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Eight Scene Questions

By Michael Schilf · January 23, 2010

A scene is a complete unit in of itself, with a beginning, middle, and end. And a feature is just a whole bunch of scenes put together to tell a larger story. So therefore scenes are the many essential parts put together in the right way to complete the whole.

Here are some important scene questions to answer: 

1. What is the purpose of each scene? How does it advance the story? Does it reveal something important about the character?

2. Whose scene is it? What does he/she want? What is his/her obstacles to getting it? What is the conflict in the scene?

3. Is the scene static? Give your characters something to do in the scene! Introduce your characters in motion. Use the location. Give them an activity or ‘business’; otherwise, they just stand around and talk, talk, talk. 

4. Do all your characters sound the same? Think the story through in each of your character’s minds. Do they have an accent? Do they smoke or make the same grammatical mistake? Does their profession color their speech?

5. Are you using mood and sound to create a feeling for the scene.

6. Are you starting the scene as late as possible and getting out early?

7. Do your scenes contrast? Night/Day, Int./Ext., Action/Peaceful? For example, a claustrophobic scene in a jail cell cut to a scene in a row boat in the middle of a mountain lake. Read your script scene after scene – is a scene too much like the one just before it? Is it another four page dialogue scene? Does it take place in another smoke filled room? Think of ways to use contrast: other possibilities, places, and scenarios. 

8. Do you have scenes of preparation and aftermath? We need moments when we are alone with the character – where we really get to know him/her. These are the moments, usually before or after important scenes of conflict in a script when we really are in the shoes of the main character. We are drawn into his/her mind set. We know what he/she is facing or has just faced, and we understand what he/she is thinking. Mood, music, and props are often very important to these scenes.