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Some scripts I read specify the exact camera angle of every shot-- where the camera starts, what we see, how it will move during the scene.

And some scripts are a little less specific.

Is this only because the former is the shooting script, a modification of an earlier script so as to include such specifics? Or is it just a difference in style?

While writing a script, or what will at the very least be the first version of a script, should you specify camera shots? Or should that be left for other people to add in and decide upon later?

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Check out the details in this script, which was written by the Executive Producer of the show (also its inventor and lead writer). He is adding shooting details because he has the authority to. An ordinary screenwriter would not presume to frame shots and talk about production details as if his opinion mattered. – Robusto Aug 6 '12 at 19:41
    
Since link rot has triumphed in the former comment, here's another link to the Breaking Bad script I referenced earlier. You'll notice how it reads almost like a novel. And Gilligan certainly gives camera directions, because he can and because they are integral to the picture being painted before your eyes. – Robusto Oct 1 '15 at 16:12
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Screenwriters don't specify shots or camera angles -- that's the job of the director and cinematographer. Since you know nothing about the actual production when you're writing the script, such information would be entirely hypothetical and largely useless.

As the screenwriter, you should specify the setting and time in the scene's slug line, using INT. or EXT. for interior or exterior, a brief description of the setting, and DAY or NIGHT for the time of day.

 INT. JOE'S GARAGE - NIGHT

Sometimes it might be necessary to include some additional information, i.e. if it's important that the scene be taking place at dawn, include that.

 EXT. ARIZONA DESERT - DAY (DAWN)

Or, if it's a flashback you might need to include some information to indicate the change in set (if it's not obvious from the dialogue or action).

EXT. NEW YORK CITY STREET (1933) - DAY 

Beyond those broad strokes, almost everything is a production decision, not a script decision.

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So directors/cinematographers rewrite the script later, to add these details in? Also, is that to say it's far more normal to add in these details if you are the director? – Aerovistae Aug 5 '12 at 16:08
    
When a film goes into production, the cast and crew don't work off of the screenplay. The cast uses individual sections that are specific to that day and possibly even that actor. The crew, on the other hand, uses the shooting script, which is like the screenplay on steroids. In it, the director and cinematographer have made a detailed outline of every shot, based around the action and dialogue. The screenwriter (I'm sure often to their chagrin) have nothing to do with this. – Joel Shea Aug 5 '12 at 17:33
    
If the screenwriter is also the director, I guess technically you could add in whatever you like, but remember that many others need to work off the screenplay as well (such as the actors, producers, sound engineers, etc). There's really no need to burden the script with that stuff just to save on the step of creating the shooting script. – Joel Shea Aug 5 '12 at 17:36
    
I'm amazed that that works at all. It seems to me that a person could write a fantastic screenplay only to have it completely butchered by other people modifying it to their heart's content. The final product could be drastically different from the starting material. – Aerovistae Aug 6 '12 at 16:33
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@Aerovistae this cut boths ways. A guy can have a simplistic screeplay from which the director could yield a masterpiece. For one, the screenwriter normally knows about storytelling, not about visuals. That's the specialty of the director/cinematographer. The screenwriters ideas on the issue matter only if he's also a director (like Tarantino for example). – Hejazzman Aug 13 '14 at 1:54

It's a good question and I keep tripping over.

I am a director writing my first original screenplay and I constantly go back and forth between including angles and not. One day I will put them in and the next day I will go back and remove them all.

It's a tricky one. On one hand I want to show the way I visualise the drama unfolding photographically but on the other hand I don't want to bog down the reader with technical detail when they should be deep in story.

As a first time screenwriter with the clear aim to direct what I am writing, I want industry people to see my flare for the way I will direct it as they read... but there is a big danger of over doing things.

PT Anderson is an obvious example but also a good one for a guy who is probably an equal talent at writing and directing. Take a look at Boogie Nights, it has camera angles thorough it and it reads similarly to how it was directed and cut. So I think the script worked as a clear blueprint for the picture he wanted to make. When you read the script I think the visual style, tone and rhythm of the picture are clear but aesthetic ideas don't overpower the story.

Then take a look at Magnolia which is pretty extreme. At that time New Line said they would give him final cut on whatever he wanted to do next and his dad had passed so he went balls out and wrote an epic script with an abyss of detail. Read the first 10 pages, sooooo much camera direction. I saw the film before I read the script but my feeling is unless you are someone who reads a LOT of scripts it could distract you away from the story.

Perhaps if you read Magnolia without camera direction and PT just said "it will have the intensity of Goodfellas in the way I direct it, that could have been enough to understand how it played out in his head. BUT the benefit for him at the time of writing was (because he knew what ever he wrote he'd direct) he could just create the blue print of exactly what he planned on doing. He's also said in early interviews that he does 90% of the work in the writing and then he doesnt have to worry too much about working it out later. Or something along those lines. To be clear I love both films, just a hand example in regard to writing.

On the other hand have a read of Pulp Fiction. An incredibly visual picture with almost no camera direction in the screenplay. It's more or less a talking picture so it's the right approach. BUT QT knew he's be directing and he'd work out the detail in pre-production, it's worth mentioning he spends a lot of time on that kind of detail leading up to shooting. He's the opposite of Woody Allen.

Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid strikes a bit of a balance where by you know what you are looking at through the writing without William Goldman ever saying "camera" or "angle".

Jeff Nichols did a great talk about it that can be found on the On Story podcast. You can find it via iTunes. His school of thought is more in the William Goldman zone whereby you speak visually though action and description and let that tell the reader where you see the camera without resorting to technical jargon.

Perhaps it is about finding the balance and doing what is right for the story you are writing? I find the best scripts are the ones I read straight through without tripping over superfluous detail.

Anyway, they are thoughts. I better get back to adding and removing camera details. Later. x

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Welcome to Stack Exchange! Nice answer. – Aerovistae Apr 27 at 1:36

You cannot write a script without visualizing what's happening, so I say add what you have in mind. I've seen it done both ways (especially in animation). If you plan to direct the feature it can't hurt to add every shot, since everything can be modified later, and will be if it's worth a damn. And personally, I wouldn't want to read a script with some visualization. It's a visual medium. Show me what you're thinking. And to say that you can't call shots without being on the set is absurd. You think they only make story boards after being on set? Call the shots then stage accordingly. Bottom line is: Do what you think is best for that story. The more information provided the better - you can delete things later...

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if you want to own the story and dont want the director to change it in anyway, than you can put little camera angles not too much but if you dont mind changes on yo story then let the director do their job, dont include angles

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

    
Hi and welcome to Writers. Could you add something about why you feel this way? Right now this just sounds like your opinion. Is it industry practice that directors decide that? (How do you know?) If it is, would putting them in change anything? (How do you know?) Etc. Thanks. – Monica Cellio Apr 18 '14 at 17:15
    
And he never came back :( – Aerovistae Apr 27 at 1:36

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