A Scene Heading, also known as a Slugline (from typesetting days), tells the reader where a scene takes place. In other words, where are we standing? Where do we put the camera? Look at some of the examples below:
DescriptionEXT. JIM'S HOUSE, PATIO - NIGHTINT. CONNER AEROSPACE, CONNER'S OFFICE - ESTABLISHINGINT./EXT. WALKER FARMHOUSE, KITCHEN - CONTINUINGSPACE MISSION 6 H.Q., 1900Z - SUNLIGHT
These might look very different to you, but notice the sections of the Scene Headings and they'll start to feel the same.
The Scene Headings start with an indication of whether you're inside or outside. INT. means "interior." EXT. means "exterior." Sometimes you might want to use EXT./INT. if, for example, a scene starts outside and moves inside, or INT./EXT. if it moves the other way. You don't need to use the combination descriptions. It's just as likely you can start the scene EXT. JIM'S HOUSE, OUTSIDE and, at the appropriate time, the scene changes to INT. JIM'S HOUSE, INSIDE
The next part of the Scene Heading tells where you are, generally. In other words, at a house, in a building, at a park, etc. The key here is the generality. As you reuse these, you want to be consistent. That is, don't refer to Jim's house as "JIM'S HOUSE," "JIM JONES'S HOUSE" and "MR. JONES'S RESIDENCE." You want to keep this consistent so the reader can easily know where you are in general terms. If your script is in production, you want these to be consistent so the production manager can easily find and schedule all the scenes that take place at that location. Believe me, the last thing you want is a Production Manager or Assistant Director screaming, "What do you mean this is supposed to be the same location we were at last week? We tore down the location we were at last week!"
The next part of the Scene Heading is the specific description of where you are. If you're at a house, where in the house? If you're in a space ship, which compartment of the ship? You might not need to use this part of the Scene Heading if it isn't relevant. If, for example, you're EXT. BIG OFFICE BUILDING, that might be all the relevant information you need for the scene. If it doesn't matter that you're EXT. OFFICE BUILDING, 2 FEET FROM THE STREET don't say it. In the last example above, we're in space (assumedly outside) the More about what to say and not say in "Show it don't tell it, but don't direct it... unless you have to."
When it comes to specifics, you might have to get really specific and add another level of description. Let's say, you're doing a time travel story and scenes in the same place jump between times. You might end up with INT. ASTRODOME, ON THE FIELD, 1996 and INT. ASTRODOME, ON THE FIELD, 2005
Another thing that you might put in the "specific" section is ESTABLISHING, like: EXT. EMPIRE STATE BUILDING, ESTABLISHING - DAY. This says that we just need a shot of the location so we can "establish" that this is where we are. Typically, after an establishing shot, the next scene takes place in a specific location at the same place. So, after establishing that we're at the Empire State Building, the next scene might be INT. EMPIRE STATE BUILDING, OBSERVATION DECK - DAY.
The last piece of a Scene Heading is the timing section. DAY and NIGHT are the most common ones you'll use. If you need to get more specific, do it. If the scene needs to happen as the sun sets, say SUNSET. If the scene takes place 20 minutes after that, you can say DUSK. Production Managers hate scenes that take place around sunrise and sunset because you only get one chance at getting that shot on any day. Don't let that stop you from writing romantic sunset scenes, though. Just realize you might be the catalyst for an anxious assistant director actually yelling the famed cliche, "Come on people, we're losing light here!"
When you have a number of scenes in a row that take place in a continuous manner, it seems silly to keep saying - DAY at the end of each of the Scene Headings. You have a couple of choices here. One is using the timing indicator, "CONTINUING." Look at the following example:EXT. DAYTONA SPEEDWAY, PIT STOP - DAYMiller puts on his racing suit and steps into the Indy car.INT. MILLER'S CAR - CONTINUING
In another situation, with multiple scenes occurring In the same general location in a continuous manner, you can leave out the timing indicator:or use "SAME TIME"INT. CLAIRE'S HOUSE, LIVING ROOM - DAYClaire watches TV with her kidsINT. CLAIRE'S HOUSE, DINING ROOM - SAME TIMEThe dog eats scraps under the table.INT. CLAIRE'S HOUSE, BEDROOMDad knits a skirt.
If you have multiple scenes occurring at the same time, use the timing indicator "SIMULTANEOUS." For example:INT. CHEZ STADIUM, KITCHEN - DAYA bomb ticks its way down from 2 minutes.EXT. CHEZ STADIUM, PARKING LOT - SIMULTANEOUSThe spy checks his watch as it counts down from 2 minutes.
You can also use "SAME TIME" instead of "SIMULTANEOUS"
These aren't all the time indicators possible, but certainly the most common. Use your common sense, artistic license and good judgment to create whatever you need. Remember, the whole point of a Scene Heading is simply to tell the reader quickly, easily and efficiently, where the scene takes place.
The first thing you may have noticed is that Scene Headings are uppercase... ALWAYS.
Next, you may have noticed that the INT or EXT is followed by a period. Occasionally, you'll see other punctuation like a colon or a dash or no punctuation. Don't do this unless you know that the person who is reading your script expects something other than a period.
The spacing after the period is also up for debate. Two spaces after the period is common and accepted. One space is also okay. This one's more up to your aesthetic sense than industry rules. Use whichever you like best unless you know that the expected reader prefers one or the other.
The general description is usually separated from the specific location description by a comma. Again, rarely, you'll see something else, like a dash. Don't do this unless the reader expects it.
Similarly, the punctuation before the time indicator is most often a space, a dash and another space. Sometimes you'll see no spaces, sometimes you'll see two dashes, sometimes you'll see no spaces and two dashes. Not to sound like a broken record, but use the former unless you know the reader expects something else.
The margin settings are 1.5" from the left edge of the page to 1" from the right edge.
You want to keep your Scene Headings to one line, if possible. If you need a Scene Heading that takes two lines, try to break up the text at one of the natural break points: between the general and specific locations, for example. You do not want to break a Scene Heading so the time indicator is the only thing on the second line.
Finally, you would like to have 2 blank lines before each Scene Heading. Yes, this will make your script longer than if you had only 1 blank line preceding the Scene Heading and, yes, 1 blank line is acceptable. Two blanks looks better and also makes the script read faster. So, if you can, use 2. If you have to, to keep the script from being too long, use 1. As always, if the reader expects something specific, give it to her/him.
Easy. With Scriptware you never type a Scene Heading more than once. And you can type an entire Scene Heading with just 4 keystrokes!
If the cursor is flashing on a blank line, just type INT. or EXT. You can also press <Shift-Enter> from almost anywhere to create a new Scene Heading.
When you do either of these, Scriptware pops up a list of your existing Scene Headings. Just start typing until you've either selected the one you want or created a new one. Then press <Tab> and Scriptware shows you a list of times of day. Type the first letter of the time you want and press <Enter>.
Pressing <Enter> at the end of a Scene Heading will put you in the right place to start typing Action.