Starting a scene with a punchline/dialogue before any action

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  • Starting a scene with a punchline/dialogue before any action

    I sometimes end scenes with a setup for a punchline, and the punchline is the first dialogue in the next scene. And when I do that, it often reads better (to me) if, in the second scene, I put the first action text after the dialogue/punchline. For example (I just wrote the following to post here) -

    Code:
    
    INT. KITCHEN - DAY
    
    JACK (35) chopping up veggies, JOE (35) at the kitchen table.
    
                        JACK
              Joe -- guaranteed, Jane will love
              it!
    
    INT. HEALTH CLUB - DAY
    
                        JANE
                   (to her phone)
              Sure, Joe.  And then, on Monday --
              I'll file for divorce.
    
    JANE (35), on a bench, sweaty from her workout.
    Versus the standard formatting...

    Code:
    
    INT. KITCHEN - DAY
    
    JACK (35) chopping up veggies, JOE (35) at the kitchen table.
    
                        JACK
              Joe -- guaranteed, Jane will love
              it!
    
    INT. HEALTH CLUB - DAY
    
    JANE (35), on a bench, sweaty from her workout.
    
                        JANE
                   (to her phone)
              Sure, Joe.  And then, on Monday --
              I'll file for divorce.
    Anyone bothered or confused by the formatting of the first version? Anyone seen pro scripts that use the first version/style?

  • #2
    Re: starting a scene with a punchline/dialogue before any action

    This is absolutely within the realm of acceptable. It's fine.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: starting a scene with a punchline/dialogue before any action

      I suppose that's a similar effect to how, in film editing, dialogue often precedes the change of shot which, in that case, motivates the change of perspective. At worst, it's slightly disorienting to those so accustomed to an establishing action line first, but it does an effective job of indicating the next line of dialogue comes in right on top of the previous one.

      In the script I'm currently working on, the one time I do something at all similar is the result of cutting to a flashback. Character talks, new scene heading as we flash black and his dialogue continues as VO, new scene heading as we're back to present, and he finishes his line of dialogue. By not bothering to re-establish the scene in action, I felt it implied that we cut back to the very same shot.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: starting a scene with a punchline/dialogue before any action

        I don't think the way you're doing it is confusing, but the more standard way is to explicitly call it out as a PRELAP (or PRE-LAP)

        People indicate a prelap in a variety of ways - all of them acceptable and widely used. Some examples:

        Code:
        
        INT. KITCHEN - DAY
        
        JACK (35) chopping up veggies, JOE (35) at the kitchen table.
        
                            JACK
                  Joe -- guaranteed, Jane will love
                  it!
        
                            JANE (PRE-LAP)
                  Sure, Joe.  And then, on Monday --
                  I'll file for divorce.
        
        
        INT. HEALTH CLUB - DAY
        
        JANE (35), on a bench, sweaty from her workout, talks on her phone.
        Or:

        Code:
        
        INT. KITCHEN - DAY
        
        JACK (35) chopping up veggies, JOE (35) at the kitchen table.
        
                            JACK
                  Joe -- guaranteed, Jane will love
                  it!
                            JANE (V.O., PRELAP)
                  Sure, Joe.  And then, on Monday --
                  I'll file for divorce.
        
        INT. HEALTH CLUB - DAY
        
        JANE (35), on a bench, sweaty from her workout, talks on her phone.
        Or:

        Code:
        
        INT. KITCHEN - DAY
        
        JACK (35) chopping up veggies, JOE (35) at the kitchen table.
        
                            JACK
                  Joe -- guaranteed, Jane will love
                  it!
        
        PRELAP:
        
                            JANE (V.O.)
                  Sure, Joe.  And then, on Monday --
                  I'll file for divorce.
        
        INT. HEALTH CLUB - DAY
        
        JANE (35), on a bench, sweaty from her workout, talks on her phone.
        You can also prelap other sounds, e.g.,

        Code:
        
        INT. KITCHEN - DAY
        
        JACK (35) chopping up veggies, JOE (35) at the kitchen table.
        
                            JACK
                  Joe -- guaranteed, Jane will love
                  it!
        
        PRELAP: A siren wails.
        
        INT. HEALTH CLUB - DAY
        
        Something about an ambulance.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Starting a scene with a punchline/dialogue before any action

          Re: prelap, I think in the original example the point is that we cut to the new location then get the line of dialogue. A prelap would suggest we stay in the kitchen, hear Jane's punchline then cut to the gym.

          I found the first example works perfectly fine.
          My stuff

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Starting a scene with a punchline/dialogue before any action

            Originally posted by Jon Jay View Post
            Re: prelap, I think in the original example the point is that we cut to the new location then get the line of dialogue. A prelap would suggest we stay in the kitchen, hear Jane's punchline then cut to the gym.

            I found the first example works perfectly fine.
            You're right. I misunderstood what the original poster was trying to do.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Starting a scene with a punchline/dialogue before any action

              Paul may have misunderstood, but I liked his versions better.
              ScriptGal
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              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Starting a scene with a punchline/dialogue before any action

                Originally posted by Manchester View Post
                I sometimes end scenes with a setup for a punchline, and the punchline is the first dialogue in the next scene. And when I do that, it often reads better (to me) if, in the second scene, I put the first action text after the dialogue/punchline. For example (I just wrote the following to post here) -

                Code:
                
                INT. KITCHEN - DAY
                
                JACK (35) chopping up veggies, JOE (35) at the kitchen table.
                
                                    JACK
                          Joe -- guaranteed, Jane will love
                          it!
                
                INT. HEALTH CLUB - DAY
                
                                    JANE
                               (to her phone)
                          Sure, Joe.  And then, on Monday --
                          I'll file for divorce.
                
                JANE (35), on a bench, sweaty from her workout.
                Versus the standard formatting...

                Code:
                
                INT. KITCHEN - DAY
                
                JACK (35) chopping up veggies, JOE (35) at the kitchen table.
                
                                    JACK
                          Joe -- guaranteed, Jane will love
                          it!
                
                INT. HEALTH CLUB - DAY
                
                JANE (35), on a bench, sweaty from her workout.
                
                                    JANE
                               (to her phone)
                          Sure, Joe.  And then, on Monday --
                          I'll file for divorce.
                Anyone bothered or confused by the formatting of the first version? Anyone seen pro scripts that use the first version/style?
                I get it, but from a purely staging perspective, isn't Jane the first "thing" we're going to see when we cut to the next scene? I also think what Jane is doing informs her response. If we see her agitated, pacing rapidly, then that reveals something much different about her personality and state of mind, compared to if she's kicking back, sipping a smoothie and checking out the studs in the gym. And how is she communicating with Joe? On the phone? In person? I wouldn't say confusing, but it may be sacrificing depth and context for comedic timing.

                ETA: Disregard the communication comment. I missed the parenthetical, (to her phone).
                Last edited by bioprofessor; 03-29-2015, 04:05 AM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Starting a scene with a punchline/dialogue before any action

                  Thanks all.

                  Originally posted by Jon Jay View Post
                  Re: prelap, I think in the original example the point is that we cut to the new location then get the line of dialogue.
                  Thanks for your help with that.

                  Originally posted by ScriptGal View Post
                  Paul may have misunderstood, but I liked his versions better.
                  How so? You think his versions are funnier?

                  Originally posted by bioprofessor View Post
                  but it may be sacrificing depth and context for comedic timing.
                  To me, that's a winner. As long as it's not unclear, I'll go for comedic timing every time, because I'm hoping to get a visceral reaction from the reader. And even if I don't get that, my concern is the reader won't get that Jane is delivering the punchline, versus simply starting a new conversation that begins after the HEALTH CLUB slugline.

                  OTOH, I can certainly see other writers doing it action-then-dialogue.

                  After reading the posts about pre-lapping it, I realize it could be more likely the reader would get the joke/timing if I write it as pre-lap, even if I wouldn't want it on the screen that way.

                  Again, thanks all.

                  Comment

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