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Old 09-10-2010, 01:00 AM   #1
Angeloworx
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Default Montage or quick shots?

or Series of Shots? Here's Story Sense's view...

Montage or Series of Shots?

Writers are often confused about how to present a series of short scenes that are illustrative or transitional in nature. When the shots are so short and disjointed as to make it awkward to present them as scenes, then a “SERIES OF SHOTS” is the answer.

Montages, on the other hand, are usually transitional, with each shot dissolving into the next one, and they often don’t involve the principal characters. For example, a montage of a flight might include the airplane taking off, dissolving into an animated line showing its progress across a map, dissolving into a shot of the plane flying through the clouds, dissolving into a shot of it landing.

Montages tend to be used less often than a series of shots. In either case, the images should not be random, but progress the narrative and build to a climax.


Standard screenplay format dictates they begin with a slug line describing the content. It’s not sufficient just to describe them in paragraphs of action.
Each shot must be listed in alphabetical outline form, without a scene heading, starting with a capital letter “A” and a closed parenthesis, followed by two spaces:


SERIES OF SHOTS - JONES RUNS ACROSS MANHATTAN

A) Dodging dogs on leashes in Central Park.

B) Weaving through stopped traffic at Times Square, dodging a bicycle messenger.

C) Hustling into the Canal Street subway entrance.



The text in each shot should wrap beneath the text, not beneath the letter of the outline. This is essentially a hanging indent. Unfortunately, most script formatting software cannot handle a hanging indent. You must insert a hard return at the end of each line, and then type four spaces to indent the next line. To prevent each line in a shot from being double-spaced, press “Shift” simultaneously with the “Enter” key.

Unlike with a flashback, there is no need to tell us when the montage ends. We know it has ended when we see a new scene heading. Always start a new scene (with a complete heading) after a montage.


Sub-question - which allows you to sneak in dialogue between shots?

To make it more confusing, I recently read EASY A and they wrote "quick shots" in the action paragraph. Which makes it a smoother read?
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Old 09-10-2010, 04:01 AM   #2
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Default Re: Montage or quick shots?

I normally use MONTAGES to dictate a period or chapter over a passage of time e.g. two characters falling love, a soldier surviving war as we hear the voice over of his wife writing a letter -- that kind of stuff.

Sometimes the narrative is obvious enough that I don't write MONTAGE or SERIES OF SHOTS.

I personally don't think the indent is important. And you can sneak in dialogue quite easily. I usually include END OF MONTAGE and END OF SHOTS for clarity.

SERIES OF SHOTS - JONES RUNS ACROSS MANHATTAN

A) Dodging YAPPING dogs on leashes in Central Park.

JONES
Woof!

B) Weaving through stopped traffic at Times Square
and narrowly missing a bicycle messenger.

JONES
Woof!

C) Hustling into the Canal Street subway entrance,
passing a HOT WOMAN going the other way.

JONES
Woof!

I may even do away with the letters and use an em-dash. To me, QUICK SHOTS are just snappier versions of SERIES OF SHOTS. Depends on the narrative.

Jones opens a cabinet filled with guns.

QUICK SHOTS

-- Sets down shotguns, pistols, and uzis.

-- Unfurls a long ammo belt.

-- Locks and loads a SAW MACHINE GUN.

-- Laces up his boots.

END OF SHOTS

Jones stands like a human armory. He shoulders
shotguns gaffer-taped to other weapons.

JONES
Woof!

But this is just how I personally write.
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Old 09-10-2010, 04:04 AM   #3
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Default Re: Montage or quick shots?

Always follow basic principles first - however you write it, make it clear and to the point, with no ambiguity or padding. Don't get sidetracked with clever formatting at the expense of clarity and an engaging read.

If you're using dialogue then it's no longer a series of shots or a montage, it's a normal sequence with alternating dialogue, shot description, dialogue, shot description, etc. and it's written like that without the slug "SERIES OF SHOTS - ..."

No sane reader will reject your script if it reads "quick shots" instead of "series of shots", but the latter adheres more closely to convention. If in doubt, err on the side of safety.

Story Sense's description of presentation matches the most authoritative guides I've used. However I'm not sure why it says that shots in a montage are usually dissolved - I don't know where that comes from. The key distinguishing element between a montage and series of shots is that the former is used to illustrate a concept or idea or create a setting, whereas the latter is a sequential series of actions used to build a contained, chronological sequence. In a montage the shots are usually descriptive of a theme and not a particular sequence.

A really good authority on this stuff is David Trottier.
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Old 09-10-2010, 06:54 AM   #4
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Default Re: Montage or quick shots?

The definitive reference for understanding a montage:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLuOl36vamI
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Old 09-17-2010, 02:29 PM   #5
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Cool Re: Montage or quick shots?

Thanks for the educational material. I've been trying to figure this out for a while. May I ask for assistance?

Let's say I'm writing a scene of someone's life flashing before their eyes. Would that be considered a series of shots, a montage or something different?

I'll write a quick example. It contains several scenes at various locations, some dialogue and it jumps back and forth between past and present tense. How would a professional clean up this mess that I've made?


Int. Dark Alley - Night

Tommy lies in a puddle of his own blood while a masked gunmen escapes through a narrow corridor. He struggles to maintain consciousness.

Flash To:

Series of Shots - Recent memories racing through Tommy's mind.

A) Tommy catches brother in bed with his wife -- all hell breaks loose.

B) 10 years earlier, brother stands as best man in Tommy's wedding. The wife reads her vows.

Wife
I will always love you.

Flash To:

C) Present: Blood seeps through Tommy's teeth. His eyes roll back into his head.

Flash To:

D) Days earlier, Tommy and wife fight in a busy restaurant.

Wife
I $*#@ed your brother! Are you happy now?!

E) Present: Tommy stops breathing...

End of Series


Thanks in advance for the help.


KENTA
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Old 09-17-2010, 02:46 PM   #6
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Default Re: Montage or quick shots?

I read in one of the online guides (don't remember which) that a Montage shows different locations and times, whereas a Series of Shots is confined essentially to the same location, same time frame.
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Old 09-17-2010, 03:51 PM   #7
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Default Re: Montage or quick shots?

In David Trottier's latest Screenwriting Bible he says that they have basically morphed almost into one, so doesn't really matter which one you use -- just make sure it is easy to follow
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Old 09-17-2010, 05:02 PM   #8
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Default Re: Montage or quick shots?

The only part of this question that really matters:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moviequill View Post
-- just make sure it is easy to follow
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Old 09-17-2010, 06:09 PM   #9
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Default Re: Montage or quick shots?

Other than clarity being a given, I use Series of Shots.

All Montages (in the classical sense) are a Series of Shots,
but not all Series of Shots are Montages.
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Old 09-17-2010, 06:31 PM   #10
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Default Re: Montage or quick shots?

Thanks folks,

I really appreciate the help. In regards to the sample I wrote, could someone please provide feedback as to whether or not I used the technique effectively? Was my sample easy enough to follow? If not, what would you do differently?

Thanks again,

KENTA
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