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master scene script    

Below is a sample page from the spec script "Boomer Bubble." Please note margin dimensions for a master scene format are not reflected here.


Nick and Adrienne walk side by side. Adrienne has her leashed basset hound in tow.

Sorry, but you’re not an old-timer.

Oh? Who but an old-timer could talk at length about the career of Bill Dana?

No one — but you.

It’s not like it used to be. Back in the day, you qualified as an old-timer if you loitered every day at a barbershop. Today, within 30 seconds, the shop owner — usually some ethnic minority or a woman or both — is in your face telling you to take your whittling and checkers-playing elsewhere.

You think that being an old-timer will give you an excuse for all your pissing and moaning. That's it, isn't it?

They stop as Adrienne’s dog sniffs a bush. Nick stares forlornly at middle-aged Tea Party demonstrators bearing protest signs and chanting, “Give me liberty, not debt!"

I’m beginning to believe the best place for me is an urn.

Oh God!

Adrienne diverts her eyes after recognizing Ruth among the demonstrators. Ruth spots Adrienne and approaches. Ruth is wearing a three-cornered hat and a T-shirt with an American flag across its front. She carries a picket with a cartoon of a man holding another man's head under water in a bathtub. Its caption reads, “Time For Government To Take A Bath!”)

Adrienne — how are you!

   (looks around appearing surprised)
Ruth! Oh my God, look at you!

Isn’t it exciting? Did you know the Tea Party is headquartered in Sacramento?

     (smiles disarmingly at Ruth)
Do you live in Sacramento?

This is Nick, my cousin.

         (smiling back at Nick)
Almost fifty years.

You know, we could use more people like you in politics. People who put principals above self interest. I mean, here you are wanting government cutbacks while living in a city whose economy depends on government. It takes special people to not care about local unemployment, housing prices and crime. You could even carry signs that say, “Fuck Me!

Definition: The format required by the motion picture industry for modern screenplays before they are greenlit for production. The master scene script is distinct from the shooting script in that it does not include camera direction.

History: Directors did not always call the shots. During the reign of the moguls, screenwriters scripted camera angles and shots as well as scene descriptions, character action, and dialogue. Directors might tweak angles and shots of these “continuity scripts,” but never so much as to disrupt studio production schedules and budgets.

Then came United States v. Paramount Pictures. This 1948 Supreme Court decision declared studios could no longer own theaters. Gone in a flash was a steady revenue stream and the power to guarantee even the worst studio movies could make a profit. The Paramount decision was to the moguls what the Chicxulub asteroid was to the dinosaurs.

For more than 20 years, Hollywood’s surviving species evolved. The major role of producers became the producing of investors. Investors demanded bankable actors and directors. Bankable directors demanded complete directorial control. Scripted camera direction by veteran screenwriters came to be ignored. New screenwriters, untrained in camera direction, wrote scripts without it.

Success of “The Godfather” (1972), the first blockbuster of the post Golden Age, established the master scene script as the requisite template for modern screenplays. While the format demands strict attention to capitalization, paragraph alignment, punctuation, etc., technical jargon is at a minimum. For instance, the “slug line,” which signals the beginning of a scene, consists of a choice between “INT.” (interior) and “EXT.” (exterior), the scene’s location (e.g., JOHN’S OFFICE) and the time of day (e.g. “DAY,” “DUSK,” “NIGHT,” or “DAWN”). A change in any of these starts a new scene.

It’s to the master scene script that the director adds camera direction to create the “shooting script.” While the master scene format enables the screenwriter to focus on the literary, his work provides merely a blueprint for the director, whose role of calling the shots now extends to changing whole scenes. In sum, today's screenwriters are filmmaking’s Winklevoss Twins.

Related Terms:  
 development hell
script doctor    production value  
      Three-act Structure
Holmes Epiphany

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