Brain-Storm-It: Scene List

Posted on August 13th, 2013 by in Advice, Screenplay

brainstorm image flickr creative commons
Image by dear miami on Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Welcome to the Brain-Storm-It blog. This blog is designed to help those who want to learn how to write a movie but moreover write a better movie. It will take you through this process in a “paint-by-numbers” approach as well as address specific questions so we can brainstorm them.

Installment #6: Scene List

In the previous installment we went into what is needed to produce a Summary. With this installment I will show you how to now produce its complimentary Scene List. Used together they will serve as a blueprint or schematic for helping to format your screenplay.

A Scene List is meant to reflect your Summary, including all eight components of the screenplay, but with short, specific descriptions. The way you design your Scene List is as follows:

Get three or four pages of lined paper or set up your screen to an 8 1/2″ x 11″ frame and list the numbers from 1 to 130 on one line each. Most screenplays have any where from 90 to 130 scenes, so we are going to define each scene in your story with one line of description. What’s a scene? Usually it’s defined by a switch from one location to another unconnected location, or ‘Slug Line to Slug Line’. More on scenes later.

Anyway, this is a very simple operation, but you must follow the instructions exactly otherwise this tool for better screenwriting will not work for you. Some use 3×5 cards for each scene and then lay them out on a table to mix and match, but that can get cumbersome. So for me, listing works better. Here we go…

Lines 1-5 are The Status Quo
Lines 2-10 are The Crisis Situation
Lines 25-30 are Plot Point #1
Lines 25-75 are The Body
Lines 75-80 are The Confession
Lines 80-85 are Plot Point #2
Lines 100-110 are The Climax
Lines 110-115 are The Resolution

The numbers above are guides based on a script that is 110 to 120 scenes long. The numbers overlap to allow for flexibility. Note: do not think that there is a correlation to scene number and script length, that would be a mistake, I just simplified for the sake of the example. The number of scenes can vary for longer scripts, but your count should not go outside of the 90 to 130 scene range. Remember: one line of description per scene only, otherwise the tool will not function.

Once you have completed the Scene List you can go back and re-write your Summary to match it. Some writers like to write the Scene List first and then write the Summary. In any event, once you have this done you can begin to format the Scene List to create your First Draft screenplay with Slug Lines, Description and Dialogue. We’ll discuss this process and the details involved in the next installment.

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Garret on Camera
Garret C. Maynard is an educator, Emmy nominated cinematographer, literary agent and has been involved in movie writing and movie making for over twenty years.

If you have questions about this installment or others, please email Garret at: garret@thegarypaulagency.com. All questions can be answered privately and/or be incorporated into future writings.


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