Parallel Action in Screenwriting

Parallel action, a dynamic storytelling technique used masterfully by filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, can significantly heighten the drama and tension in a screenplay. But the question arises: how do you effectively capture this on paper?

Writing Parallel Action in a Script

Parallel action involves depicting two or more sequences of events happening simultaneously. To write this effectively in a screenplay, you use scene headings for each location, followed by an “INTERCUT” to indicate the cross-cutting between scenes.

While intercutting is commonly used in phone conversations, it’s equally effective in action sequences, limited only by your creativity.

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Examples from Popular Scripts

Let’s examine how parallel action is utilized in well-known scripts:

  1. The Matrix (1999): The screenplay introduces both scenes separately before intercutting, enhancing the tension and pacing of the narrative.
  2. The Dark Knight (2008): This script incorporates parallel action as part of the action lines, demonstrating that clarity is key, regardless of the formatting style.

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