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Writing - Dictionary Of Words Used In Photoplay Writing

( Originally Published 1922 )

Before proceeding with a study of the component parts of a photoplay, it is desirable that the beginner get a complete understanding of the meaning of the technical terms used in photoplay writing and in the studio. Below is a complete list of all technical words and phrases now in use. It is important to note that these terms are defined in relation to the photoplay, not according to their accepted meaning; there-fore, in many instances, the definitions differ from the common usage of the terms. The meaning given is that prevalent in studios.

ACTION—The doings of the various characters, by which the plot is unfolded and the story told.

ADAPTATION—A photoplay taken from published fact or fiction.

ANGLE-SHOT—A view of a scene taken from a different angle.

ART DIRECTOR—A studio member who sees that art objects in a "set" are correctly handled.

ATMOSPHERE—Differently interpreted; usually meaning the local color surrounding a scene or play.

AUXILIARY CHARACTER—A minor character.

BUNCH LIGHTS—Clusters of incandescents used in photographing scenes.

BUSINESS—Author's instructions for a certain piece of acting.

BUST—Obsolete for close-up.

"CAMERA"—Just before the photographing of a scene begins, the Director calls "Camera," and the cameraman immediately gets everything ready for the .beginning of the scene action, which opens when the director says "Shoot."

CAMERA EYE—Power of visualization.

CAPTION—Obsolete for sub-title.

CAST—Abbreviation of Cast of Charatcers.

CAST OF CHARACTERS List of characters appearing in a play.

CHARACTER—One of the fictitious persons in a photo-play.

CINEMATOGRAPHER—The cameraman, who operates the motion picture camera.

CLIMAX—The highest point of interest and suspense, from which all action descends; the untying of the "major knot"; the supreme crisis of a play.

CLOSE-UP—Scene photographed with the camera close to the action.

CONFLICT--Antagonism of characters; conflict is the indispensable element of plot.

CONTINUITY—The succession of scenes, sub-titles, and inserts, exactly as they are to be directed, acted, and photo-graphed.

CONTINUOUS ACTION—A scene in a single location acted by one set of characters; or action followed without interruption in a series of locations.

COOPER-HEWITTS—The mercury-vapor lamps used overhead in studios for interior scenes or night work. They give off a ghastly blue light making the face look swollen and purple in places.

CRANK-Meaning to photograph. See "Camera." CRANKING—Photographing.

CRANK-SPEED—Speed at which the picture is to be photographed.

CRISIS—A critical moment in the development of a plot; a minor climax.

CUT-BACK—To return to a previous scene after introducing other scenes.

CUT SCENE—A scene shortened after being viewed in the projection room. Also instruction to stop camera.

DENOUEMENT—That portion of a plot following the major climax; the ending; the explication.

DESCRIPTIVE TITLE—A sub-title explaining anything not shown in the plot.

DIRECTOR--One who oversees the production of a photoplay.

DIRECTOR OF LOCATION—One who finds suitable places throughout the country to be used as settings for plays.

DISCOVER—Meaning a character is "on" when a scene begins.

DISSOLVE—To blend one scene into another.

DOUBLE EXPOSURE—A positive picture made from two overlapped negatives.

DREAM PICTURE—An improbable play, finally explained by saying that it was all a dream. ENTER—Entrance into a scene.

EPISODE—One section of a serial play.

ESTABLISH—To make clear the relation of one character to the others; or to register, in a broad sense, as "establish" innocence, anger, or jealousy.

EXHIBITOR—One who operates a motion picture theater.

EXIT, EXEUNT—Former, one character passing out of a scene; latter, two or more characters doing the same thing.

EXPLANATORY TITLE—Sub-title clearing up a

vague part of the plot.

EXTERIOR—Out-of-door setting.

EXTRAS—Actors or actresses engaged by the day to play minor parts.

FACTION—A set of characters working together for a common purpose.

FADE—Used in compound form; Fade-in and Fade-out; former, gradual appearance of a scene; latter, its gradual disappearance.

FAKING—Making the impossible seem possible.

FEATURE—An unusual subject generally; sometimes an ordinary subject unusually handled.

FILM—Three meanings : (1) A chemically sensitized piece of celluloid used in motion picture photography: (2) a photoplay ; (3) to turn a scenario into a finished play.

FILMING—Producing a photoplay.

FLASH—Showing a scene or part of a scene on the screen for a moment.

FRAME—(1) Each single picture in a photoplay; a series of scenes following each other quickly make the pictures seem to "move"; (2) part of the camera used to exhibit a photo-play.

FREE-LANCE—A photoplay writer who submits his plays when and where he desires; not under contract with any one company.

GESTURE—Registering by action; opposed to facial expression.

INSERT—"Still" matter inserted in a play—not including a sub-title. Examples: letters, telegraphs, newspapers, and the like.

INTERIOR—Scene supposed to take place indoors.

INTERPOSE—Interrupt orderly procession of events.

INTRODUCTORY TITLE—Sub-title introducing a character.

IRIS—Diaphragm regulating the aperture of the camera lens.

IRIS-IN—Opening the iris on a scene. IRIS-OUT: Closing the iris on a scene.

LABORATORY-Department of studio, wherein films are made into plays for exhibition after being filmed.

LEAD—Principal part in a play.

LEADER—Obsolete for sub-title.

LIGHTING—Tinting a play to produce various night or day effects.

LOCATION—Place outside of a studio whereat a scene or number of scenes are photographed.

LOCATION LIST—Itemized statement of locations to be used in a particular play.

LONG-SHOT—A full view of a scene.

MAIN TITLE—Name of a play.

MAT—A plate put over a lens when a scene is photo-graphed to produce the effect of looking through a key-hole, field glasses, and so on.

MUTIPLE REEL—A photoplay of more than one reel.

NEGATIVE—The exposed film run through the motion picture camera. The "positives" all are made from the one negative.

OFF—The reverse of "On."

ON—When a character is "in the picture," he is "on."

PAD—Inserting unnecessary matter in a play.

PAN OR PANORAMA—Moving the camera from side to side or up and down while a scene is being photographed.

PANTOMINE—Action by movement of the body or features to convey certain meanings.

PHOTO-DRAMATIST—Another term for photoplaywright.

PHOTOPLAY—A story told in pictured action.

PICTURE STORY—A photoplay.

PLOT—A complete idea elaborated into situations according to the rules of plot-building. In a broad sense, plot is the scheme, plan, argument or action of a photoplay.

PORTABLE LIGHTS—A rack of mercury lights which can be carried from one point of the studio to another.

POSITIVE—A film printed from a negative; the finished photoplay as used by exhibitors.

PRINCIPALS—The major actors or actresses in a photoplay.

PRODUCER—One who causes a manuscript to be turned into a photoplay; usually the financial head of a company.

PROJECTION MACHINE—Machine used by exhibitors to exhibit plays on the screen.

PROPS—Abbreviations of properties; the objects used in preparing "sets."

PROPERTY LIST—Itemized list of properties.

PUNCH—Action calculated to arouse strong emotions on the part of an audience.

READER—One who assists the scenario editor in looking over submitted manuscripts.

REEL,—(1) Metal spool on which film is wound for exhibition; (2) approximately 1,000 feet of film.

REGISTER—To portray emotions of anger, hatred, etc.

RELEASE—A certain date on which a play is surrendered for exhibition.

RELEASE TITLE—The main title finally selected for a photoplay, (See working title)

RELIEF—Inconsequential action following a heavy dramatic scene.

RETAKE—Photographing an unsatisfactory scene a second time.

RETROSPECT—To revert to a former action.

SCENARIO—An outline of a photoplay describing in every detail the development of the plot exactly as it appears on the screen and showing all sub-titles and inserts.

SCENARIO EDITOR—HEAD of the scenario staff.

SCENARIO STAFF—Writers and readers of photoplays under employment of a film company.

SCENE—That portion of a play's action taken by the camera without stopping. A photoplay is made up of a series of scenes.

SCENE-PLOT--Itemized list of various scenes classified as "interiors" and "exteriors" for the convenience of the director.

SCREEN The white surface on which- films are exhibited.

SCRIPT Abbreviation of manuscript; a complete photo-play in typewritten form.

SEMI CLOSE-UP-A distant close-up or a close long-shot; "in between" a close-up and a long-shot.

SERIAL—A photoplay presented in instalments.

SEQUENCE—A connected series of events.

SET—Arrangement of furniture, background, and the like, for a scene.

SHOOT—When the Director is ready for the Cameraman to begin photographing a scene, he exclaims "Shoot."

SILHOUETTE—Figure or figures outlined.

SITUATION —A temporary state of affairs at any point in the plot.

SLAPSTICK COMEDY—Comedy of a "rough" nature.

SLOW-CRANKING–Usually, when a picture is photo-graphed, sixteen frames are exposed to action per second. Often, however, only eight of twelve frames are photographed —called "cranking eight" or "twelve"—in order to make the action seem unusually fast when the picture is exhibited. This method is often used in comedies.

SPECTACLE —A photoplay containing a majority of gorgeous scenes. "Intolerance" a fine example.

SPLIT REEL—Approximately 1,000 feet of film containing more than one subject; split reels have gone out of vogue.

SPOKEN TITLE—A sub-title consisting of a quotation by a character.

STAR—A very well-known and popular player.

STILL-A photograph of a scene or a character in a play made with an ordinary camera. "Stills" are used for advertising purposes.


STRUGGLE—The contention resulting from opposition in the plot.

STUDIO—The place where photoplays are made.

STUNTS—Extraordinary or hazardous effects, tricks, or actions.

SUB-TITLE—A word, a phrase, or a sentence thrown on the screen during the action of a play.

SUSPENSE—The doubtful state of mind of the audience as to the outcome of events.

SWITCH-BACK—Same as cut-back.

SYNOPSIS—An abstract or summary of the plot. TECHNIQUE—The skillful putting of an idea into proper form.

TECHNICAL DIRECTOR—One who is supposed to see that inconsistencies do not appear in the details of a set. A Technical Director would not allow electric lights to appear in a picture of '76.

TELESCOPIC LENS—Lens for long distance photography.

THEME—That which a plot is about.

THRILLS—Unique action, often spectacular, dangerous, or unexpected.

TIME ELAPSE —A sub-title, or a fade-out, or a combination of both, indicating the passage of time.

TINTING—Passing daylight pictures through pale colors to give them special effects—night, fire, etc.—when shown on the screen.

TRUCK-BACK—The act of moving the camera back from the scene while it is being photographed.

TRUCK-UP—The reverse of Truck-Back.

VIGNETTE—A close-up of a face or article.

VISION—The forming of mental actions not in the immediate scene.

VISUALIZATION—Forming mental pictures of how a scene will appear on screen.

WIDE-ANGLE LENS—Specially wide-constructed lens for photographing scenes at short range.

WORKING SCRIPT—The manuscript used in a studio to produce a photoplay.

WORKING TITLE—The title of a photoplay used in the studio while the picture is being filmed. The working title may or may not be used as the play's final title. (See release title)




c. u.—Close-up


Ms. or Script—Manuscript Pan.—Panorama


m. g.—Middleground f. g.—Foreground

b. g.—Background Int.—Interior Ext.—Exterior Props.—Properties

Photoplay @ Wikipedia
Writing - Setting In The Photoplay

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