Writing - The Scene Plot
( Originally Published 1922 )
Why the Scene-Plot is Not Especially Important to You.—As indicated in a former chapter, the scene-plot is the third division of the complete photoplay manuscript as produced in the studio. The scene-plot consists of a list of all the different scenes, both interior and exterior, used in the photoplay, together with an indication of the number of scenes photographed in each set.
Inasmuch as the scene-plot is written in the studio, after the script has been purchased, the new writer is not particularly interested in it. The subject is therefore discussed briefly in this chapter, in the hope that the reader may some day secure a position as staff writer or director, and then find the following information of value.
The division of this chapter entitled, "Why Sets Should Be Limited," is important to you, however. Read it carefully.
The Purpose of the Scene-Plot.—The scene-plot quickly shows the director just what different "locations" are necessary to produce a manuscript. This is important for him to know, for the production of some pictures requires unusual scenic effects, often necessitating special trips to distant localities. To film some plays it is necessary to take an entire company of players and cameramen from one city to an-other, from one state to another, and even from one country to another.
The term scene-plot is borrowed from the theater. The scene-plot in regular theatrical work consists of a list of the different scenes, and shows where the different drops, foliage, cut drops, and the like, are located, and how and where the various pieces of scenery are to be placed on the stage. The theatrical scene-plot is used by the stage carpenter, who arranges the different stage settings.
In photoplay production the scene-plot serves a similar purpose. Even though considerable artificial scenery is not used in photoplays, the scene-plot is none the less valuable. Instead of being handled by a stage carpenter, however, it is used by the director, who supervises the making of each photoplay. He tells each character exactly what he must do. He is the man, then, who interprets your manuscript from beginning to end. He must know what articles of furniture appear in each scene, what setting is to be used, if it is an exterior or interior, and so on. This information the scene-plot gives him.
How the Scene-Plot Is Written.—The scene-plot consists of a numerical list of the different settings required to produce the play in question, and each different setting is followed by the numbers of the different scenes in which that setting is used. The various settings are divided into two classes, depending on whether they are produced indoors or taken in the open. Those produced inside of the studio are grouped under the heading "Interiors"; those produced in the open are listed as "Exteriors."
Being a list of the different settings and properties, the scene-plot obviously must be written in the studio after the photoplay continuity has been written. Consequently, the new writer need not concern himself greatly about scene-plot writing.
Why Sets Should Be Limited.—One word of caution slightly relative to the scene-plot will not be amiss. It is the tendency of many beginners to use a multitude of different scenes in their plays. This may be due to the fact that the average beginner often wants his characters to travel over extended areas. Whatever the cause, never make the mistake of requiring the use of a great number of different settings in any of your manuscripts. Such plays are immediately rejected. Producers do not want plays requiring so many different scenes.
Many excellent five- and six-reel manuscripts have been produced with only eighteen or twenty interior settings. Of course, it is much easier to use a great many scenes in a manuscript, because it thus is possible to develop the plot with much less work. But you will find that, if you use too many different settings in your play, it will be difficult to sell. You need not be so sparing in your use of exterior settings, however, as it does not cost a great deal to utilize nature.
Avoid the use of costly paraphernalia in the working out of your script. Do not let your hero buy a yacht and burn it up, or wreck a couple of automobiles before breakfast. This may sometimes prove animating to a certain class of people, but it is a little too exciting for the producer who has to supply the material.