INT. JEN’S APARTMENT - NIGHT
Jen and Tina lounge on the couch, passing a joint.
I’m crazy thirsty. Gonna get a beer.
Tina gets up, bracing herself against the spinning room, and heads into:
She opens the fridge and lingers, lost in the choices.
What did I come in here for?
Hey bring me some whole potatoes,
I want to do a science experiment!
Tina closes the fridge, grabs a couple potatoes from the pantry and goes back into:
THE LIVING ROOM
She plops down next to Jen, who’s already asleep.
So what’s happening here?
We establish what’s called the “master location” in the master scene heading. Jen’s Apartment.
Depending how you have your locations set up, you may label it JEN’S LIVING ROOM instead but we’re not making a shooting script here, it’s enough to say “apartment” and describe them on the couch.
Now one character wants to go get a beer and we want to follow her action instead of staying on Jen.
By setting off a new line and typing THE KITCHEN in all caps, we are establishing a “secondary scene heading”. This says “we’re technically in a new place, but it’s in the same master location in continuous time.”
"Continuous time" is an important part of this, because if any amount of time has passed that we don’t see on screen, we can’t use the secondary slug. If we want to cut to Tina having cooked a gourmet munchies-meal, we’d need a new master scene heading, because we are describing a CUT.
Here's another example to illustrate the difference:
INT. HOTEL ROOM - DAY
Our hero hears something weird, looks at the window just in time to see it SHATTER as a NINJA rappels in. Without thinking, our hero kicks down the door and bolts into:
Sprinting past doors, not looking back. Skipping the elevator, he bursts through a door into:
He makes a snap decision to go up, taking them two at a time. He’s not even breathing heavy. He gets to the top and throws his shoulder into the emergency exit door.
EXT. HOTEL ROOF - DAY
Our hero looks around frantically, trying to find somewhere to hide.
Here we have an action sequence. We use the secondary slugs to describe each new area of the chase, but then we do a hard cut on the roof. Why? Because we go from INT. to EXT. so we need the new master scene heading. Sure, a director might make this a continuous handheld shot in continuous time, but that’s not our decision to make in the script.
Ultimately, like many things, this comes down to a matter of style, as well. You’re never wrong if you’re writing this as individual scenes with full scene headings, but I think that the secondary slugs can be used to great effect to not break up the narrative flow.
As a side note, that second master heading could also be written EXT. HOTEL ROOF - CONTINUOUS (more common in TV than features).
Yes, it’s continuous and there’s no break in time, but the language of the scene description leading out of the stairwell and onto the roof tells us as much, without needing to specify it in the heading.
COURTESY of Scott Reynolds