The Ultimate Screenplay Format Reference

[Reference Home] [Script Analysis Project] [Trilane Store] [] [contact]

Establishing Shots

An establishing shot sets up the environment of a scene, normally at the beginning of that scene.

Examples are a shot of the outside of a building followed by a scene inside the building, or showing details of a room before turning to conversations between individuals in that room.

They give an idea of the location and the mood of the environment where the action takes place.

That said, the mentioning of ESTABLISHING SHOT or ESTABLISHING in the scene heading is considered obsolete.

Here an example of an establishing shot which doesn’t say so in the slugline (adapted from Men in Black (imdb link), screenplay by Ed Solomon):


A million stars wink in the night desert. ...


Spacing Between Scenes

The Screenwriter’s Bible recommends one free line before and after any kind of heading, primary or secondary.

However, “if you have a driving desire to triple-space before each new master scene heading, that’s okay.” (The Screenwriter’s Bible)


Spacing between Lines

A script page should contain about 54 to 55 lines - plus two for the page number and the empty line following the page number.


Scene Transitions

The Screenwriter’s Bible recommends to not use DISSOLVEs, CUT TOs etc. and vehemently discourages the use of camera angles.

It does, however, mention the MATCH CUT:


A match cut is used when the beginning of a scene picks up an image from the end of the previous scene. Here is the example from The Screenwriter’s Bible:

The dean chortles. Calcutta smiles, then SLAMS the receiver.


The professor’s hand slams the receiver of his demonstrator


The previous scene ends with Calcutta, who is in a telephone call with the professor, slamming the receiver of her phone. The next scene starts with the professor slamming his receiver on his phone.

It’s obvious what happens here, but if it weren’t then this is how a MATCH CUT would be used:

The dean chortles. Calcutta smiles, then SLAMS the receiver.




The professor SLAMS the phone receiver.

Now, of course, I wonder: Is there a situation where the MATCH CUT is really required in a spec script? Where it’s not obvious what’s happening and where it is important to the plot?

Don’t hesitate to email an example, if you have one.