News Scenes in Screenplays: Dos and Don’ts

News Scenes in Screenplays: Dos and Don'ts

In the realm of screenwriting, the portrayal of news scenes is a critical juncture. Recently, my screenwriting coach offered invaluable insights, dissecting the errors in my news scene. This article aims to guide you through the dos and don’ts, ensuring your news scenes enthrall rather than repel.

How to Write a News Scene in a Screenplay

To craft an engaging news scene, adhere to this straightforward guide:

  1. Describe the Scene in the Description Lines:
    • Establish the setting by describing how and where the character is engaging with the news.
  2. Assign Dialogue to News Reporter:
    • Numerically name multiple reporters (e.g., “News Reporter #1”).
    • Use a parenthetical for a reporter requiring identification.

Example 1: Character Watching the News

INT. LIVING ROOM – MORNING
Emily stirs to the blare of a TV news program.
Onscreen, a protest unfolds. JESSICA, with a bold sign, becomes the focal point.
JESSICA
Our voices matter!
News Reporter
Back to you, Mike.
Emily mutes the TV, facing a dilemma: her morning coffee or breaking news?

Example 2: Character Listening to the News

EXT. COFFEE SHOP PATIO – AFTERNOON
Raindrops patter on the awning. Patrons scurry for cover.
RADIO HOST (V.O.)
Storm surges expected to hit record levels…
Mark switches off the radio. Across from him, LILY remains engrossed in her novel.
MARK
Crazy weather, huh?
LILY
(looking up) Absolutely.

Note: Keep news scenes concise; deliver vital information without unnecessary elaboration.

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How to Format a News Scene

Formatting a news scene provides flexibility, but clarity remains paramount. Include the following elements:

  1. Introduce the TV is on:
    • Clearly establish the presence of a television, signaling the commencement of the news scene.
  2. Let us know who is talking:
    • Identify the speaker, whether a news reporter or a character reacting to unfolding events.
  3. Let us know when the scene ends:
    • Clearly indicate the conclusion of the news scene.

Example:

INT. LIVING ROOM – EVENING The glow of a television fills the room. A breaking news segment captivates the space. NEWS ANCHOR In a shocking turn of events… With a heavy sigh, Mike switches off the TV, absorbing the gravity of the news.

Remember, while guidelines are useful, let your narrative needs dictate.

Writing a Character Reading Text in a Screenplay

How to Format a News Montage in a Screenplay

Crafting a news montage is a dynamic way to convey information. Follow these steps:

  1. Set the scene:
    • Commence by establishing the setting, creating a foundation for the upcoming montage.

Example:

INT. NEWSROOM – NIGHT Newsroom terminals flicker with urgency.

  1. Insert the montage:
    • Use the SHOT formatting feature to explicitly convey that a captivating news montage is unfolding.

Example:

MONTAGE – BREAKING HEADLINES On screens: “CRISIS UNFOLDS,” “CITIZENS SPEAK OUT,” “POLITICAL FALLOUT.”

  1. Get creative:
    • Utilize your screenwriting software to experiment with imaginative elements. Perhaps headlines burst into flames or dissolve into pixelated shards.
  2. End the montage:
    • Clearly signal the conclusion of the montage.

Example:

MONTAGE CONCLUDES

Now, seamlessly reintegrate into the script.

The Tone in Screenwriting: From Words to Emotions

Example for a News Scene

INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY

The room is bathed in the soft glow of a midday sun. A television remote sits on a coffee table. JASON, a middle-aged man in a suit, is seated on the sofa, scrolling through his tablet.

On the TV screen, the NEWS ANCHOR appears, delivering breaking news.

NEWS ANCHOR
In a stunning turn of events, the stock market has crashed, sending shockwaves through the global economy.

Jason’s eyes narrow as he leans forward, engrossed in the unfolding news.

ON THE TV SCREEN:

Images of traders in panic on the stock exchange floor. Graphics show plunging stock charts and alarmed headlines.

NEWS ANCHOR (CONT’D)
Analysts are predicting severe economic repercussions as governments scramble to respond.

BACK TO SCENE:

Jason’s phone rings. He answers.

JASON
Yeah, I’m watching it now. It’s chaos.

The NEWS ANCHOR continues to report, and Jason listens intently, absorbing the gravity of the situation.

NEWS ANCHOR (CONT’D)
We’ll keep you updated as this financial crisis continues to unfold.

Jason mutes the TV, staring at the screen in contemplation.

FADE OUT.

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