Screenwriters Secret Weapon #1: The Transition Pass

Transform your script into an award-winner with only a few extra hours perfecting your transitions.

Everyone is worried about the rewrite. Personally, I love to rewrite. It’s the main reason why I vomit out the first draft as quickly as I can and spend more time on the polish drafts. You can’t know what will work and what won’t until you throw words together in a specific order and see what happens.

One of the key elements to any good rewrite is the transition pass.

Craig Mazin, of the Scriptnotes podcast, reminded me of an episode they did on this subject in 2013, which may or may not have been where I learned this. You should check it out.

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS

You finish the draft of the script and tidy up all your spelling, grammar, and other mistakes, especially that one time you wrote seven entire pages calling the main character by a different name.¹

Now that the hard part is complete, you go through each page but you only look at the text before and after each slugline.

You’re looking for:
1) Are you going from a close up to another close up without intentionality?
2) Does each slugline have description after it? Naked sluglines are bad.²
3) What shot are we leaving on?³

Let’s take a look at a transition from my screenplay, Fugue State.

Not bad. Not bad. The slugline isn’t naked, the slugline reads clean but wait… there’s no description before the slugline. I’m not telling my reader what to envision before the cut.

That’s better. We’re now telling the audience what to envision before and after the cut. But we have a bigger problem, we’re going from a wide shot (Edmund in the room to Tony in a room.) That’s not bad if I was going for some kind of juxtaposition, but I’m not.

Much better. We cut from a close up of Edmund to a wide shot of Tony. We cut with intention and we know where we’re coming and going.

This transition pass shouldn’t take you more an hour or two and will take your script from good to great.

The transition pass is one of the secret weapons all professional screenwriters should use.

¹ Suddenly your script becomes the story of a transgender character.
² Almost as bad as a naked writer.
³ Screenwriting is all about intention.

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