View Full Version : Montage

12-02-2004, 03:41 PM
I'm sure this question has been asked before and please forgive my stupidity. I am workiing on a scene where a man is getting a message on his cell phone that instructs him to go somewhere. As the message is heard (O.S.) he is driving to the location. so you have a montage of shots driving through the city, into a residential neighborhood, down a tree lined block...whatever; with the VOICE playing over it. How do my friends?

Deus Ex Machine
12-02-2004, 06:50 PM
It's (VO) not (OS).

Just write what you see playing in your head.


John listens to his messages on his cell phone as he drives.

....................MAN (VO)
Listen very carefully. If you want to see
your wife again follow these instructions.


John races along the winding canyon road.

...................MAN (VO)
Take canyon road to the reservoir.

John skids to a stop at the rusty reservoir gate.


John runs down the dirt trail.

...................MAN (VO)
Follow the trail North.

12-03-2004, 08:41 AM
Based on what "you" said you wanted to do, I might also suggest;

(NOTE:VOICE OVER during entire montage)

Bla, bla, bla.





12-03-2004, 10:53 AM
Thanks to all for all of your help. I read in one post where a guy said something to the effect of, "if you don't know how to do it, find a script where you have seen it before." The thing is (was) that I have seen that done many times but couldn't put my finger on an instance. Then "Goodfellas" came to mind. Especially the part where he is driving around with the helicopter chasing. That is allot of V.O. as the action described takes place. It's done allot like the first suggestion. Additionaly, I think the other suggestion works well for a single instance. Here is the link to Goodfellas if you want to check it out.

www.dailyscript.com/scrip...fellas.pdf (http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/goodfellas.pdf)

Thanks a bunch to all of you

12-05-2004, 12:14 PM
If you want to format it as above with a scene heading then what you are describing is a "SERIES OF SHOTS", not a montage. A montage uses technical effects to combine two different subjects on the screen at the same time and is generally put together in post-production from existing footage (whilst a SERIES OF SHOTS will of course need to be scheduled into the shoot).

TwoBrad Bradley
12-05-2004, 11:38 PM
It might just be semantics, but it's not a MONTAGE or a SERIES OF SHOTS. It's a SERIES OF SCENES.

So that you get a fair mix of replies, consider this:

Unless you can make full and complete scenes (scenes with conflict that advance the story or the character) of these "tiny bits" then cut them all.

Write the scenes then read it. Read it again but this time without the scenes. More times than not the story (that thing that is king) will not be hurt one bit.

Try it, you got nothing to lose.

12-06-2004, 08:05 AM
Both MONTAGE and SERIES OF SHOTS are standard industry terms used as slug lines. SERIES OF SCENES is not. In fact, that's all a screenplay is: a series of scenes. I can't think of a reason you'd ever slug something with Brad's made-up term.

12-06-2004, 10:05 AM
Ditto... a "series of scenes" is a new one on me too!

A SERIES OF SHOTS, although in fact, a series of scenes, is never INDICATED as such. The main question to ask yourself if faced with the prospect of utilizing a SERIES OF SHOTS or a MONTAGE is what am I trying to accomplish here?

The SERIES OF SHOTS is usually employed when seeking to move the actions of a Character "forward" quickly and cleanly, usually, with no dialogue, although you may employ narration in the form of a (V.O.). In lieu of this, I would have to suggest, to the original poster, that they think SERIES OF SHOTS rather than a MONTAGE, however, the MONTAGE will still work under "certain circumstances"!

As one poster already pointed out, the MONTAGE is a post-production editing/lab procedure that meshes (or) blends different elements to combine as a whole. You can blur/mesh/fade to, etc. between the elements of the MONTAGE but they all must lend themselves to a certain theme or subject!

For instance, your watching a movie about Jack The Ripper. one of the character's starts to relate some facts about the killer and the environment in London at the time of the murders.

Whilst this (V.O) is occurring you have different scenes of everyday life in London (that's the MONTAGE).

The SERIES OF SHOTS should move a character or other intrinsic thought or element of the script forward rapidly. You would use a SERIES OF SHOTS , for instance, in a chase scene!

It's formatted the same as a MONTAGE.

By the way, the misuse or incorrect application of a SERIES OF SHOTS vs. a MONTAGE is a very common mistake made by newer screenwriters, get it right in your spec and you will impress an "experienced" reader!

One thing for sure, as the prior poster just stated, MONTAGE and SERIES OF SHOTS are accepted and standard industry formatting terms that have specific application and that is certainly the fact.

That's the best way I can explain it! Best of luck!:D

TwoBrad Bradley
12-06-2004, 07:33 PM
Sorry, I should have known better by now than to confuse anyone with trivial formatting issues.

My point is that no matter what you call them these are simply transitional sequences designed to deliver you from Point A to Point B of the real story.

Transitional sequences are devoid of conflict, dialogue and story and have no place in a spec script. It doesn’t matter if they wind up in produced films or not. Don’t waste the time and space in a spec.

Say you have a scene where a “messy” girl receives a phone call from her boyfriend that he’ll be there in five minutes. Then the very next scene the doorbell rings, she opens the door and she is all made up. Did you really need to show a transitional scene of the girl running around like a mad man getting ready?

For those of you who like to argue about formatting standards in a business where there are no standards:

MONTAGE: A sequence of seemingly unrelated events that when combined reflect a specific theme or idea. (that’s not only unrelated to the story, but unrelated to each other)

SERIES OF SHOTS: A transitional sequence of events within a single scene (location).

SERIES OF SCENES: A transitional sequence of events spanning more than one scene (location).

The Jack the Ripper example is not really a montage. Yes, yes, I know you can call it that and I’ll know what you mean. Here’s a true montage:

(Scene: Jack spots his next victim.)

- a lion stalks a helpless doe.
- a woman screams at her child’s death bed.
- a butcher cuts up a cow
- a dead bird, blood spills from its broken neck into the dirt.


(Scene: Jack wipes the blood from his knife as he steals away.)

Honestly, do you really need a montage to get your message across?

12-07-2004, 06:30 PM
That's a bit film-school. Montage is from the french "mount". So far as standard formatting is concerned, the events don't have to be "seemingly unrelated" or anything like that for it to be a montage, just 'cut and pasted' (often from existing footage) and somehow blended together.

Is SERIES OF SCENES a valid scene heading? I don't think a SERIES OF SHOTS has to be confined to one location.

Cole, Haag, Bueller?

12-07-2004, 11:56 PM
Brad... I don't disagree with your logic or ability to theorize the righteousness of traditional formatting and to explore "new horizons" beyond them.

However, our poster does not possess the knowledge and skills that you obviously have. So why confuse this poster with theories that go beyond their initial post.

We already established the need to turn an (O.S.) to a (V.O.) and the possibility that a MONTAGE might not be appropriate and explored a SERIES OF SHOTS. Both basic meat and potatoes knowledge that any serious aspiring screenwriter must be familiar with.

To formulate songs you first have to master the task of reading and writing music!:smokin

TwoBrad Bradley
12-08-2004, 06:02 PM
DUPCHO, you're right.
So why confuse this poster with theories that go beyond their initial post.That's a trick question, isn't it?

Forget everything I said about formatting.

The only important thing I said was to consider NOT using a transitional sequence like a montage or a series of shots.

Dr Hemmingstone
12-09-2004, 03:55 AM
You mean quick cuts, a series of shots such as you've described are quick cuts, not montage, montage is something different. Quick cuts tell the reader (producer) that the shots all occur at the same basic location, a car moving along, where as montage can tell a producer that the shots are separated by location, weather, time of day etc... Montage can mean more money as it has no restraints, quick cuts are budget friendly, be sure to use quick cuts, not montage, to much montage equals to much money, but quick cuts can give the illusion of more for less, that they like. So if it's montage use montage but if ever it's a series of quick cuts use that, better for you and newborn.

12-09-2004, 11:47 AM

Brad, if they are so trivial then why does an entire sector of the industry make their living by teaching it?

Not knowing the difference between a (V.O.) and an (O.S.) or the difference and applications for a MONTAGE vs. a SERIES OF SHOTS is not "trivial" it is basic knowledge Brad.

To take the topic of reasons why one should not employ them by referencing to them as "trivial", I feel defeats the reason this board "BASICS" was created!

If an aspiring screenwriter does not know this aspect of the craft, he's dead in the water, and that includes your "story is king proponents"!

That's a great "ideology" but is doesn't play well in the "real world"... because in it, your script is gonn'a more than likely be read by some starched shirt, fresh out of film school whose gonn'a be looking to shoot you down over just such a "trivial formatting" error!

Unless you are hooked up with a good agent and (or) are produced, can you avoid the starched shirt!

For you it might appear "trivial" because you already know it, for the poster it is invaluable knowledge they can assimilate and utilize.:smokin

12-09-2004, 03:33 PM
A MONTAGE basically is an event or events that occur over a passage of time: e.g.

We follow the passage of time of two people who meet and fall in love.


Springtime. Dick and Jane hold hands while walking along in the park.

Summer: The pair cavort on the beach.

Fall: The couple tromps through the Autumn leaves.

Winter: Dick and Jane frolic in the snow.

Then use END MONTAGE or transition to a new scene heading.

Deus Ex Machine
12-09-2004, 04:12 PM
A montage is a result of the Soviet School of editing that used juxtaposing images to create dramatic content that was not inherent to the individual images. For example, a man and woman turn out the lights, cut to scenes of trains rushing through tunnels and pile-drivers hammering away. The dramatic content created by this juxtaposition is that the Man and woman had sex, but that content is not found in the individual scenes it is only created by their juxtaposition.

In a series of shots, each scene posses dramatic content that individually and collectively contribute to the advancement of the story. For example, a series of shots of a man running across town to a church contribute individually and collectively to the advancement of the story where a man tries to stop the woman he loves from marrying the wrong man.


A montage creates dramatic content through juxtaposition of images in a sequence.

A series of shots combines the dramatic content of images in a sequence.

In HW montage and series of shots are used (inaccurately) as if they are interchangeable. Use which ever one suits your fancy, it really doesn't matter to readers and execs.

The larger issue is if using either is the best approach for communicating your story.

12-28-2004, 04:00 AM
I'm a little late on this post - the holidays - but I had to add to the montage thread.

I work on the news side of tv, which I know differs in scripts and formats. But when my chief photographer recieves a tape from a camera man looking for a job and it's a montage of shots over music, he tosses it in the trashcan within 10 seconds. He explained to me once that he wants to see that you can tell a complete story from beginning to end without cheap theatrics. I feel about the same way about montages and avoid them in my writing.

Plus I think of that song from South Park -- where the kids and parents were trapped in a time share in Aspen and the whole thing turned into a teen ski flick. "We need a montage. Montage!"

Avoid them.

Carlton Redford
01-09-2005, 01:06 PM
"juxtaposing images to create dramatic content that was not inherent to the individual images. For example, a man and woman turn out the lights, cut to scenes of trains rushing through tunnels and pile-drivers hammering away. The dramatic content created by this juxtaposition is that the Man and woman had sex, but that content is not found in the individual scenes it is only created by their juxtaposition."
The above earlier-posted excerpt does illustrate one use of montage, but newer writers shouldn't be led to believe that this is the exclusive and only proper use or function of montage.

Another very common use is the often moving and cinematically beautiful storytelling time compression that montage can achieve. Less than ten seconds of film time often shows a variety of the events of several months during which a couple fell in love, as in the "Charley" montage where the now-intelligent character (Cliff Robertson) and his teacher are shown in many intra-dissolving images of fun activities that advance their mutual attraction. Also Forrest Gump's montage showing his legs becoming "un-crippled" then strengthening to a superhero level as he runs faster and faster in a variety of settings. All of these conveyed in a few seconds of film time.

Also, montage's use as a remarkable expositional device is seen in Casablanca's eight-page montaged flashback "Rick and Ilsa fall in love in wartime Paris."

And still another common montage usage should be noted: as the contents of a letter or newspaper article are being read by someone -- and the contents are made visual by intra-dissolving images as the words themselves are reader- voiceovered. GWTW was replete with this and it remains effective and common today especially in political, war, and historical films.

-- Carlton

Deus Ex Machine
01-10-2005, 05:13 PM

Technically none of your examples are montages. They are sequences. Manipulation of time may be achieved by both montages and sequences and both are used to advance a story but just because both a montage and sequence may accomplish the same thing does mean they are in fact the same.

Deus Ex Machine
01-11-2005, 01:59 PM
The definition of a montage does not limit its use, it merely defines how it works which is unique and different from how a series of shots works. Both can accomplish the same thing but they will use very different processes to do it.

As I said, this difference between a montage and a series of shots is purely academic and irrelevant to the reality of working in HW where Montage and Series of Shots are used as if they are synonyms.

Knowledge is never limiting.

01-11-2005, 04:56 PM
Well, one thing is for sure. When and if a writer properly employs either a MONTAGE or a SERIES OF SHOTS(often confusing writers as to which to employ), you are going to save ink and that means you have successfully shortened your script, usually by a page or more.

And that's a good thing... in and of itself!

Now, I am not saying to employ either for that, and only that, reason. I am just stating it as the usual byproduct expected as a resulting benefit.

In my book, condensing and clarifying a story is what rewriting is all about. It would seem rather foolish to overlook opportunities of craft that afford one the same clarity(perhaps even improving on it), and at the same time offer an opportunity for script compression.

Perhaps that has something to do with how and why these elements of the craft of screenwriting were born, have endured, if even in a mutated form, since the inception of the craft to the present?

I mean, makes sense to me?
I mean... what the hell Irene!

01-13-2005, 03:49 PM
Regarding MONTAGE (or SERIES OF SHOTS, if it applies)… here’s something to think about… :smokin or stay away from… :eek

Imagine a bloody 6-scene action sequence between the protag and antag that takes up too many pages in Act 1. A protag’s confession drives the sequence and entertains a cheering stadium audience while setting up the story.

Because the sequence cannot be broken (for the story to work), I’ve come up with the following idea to keep it afloat and compress Act 1 from 50 pages to 35:

I let the 1st scene of the sequence (where the bloody confession begins, triggered by the story catalyst) to run its normal course (3 pages).

I also let the 6th and last scene of the sequence (where the bloody confession ends, triggered by the story inciting incident) to run its course (3 pages).

But I put the middle part of the sequence (scenes 2-5) into a double-purpose Montage:

(1) to compress these 4 scenes to only a ½ page

(2) to mirror these 4 scenes to another place (in Act 2), where I can actually have them run their normal course, organically mixed (using creative flashbacks) with other escalating conflicts

This unusual strategy seems to work for me, but it may not for you. So your thoughts are welcome and appreciated. :D

Edited to add clarity.

01-14-2005, 11:29 AM
Peak... if it works for you and you preserve or enhance the clarity I say go for it, you've saved ink and condensed the existing script "without the loss of clarity or, perhaps, even enhancing it"... you did good!:rollin

Emulate... but always afford yourself the possibility or opportunity to mutate!:lol