1 20 Screenwriting Terms You Must Know Good In A Room 1
2 20 Screenwriting Terms You Must Know Good In A Room 2 These 20 terms are frequently used by writers, producers, directors, stars, agents, and other Hollywood professionals. Let s ensure that your knowledge of relevant Hollywood jargon establishes that you re someone who is in. A-story, B-story, C-story" The A-story is the core story of how the hero seeks the goal. The B-story is a story which runs parallel and intersects at key points with the A-story; often the B-story is the love story. The C-story (more common in television) is like another B story, just smaller and less important. Example: I like the love story a lot I kind of wish that instead of this project being a comedy with the love story as the B-story, I wish that this was a romantic comedy where the love story is the A-story. Act Break, Break Into 2, Break Into 3" The end of each Act is known as a break because in TV this is typically where we cut to a commercial break. To maintain viewer interest enough to resume watching after the commercials, the act break should be surprising and important. In film, the end of an act can still be called a break even though there s no commercial, and what defines the break is when the hero makes the decision to pursue the goal of the A-story. In a film there is typically a 3-Act structure and thus two act breaks (at the end of Act 1 and Act 2 - the end of Act 3 is the climax). In TV a 4-Act structure is more common. Example: And then, in the midst of his acute grief over the death of his Aunt and Uncle, Luke Skywalker tells Obi- Wan that he wants to train in the ways of the force, and we break into 2. Beat" A beat can be a unit of story information, a moment in a scene, or a slightly longer than normal pause. Example (unit of story information): Example (moment in a scene): The debate beat seems weak how can we strengthen the dilemma before the break into two? I m concerned about the beat where Indiana Jones catches the date to prevent his friend from eating the poison I want to make sure it s clear that he sees that the monkey is dead first. Example (longer pause): After reading her dead husband s will, she takes a beat, collects herself, and returns to.
3 20 Screenwriting Terms You Must Know Good In A Room 3 Beat Out" To outline the major scenes in a story. Such an outline could be called a beat sheet. For example, the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet identifies fifteen key story beats. Example: Break A Story" Okay, I ve got the core story now it s time to beat it out To figure out how the story works. Essentially, when a story has been broken, you ve identified all of the major story beats, including the act breaks and the climax. Example: Callback" Before I start writing scenes and dialogue and such, I need a few days to break the story. To reference or return to something that has already happened or been said, typically a joke. Example: Cold Open" That was a great flux capacitor joke in Act 1 can we do a callback to that in Act 3? Also known as a teaser, a cold open is when a TV show s first scene jumps directly into the A-story before the credits or main title sequence. Example: This episode of CSI starts with a cold open where we see the murder of the Attorney General then after the opening credits we re in the lab where Grissom is examining three pig brains. Creative differences" This can mean two different things depending on the context. Sometimes when people say we had creative differences it means they were working together and then had an amicable split, and sometimes it means that they had a bad breakup and hate each other. Example: We developed the project with Shia LeBeouf but parted ways because of creative differences.
4 20 Screenwriting Terms You Must Know Good In A Room 4 Derivative Content" Typically this refers to online content (e.g. apps, social media games, blogs, webisodes) that is designed to support and enhance a movie or TV show. Example: Good In A Room" We love the concept for the movie tell us about your ideas for derivative content. A term used by agents, managers, studio executives, and other decision-makers to refer to writers who pitch ideas effectively in meetings. Example: Hip Pocket" He came in with great energy, was hilarious, great story totally good in a room. This is what happens when an agent agrees to represent you or your project without actually signing a contract to represent you like a trial period. It s a way of saying, I ll make a few calls and send your work out to a few people and if that amount of effort results in a sale, then I ll be your agent, and if not, then I won t. Example: I love the script, and I think you have great potential. I d like to hip pocket you and see if we can make something happen. Left Word" This means, left a phone message. Example: MacGuffin" I left word for Matt Damon. The MacGuffin is a thing that is being sought by the hero (and potentially other characters as well), e.g.: a nuclear weapon, secret code, treasure map, briefcase, or Maltese Falcon. Example: In MI:3 the MacGuffin is a bioweapon called, The Rabbit s Foot.
5 20 Screenwriting Terms You Must Know Good In A Room 5 On The Nose" This means that a beat or joke is overly direct, too obvious, or clumsy. Example: Returning For" This joke about Larry David being neurotic is too on the nose. This means, calling you back. Example: Matt Damon returning for Amy Pascal. Self-contained, arc ed, format, docu, hybrid" These are the five terms you must know to pitch a reality TV show. Self-contained means each episode has a story that stands on its own; the alternative is arc d, meaning that stories span several episodes. Format means that there s a game and rules; docu means it s showcasing the lives of the subjects; hybrid means a combination of format and docu elements. Example: Our cooking show is like Top Chef in the sense that it s self-contained and uses a format, but our show goes more into the lives of the contestants and is really a hybrid. Page One" A page one is a complete rewrite (starting the script from scratch). Example: Punch Up" Your core concept is good but the execution just isn t working for me at all. This needs a page one. To make funnier. Often a rewrite assignment for a comedy writer is to punch up a script by adding more and better jokes. Unfortunately, sometimes when a writer is asked for punch up it s for a project that is flawed and really needs a page one. Example: We want you to do punch-up on the project paying special attention to Act 3 which is especially flat.
6 20 Screenwriting Terms You Must Know Good In A Room 6 Table Read" The first time a script is read by all of the primary actors, it s typically done around a table - it s like the first formal rehearsal of a project. Example: The Room" This sequence is long; let s see how the table read goes and then talk about where we can trim. The room is a physical space, usually a conference table and couches area, where TV writers work together to break stories - often revealing intimate details of their own lives and saying things that should never be said out loud in public - but which help to bring life to the project. What happens in the room, what is said in the room, stays in the room. Example: Maybe he disagreed with the showrunner, but tweeting about what happened in the room? I m surprised he wasn t fired For more information from Good in a Room: Resources Most Popular Posts Index of Screenwriting Articles