ASK DR. FORMAT: Screenplay Formatting - The Skype Hype

It's important for your writing to keep up with changes in technology. Dave Trottier, AKA Dr. Format, explains the proper screenplay formatting for a Skype conversation in your script.
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It's important for your writing to keep up with changes in technology. Dave Trottier, AKA Dr. Format, explains the proper screenplay formatting for a Skype conversation in your script.

Dave Trottier (AKA Dr. Format) has sold or optioned ten screenplays (three produced) and helped hundreds of writers break into the writing business. He is an award-winning teacher and acclaimed script consultant, author of The Screenwriter's Bible, Dr. Format Tells All, Double Your Creativity in 3 Hours, Two Screenplays (in correct spec format), and friendly host of keepwriting.com.

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QUESTION

How do you handle a Skype conversation in a screenplay?

ANSWER

If a character appears visually on Skype, you can handle her as you would another character, since her image is right there at the location. For example:

John’s Skype beeps. On his monitor is Mary.

And then write out the conversation as you would normal dialogue. There would be no “voice over” (V.O.) or off screen (O.S.) speeches because both John and Mary are visually on the movie screen. In a way, this is like the INTERCUT of a telephone conversation where we see both parties. (And, yes, you could CAP the word “beeps” if you wish; the option is yours.)

Here’s how to handle a slightly different situation.

John’s Skype beeps, and John sees “Mary Columbine” on his computer monitor.

He races to his closet, searching through his clothes.

MARY (O.S.)

John, are you there? I need the

recipe for Cornish game hen.

John removes a piece of paper from a shirt pocket.

JOHN

Got it!

In this case, since Mary is present in the room (on the computer monitor screen), but unseen (that is, off the movie screen), I used O.S. for off screen.

Many other examples could be given, depending on how the scene is written. The key is to apply formatting principles and decide how to make your scene clear to the reader.

You might handle TV in a similar way. For example:

INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY

Mary sits on the couch.

John turns on the TV and races out of the room. The TV News flickers on.

INT. KITCHEN

John searches through the cupboards.

NEWS ANCHOR (O.S.)

Headlining today’s news is the recent

Cornish game hen shortage in the

state of Connecticut.

INT. LIVING ROOM

John races back in with a bag of popcorn.

JOHN

Oh Mary, this is a tragedy!

I didn’t write CONTINUOUS at the end of the final two scene headings because it is already obvious, but I could have. For example:

INT. KITCHEN - CONTINUOUS

If John and Mary are watching TV, you could write:

ON TV

NEWS ANCHOR

That’s tonight’s news. Good night and

keep writing!

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It's important for your writing to keep up with changes in technology. Dave Trottier, AKA Dr. Format, explains the proper screenplay formatting for a Skype conversation in your script.