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I'm writing a short film that has the vast majority scenes set in a pub, with the main male character about to approach a woman, and he imagines/projects some of the possibilities of this - it goes nowhere, leads to sex, leads to long term relationship, leads to his murder (basic instinct style), leads to his imprisonment through weird chain of events, gets slapped for attempting a threesome, she's the mother of his children, etc etc.

Basically someone with a vast imagination but using this to show the beauty of standing before a nexus in life that can branch off in limitless directions - which is the theme.

So the screenplay is a large collection of very short scenes, that are happening at different times. Some of these are past, in that he's implied it's happened before and could happen again. The story starts and ends in the present, and we come back to it a few times to keep it grounded and at times for comedic effect.
The rest of the scenes are either future or imagined - same thing really, as he's imagining the future, but I believe a slugline is typically written as "later" in this case.

So, I had a lot of sluglines that begin :

Int. bar, night

Then I started writing slugs like :

Int. bar, night (original scene)

Int. bar, night (later)

Int. bar, night (another time)

So the reader can follow it a little easier, but i'm not sure if this is correct. Also i'm unsure for imagined scenes (things that have never actually happened - he's just projecting to the possibilities) if I should label them numerically :

Int. bar, night (Fantasy 1)

So i guess the general question comes down to : Is there an standard way to write slugs to differentiate scenes set in the same location that are in the future, past, present, and imagined?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I do not know if there is a standard way, but I would write it in whatever way makes it crystal clear when the events are taking place.

I'd create distinct sluglines for each alternate universe and use them strictly and consistently. Because this is a screenplay (meant to be used as a working document to create a film, correct?) and not a novel or even a play, I wouldn't worry about "spoiling" the reader by revealing the ending with the sluglines.

So you might use:

  • Reality Present
  • Fantasy 1 Dead End
  • Fantasy 2 Murder
  • Fantasy 3 Threesome
  • Fantasy 4 Prison
  • Fantasy 5 How I Met Your Mother
  • Fantasy 6 Reality Last March

I used "Fantasy 4 Reality Last March" as an example of describing "action which the protagonist is imagining, but genuinely happened in the past."

For timestamps, if "(later)" is clear enough for you, use that. I would prefer "(9:15 p.m.)" or similar so there's absolutely no doubt when events are occurring.

If at any point you intend this to be a written work rather than a performed one, then just number them Fantasy 1, 2, 3 etc. so that you don't spoil the reader.

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So just to confirm - the use of brackets is correct/ok? Int. bar, night (Fantasy 1 Dead End) –  Spiffeah Jul 15 at 23:46
1  
@Spiffeah You've used parentheses ( ) and I would actually use brackets [ ]. So Int. bar, night [Fantasy 6 Reality Last March] if you wanted to do it that way. And yes, parens/brackets would be fine. These are directions to help the people filming the screenplay understand what's going on. –  Lauren Ipsum Jul 16 at 9:50

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