Writing Plays/Screenwriting/Transitions


I'm not sure when to use transitions DISSOLVE TO:  CUT TO: SMASH CUT:  or when to not use a transition at all.  Is it logical to not use a transition when ending one scene, and moving to another close location with no passage of time.   Also, How would you begin a screenplay that opens in total darkness, then the sound of a bomb dropping, with no visual until the bomb explodes on a battlefield.  Thank you.

Hi Dave,

Never use SMASH CUT: It's not the job of the writer to tell the cinematographer how to shoot.
Leave that kind of thing to the professionals on the film set.

As to DISSOLVE TO: my recommendation would be to use it sparingly. It's often used to indicate passage of time. If you want to depict the same location at two successive times with say eight hours having elapsed, DISSOLVE TO: would be useful.

CUT TO used to be employed more prevalently in the past than today. You want to keep your story moving without clutter. I would advise you never to use it when moving from one scene heading to another. The fact that you have inserted a new heading obviously indicates that there has been a cut.

You may find CUT TO useful when you wish put emphasis on a part of a location, such as:


Brad throws the door wide open, then takes a few steps in, looks at the antique cars covered with years of dirt.

         CUT TO

A sunny patch near the tire of a 1950 Meteor. A RATTLESNAKE is tightly coiled, tongue flipping out repeatedly.


Brad strolls toward the Meteor. Closer. Closer.


Now about your "total darkness" question.

When the shot is in total darkness, you still have a number of options.

You can use Voice Over (V.O), either narrative or dialogue.

You can use sound effects, like anti aircraft artillery.

You can even use flashes of light from explosions, either to light up an object for a moment, or just as a flash. When a bomb explodes on a battlefield, it typically reveals the scene.

Hope this helps.


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Barry Pearson


I`m a credited writer on nine feature films. My latest movie, IRON ROAD, which stars Peter O'Toole and Sam Neill, opened as feature, then aired as a four-hour miniseries on network television. Sun Li, the Chinese star, won the best actress award at the Roma Fiction Fest recently. www.ironroadthemovie.com) I’ve produced more than 300 episodes of television drama, including 13 episodes of Deepwater Black, and 106 episodes of Katts & Dog (Rin-Tin-Tin, K-9 Cop in the U.S.). I've answered over 1200 All Experts questions!


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