supervision – how to line a film script.

It is a technique to show visually what coverage has been shot for each scene. One day you may find yourself on a film set and see someone drawing wiggly lines on a script, no need to be confused it’s a very simple system that has been used in filmmaking since screenwriting began.

To make things easier I have also made a video here

Why should I know how to line a film script?

Because it is easy! If you’re a Screenwriter, Script Supervisor, Director, Editor or Producer you should know this.  Some directors like to line their script during filming so that they know what shots they have filmed in each scene (Ridley Scott does). You don’t need to use it as a director but some directors do like to line their scripts up during filming.

So what do these lines on film scripts mean?

A Straight Perpendicular line on a film script means that coverage for the action it crosses has been shot. That could mean either action or dialogue has been captured on screen. The line begins at the start of a shot and the line ends when the shot ends. In the script example below we see a conversation between Matt and John.

The-marked-up-script-example.jpg

At the top of each line the slate number and the amount of takes are written down. The first line above is slate 23, there were 5 takes for this slate. It is a Close Up of John so the line goes straight through John’s dialogue.

What is the significance of a wiggly line?

Wiggly lines on film scripts indicate action that has been recorded off camera. So in the example above the first line has a wiggly line on Matt’s dialogue because it is a close up of John and only he appeared on camera. The second line is Matt’s close up and so there is a wiggly line through John’s dialogue. These days Lined scripts can also be carried out in digital format. See an example below of a digital lined film script. In this example the green lines are being used to indicate sound files to the editor. The sound files 080 and 009 are wildtracks of the location.

How do lined scripts help the director?

It is hard to remember during a long day on set what you have covered. I have had directors before stand up and announce to the crew that we have finished filming the scene. Only for the Script Supervisor to quickly prompt them that a piece of dialogue has no coverage on camera (we know this because only wiggly lines pass through that dialogue)

If a straight line is not covering a piece of dialogue then you have no coverage of this dialogue on camera. The lines on a script are just a visual way of letting you know what coverage you have per scene.

How do lined scripts help the editor?

The lined script is used by the film editor as a reference to what coverage was shot and to changes made to the script during production. Lined scripts give editors a quick view of all available coverage at a glance, so that he or she can make quick editing decisions without having to sort through all the footage repeatedly.

The Script Supervisor at the end of every day will pass on a Marked Up Script to the editor containing the lined script and any changes to dialogue or action.  I have had editors shun the lined script, then beg to see it when a tough edit comes along, it is an easy visual way of getting your head around a scene and what shots are available for the cut.

Does that sum it up?

I hope this sums up the basis of lined screenplays and now you know how to line a film script. Any questions please ask below. There is hardly any writing on this online but I guarantee you will start to see people drawing wiggly lines on scripts now that you know this. 

Notes

  • You draw your lines left to right in shooting order.
  • Red is the standard colour used for a lined script
  • Sometimes multiply colours are used to indicate different shots i.e. –blue ink for single shots, green ink for cutaways, wild tracks taken by sound etc
  • If a shot continues to another page an arrow is placed below the line and continues onto the next page.
  • Lined scripts are also called Marked Up Scripts or MUS.

If you are interested in learning more about film continuity I highly recommend the book Script Supervising and Film Continuity by Pat P. Miller - https://tinyurl.com/ybsgos9f