Basic Camera Directions Every Screenwriter Should Know

By Laura Schellhardt, John Logan

Part of Screenwriting For Dummies Cheat Sheet

As a screenwriter, you compose the blueprint everyone involved in a movie uses: the actors for dialogue, the director for composing scenes, and the camera operators for camera shots. You can actually use camera direction to evoke mood and emotion, so it’s in your interest to become familiar with the information on camera angles in the following list:

Angle on: This shot suggests another view of a previous shot. Montage: The dissolving of two or more shots into each other to create a desired effect, usually an association of ideas. These shots need not include the main character, and they don’t have a beginning, middle, and end.
Close-up: A close-up is a shot that emphasizes a detail in a scene. It’s often abbreviated to CU. O.S.: Shorthand for off-screen, this abbreviation is used when a character speaks outside the camera’s view, or when the audience hears a sound but can’t see where it’s coming from.
Continuation: When a scene or a speech is interrupted by a page break, type MORE in parentheses at the end of the last line on the first page, and then type CONT’D after the character’s name on the next page. POV: Shorthand for point of view, this direction implies that the scene is being viewed from another character’s perspective. You must identify whose point of view it is and what exactly he sees. If the POV alternates within a scene, employ the term REVERSE POV.
Dissolve to: This direction is used when you want to suggest a slow transition from one scene to the next. You may dissolve to suggest the passage of time between one shot and another or to suggest one image fading into the next. Series of shots: This technique abridges action sequences into a number of short moments involving the main character, usually without dialogue. A series of shots has a distinct beginning, middle and end, and is often used to dramatize a passage of time.
Fade in: Every screenplay begins with these words. They suggest the movement from darkness to an image on the screen. They’re typed in all caps at the left-hand margin followed by a double space and the first slug line. Split screen: This shot indicates two subjects in different locations on-screen simultaneously.
Fade out: These words end a screenplay. They’re typed to the right-hand margin and followed by six spaces and the words THE END in the center of the page. Super: Shorthand for superimpose, this term is used if another element is being superimposed over the action of a scene. A super is often used to show dates, locations, or translation texts.
Insert: A writer uses this direction to highlight an object in the scene or include a detail that’s outside the scene but important to it. To complete an insert, do one of three things: Return to the dialogue, switch locations with a new slug line, or type BACK TO SCENE at the end. V.O.: Shorthand for voice-over. This direction is used when the audience hears a character speak above the action of a scene. It’s often used for narration.
Intercut: This direction indicates that two scenes are occurring simultaneously in separate locations. This term appears in all caps as the slug line or in the description.