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.

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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 - Find Here

I have also written an E-book called ‘ Find Work In Film’ which shows you step by step details on how to work in the Film Industry - Find Here

You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms

5 Techniques for Directing Actors - Filmmaking Tips

Filmmaking tips directing actors

A film director has many endless job roles on set but the most significant is directing actors and making sure that the best possible performances are given on screen. 

There is not a lot of advice out there about how to go about directing actors for film so I have made a list based on my own experiences (from directing my own films and from watching directors direct).

I have also read the book by Judith Weston Directing Actors, I do recommend it and it is probably the only book out there on how to direct actors. 

1. Write a detailed background for each character

Before you start to audition actors write a detailed character background for all of your main roles. You may have done this during the screenwriting stage. A detailed character background with information on the characters past, upbringing and personality will really help the actors understand the character you have created. I have been directing before and had my actors ask me all sorts of questions about the characters lifestyle, where they are from originally, whom they live with. Know your character inside out so you are never caught out with questions.

2. Remember the scene previous

Film sets can be confusing, they hardly ever shoot in chronological order. In the morning you could be filming a chase scene and in the afternoon an emotional piece. It’s easy to forget where you are up too. As a director you need to remember where your characters are emotionally within the script.

Read through the previous and current scene you are about to film before you start filming. Make notes on the characters emotions. Remember to keep the emotions consistent.

3. Have some time alone with the actors

As a director the actors performance will not be the only thing on your mind during the shoot (On an Indie production you might be doing more than one job role). Everyone on set will want to talk to you before filming begins. It will be loud and busy, so you need to find the time alone with the actors.

Talk about where the characters are emotionally within the scene you are shooting (mention what happened in the scene previous), talk about what the character is trying to achieve in this scene and what is on their mind.

4. Block all of the action before shooting

Blocking A Scene On A Film Set Is The Process Of Rehearsing The Action Within The Location You Are Going To Shoot Within. Before Costumes Are On, Before Lighting Is Set, The Actors Will Rehearse The Scene A Few Times Within The Location So That The Crew Can See The Physical Performance.

By Doing This The DOP Will Be Able To See How To Set Up The Lights, The Art Director Will Know How The Location Needs To Be Dressed, The 1st AD Will Be Able To Direct Any Extras Efficiently Etc.

5. Stay focused

When that camera starts rolling focus on the actor's performance first. Leave the lighting, costume, hair and makeup, to the rest of your crew.  Whilst you are watching the actors perform think about whether they are acting emotionally right for the scene and think about whether their performance is believable.

I like to write notes on the side of my script i.e – John should be sad since his dog has died a few scenes previous, when I look back at the take - I might think IS John acting like someone would whose dog has died- maybe he is too sad.

It’s not always possible to just ‘direct’ as a director – especially if you are an independent one – but you must make sure that you give the time needed for directing the actors – after all if the performances are not believable on screen, then that is your responsibility.

Directing just like anything will get better with practice. How many films must a director make to achieve 10,000 hours. I am not a professional director by any length just someone who gets the chance to direct once or twice a year. 

25 Tips for directing actorsBooks on directing actors.

6 Examples of Color Theory in film. Red is the color of power, lust and love

 
Colour Theory in Cinema color theory in film
 

I would love to make a film and focus on every shot with obsessive detail. Indie filmmakers have so much to focus on (often the director taking on multiple roles) that there is no time to put the effort into every shot.

The basics of color theory in film for cinematography was something I first read about many years ago in this fantastic book If It’s Purple, Someone’s Gonna Die: The Power of Color in Visual Storytelling which looks at many scenes within films to show how color has been used to enhance every shot.

I will be using this book as reference for the examples used below. Color Theory technique for cinematography, color can be used as a technique to bring more layers into a story. Different shades of color can provoke different responses and emotions within humans.

Although noted in the book filmmakers should avoid using color theory in film purely as an abstract notion. Some colors can be planned to be placed into films prior to weeks of pre-production, other time colors are chosen to be introduced into a film on the day by gut feeling. I have referenced 6 main studio films as examples of their use of color below.

1. Red American Beauty 

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Red is like visual caffeine, it can give power, create desire- lust and love. The colours of red, white and blue are used throughout American Beauty. The family is portrayed as the traditional happy American suburban family, complete with white picket fence. Then there are the dark red petals that surround Angela in Lester’s hyper-delusional lust filled fantasies. American Beauty has a color pallet of red, white and blue throughout. I have created a Pinterest board of the use of red in cinema here.

2. Yellow Dick Tracy

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Yellow is the colour of caution, it brings power, energy and anxiety. Dick Tracy wears a bright yellow coat and hat, the screen becomes energised whenever Tracy enters. The color is brash, daring, it is the color of obsession (according to scientists the colour a person sees first and forgets the least ) , there is a reason poisonous reptiles have yellow skin. Tracy is the obsessive detective caught up in his case . Yellow being a perfectly symbolic color for Taxi Driver’s obsessive Travis Bickle.

3. Blue Shawshank redemption

Blue can be a tranquil pond or a soft blanket of sadness. Throughout Shawshank the film is surrounded by the color of blue. A smog of grey blue surrounds the film. Shawshank is a film of sadness, and is this emotion that cinematographer Roger Deakins wanted the audience to feel throughout the film. That we are amongst the prisons. When Andy escapes the prison he finds his friend Red on an island, with vibrant green land – the first time vivid colours have been used throughout the film.  I have created a Pinterest board of the use of blue in cinema here.

4. Orange The Godfather

Orange is the welcoming color, warm sunsets and Halloween pumpkins.  In the opening scene of The Godfather the Don’s office is lit with an amber and orange light. The film is lit romantically with pastel orange shades. Throughout the film the orange shades turn more red as more is revealed within the crime underworld. Not to mention the use of physical orange props used throughout the Godfather movies.

5. Green Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Green can signal health, danger or decay. It is the colour of fresh vegetables and spoiled meat. In Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Jen and her master Li Mu Bai are about to have a fight in a green vibrant bamboo forest. The fight is non-violent Jen’s master is afraid that Jen is turning evil, he chases her through the forest, she disappears diving into a green lake.

The oppositional nature of green plays a significant part in the story. The sword’s name is Green Destiny, and the villain’s name is Jade Fox. Li Mu Bai’s concern that Jen can become a poison dragon is his primary motivation in wanting to teach her

6. Purple Chicago

Purple the colour of mystery, the paranormal and death. In Chicago purple is used to show both death and delusion. Roxy stands on stage she looks out into the crowd purple light covers her and the piano player. Roxy is imagining that she is a famous singer, the story is about the glamorization of criminals. Purple is consistent throughout the deaths that take place in the film.

I enjoy using color in my films, I feel that by putting a color gel on a light a film could be made to stand out against the majority of indie films being created. The master's use color theory in film as a deliberate device in their films, every little detail is helping to tell the story.

Resources

Link to a great book on color theory in cinema,  Article What’s with all the Oranges in the Godfather? , Lots of good reads  on cinematography and color theory in film Stephen Murphy DOP Documents, You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms