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Do Directors Hate Directing in Scripts?

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Some of you are directors, and I was wondering what do you think about camera-angle directions, transitions, and similar devices in scripts?


I have read countless times that it is a huge no-no, especially in spect scripts, but recently bumped onto a tip by John August and Craig Mazin, of Scriptnotes: 1. "Don't write directions in your screenplay" is bad advice.


Do directors really mind? Or, in reality, actually like it, as Mazin and August say?

Edited by Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos
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My advice, but I'm not a director, is to put in only those camera directions necessary to make the story idea clear. Plus, maybe a few others to give the reader a "flavor" of what the movie might be like, understanding that an actual director will come up with their own plan later.


For me, as a cinematographer, too many camera notes makes the script difficult to read. Some might be necessary such as "INSERT on fingers crossed behind the back" :)

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The rule is don't put camera directions in scripts. To get funding the scripts have to get past script readers etc, who don't want to go through the camera details, they're interested in the story and the characters.


The article does go into how you're getting from one part of the story to another and how it joins together., However, you don't need to put camera angles in as such, your description of the action will imply those. Putting in Close Up etc makes for difficult reading, but if your description implies a Close Up most people will visualise one.

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Umm, camera direction isn't done in scripts, its done in the shot list and storyboard. So you work with an artist to figure out the best angles for a given scene and then draw them out. Thus, when you're on set, you have a little piece of paper with the shots you need to shoot as physical images, so it's a lot harder to make mistakes.


Even if you don't do graphic storyboards, you will have a shot list which will tell you, what you need to shoot in a given scene.


Shot lists are important for scheduling time and understanding what tools (lenses, support, cameras, lighting, props, art, etc) you will need.

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Things have changed a lot over the years. Take a look at how The African Queen, a movie from 1951, was scripted:


(Here is the full screenplay: https://www.weeklyscript.com/African+Queen,%20The%20(1951).html.)

I think no one writes like this anymore.

Sure, there are writers who like camera direction, and it depends on the genre. I think the most I've seen of camera directions was in a script by J. Michael Straczynski for Babylon 5 and in certain animated TV series scripts (understandable given the way this is shot).

Edited by Alexandros Angelopoulos Apostolos
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it might be ok to put some camera angles etc. to the script if you are also both the director and cinematographer of the movie.... otherwise it's best to leave that kind of planning to the actual persons who will do it better anyway than the screenwriter who may have never even been on a movie set :blink:

micro-managing other departments work (director, DP, editor, etc.) would also be quite disrespectful and makes their work more difficult.

Like other said it is also more difficult to tell the story on the script (and read it) if there is lots of unnecessary technical suggestions and other useless additional info in the script :ph34r: it may also give an impression that the screenwriter is not very talented and does not trust the script or the people who would make it a movie

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why not making a full animatics presentation of the movie instead of the script if the screenwriter is so talented in all areas that he wants to fully plan every other departments work for them? and then take all the directing and editing and cinematography credits? how many hats would be enough :blink:

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The script is a template for the move and the point they are making on script notes is you should be trying to get the feel of the move across to the reader.


There are no hard and fast rules just what works for the story in hand.


Generally you don't put camera direction in a script because it breaks the flow of the writing and perhaps treads on the directors toes.


On the other hand if a specific shot or camera direction is needed to make that story beat work or make sense - then theres no reason not to include it.


You probably shouldn't write - "the camera with a 28mm lens set at F1.3 tracks in on a stedicam" - thats too technical, too much...


But you could include a note - "We see at this point from Jims POV as he walks down the corridor, his view blurs in and out of focus"


I think camera direction is fine, important even - but it should be from a story perspective, you are the eyes of the audience - but doesn't need to be too technical.

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I don't exactly know if it would bother me because all the projects I've worked on as a director were my own and I also wrote the script. But I did have to deal with clients giving their own ides and then writing them into the script and in some cases ended up shooting something I knew was not going to work but in the end some stuff was actually usable and some wasn't.

The worst thing is when you have a client set on an idea that you know probably won't work and then when it doesn't giving the client the bad news. But I've always found arguments to support why not to use something versus using something.


I guess writers, producers, directors or basically anybody has to deal with this at some point the key is how you use the information or advice. Sometimes it actually helps sometimes it doesn't.

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