Structuring Your Scenes

Tom Benedek, screenwriter tells Script Magazine how he organizes his scenes.

The rewrite process begins with an evaluation of the scenes. Are the flabby? Do they have too little or too much to say? Is there conflict in most scenes? The right amount of exposition?

Is there is an abrupt shift that is disconcerting? Should a montage  be replaced with an exchange of blatant exposition. This is over and above tightening the story and tracking each of the main characters separately; examining their conflicts, internal and external.

Are there enough scenes to sustain the story logic? Are there gaps or divergences? Sometimes you need  smaller, gentler scenes and meaningful transitions to pace the script and to present detail about certain characters. Are there any scenes that don’t propel the story? By adding small doses of exposition, there is story and character development.

Scenes are the building blocks of  screenplays. Each one is different. Like snowflakes – created by the perfect storm of the climate and geography of plot, character, circumstance.  Every scene is a chemistry experiment composed of plot, character, circumstances of story at a specific point in time:

  • Scenes are energy. Like life, they are never static.
  • Scenes are the meeting ground of opposing forces.
  • The interaction between the subject-protagonist of a scene and the obstacles create friction which creates energy.
  • Friction may create a tiny bit of warmth, a lot of heat, sparks, fire, an explosion.
  • Scenes explore the chemistry of opposing forces – the nature of its inherent friction.
  • In expository scenes, where information is being transmitted very directly, there will often still be something going on which is creating some resistance – friction.

If you are mindful of your scene’s major and minor elements, you can maximize the impact of each page of our script.


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