Writing - The Component Parts Of A Photoplay
( Originally Published 1922 )
The Importance of Plot.— In all fiction, plot is one of the most important elements. Plot is the story itself. Without plot there is no story. But, in the photoplay, plot has even greater weight than in the story. This is because the photoplay does not permit description or character drawing, as we know both in stories. Take plot from a photo-play and little remains. There is no action, for you cannot have action without cause and effect—without an orderly arrangement of incidents and situations reaching a climax—and this is the very essence of plot.
Plot, then, is of paramount importance. But, before you can interest an editor in a plot, you must have some way of presenting it to him—some clear, comprehensive, understand-able form in which to tell your story briefly and attractively. To do this in a thorough manner, the complete photoplay must be divided into four major parts or divisions.
The Four Parts of a Photoplay: 1. The Synopsis. —The first division is called the synopsis. Here the writer outlines, in a comprehensive manner, all of the action in his plot. The synopsis is a general view of the story; an abstract or summary of the action; it tells the story in detailed, narrative form, without dialogue or useless description.
In the synopsis your characters are identified and mentioned by name, so that the editor knows who they are. But, in addition to presenting your characters in the synopsis, you must also arrange them in order of their importance in the second major division of the photoplay, called the Cast of Characters.
2. The Cast of Characters.—The cast of characters, or cast, as it is usually termed, is a list of all the people who appear in your play, together with a few brief words, describing the main characteristics of the major characters. The characters should be arranged in the order of their importance, the main character coming first and the others following in an orderly manner. The cast should immediately follow the synopsis of your story. This completes the second main division of the photoplay script.
It may be well to note here that the first and second divisions of the complete photoplay script—synopsis and cast—are all the writer sends to the producer when submitting his work for sale.
3. The Scene-Plot.—The third division is the scene-plot, which consists of a brief outline of the various scenes, or "sets," used in your script. The scene-plot shows the editor or producer exactly how many different scenes are needed, how many different interior or exterior settings he must use, and how many scenes are to be photographed in each setting. The scene-plot is used only in the studio when the script is actually being produced.
4. The Continuity, or Scenario.—The fourth divison of complete photoplay script is the continuity, or scenario, as it is frequently called. In the continuity, your plot is not told in narrative, as it is in the synopsis, but is worked out in action. That is, instead of' being told by description, your plot is outlined as a series of actions, just as it appears on the screen, together with all of the necessary reading matter, such as, letters, photographs, newspaper items, quotations, and the like.
In other words, the continuity is a succession of scenes exactly as they are worked out by the director, put into action by the characters, and photographed by the cameraman, together with all the titles and inserts appearing on the screen.
Why Only Two of the Four Parts Are Important.—So far as the beginner is concerned, he need concern himself only with two of the four parts indicated above: synopsis and cast. Editors prefer to receive manuscripts merely in detailed synopsis form, together with a cast. No continuity is wanted. It is desirable, however, for the writer to acquaint himself with continuity writing so that he may have a comprehensive knowledge of what is possible in photoplay writing. Furthermore, if he masters the art of continuity writing he will be equipped to accept a position as staff writer in any studio.
Remember, then, that the manuscript submitted by a "free-lance" consists only of two parts:
And that the complete photoplay script, actually as produced in the studio, consists of four parts—two of which are written in the studio after the script has been purchased from its author:
Important.—We have received hundreds of letters from readers of these books wanting to know if they shouldn't submit the continuity of their manuscripts when submitting them to editors for sale. We cannot emphasize too greatly the fact that you should submit only a detailed synopsis of your plot and a cast of characters. Do NOT send continuity to any editor, and do NOT waste time writing continuity, except for practice.