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Writing the Photoplay

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Title: Writing the Photoplay

Author: J. Berg Esenwein and Arthur Leeds

Release Date: March 3, 2006  [eBook #17903]

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Editor of "The Writer's Monthly"


Late Editor of Scripts, Edison Studio

The Writer's Library
Edited by J. Berg Esenwein

Revised Edition

The Home Correspondence School
Springfield, Mass.
Copyright 1913
Copyright 1919
The Home Correspondence School
All Rights Reserved

[Illustration: The Lasky Studio of the Famous Players-Lasky
Corporation, Hollywood, California]

Table of Contents


CHAPTER I--WHAT IS A PHOTOPLAY?                           1


CHAPTER III--PHOTOPLAY TERMS                             17

COMPONENT PARTS                                          29

CHAPTER V--A SAMPLE PHOTOPLAY FORM                       34

OF THE SCRIPT                                            55

CHAPTER VII--THE TITLE                                   72


CHAPTER IX--THE CAST OF CHARACTERS                      111



LETTERS AND OTHER INSERTS                               218

PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS                                    245

PLOTS                                                   255

CHAPTER XV--WHAT YOU CANNOT WRITE                       267

WRITE                                                   282

CHAPTER XVII--WHAT YOU SHOULD WRITE                     304


CHAPTER XIX--GETTING THE NEW TWIST                      347

SCRIPT--"EVERYBODY'S GIRL"                              363

SCRIPT                                                  408

APPENDIX A                                              416

APPENDIX B                                              417

GENERAL INDEX                                           418

List of Illustrations

The Lasky Studio of the Famous Players-Lasky
Corporation, Hollywood, California             Frontispiece


Producing a Big Scene in the Selig Yard

Film-Drying Room in a Film Factory                        8

Essanay Producing Yard; Two Interior Sets
Being Arranged for a Historical Drama

Players Waiting for their Cues in the Glass-Enclosed
Selig Studio                                             58

Paint Frame on Which Scenery is Painted

Checking "Extras" Used in Rex Beach's Photodrama,
"The Brand"                                             108

View of Stage, Lubin Studio, Los Angeles, California

Wardrobe Room in a Photoplay Studio                     158

The Reception of King Robert of Sicily by His
Brother, the Pope

Same Set, with Players Getting Ready for Action         208

William S. Hart with Part of His Supporting

Harry Beaumont Directing Fight Scene in "A
Man and His Money"                                      258

Arrangement of Electric Lights in a Photoplay

An Actor's Dressing Room in the Selig Studio            308

Preparing to Take Three Scenes at Once in a
Daylight Studio                                         358



As its title indicates, this book aims to teach the theory and
practice of photoplay construction. This we shall attempt by first
pointing out its component parts, and then showing how these parts are
both constructed and assembled so as to form a strong, well-built,
attractive and salable manuscript.

_The Photoplay Defined and Differentiated_

_A photoplay is a story told largely in pantomime by players, whose
words are suggested by their actions, assisted by certain descriptive
words thrown on the screen, and the whole produced by a moving-picture

It should be no more necessary to say that not all moving-picture
productions are photoplays than that not all prose is fiction, yet the
distinction must be emphasized. A photoplay is to the program of a
moving-picture theatre just what a short-story is to the contents of a
popular magazine--it supplies the story-telling or drama element. A
few years ago the managers of certain theatres used so to arrange
their programs that for four or five days out of every week the
pictures they showed would consist entirely of photoplays. On such
days their programs corresponded exactly to the contents-page of an
all-fiction magazine--being made up solely to provide entertainment.
The all-fiction magazine contains no essays, critical papers, or
special articles, for the instruction of the reader, beyond the
information and instruction conveyed to him while interestedly
perusing the stories. Just so, the all-photoplay program in a picture
theatre, at the time of which we speak, was one made up entirely of
either "dramatic"[1] or "comedy" subjects. Films classified as
"scenic," "educational," "vocational," "industrial," "sporting," and
"topical," were not included in such a program.

[Footnote 1: The photoplay has come to have a language of its own,
which we must observe even when, as in this case, we lose somewhat in
finer word-values. In their lists of releases (photoplays released or
made available for public presentation at a specified date),
manufacturers usually classify as "comedy" subjects all photoplays
which are without any serious dramatic moments or situations. Thus, in
the lists of releases published in the various trade journals, what
are obviously "comedy-dramas"--some of them, such as certain of the
Douglas Fairbanks productions, even bordering on farce--are classed as
"dramatic" subjects, and this, apparently, because they are strongly
dramatic in certain scenes. Thus, again, genuine farce (as
distinguished from "slap-stick" comedy), social comedy, burlesque and
extravaganza are all classed under the head of "comedy," just as
comedy-drama, tragedy, melodrama, and historical plays are classed as
"dramatic." These two broad classifications will be used throughout
this work except where finer distinctions are needed in order to treat
varieties of subjects. The regular spoken play naturally invites these
distinctions more than does the photoplay, at least at present. In
preparing your manuscript, however, you will be taught to follow the
accepted form among photoplaywrights and, in writing the synopsis,
after the title, specify the class of subject, as "dramatic
photoplay," "farce," "comedy-drama," "historical drama," "society
drama," etc.]

True, a genuine photoplay may contain scenes and incidents which would
almost seem to justify its being included in one of the foregoing
classes. One might ask, for instance, why Selig's film, "On the Trail
of the Germs," produced about five years ago, was classified as
"educational," while Edison's "The Red Cross Seal" and "The Awakening
of John Bond" (both of which were produced at the instance of the
National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis, and
had to do with the fight waged by that society against the disease in
the cities), were listed as "dramatic" films or photoplays. Anyone who
saw all three of the films, however, would recognize that the Selig
picture, while in every respect a subject of great human interest, was
strictly educational, and employed the thread of a story not as a
dramatic entertainment, but merely to furnish a connecting link for
the scenes which illustrated the methods of curing the disease after a
patient is discovered to be infected. The Edison pictures, on the
other hand, were real dramas, with well-constructed plots and abundant
dramatic interest, even while, as the advertising in the trade papers
announced, the principal object of the pictures was "to disseminate
information as to what becomes of the money that is received from the
sale of Red Cross stamps at holiday time." So we see that the
distinction lies in the amount of plot or story-thread which each
carries, and that a mere series of connected pictures without a plot
running through it obviously cannot be called a photoplay any more
than a series of tableaus on the stage could be accurately called a

Therefore, learn to think of a photoplay as being a story prepared for
pantomimic development before the camera; a story told in _action_,
with inserted descriptive matter where the thought might be obscure
without its help; a story told in one or more reels, each reel
containing from twenty-five to fifty scenes.

The spectator at a photoplay entertainment must be able promptly and
easily to discover who your characters are, what kind of people they
are, what they plan to do, how they succeed or fail, and, in fact,
must "get" the whole story entirely from what he sees the actors in
the picture _do_, with the slight assistance of a few explanatory
leaders, or sub-titles, and, perhaps, such inserts as a letter, a
newspaper cutting, a telegram, or some such device, flashed for a
moment on the screen. The more perfect the photoplay, the less the
need for all such explanatory material, as is the case in perfect
pantomime. This, of course, is not to insist upon the utter absence of
all written and printed material thrown on the screen--a question
which will be discussed in a later chapter. It is enough now to
emphasize this important point: Dialogue and description are for the
fiction writer; the photoplaywright depends upon his ability to
_think_ and _write_ in action, for the postures, grouping, gestures,
movements and facial expressions of the characters must be shown in
action, and not described as in prose fiction.

_Action_ is the most important word in the vocabulary of the
photoplaywright. To be able to see in fancy his thoughts transformed
into action is to have gained one goal for which every photoplay
writer strives.



In almost everything that has been written up to the present time
concerning the technique of photoplay writing, considerable stress has
been laid on the statement that, notwithstanding preceding success in
their regular field, many authors of popular fiction have either
failed altogether in the production of acceptable photoplays or have
had almost as many rejections as, if not more than, the average novice
in short-story writing. That there is much truth in this cannot be
denied; but that a trained and inventive fiction writer--particularly
a writer of plot- or action-stories--after having once learned the
_mechanics_ of photoplay construction, should fail of success in
photoplay writing is, obviously, not at all necessary. A discussion of
this point should help to impress on the student just what sort of
preparation will be of the greatest assistance to him in the work he
is taking up.

_1. Experience in Fiction Writing Valuable to the Photoplaywright_

Let us consider the case of a man born with a talent and love for
music. As he grows up, he learns to play upon the violin--learns as
hundreds have done, by first taking up the most simple exercises and
constantly working up until he becomes more proficient. As in all
other occupations, practice eventually brings skill, and he at last
becomes a master of the violin. He may have been born a genius--it has
always been in him to become the exceptional performer upon the
instrument of his choice. Nevertheless, the hard work was necessary,
as that maker of epigrams saw when he said that genius was an infinite
capacity for taking pains.

To carry the simple illustration a step further: geniuses are few, so
it is certain that our artist has become a master of the violin
because he is a man who, loving his work and putting his whole soul
into it, daily improved in technique and quality by intelligent labor.
If he is a concert performer, he feels his art becoming more perfect
with each new recital. He has learned _how_ to play, and now there
remains nothing but the necessity for keeping constantly--note the
expressive phrase--in practice, and improving the quality and style of
his playing.

Let us suppose, now, that this musical artist is offered an
exceptionally good salary to appear in vaudeville with another
musician, who performs equally well upon two or three, or even more,
very different instruments. He accepts the offer; he and his partner
"open" in the act; and, after a week or two, in order to "build up"
the act as well as to become capable of playing another kind of
instrument, he decides to take up the study of the cornet. The violin
and cornet are, of course, widely different in construction, and they
produce very different effects. Besides, the methods of producing
those effects are totally unlike, since one is drawn from the violin
with the aid of trained hands and fingers, while the other is produced
by the skillful operation of the human lips, tongue and lungs, with
only minor assistance from the fingers. Yet the tones of these two
instruments may be equally harmonious and pleasing when each is
skillfully played. So, in the course of time, the violinist becomes
almost, if not quite, as accomplished a player upon the cornet as he
is upon the instrument whose study first engrossed him.

And now a question--one which certainly should not admit of much
difference of opinions in the answering: Of two men, both possessed of
a natural talent and love for music, which would be likely first to
learn to play upon the cornet correctly and with pleasing
expression--the man who had previously learned the technique of violin
playing, together with the meaning and value of musical terms, or the
one who, without any knowledge of music or of how to perform, should
suddenly determine to learn to play a given instrument?

_2. Photoplay Writing Requires a Separate Training_

Apply the same reasoning to the question of who should _become_ the
most successful photoplaywright--the trained and experienced fiction
writer, or the ordinarily intelligent and imaginative follower of some
other vocation, who is suddenly struck by the idea that he could, and
filled with the determination that he will, write a photoplay. We
accentuate the word _become_ in order to emphasize the fact that even
the professional writer _must_ learn the _technique_ of photoplay
construction before he can hope to produce a script that will not only
be accepted by a film manufacturing company for production, but will
be produced exactly as he has written it, _without the need of drastic
revision or rewriting_. This, however, is very rare today.

This last point is important. While, as we have said, it is improbable
that an experienced fiction writer would fail in the field of
photoplay writing once he had learned to put the plot together in
proper form and had mastered a knowledge of the limitations of the
moving-picture stage, it is also just as unlikely that the most famous
writer living could legitimately sell a photoplay that was essentially
faulty in construction and absolutely lacking in screen quality. If
the idea were a good one and the writer were to submit it to the
producing company under his own name, the chance is that the company
would accept it, and, after using his idea to construct the photoplay
in proper form, produce and even feature it--on account of the big
name won in the field of fiction writing. If, on the other hand, he
should submit it under a pen name it is possible that, provided the
plot, or even the fundamental idea, proved to be exceptionally good,
he might be offered a moderate sum for the plot or for the idea alone,
to be worked up and produced as the director thought best. In making
him the offer, the company would probably explain quite frankly that
the script was not suitably constructed; that it would require
rewriting in the studio; but that the idea was worth the amount
offered. Here, then, is one point upon which the novice may
congratulate himself: he, as an untrained writer of photoplays, is not
alone in having to learn the secret of what will suit the screen, for
until the famous author learns that secret, he, too, is an untrained
writer--of photoplays, and his "prices" will suffer accordingly.

[Illustration: Producing a Big Scene in the Selig Yard. See Cameras on
the Right]

[Illustration: Film-Drying Room in a Film Factory. The Films are
Rolled Around the Racks which are Suspended from the Ceiling and in
the Hands of the Operators. Moist Warm Air is Introduced through the
Large Pipes]

Now, however, after both have acquired this knowledge of screen
requirements, the trained fiction writer and the untrained photoplay
writer cease to be on common ground. The writer of novels and
short-stories has the advantage of years of--training, is the best
word, meaning, in the present instance, both experience and special
education. He has a tutored imagination; he has the plot-habit; he has
an eye trained to picture dramatic situations; he sees the
possibilities for a strong, appealing story in an incident in everyday
life that to ninety-nine other people would be merely an incident seen
for a moment and in a moment forgotten; he has at his command a dozen
different ways of assisting himself to discover plot-germs for his
stories--he is, in short, a workman knowing exactly what to do with
the tools already in his possession, and when he acquires new tools he
can, after some practise, use them with equal proficiency and skill.
Furthermore, there can be no doubt that, once each has mastered the
working rules of photoplay construction, the chances for quick and
continued success are quite evidently in favor of the trained fiction
writer--notwithstanding the fact that one man in a thousand without
any previous knowledge of writing may become extremely successful.

_3. What Chance Has the Novice?_

Should the foregoing fact discourage the novice who has not had this
previous literary training? The answer is, emphatically, YES! It
should, it ought to--_unless_ (and this is the secret of it all),
unless he has ideas, and is the kind of novice who vows with every
grain of determination in his make-up that he will soon cease to be a
mere amateur, and will be recognized as one of the successful ones.
Remember, every writer was once a beginner.

The reader may think, having read this much, that undue stress is laid
upon the question of the previously successful writer and the
ambitious but inexperienced amateur; it is this very insistence on the
comparison, however, that should cause the earnest and determined
aspirant to photoplaywright success to analyze more thoroughly the
difference, and profit by a knowledge of how he may quickly advance
himself to the position where the previously successful author will
have little or no advantage over him.

Almost all who have had anything to say upon the subject of writing
for moving pictures, but especially the writers of the advertising
copy for most of the correspondence "schools" that offer "fake"
courses of instruction upon the subject, have declared that there is
"no experience or literary knowledge necessary" in order to become
successful in the photoplay-writing field. One concern even
advertises that the student "can learn this business in from ten to
thirty days." If by this is meant that the mere correct form of
putting the work on paper with the aid of the typewriter--the
mechanical arrangement of synopsis, cast, and scenario or
continuity--can be picked up in that many days, there is hardly room
to dispute the claim. That, however, is not quite "learning the
business." No previous "literary training" _is_ necessary, if by that
is meant the mastery of English prose writing, or the actual technique
of short-story construction or novel writing. We shall see, however,
that the photoplaywright who wishes to succeed in more than one, two,
or three flash-in-the-pan instances must really submit to a course of
training, whether self-conducted or under competent instruction, and
the more he knows of fictional and dramatic art the easier is his new
work likely to be.

Nevertheless, there is a real sense in which the statement that no
literary training is required by the student of photoplay writing is
true. Provided he is gifted with an imaginative mind and the native
ability to _see_ how an idea or a plot-germ would evolve itself into a
climacteric and coherent story, and provided he has the dramatic
sense, he can actually learn the rules of construction and produce
salable photoplays even if he has by no means the literary ability to
write a salable short-story. But he _must_ be a person of ideas--no
book and no instruction can supply that lack.

We have gone so far as deliberately to try to discourage anyone who is
so foolish and so undeserving as to enter the field of photoplay
writing without the fullest intention of doing his best to win for
himself the very highest position in that field to which his talent
and ability to work can advance him; and we have no apologies to
offer. Few who have not followed the progress of the moving-picture
industry realize the enormous changes that have taken place in the
last four or five years. This is especially true of the branch of the
business having to do with the preparation of the script. To those who
have been in constant touch with the work, it seems only yesterday
that the professional photoplay writer, outside of the producing
plants, was an unknown factor. At last came the time when the
manufacturers started to advertise for ideas on which to build their
plays. "Ten to one-hundred dollars paid for motion picture plays,"
these advertisements read. They were alluring enough even to the man
who already had a steady position in another line of work. They told
him how he could add from "ten to one-hundred dollars" a month to his
regular income. At least, they _seemed_ to promise that, especially
when coupled with the assurance that "no previous literary training"
was required. These advertisements looked attractive, also, to the man
whose income was not regular. Small wonder that within a few months'
time scores, hundreds, rushed blindly into a field where even writers
of established reputation would have failed--and did fail--without
preliminary technical training. Even those who succeeded in getting
their efforts accepted by the producers found that the check was more
likely to be for ten dollars than for any amount in excess of that.

_4. Advance in Requirements_

The real change has come within the past ten or twelve months. A sort
of weeding process has been carried on by the various manufacturers,
and as a result they recognize certain writers as being capable of
supplying them, at more or less regular intervals, with the kind of
scripts they want, quite as certain magazine editors have lists of
story-writers to whom they look for the bulk of their fiction.
Gradually this list of trained and capable, and consequently
successful, writers for the screen is growing larger, for daily some
new writer is demonstrating that the freshness, brightness, and
ingenuity of his ideas warrant the editor's putting him on the list of
those from whom good material may be expected.

_5. The Demand for Photoplays_

Is there not, therefore, it may be asked, a probability of the field's
becoming overcrowded?

Hardly. The best proof of the opportunity that is held out to the
capable outside writer, new or old, is that the staff-writers, whose
duty it _should be_ to make adaptations of plays and novels and write
the scenario, or continuity, for stories bought from free-lance
writers in synopsis form, are kept pretty busy writing so-called
"original stories" for certain stars, or stories that may be "done" in
certain parts of the country at a particular season of the year. If
enough thoroughly good stories could be purchased on the outside,
staff writers would never be called upon to write stories to order;
only what might be called "inspired" stories would be accepted from
them. Furthermore, if plenty of good, original stories, written
directly for screen presentation, could be purchased by the editors,
the practice of making screen adaptations of popular novels and stage
plays would be cut down by more than half.

"Suppose that the staff writer suddenly gets the 'flash'--the
inspiration needed to write a Western story with a plot that is
infinitely bigger and more dramatic than anything that he has done in
a great many months. Thinking it over, he gradually becomes brimful of
the theme and its plot-possibilities. He wants to feed the paper into
his trusty typewriter and start pounding out the scenario before a
single bit of the suddenly inspired plot can get away from him. But he
cannot; his company does not make Western stories; nor does it permit
its staff writers to sell their work to other firms. Even if it did,
he is far too busy to give the time to the writing of a story not
intended for the use of his own particular studio.

"So the inspired story has to be laid aside, possibly to be worked
upon some time in the future, when he has severed his connection with
that company and, by choice or of necessity, become a free-lance
writer again. Instead of writing that story he sits down and writes
another society drama, after cudgeling his brain for some time in an
effort to think up a plot that is, at least, different enough from
the one he wrote last week to insure its 'getting by' the scenario
editor, the director and 'the boss.' And that is just the point:
Although many of these plots do 'get by' the powers that be (or the
staff writer would not be holding his job), the photoplay-loving
public knows only too well that there is a lamentably close
relationship between 'A Wall Street Romance,' shown at the Novelty
Theatre last night, and 'Love and Business,' produced by the same
company and 'featured' at the same theatre three weeks ago. Therefore
the constant demand in nine out of every ten studios for good material
from outside writers. Since the writer of photoplay plots must write
action-stories constantly, and since, as has been said, the staff
writers are just as apt to run dry of new plots as are any other
writers, it follows that there must be a market at all times for the
really original and highly interesting story, no matter by whom
written. If the big photoplay producing companies are to remain in
business, if their various stars are to be kept working, and their
rate of production up to schedule, there must continue to be a fairly
steady flow of good, new stories into the scenario department."[2]

[Footnote 2: "What Chance Has the 'Outside' Writer?" by Arthur Leeds,
_Moving Picture Stories_, October 5, 1917.]

No, the field is not overcrowded--with _capable_ writers; nor is it
likely to be. With incapable amateurs it undoubtedly is. Every walk of
life has contributed its share to the thousands who are _trying_ to
write photoplays. Hundreds fail because they are both illiterate and
totally unfitted for the work. Hundreds more struggle on without a
sufficient knowledge of dramatic values and plot building, not knowing
precisely what can and what can not be presented successfully in the
silent drama. Lacking this knowledge, it is impossible to succeed. But
the great majority of the ones who fail, and who, otherwise, would
almost certainly have succeeded sooner or later, owe their failure to
their inability to hit upon and develop original, ingenious and
dramatic or truly humorous plots and plot-situations. Many a man of
brains and of excellent education who in any other calling might
easily make his mark, finds himself totally unable to win success in
short-story writing and photoplay writing simply because, not having
an imaginative or (in the literary sense) creative mind, he neglects
the thousand-and-one opportunities to stock that unimaginative mind
with ideas furnished wholesale by the life he sees about him every
day, or by available books of reference, magazines and daily papers;
and, last, but far from least in importance, the pictured stories seen
on the screen.



Since it is the purpose of this volume to place in your hands every
tool of the trade and every bit of information that may possibly be of
assistance in winning the favor of both the manuscript editor and the
director, we must now give the meaning of the technical terms used in
photoplay work. After thoroughly familiarizing yourself with these
expressions and what they mean, you will still have to bear in mind
the limitations of the photoplay stage (see Chapter XIII). A lack of
knowledge of the latter is directly responsible for more rejected
scripts than almost any other one defect. Do not write blindly. Do not
"take a chance" of getting your material into proper shape. Master the
little details of the work, and thus give yourself the chance to
compete on even terms with those who successfully write the pictured

It is important to note that each term given is defined in its
relation to the photoplay, and not according to its usual or
dictionary meaning. All terms are explained in detail as the book
progresses. (See _Table of Contents_.)

BUST: A very close view of some object necessary to the understanding
of the picture; as, a watch, a miniature, a jewel. A bust picture is
usually taken before some dark background, and does not embody any
specific action, but merely gives a close view of the important

CAMERA: The device with which the pictures are taken. The operator of
the camera is called, in moving-picture work, "the cameraman." He is,
of course, an expert photographer; and, though "camera" as used here
means the moving-picture camera, there is always on hand a regular
plate-camera for ordinary exposures. This is frequently used for
taking "stills," or photographs of certain striking situations in the
scenes, from which are made half-tone cuts for the magazines and
trade-paper illustrations, and used in designing the large and small
lithographed posters used by the exhibitors.

CAMERAMAN: See _Camera_.

CAST: The characters taking individual, and not merely mass, parts in
a photoplay.

CAST OF CHARACTERS: The list of characters prepared as a part of the
photoplay script for the use of the director or producer. It is
customary to make this cast of characters full enough to outline
eccentricities and individualities of character, together with brief
suggestions for costume.

CLOSE UP: The enlarged portion of a scene, introduced at a point in
the action where it is necessary to show some action or facial
expression that would perhaps not be understandable at the regular
range used for the main portion of that scene. It is employed, as is
the bust, to enlarge figures on the screen. Like the bust, it is also
designated by its own number in the continuity of scenes of a
photoplay script.

CONTINUITY: See _Scenario_.

CUT-BACK: A return to a previously shown scene so as to keep the
thread of the action clear.

CUT-IN, OR CUT-IN LEADER: A sub-title which cuts into or breaks the
action of a scene instead of appearing before the scene opens. Cut-ins
are therefore the sub-titles giving the words spoken by one or more of
the characters in a scene. They constitute the "dialogue" of the

CUTTING: It happens not infrequently that from 5,500 to 7,000 feet (or
even more, if the director is inclined to be wasteful) of negative
film is exposed, or used up, in taking the scenes intended for a
five-part (5,000-foot) "feature." In every case, a certain amount of
film in excess of what is actually needed is inevitably exposed in the
photographing of the complete picture. In the "cutting room" of the
studio the director "assembles" his picture--pieces together the
different scenes, sub-titles, and inserts, and "cuts" portions varying
from a few inches to many feet in length when such portions, if
retained, would be regarded as "padding," or superfluous footage.

DIAPHRAGM: A term applying to a portion of the camera apparatus, and
also applied to the process of causing one scene to disappear, or
another to appear. Like the "fade out" and "fade in," the "diaphragm
out" and "diaphragm in" are descriptive terms, but having a different
purpose. While the "fade out" or the "fade in" separate two parts of
a scene, and bring in between them the thing thought of or spoken of,
the "diaphragm out" and the "diaphragm in" (both usually placed in the
script on a separate line) serve the purpose of covering a supposed
lapse of time in the action, where a leader is not needed. (More fully
explained in text.)

DIRECTOR: Sometimes called the Producer. The man who plans and directs
the building and setting of all scenes in the production of the
picture, as well as casting the actors and actresses for the various
parts, pointing out, in a general way, what costuming and make-up are
required, and directing their acting and stage "business" during the
taking of scenes. "Producer" more properly is the term applied to the
manufacturer or manufacturing company.

DOING A PICTURE: To "do" a picture is to produce it in film form. To
say that a picture has been "done" in five reels is simply to state
that the production has required approximately five thousand feet of

DOUBLE EXPOSURE: Same as super-imposure. The practice of exposing the
same negative film twice, used extensively in producing "vision"
effects, "ghosts," etc., as well as in photographing scenes where one
of the players is cast in a "double r�le," as of twin sisters or
brothers, as is more fully explained in the text.

EDITOR: The person who receives, examines, and passes on your
photoplay. He decides as to the merits of your story, after which, if
he accepts it, it is turned over by him to the director.

EPISODE: See _Serial_.

EXTRAS, OR EXTRA PEOPLE: Supernumeraries, either male or female, who
"dress" or "fill in" certain scenes, or who may even be given small
parts, or "bits." "Extras" are frequently used as soldiers, cowboys,
pedestrians, saloon loungers, guests at a ball, or in other similar

FADE IN: When the screen is dark, and a picture comes up gradually
until it is clear, this is called a fade in.

FADE OUT: When the opposite from the fade in occurs, the scene dying
away until the screen is blank, this opposite term is used. These two
terms are employed in the photoplay manuscript for the purpose of
indicating that some character is thinking of, or telling another
about, something that has already happened, or that is prophetically
expected to happen. The character is seen thinking, or talking, then
there comes a fade out, and then a fade in, and the scene that comes
up is what he tells of or is thinking about. This again fades out, and
the fade in brings back the original scene with the character thinking
or talking; but each of the three scenes used has its own consecutive
scene-number in the manuscript. The fade out may also be used to end a
scene, or be used at the close of the photoplay.

FEATURE: See _Reel_.

FILM: The strip of translucent material, resembling celluloid, upon
which the scene is recorded; a series of pictures one inch wide and
three-fourths of an inch in height, taken at the rate of
approximately sixteen a second, and sixteen pictures to one foot of
film. These small pictures are technically termed "frames."

FOOTAGE: The amount of film consumed in the making of an individual
scene, insert, or the entire picture.

FRAME: See _Film_.

IDEA: An incident, or a situation, that suggests a plot; in other
words, the plot "germ."

INSERT: Anything introduced into the film to aid in telling the story
or to explain a point of the plot. "Leaders" are also inserts; but, as
generally used, inserts refers to letters, telegrams, newspaper
paragraphs or personals, or any matter other than cut-ins, or
dialogue, inserted into the film during the progress of a scene, thus
becoming practically a part of that scene.

INTERPOSE: A term used to indicate the process by which a scene merges
into the next, one dying as the other comes up, so that there is no
blank screen between them, as in the case of the fade out and fade in.
As in the dissolving views of a stereopticon, the scenes merge one
into the other. This device is used for the same purpose as the fade
out and fade in, but, being more difficult to accomplish, from the
camera standpoint, is used only rarely.

LEADER: A sub-title used before a scene to assist the spectator in
getting a clear idea of what the picture is to portray.

LOCATION: When the setting for an action is out of doors, and takes
advantage of some natural environment, such as the front of a house, a
barn, or a lane, or a lake, it is called a "location." So, while any
environment for action is broadly a "setting," one usually refers to
an interior setting as a "set" and an exterior setting as a


NEGATIVE: The original emulsated film used in the camera when the
actions of the participants in the photoplay are recorded.

PLOT: The original idea worked into a compact number of scenes and
individual situations, all of which in a series carry out the general
idea. Sometimes this "plot" is referred to as the "skeleton" of the
photoplay. "In its simplest, broadest aspect, plot is the scheme,
plan, argument or action of the story."[3] Henry Albert Phillips calls
it "the 'working plan' used by the building author."[4]

[Footnote 3: J. Berg Esenwein, _Writing the Short-Story_.]

[Footnote 4: _The Plot of the Short-Story_. See also our later
discussion of the nature of Plot.]

POSITIVES: The copies printed from the negative. These positives bear
the same relation to the negative as "prints" do to a photographic

PRINTS: The "copies" or "positives." The profit to the manufacturer
lies, of course, in selling as many prints as possible to the exchange
managers of the world.

PRODUCER: See _Director_.

REEL: A full reel of film contains, approximately, one thousand feet.
Sometimes two pictures of five hundred feet each, or of different
lengths, may constitute a full reel, and it is then termed a "split
reel." If a photoplay is produced in two or more reels, it is put on
the market as a "two-reel" or a "---- -reel" subject and becomes a
"multiple-reel" subject. The term "feature" is usually applied to a
picture of five parts and upward. When referring to a multiple-reel
play, photoplaywrights now favor the use of the word "part" instead of
"reel" and say "two-part," or "three-part" story or play.
Incidentally, it is well to use "picture" in place of "film" as much
as convenient. Earnest workers in the photoplay-writing profession are
anxious to eliminate the old atmosphere of cheapness.

REGISTER: To register an effect is to "show" it to the spectators in a
way which cannot be mistaken. It is sometimes said that an effect, a
bit of "business," or an emotion which an actor is endeavoring to
portray, "will not register," meaning that it will not be understood
by the audience in the way intended by the director. Very often a
lighting effect does not "register" as it was thought it would. Again,
an actor may wish to "register" disgust or hatred, and yet he may
convey the idea that he is portraying only fear. The word covers
various meanings. In writing your story in action (in the scenario or
continuity), if a character is hiding behind a curtain, watching an
exhibition of cowardice in another character, instead of saying "Tom
shows by his actions that he considers Jack an arrant coward,"
thereby using twelve words, you may write, "Tom registers disgust at
Jack's cowardice," which uses only six words; but do not use this
technical term too frequently in this manner.

RELEASE: Each producing company "releases" or places on the market a
certain number of films every month. Each of these films, therefore,
is termed "a release." The "release date" is the day upon which copies
of the film are given out to different exhibitors, to be shown to the
public for the first time.

SCENARIO: Correctly applied only to that part of the photoplay
manuscript which describes the development of the plot, scene by scene
and situation by situation; the complete story is swiftly _outlined_
in the synopsis, but in the scenario it is told--that is, worked
out--in action. The continuity of action; often called "the

SCENE: A scene is so much of the action of a photoplay as is taken in
one place at one time without stopping the camera. The instant that
there is need to stop the camera, to change grouping, break the
progress of the action, introduce or take away characters, or change
costumes, that scene is terminated, and with the new start a new scene
is begun.

SCENE-PLOT: That part of the photoplay script which lists the scenes
and shows the producer at a glance exactly what different sets are
required to stage the picture, and how many different scenes may be
done in each separate set.

SCRIPT: The typewritten copy of the completed photoplay. A complete
script is composed of three parts: Synopsis, Cast of Characters, and
Scenario, or Continuity--and sometimes a fourth part, called the

SERIAL: A photoplay serial, as the name implies, is a film totaling,
say, 30,000 feet in length, and divided into fifteen "episodes," each
episode being made up of two reels, or parts--2,000 feet of film. The
production covers one long, continued story, each episode planned to
end with a thrilling climax, with a "To be continued in our next," so
to speak, tail-piece. The climax comes only at the end of each episode
(as the two parts released each week, taken in conjunction, are
termed). Incidentally, it should be borne in mind that, in all
up-to-date picture theatres, two projecting machines are employed, so
that no "break" occurs in the showing of any picture. For this reason,
"feature" subjects do not necessarily have any special climax at the
end of each reel, and, to repeat, serial photoplays have the grand,
forward-looking climax only at the end of each episode.

SET: When a room, hotel lobby, or other interior setting is required,
it is usually built in the studio, or in the open air near by, and is
called a "set."

SETTING: The setting is the scenic environment of the action. Whether
indoors or out, the surroundings, properties, furniture, buildings,
and, in short, all that comes within the view of the camera, is the
"setting" for that particular scene.

SITUATION: A state of affairs in which certain characters sustain
such relations to each other that an important change might and almost
must grow out of the relationship. In other words, a "situation" is a
state of affairs full of dramatic possibilities. When a single
character is confronted by the necessity for an important decision,
whether of morals or of physical action, we also have a "situation."

SPLIT REEL: See _Reel_.

STAGE: The actual photoplay stage is that space within the range of
the camera in which the action of that given scene will be apparent.
In an interior setting it may be the space between the camera and the
walls of the set, to the full extent of the camera-range, in which
radius a host of people may be used; or, in the case of action where
intense emotion must be made clearly apparent, the stage may be only a
space beginning at a point from six to eleven feet from the camera
lens, and only as wide as the radius of the camera-angle at that
distance. Actually, the stage is a variable area, within the
camera-range, in the scope of which the required action will be

STOCK PEOPLE: The regular members of the stock company employed by the
manufacturer, who draw a stipulated weekly salary, even though not
acting in a picture every working day.

STUDIO: That part of the producing plant where the pictures are taken.
In its broadest sense, "studio" is often used as meaning the entire
manufacturing plant; but such a plant contains, besides the "studio,"
the lighting plant, carpenter shop, scene dock, property room,
developing room, drying room, joining or assembling room, wardrobe
room, paint bridge and scene-painting department, dressing rooms,
offices, etc.

SUBJECT: Another term for the play. According to its nature, a picture
is known as a "comedy subject," "dramatic subject," and so on.

SUB-TITLE: See _Leader_.

SUPER-IMPOSURE: See _Double Exposure_.

TINTING: Such effects as moonlight, artificial light in a room,
firelight, etc., are gained largely by dyeing, or tinting, the
positive film in various colors. Tinting is also frequently resorted
to for no other reason than to enhance the beauty of the scene, as
when sunset scenes are tinted in one of half a dozen suitable tones,
or when exteriors are dyed in some shade of brown or green.

TITLE: The name of the story. A very important element, since it is
really an advertisement to draw attention to the photoplay, as well as
an announcement telling what it is about. "A good title is apt,
specific, attractive, new and short."[5]

[Footnote 5: Charles Raymond Barrett, _Short Story Writing_.]

VISION: The showing of a small scene within a larger scene, as in the
case of a lover seated, thinking of his sweetheart, and a vision of
the object of his thought appearing in a corner of the scene, and
disappearing as he smiles. Visions are resorted to usually to indicate
the thought of a character, and should be used only sparingly, if at



We know what a photoplay is; now what are the component parts of a
photoplay script?

Simply because the word "scenario" has been so long used loosely as a
name for the full written outline or story of the photoplay, it has
come to mean the entire manuscript--or photoplay script, as we prefer
to call it--completed and ready to be submitted to the editor.
Accurately, however (see the preceding chapter, Photoplay Terms), the
"scenario" is only one of the three or four distinct parts of a
photoplay script, as will be developed in full presently. "The
Photoplaywright," a department conducted by Mr. Epes Winthrop Sargent
in _The Moving Picture World_, was at first called "The Scenario
Writer;" however, Mr. Sargent, like most writers and editors, has
abandoned the use of the word "scenario" as applied to the complete
script. "Scenario" is the name now properly given to the continuity of
scenes, or "the continuity," as many are calling it in these days of
more precise nomenclature. Furthermore, various trade publications are
now urging writers and all others interested in the work to substitute
the word "photoplay" for "scenario," as being more comprehensive and
exact when applied to the complete manuscript. In strict accuracy,
however, even "photoplay" is not a sufficiently explicit term when
applied to the manuscript only, while either "photoplay manuscript" or
"photoplay script" is; for, as all writers may learn to their cost,
the "script" is not always destined to become a "play." To some,
however, this distinction may seem like splitting a hair nicely
between its north and northwest corners. At all events, the "photoplay
script" is an exact and descriptive term and may well be used by all

What is of fundamental technical importance in a novel, a short-story,
or a play? The story itself--the plot. And so also it is in the
photoplay; only, and the reasons must be obvious, its importance in
the photoplay is even greater. Without the plot, the writer's script
will remain forever a script, a mere piece of hand- or typewriting; it
will never be transformed by the magic wand of the director into a
film picture. Remember always that the photoplay is nothing but a
series of scenes _in action_ which make up a story. How can you expect
to have action without a sufficient cause for every effect shown and
the scenes arranged in such order as to produce a complete illusion of
a connected, progressive, climax-reaching story? (And it is just this
connected, progressive, climax-reaching arrangement of the events of a
story which we call the "plot.") A novel may be largely a study of
character; a short-story may deal with action which takes place wholly
unseen in the soul of man; a play or a musical comedy may be chiefly a
series of scenic pictures or tuneful caperings; but a true photoplay
must act out a story--a story with a big central point, supported by
contributing points, or situations.

The story, then, comes first--in more than one sense. It is the bait
you hold out to the editor of the photoplay company. If he can be
interested in your _story_, the script is half sold. This being true,
it follows that your synopsis must be clear, interesting, and as brief
as you can possibly make it, while still giving all the important
points of the story. He must grasp your plot, if not in a nutshell, at
least in just as few words as it can be compressed into in order to
make its development perfectly clear. You must therefore outline it,
so that he may be able to see plainly the possibilities of the story
as it would work itself out in picture form.

_1. The Synopsis_

The story must be briefly put, therefore it is necessarily only an
outline, a _synopsis_--and that is the accepted technical
term--forming the first subdivision of your script. Each of these
subdivisions is merely touched upon here, and reserved for separate
chapter-treatment later on.

In the synopsis, of course, your various characters are mentioned by
name, but it is also necessary to add a separate section to your
script, containing

_2. The Cast of Characters_

Almost all motion picture producers are now showing the cast of
characters on their films, and it is only a matter of time when every
manufacturer will follow their lead, for this is a natural step toward
the effect of reality. For this reason, as well as because it has been
accepted as following the proper form of photoplay script preparation,
your cast of characters should immediately follow the synopsis, and be
distinct therefrom.

_3. The Scenario or Continuity of Scenes_

Then comes the scenario--the third and last essential part of the
complete photoplay script. In this your story is not told in words but
is worked out in action. That is, instead of being told by
description, dialogue, and all the devices of fiction writing, the
_story_ is described as a series of actions, divided into the required
number of interior and exterior scenes, together with the necessary
inserts in the way of leaders or sub-titles, letters, telegrams,
newspaper items, advertisements, and the like.

_4. The Scene-Plot_

In this preliminary consideration of the several parts of the complete
script, it must be remembered that the various producing companies
differ as to what they expect a manuscript to contain. One thing,
however, is certain: it is far better to include more detail than is
required, than too little. Therefore, on the whole, it is advisable to
send a scene-plot (discussed fully in Chapter XI), as this part of the
script will show the producer at a glance exactly what different sets
are required to stage the picture, and how many scenes are "done" in
each set. It is simply a little help extended to a busy man; for in
particular it enables the editor to understand on first looking over
your script how the scenes follow up and fit in with the action as
described in the synopsis. At the same time, it is really a supplement
to the manuscript, and our experience has been that it is more
appreciated if written upon a separate sheet, and included with the
manuscript proper. Naturally, the scene-plot is not to be included in
scripts sent to companies that ask for "synopsis only."

Strictly speaking, as one writer on the subject has pointed out, the
photoplay manuscript consists of two _essential_ parts--the synopsis
and the scenario.[6] Manufacturers, however, have shown their approval
of having the list of characters, giving the names of characters and a
word or two describing their relations to each other, etc., much as is
done in some theatre programs. Let us, then, look upon the complete
photoplay script as being composed of

  I The Synopsis.
 II The Cast of Characters.
III The Scenario, or Continuity of Scenes.
 IV The Scene-plot (as a supplement).

[Footnote 6: A discussion of the present-day requirement of "synopsis
only," as announced by some companies, will be found in Chapter



While the one-reel photoplay is virtually obsolete today, having given
place to plays of two or more reels, the form for the complete script
is quite the same for the multiple-reel as for the single-reel
photoplay, hence the following specimen will serve just as well to
show how the several parts of the full photoplay manuscript are set
forth as if two or even five reels were given. The same thing applies
to the number of scenes commonly found in any one reel--nowadays more
scenes per reel are customary than was the case when the specimen here
given was written, yet the old form for each scene and for each insert
is as correct today as ever, so that the present model is a
trustworthy one for those who would prepare the complete script,
continuity and all, and not "synopsis only."



Western drama in 32 scenes; 4 interior and 13 exterior settings

[Footnote 7: This story was originally entitled "The Love That Leads
Upward." After being accepted by the Universal, for production by the
Nestor Company, the title was changed to meet with some necessary
changes in the scenario. The scene-plot for this story is reproduced
in Chapter XI.]


A reward is offered for the capture of Stephen Hammond, better known
to the people of Navajo County, Arizona, as "Aravaipa Steve."

James Freeman, a rancher, brings Dr. Turner to the ranch to attend the
younger of his two daughters, Norma, a little girl of about ten years,
the child being ill with fever. The doctor realizes the necessity of
having ice on hand to prepare ice-caps to help reduce the child's
fever. Since it is not so far to Pinedale as it is to the town where
the doctor lives, the physician advises the father to ride there at
once, and get back with the ice as soon as possible. He leaves a
bottle of medicine with Jess, the elder girl, and gives her directions
for the general care of Norma. It is while Freeman is away and Jess is
alone with the child that Steve Hammond comes to the ranch, exhausted
and hungry. He calls Jess out and she gives him a drink of water.
Then, seeing his evident weariness and realizing that he must be
hungry, she invites him to have something to eat before going on. Jess
has never seen Steve before, nor does she guess who he is, although
she has heard of "Aravaipa Steve."

Since her visitor appears to be an honest man, Jess tells him that her
father has gone to town--all the other men being away--to get ice for
her sick sister. Steve is greatly touched by the sight of the sick
child, and he suddenly remembers a cave in the foothills where there
is ice buried beneath the rock and gravel. He gets a spare horse from
the stable, and taking a couple of large saddle-bags goes to the cave,
procures the ice, and returns to the ranch house. After Steve has
placed ice-caps on Norma's head, Jess accidentally knocks the medicine
bottle to the floor, breaking it and spilling the contents. Realizing
the absolute necessity of having the medicine, Steve determines to
ride to the doctor and tell him to take or send some more; but
realizing also that he will be arrested the moment he is seen in town,
he tells Jess who he is. She is astounded, but, unable to forget what
he has already done for her, she tells him not to go--she will risk
waiting until the return of her father, who can then go. But Steve
declares that he will go, as delay may endanger the child's life. Upon
his arrival at the doctor's, he is seized and dragged to the sheriff's
office, but not before he has delivered his message to the physician.
Dr. Turner rides to the ranch with the medicine, and Jess, feeling
intuitively that harm will come to the man who has done so much for
them, begs the doctor to ride back to protect him from the mob which,
the doctor tells her, has more than once threatened to take the law
into its own hands if Steve should be captured. Seeing her distress,
both Freeman and the doctor ride to town, and through their efforts
the sheriff is persuaded to allow Steve to make his escape from a back
door of the office. He rides back to the ranch, says farewell to Jess,
and is given her photograph, on the back of which she writes her name
and a few words to the effect that she will be glad to hear how he
gets along. He then rides away.

At the end of a year, Jess receives a letter from Steve, saying that
he is staying at Winslow, and that he is now living an honest life,
and fills a good position in San Francisco. He asks her to try to
persuade her father to bring her on a visit, so that he may see her
again. When Jess shows her father Steve's letter, Freeman, knowing
that Hammond has at least never been guilty of bloodshed, and
believing that the preserver of his little Norma has completely
reformed, agrees to take Jess there to see him. He knows that, great
as has been his daughter's impression upon the former outlaw, his has
been no less great and lasting upon her.


James Freeman                    An Arizona rancher
Jess                                   His daughter
Norma                             Her little sister
Steve Hammond, An outlaw, known as "Aravaipa Steve"
Dr. Turner                            The physician
     The sheriff
     The sheriff's deputy
     Cowboys, citizens, etc., in 1, 19, 21, and 23.


1--Outside sheriff's office, main street of town--

     One or two cowboys and several other citizens standing
     around talking earnestly. Sheriff comes out of open door
     with hand-lettered placard. He tacks it up beside a notice
     of an auction sale of stock, close to door. Draws attention
     of bystanders, who crowd around to read.

On screen. Notice--

     $5,000 REWARD!


Back to scene.

     The bystanders are obviously dissatisfied. They protest to
     sheriff, who shakes head emphatically.



Back to scene.

     One of the cowboys gives the sheriff a strong argument, but
     he holds his ground and taps his badge significantly. They
     are still voicing their several opinions when scene ends.

2--Dr. Turner's office--

     Doctor lying on lounge, coat off, smoking. Turns eyes toward
     door and then springs up as James Freeman enters, showing
     great excitement and distress. Doctor asks what is wrong.
     Freeman makes excited reply, urging doctor to get ready and
     "come quick." Doctor compels him to speak more calmly and,
     when he knows just what is wrong and hears Norma's symptoms,
     he nods head and holds up hand, telling Freeman to sit down
     and be quiet while he prepares some medicine. He measures
     some drug from bottle in graduate and pours it into
     eight-ounce bottle. With this in hand he steps out of room.
     Freeman greatly agitated and anxious to start. Turner comes
     back almost immediately, just corking bottle. He slips it
     into pocket, picks up hat and medical case, then follows
     Freeman out of room.

3--Short exterior scene showing Freeman and Dr. Turner riding to

4--Bedroom in Freeman's ranch house. Shelf on wall on which are
several photographs in frames.

     (Must be same as in scene 28.)

     Norma lying in bed, ill with fever. Dr. Turner bending over
     her. Freeman leaning over foot of bed watching anxiously.
     Jess stands beside little table in centre of room, on which
     are glasses, the medicine bottle, and the doctor's little
     case. Her grief very evident. Dr. Turner's face very grave
     as he turns away from bed. Freeman goes to him as he crosses
     to table beside Jess. Doctor addresses Freeman, speaking



Back to scene.

     Freeman realizes the importance of being able to procure ice
     as soon as possible. Starts to get ready, presently hurrying
     out of room. Doctor turns to Jess and gives her instructions
     as to administering the medicine, pointing to watch. She
     nods. Doctor takes last look at child, then walks out of
     room, Jess following.

5--Corner of ranch house, looking toward stables--

     Doctor comes out, followed by Jess. With a parting word, he
     rides away. A moment later Freeman comes from direction of
     stables driving buckboard. He says a few words to Jess, who
     assures him that she will be all right, and then he drives
     off rapidly. Jess re-enters house.

6--Exterior, supposedly at distance from but within sight of ranch--

     Steve Hammond rides slowly into picture, dismounts wearily,
     leans against horse as if much fatigued, looks about in all
     directions. Sees ranch house short distance away. Shows
     hesitation, then sudden resolution. Swings into saddle and
     rides out of picture.

7--Corner of ranch house, same as 5--

     Steve rides into picture in background, approaching
     cautiously. Leaves horse standing at short distance from
     house, ready for quick get-away. Creeps forward stealthily,
     gun in hand, ready. (If window between corner of house and
     door, passes beneath it stooping.) Reaches door and knocks.
     Hearing someone approaching, he holds gun out of sight
     behind back. Jess appears in doorway. Steve registers that
     he is impressed by girl's appearance. She, that he is a
     stranger. He asks for a drink of water. She goes in to get
     it. He quickly replaces gun in holster. Jess comes out with
     dipper of water; he drinks greedily, then sways weakly and
     drops to steps. Jess, seeing his exhaustion, shows sympathy.
     Asks if he is hungry. He looks up and nods. She looks at him
     a moment as if estimating his character and then asks him
     into the house. He holds back, hesitating a moment, then
     weakly follows her in.

8--Kitchen of ranch house--

     Jess places chair beside table and asks Steve to sit down.
     He watches her with evident but respectful admiration as she
     brings food and pours cup of coffee. She watches him
     sympathetically as he eats. Presently he looks up at her,
     then around, and points toward door. He questions her. She
     shakes head negatively, looking at him steadily.



Back to scene.

     Jess watches him closely as she speaks. He shows only look
     of relief. He questions her again. She points to door
     leading to bedroom. He looks toward door and she crosses to
     it, pushing it softly open. She turns and signs for him to
     look inside. She herself stands in doorway as he passes her
     and goes into room.

9--Bedroom, same as 4--

     Steve moves past Jess into room, crossing to bedside.
     Genuine sympathy in his expression as he looks at child and
     notes her fevered condition. He places hand on child's
     forehead and shakes his head. Looks toward Jess, standing in
     doorway, then goes out following her back into--

10--Kitchen, same as 8--

     He sits down on chair; evidently he is greatly touched by
     the child's condition and Jess's helplessness. Suddenly he
     springs up excitedly and turns to Jess, speaking rapidly.



Back to scene.

     Jess looks at him in astonishment and questions him. He
     emphatic in repeating what he has said. He asks about horse,
     pointing to outer door. As Jess leads way, Steve picks up
     hat and follows her out.

11--Exterior, at door of stable--

     Jess standing holding Steve's horse. Steve comes from stable
     leading another horse, with couple of large saddle-bags,
     pick, and short-handled shovel, on its back. He points to
     these and mounts his horse. Jess smiles gratefully, then
     looks grave again. He reaches down and just touches her
     reassuringly on the shoulder. Then he rides quickly away,
     leading the second horse, while Jess watches him for a
     moment, and then starts toward house.

12--Foothill trail--

     Steve riding up trail, disappearing round bend of hill.

13--Rocky portion of hillside showing entrance to sort of cave in side
of cliff--

     Steve dismounts, ties both horses, takes pick and shovel
     from second horse, then goes forward and enters cave.

14--Interior of cave--

     Steve kneeling and removing large rocks from floor of cave.
     Rises, takes pick and makes good-sized hole in rocky
     ground, using both pick and shovel. Suddenly stops, kneels,
     works with hands a moment, rises, takes up pick and drives
     it into bottom of hole he has made. Throws pick down,
     kneels, holds up fair-sized piece of ice. Rises, runs out of
     cave. Back almost immediately with saddle-bags. Throws them
     down, takes up pick and starts to get out the ice.

15--Entrance to cave, same as 13--

     Steve just finishing loading horse with saddle-bags filled
     with ice. Secures pick and shovel across bags, mounts own
     horse and starts to ride away, leading second horse as

16--Ranch house, same as 5--

     Jess standing in doorway, great anxiety in face. Expression
     changes as she sees Steve ride up in background. He
     dismounts in front of door, takes saddle-bags from horse
     and, with Jess leading, goes into house.

17--Bedroom, same as 4--

     Steve is just making an ice-pack with a piece of flannel.
     Places it on child's head. He stands watching the child
     intently for a moment, then looks at the girl. Jess shows
     her gratitude very plainly. She holds out her hand. Steve
     starts to take it, then draws back sharply. Jess astonished,
     not understanding his reluctance. He hangs his head, but
     remains silent. Jess watches him for a moment and then turns
     away. She is standing by table which is close to the bed.
     As she turns she knocks over the bottle of medicine with one
     hand. It falls to floor and breaks, spilling on carpet. Jess
     shows utter consternation. Steve also distressed. Jess
     points to alarm clock standing on table, speaking to Steve
     excitedly. He greatly impressed by the gravity of the
     situation. She indicates that the doctor lives in the
     distant town. He nods, evidently trying to make up his mind
     what to do. Suddenly turns to Jess, looks straight into her
     eyes, then extends hand. She is puzzled, but takes proffered
     hand. Steve holds hers a moment and then drops it. He looks
     at her again and then hangs head, speaking with face



Back to scene.

     As Steve speaks, Jess looks at him horror-stricken, and
     shrinks, hiding face in hands. Steve watches her with
     expression of mingled anguish and remorse. Suddenly Jess
     draws herself erect, indicating that, no matter who or what
     he may be, she thanks him for what he has done for her and
     appreciates it. Extends her hand, looking him full in the
     face. He hesitates, then seizes her hand in both of his and
     grips it. She does not move--simply continues to gaze
     straight into his eyes. Steve drops her hand and reaches
     for his hat. She watches him as he prepares to leave. Then,
     suddenly, she shows that she fully realizes what it means to
     him to go for the medicine. She springs to his side and
     seizes his arm. Pointing--as if toward town--she indicates
     that he will be arrested the moment he appears there. He
     nods head resignedly. She points to the sick child. Then she
     reaches out to take his hat, shaking her head. "You must not
     go; I can't forget what you have already done for her." He
     looks at her a moment, shows that he realizes the
     consequences, then takes his hat from her, his face showing
     strong determination. He picks up the upper portion of the
     broken medicine bottle from the floor; then points to the
     child on the bed.



Back to scene.

     Steve turns quickly toward door. Jess speaks and he turns to
     face her. She approaches slowly and stops in front of him,
     looks steadily into his eyes for a moment, then impulsively
     holds out both her hands. He seizes them, holds them a
     moment, then, as she drops her eyes, he lowers her hands
     slowly, steps backward, turns, and exit quickly. She looks
     up as he passes out of door, then drops on her knees beside
     bed and, with one hand reaching out to the child, looks
     upward as if in prayer.


     Steve riding hard into town.

19--On the outskirts of the town--

     Steve rides into picture, going at same speed as before. Man
     (not cowboy, but carrying gun in holster) recognizes him as
     he approaches. Draws gun, stands at side of road, and, as
     Steve comes close raises gun and calls on him to halt. Steve
     only bends low and gives the horse the spurs, dashing past
     at full gallop. Man raises his gun and fires after him, then
     shows by his look of chagrin that he has not stopped him.

20--Looking back over same road, but at point farther on toward town--

     Steve rides into picture, his left arm hanging limp, holding
     gun in right hand, prepared to use it rather than stop;
     reins hanging on horse's neck. He takes reins in right
     hand--after restoring gun to holster--and rides on.

21--Exterior of doctor's house, with sign, "Dr. Turner"--

     Steve rides into picture, pulls up, dismounts, and with an
     expression of pain takes hold of wounded left arm with right
     hand, gripping it as if to ease pain. Runs up steps and
     knocks at door. As he is facing door, another man sees and
     recognizes him. This man is not armed, and he merely shakes
     fist at Steve behind the outlaw's back, then passes out of
     picture. Dr. Turner comes to door, and falls back astounded
     as he recognizes "Aravaipa Steve." "You! What do _you_ want
     here?" Then he sees the wounded arm, and points to it. Steve
     shakes head emphatically and proceeds to tell what has
     happened at the ranch. As he finishes, the doctor looks him
     over from head to foot, then holds out his hand, which the
     outlaw grasps silently. Dr. Turner beckons him into the
     house; but just as Steve is about to follow the doctor in,
     the man who saw him knock on the door returns with a party
     of ten or a dozen citizens and cowboys. Half a dozen point
     guns at Steve and he throws up his right hand in obedience
     to their command, indicating that his left is injured. The
     doctor tries to explain, but they wave him back. Steve turns
     to doctor and tells him to hurry and get the medicine off to
     the sick child. Doctor nods. Believing that the outlaw will
     be taken to the sheriff, he goes in to prepare the medicine.
     Steve is led away by the crowd.

22--Corner of ranch house, same as 5--

     Doctor rides into picture, pulling up in front of door. As
     he calls out, Jess comes to door followed by her father. Dr.
     Turner takes bottle of medicine from pocket of his coat and
     hands it to Jess. Jess hands it to father and turns to
     doctor again. She is excited and obviously much distressed
     at the thought of what may have happened to Steve. Questions
     the doctor anxiously. At his reply she shows signs of
     breaking into tears. Then turns to her father.



Back to scene.

     Freeman, knowing what Steve has done, looks very grave. He
     speaks to doctor, who nods head. Then he turns to Jess,
     signifies his intention of riding to town at once, and tells
     her to attend to Norma, giving her the medicine. The doctor
     dismounts, dashes into house, and returns almost
     immediately. He indicates that the child is already somewhat
     improved. He mounts, and with a parting word to the girl,
     both men ride rapidly out of picture.

23--Outside sheriff's office, same as 1--

     Mob of cowboys and citizens talking excitedly and crowding
     in front of closed door. Evidently all are of the opinion
     that Steve should be "strung up." They cease talking and
     turn, looking up street. Dr. Turner and Freeman ride up and
     dismount. They force their way through crowd and approach
     door of the sheriff's office. They knock twice, but door
     does not open. Freeman calls loudly to those inside, while
     Dr. Turner faces the mob and warns them to keep their
     distance when the door is opened. Presently door opens,
     sheriff and his deputy appearing, with guns drawn. Freeman
     quickly tells them what they want and he and doctor pass
     inside. Mob becomes very demonstrative now.

24--Interior of sheriff's office. Door at left, closest to
working-line, leads to street. Door at back of room, when opened,
shows exterior backing--

     Enter Dr. Turner and Freeman. Sheriff and deputy step back
     as they enter and bar door the moment they have come in.
     Steve sits on chair beside table, handcuffed. His face shows
     only a complete resignation to his fate. He is neither
     excited nor indifferent. Doctor speaks to sheriff, who nods.
     Doctor goes to Steve with deputy, who unlocks handcuffs.
     Doctor quickly examines Steve's wounded arm, then binds it
     up. _Meantime_ the sheriff is listening to Freeman, who
     tells him of all Steve has done for him, in helping to save
     the life of his child. Sheriff plainly much impressed. Looks
     across at Steve and shakes head, realizing his duty and yet
     filled with sympathy for the outlaw. Freeman continues to
     plead with him. Doctor finishes working with Steve and looks
     across at them. Sheriff and deputy whirl round and draw guns
     again as all hear sound of heavy blows on street door. (If
     position of door in set permits, show door shaken as if by
     blows upon it.) All realize that the mob means business. On
     back wall is reward placard similar to one posted outside
     (same card). Sheriff, turning to Steve, points to this.
     Steve nods. Sheriff calls attention of all to back door.
     Then, facing Steve again, he indicates, "If I let you go
     that way, will you live honestly hereafter?" Steve looks at
     him a moment, then crosses to placard and pointing to words
     proclaiming reward for "Aravaipa Steve," passes other hand
     in front of eyes, as if in disgust at what he has been, then
     hangs head. Sheriff watches him a moment, then holds out his
     hand. Steve grasps it and turns to Freeman and Dr. Turner.
     As deputy turns toward street door, hearing more knocking
     upon it, Freeman and doctor both shake hands with Steve,
     sheriff quietly opens back door, and Steve, after hesitating
     a moment, slips out. Sheriff bars back door and, turning
     around, runs across to street door and shouts to crowd on
     outside, haranguing them to gain time.

25--Rear of sheriff's office, showing corner of building and side
wall, looking toward street. Several horses are tied all along side of
wall, out of sight of the mob in front of building--

     Steve, leaving door, which is just closing, creeps up to
     nearest horse, unties it, and leads it away from building
     (toward camera). Then he mounts and dashes away, out of

26--Interior of sheriff's office, same as 24--

     Sheriff, smiling at others in room, still arguing with crowd
     outside. Deputy, Freeman and Dr. Turner, also smiling, stand
     in center of room.

27--Front of ranch house, same as 5--

     Steve rides up and dismounts, calling out to Jess. She
     presently appears in doorway. On seeing him safe, her face
     shows intense relief and thankfulness. Then she realizes
     that he is not yet out of danger. She points toward town. He
     indicates that the horse he has ridden belongs to someone in
     town. He takes money from pocket and hands it to her,
     indicating that he wishes her to give it to the owner of the
     horse. She assents. Steve then points inside. Jess invites
     him to follow her in. He goes up steps after her.

28--Bedroom, same as 4--

     Jess enters, followed by Steve. He goes across to bed and
     bends over Norma, who is sleeping quietly. Turning around,
     he sees the photographs on the shelf on wall, Jess's picture
     among them. He looks at her as if hesitating to speak, then,
     pointing to her picture, asks if he may take it with him.
     She is a trifle confused at first; then, realizing the
     change that has taken place in the man, she takes it down
     and is about to hand it to him, when he takes piece of
     pencil from pocket of vest and hands it to her, asking her
     to write her name on it. Jess looks at him, then takes
     pencil and writes on back of photo.

29--Bust of Jess's right hand holding photograph, showing back, on
which is written:


30--Back to 28--

     Jess hands the photograph to Steve. He glances at what is
     written and looks at her as if longing to speak, but merely
     takes her hand and looks his great gratitude, and
     determination to atone for the past, urged on by her
     encouragement. Then he turns to door and she follows him out
     of room.

31--Front of ranch, same as 5--

     Steve mounted ready to ride away. He holds photograph in
     left hand, still bandaged. He puts out right hand again and
     takes Jess's, in a parting handshake. Then he puts photo in
     inner pocket of vest, and with a last word and a smile of
     gratitude, rides quickly away. Jess watches him ride out of
     sight, then sits on steps and looks in direction he has
     gone, starting to weep softly.



32--Kitchen, same as 8--

     Jess laying table for meal. Norma assisting her (or, if a
     young child is used, playing). Freeman enters from outer
     door, as if just returning from town. He carries bundles,
     etc. Puts these down, takes letters from pocket, hands two
     to Jess. She looks at one and lays it carelessly on table.
     After a glance at the other she signifies, "It must be from
     him!" Freeman and child do not observe her expression. She
     opens letter and reads:

On screen. Letter--

     Dear Miss Freeman,

     I am writing this from Winslow--it's as near to your home as
     I care to go. But I've got a good position in San Francisco,
     and thank God I'm living honestly where nobody knows my past
     record. I'd give anything to see you again. Do you think
     your father would bring you on a visit?

     Gratefully yours,

     Stephen Hammond.

Back to scene.

     Jess's face lights up gladly. She goes to her father and
     gives him letter, which he reads. He looks at her narrowly.
     She hangs her head in some confusion. He stands for a moment
     in deep thought. Then he takes Jess's hands and, as she
     looks straight into his eyes, he nods his head, draws her to
     him and kisses her. Norma comes up and puts her arms round
     her father as he and Jess stand there. Jess kneels and takes
     Norma in her arms.



Any successful photoplaywright will testify that the proper
preparation of the photoplay script has much to do with its being
accepted, especially if more than the mere synopsis is offered.

At first this may seem to be an extreme statement, but its truth will
become more and more evident as we proceed. Furthermore, its
importance should be accepted by writers early in the work because
every stage of photoplay writing has its direct bearing upon, and
looks toward, the preparation of the script. For this reason the
present chapter is introduced at this point, though in actual
time-sequence the preparation of the manuscript in its final form will
usually come after all its several parts have been considered, blocked
out, and arranged. It will be highly important, therefore, to review
this chapter after finishing the sections of this volume which deal in
particular with the several parts of the photoplay.

It is to be regretted, let us reiterate, that so much has been said,
by manufacturers and others, to the effect that no literary training
is necessary in order to write salable photoplays, for, as a result,
countless absolutely "impossible" scripts are constantly pouring into
the editors' offices--impossible, in a great many cases, not because
of the lack of idea, for very often the illiterate writer has both a
vivid imagination and the power to use it, but because frequently the
good idea is expressed in such unintelligible language, and with such
execrable spelling and hopelessly incorrect punctuation, that the
thread of the plot, its meaning, and values, cannot be grasped by the
editor. Even when the story itself is not utterly lost to the script
reader, he is too busy a man to wade through it bit by bit, struggling
to make something out of a jumble of confusing words. The demand for
good scripts is greater than the supply--but the supply is increasing,
and the standard is rising. This means that although there are
dozens--to put it mildly--of men and women entering the field each
week, easily three-fourths of these brand themselves as hopelessly
unqualified when they drop their first script into the mail-box.

The repeated failures of the unprepared have given rise to the rumor
that only the scripts of favored writers are read in editorial
offices. The old trick of placing small pieces of paper between the
sheets, in order to prove whether or not the script was read through,
is as popular today as it was twenty years ago with story writers. The
gentleman who has the first reading of all the scripts received by a
certain company called the attention of one of the present authors to
just such a script only recently. What was the result? Some of the
minute pieces of paper fell out the moment the script was taken from
the envelope for examination. That was enough. The script was almost
immediately placed in another envelope and returned to the
writer--with a rejection slip. Unfair treatment of the writer? Not at
all! Following the discovery of the concealed particles of paper, a
glance at the first page was sufficient to convince the editor that it
was the work of another amateur who was foolish enough to add to a
miserably prepared script the proof that he doubted the honesty of the
editor to whom he had addressed his offering.

It is only reasonable to believe that every editor will read at least
so much of every script as is necessary to convince him of its value
or its lack of value to the firm by which he is employed. He draws a
salary to discover stories which _are_ worth while, and is always on
the lookout for good, live, gripping stories which will make pictures
calculated to add to the reputation of his employer. There is just one
way he can find such stories, when the author's name is unknown to
him, and that is by reading the script, either in whole or so far as
to permit his trained judgment to pass fairly upon it. The editor who
does not do this honestly either does not exist or will soon lose his
position, for he will be sure to overlook valuable material by his

At the very outstart resolve to _be professional in your methods, be
businesslike, and play fair_.

The advisability of constantly abiding by these three rules of the
photoplay writing "game" must be apparent to any intelligent person.
Though the field for the sale of photoplay scripts is likely to become
much larger, and the prices paid promise to become better as time
goes on, every day some new writer of proved ability (in the field of
fiction writing, as a rule), enters _this_ field. Against him, with
his superior experience and knowledge of literary usages, you must
compete. Therefore, in order to win, you must do as he does. _He is
fair to himself._ From a mechanical point, his scripts are likely to
be all that they ought to be; he sends them out knowing that they are
in correct form to receive the proper consideration of the most
exacting editor. _And they do._ In the same mail with his script comes
one from a beginner. This unknown writer may have an idea--that _most_
important requisite in picture-play writing--which is really fresher
and even better than that embodied in the story of the experienced
writer. But the merit of the idea is hopelessly concealed under a mass
of misleading and unnecessary language; the script is poorly
written--in longhand; it is badly spaced; spelling, punctuation,
everything, betray ignorance or carelessness of what is expected in a
properly prepared script. What chance, then, does it stand when placed
beside that of the trained writer? And whose fault is it?

_Give yourself a fair chance._ From the day that you write your first
photoplay, write it so carefully, prepare the script with so much
regard for the accepted rules, that no editor will be able to point to
it with a sigh and exclaim: "Oh, well, it has to be read. Here goes!"
Make it a script that he will dive into with keen anticipation of
finding something as good as its mechanical preparation would cause
him to expect.

We now add a number of items of practical advice.

[Illustration: Essanay Producing Yard; Two Interior Sets Being
Arranged for a Historical Drama]

[Illustration: Players Waiting for Their Cues in the Glass-Enclosed
Selig Studio]

THE PAPER. This is an important matter, and you should _not_ follow
your own preference or convenience. The paper should be of regulation
Ms. ("letter") size, 8-1/2 by 11 inches, not transparent, and should
be pure white.

The editor prefers not to examine odd sizes when he is used to the
uniformity of the proper manuscript paper. Never use foolscap, or
8-1/2 by 13 paper. The writer knows one studio in which the different
directors, all of whom write photoplays of their own, use the 8-1/2 by
13 size; but remember, it is the director's privilege to write his
scripts on shop-keeper's wrapping paper if he so desires. So make it
8-1/2 by 11.

It must be opaque, because no editor wants to be annoyed by having the
writing on the second sheet show through between the lines of the
first, when he is reading that. That is the chief, and a sufficient,
reason. A second, is that thin paper is flimsy and hard to handle.

It should be white, because that, too, is the common practice.
Besides, dull white paper displays the typewriting most clearly. We
have heard of one photoplay writer who uses a buff-colored paper, and
who maintains that since adopting it his scripts have received better
treatment than formerly; his theory being that, on account of the
difference in color, his scripts attracted attention and were more
carefully handled. This may be true; but a good grade of yellow paper
will cost you more than white, and if white, opaque paper is good
enough for the leading photoplay writers, why not make it your paper?
The cheapest grade of paper that is sufficiently opaque costs about
$1.50 a box, containing one ream, 500 sheets. The next heavier costs
about $2.00 a box; a still better quality, a few cents more. Certainly
here is a case where, up to a reasonable limit, the best is the
cheapest. If you take pride in your work, send it out well dressed;
but, no matter how �sthetic your taste may be, never use the shades of
cherry, opaline, canary, or Nile green, in which certain grades of
paper are made.

RULES FOR WRITING THE SCRIPT. Instead of simply saying that the
manuscript _should_ be typewritten, let us ask once more: If you are
in earnest, and intend to succeed, why not give yourself every chance
to gain the editor's attention and interest by proclaiming that you
are a business man as well as a writer? Many film manufacturers
plainly announce that only typed scripts will be examined. Therefore
write the script with a typewriter. Today, when many companies rent
good machines at from $4.00 for three months to $3.00 a month, and
when you can buy a typewriter outright for from $15.00 to $100.00, the
writer who is able to use one and who does not do so is simply being
unfair to himself. Any good machine may now be had by paying down a
small sum and the same amount monthly for a term of months. Serious
writers should promptly decide to step out of the amateur class and
equip themselves properly for the work. If you wish to experiment with
your talents before deciding to rent or buy a typewriting machine,
there are plenty of responsible typists who will typewrite your script
for from 35 cents to 50 cents per thousand words, including one
carbon copy.

If you have a typewriter you will, of course, make at least one carbon
copy. Should the script you send out be lost or badly marred in any
way, you have the carbon from which you can make another, but never be
so unwise as to send out the carbon copy itself should the original be
lost. Make a new copy. In the first place, should the carbon copy also
be lost, you will have nothing left as a record of your story--unless
you happen to have kept your notes and rough draft. Besides, carbon
copies rarely look as well as an original script, and the editor who
receives a carbon might not look upon it with any great favor--though
this is the least valid reason.

Another important point is, if your photoplay is accepted, your copy
will serve you as a valuable basis for criticism of your own work,
inasmuch as you can compare the play as written with the play as
produced, observing what changes the editor and director may have
deemed necessary. This practice is followed pretty generally by
earnest writers of fiction, but is applicable also to photoplay
writing, and should help the writer, after seeing his play produced,
to do even better work next time.

For carbon copies, almost any weight and quality of paper will serve.
A plain yellow or a manilla paper, costing about 50 cents a box of 500
sheets, is very satisfactory.

Most authors who are users of typewriters know that a black "record"
ribbon is far superior to a "copying" ribbon. The latter is likely to
smudge or blur and spoil a clean manuscript. Again, it pays to get a
pretty good grade of carbon paper; the best, in fact, is none too good
for literary work of any kind. Cheap carbons smear the copy and stain
the writer's fingers; besides, they have a tendency to make the copy
look as if it were covered with a fine layer of soot or black dust.
Avoid them.

GENERAL DIRECTIONS. Other hard and fast rules for the practice of
photoplay writing are:

Do not write on both sides of the paper.

Do not fasten the sheets of your script with clips or pins which
perforate the paper; there are at least half-a-dozen kinds of paper
clips which hold the sheets firmly without permanently fastening them
together. The editor likes to have the sheets loose when reading the

Above all, do not roll your script. If it is 8-1/2 by 11 paper, as it
ought to be, fold it no more than twice. That is what all writers do
who follow the rules.

DIRECTIONS FOR TYPING THE SCRIPT. While it is well to remember that
the suggestions here offered are intended for those who type their own
photoplays, the same suggestions can be made by authors to the
professional typists to whom they send their stories to be prepared
for the editor.

The editor of one company suggests that it is best always to put your
name and address on each sheet of the manuscript. This is simply
"making assurance doubly sure" that the script will not go astray or
become mixed in the editorial office, for winds and dropped
manuscripts sometimes play annoying tricks upon editors, it need
hardly be said. But at least write your name and address plainly in
the upper left-hand corner of the _first_ sheet of the synopsis; then
write it in the same place on the _first_ sheet of the _scenario_;
and, provided you have room--if the last scene of your scenario does
not run clear to the bottom of the page--also at the bottom of the
_last_ page of your scenario. Then, further, write on every other page
the title of your photoplay. If it is a short title, write it in full.
If it should be a long title, such as "Where Love is, There God is
Also," a Selig release taken from Tolstoy's story of the same name,
simply write "Where Love is, etc." That will be ample to identify your
work should one of the sheets become separated from the rest of the
script. Thus the editor has your name and address in three different
places, and with all or part of your title on the other sheets of the
script, there is little danger of any part going astray after it
reaches his hands.

The following plan for the actual mechanical preparation of the three
or four parts of the script has been approved by editors in general;
nevertheless, it is here offered as a suggestion, not laid down as a
rule. To follow it, however, insures your having a neat, readable
script, one which will catch the editor's attention as soon as he
opens it.

The scale-bar on most standard typewriters is numbered from 0 (the
next figure, of course, being 1) to 75. Each figure indicates one
space. When writing your name and address on the first page of both
synopsis and scenario, set your left marginal stop at 5. When the
paper is pushed as far to the left of the paper-shield as it will go,
this will give you a left-hand margin of about 1-3/16 inches--which is
quite wide enough for the margin on a photoplay script. Write your
name and address so that the top line will come about three-quarters
of an inch from the top of the sheet, and, keeping it even with the
left-hand margin, write the two or three lines of the name and address
directly beneath each other, and the other material below, in the
manner illustrated on the succeeding type-page.

Frank B. Stanwood,
392 W. 62nd St.,
New York City.

   _T H E  R A J A H ' S  H E I R_

_Dramatic Photoplay in 27 Scenes;_

_6 Interior and 10 Exterior Settings_

   (Use only one line in Ms.)

            _S Y N O P S I S_

The first sheet of the script being the one on which you commence to
write your synopsis, first of all get your title neatly spaced.

Always write your title entirely in capitals, leaving one space
between each letter of each word in the title, and three spaces
between each word. Say that your title contains three words, as the
foregoing. After you have written the first word--with a space between
every letter--the machine will automatically space one. Do not count
that as one, in leaving the three spaces suggested, but touch your
space-bar three times. This will move the carriage back so that the
first letter of the next word will be printed four spaces away from
the last letter of your first word, leaving three spaces between. Take
one sheet of your typewriter paper and keep it as a test sheet, trying
out your title-spacing thus: Write the complete title, with spacing as
suggested above, once, getting it as nearly right (with even spaces on
either side) as you can at a good guess. If it is not right, space one
line down on your trial sheet and try it again, this time a little
farther to the right or left as the case demands. One or two trials
and you will have it as nearly even in margins as it can be made on a
typewriter. Thus, in a title like

     T H E  H E R O I N E  O F  T H E
                P L A I N S

you will find that to start the first word at 11 on the scale-bar,
managing the spacing as suggested, will get your title in the centre
of the page with practically no variation in the two margins.

Then, about an inch below the title, write the descriptive lines:

Dramatic Photoplay in 28 Scenes;

5 Interior and 12 Exterior Settings

as described in the chapter on "The Synopsis." About an inch below
this, write the word

          S Y N O P S I S

starting to write at 28 on the scale-bar. The O in the word OF, the
middle word of your title, is the exact centre of the title. Starting
the word

          S Y N O P S I S

on 28 causes the centre of this word (which is the space between the O
and the P) to fall exactly beneath the centre of the title. Then,
about 1-1/2 inches below that, start to write your story in synopsis
form. Commence your paragraph at 15, indenting ten spaces from the
left margin. Thus the neatness and businesslike appearance of your
pages will impress the editor favorably at the very first glance.
Follow the same rule when typing the scenario, or continuity, and also
the scene-plot, if one is made.

Having written your synopsis, if you find that you have plenty of room
on the last sheet to write your cast of characters, do so; but do not
crowd it in. If you cannot get it in so as to look well, double
spaced, and appearing to be, as it should, a separate division (though
not necessarily a separate sheet) of the manuscript, by all means give
it a separate sheet.

On the other hand, there is a rule regarding separation of divisions
of the script which must be observed in every case. You must ALWAYS
start to write the _scenario_ on a fresh sheet, no matter how much
room you have left after writing your cast. The reason for this is
simply that, should your scenario be in proper shape for the director
to work from just as it is, he wants the scenario separate. Having
read the synopsis once or twice, he is through with it; whereas, when
working on a picture, the director "sleeps with the scenario."

And now a word as to the typing of the continuity, or scenario, for
you should do everything in your power so to prepare it as to make its
every word quickly and easily understood.

In the first place, we strongly recommend the following method for the
mechanical preparation of the scenario:

When writing the number of your first scene (1), place the indicator
at 0 on the scale-bar. Write all scene-numbers up to 9 at the same
point. When you start to write scene-numbers containing two figures
(from 10 to as high as you will go) do so at 0 and 1, respectively.
Now space one, then print the hyphen mark (which will make a short
dash), after which space one or two, as the case may be, which will
bring you to 5 on the scale-bar. At 5 start to write the _descriptive
phrase_ for your scene. You should also make 5 your left marginal
point for the writing of the body of your action. In writing the
subject matter of each scene, or division, of the action, _commence
each new paragraph_ at 15. In writing "Leader," "On screen, Letter,"
_or any other_ direction intended especially for the director, always
start to write at 0 on the scale-bar, in a direct downward line with
your scene-numbers.

The result of following these suggestions will be a neat and
attractive type-page, upon which the producer will be able to locate
the scene-numbers and other directions at a glance, as may be seen
from the following example:




8-Platform of Railway Station.
     Train pulls in and stops.

  Tom alights. Sets grip on ground
  --feels in pocket--produces
  Kate's letter. Opens it and
  glances at it again.



      Remember your promise. We
   shall be counting upon seeing
   you at Christmas. Don't for-


The fact that every studio has writers on its staff to make over
scenarios which are good but not in quite the correct form for the
director, into what are known as "working scripts," should make no
difference to you when writing your script. Let what you offer to the
editor be as perfect as you can make it, regardless of what becomes of
it after you have sold it. Make it, in _every_ sense, a desirable

With regard to the proper spacing for a photoplay manuscript, some
editors prefer single and others double spacing. Again, sometimes an
editor may have a fondness for double spacing, while the director
leans to scripts that are single-spaced. Our experience has shown,
however, that the majority of editors and directors like single
spacing for the actual subject-matter of the scene--the paragraphs of
action--but double spacing _between all other matter_. Therefore use
double space between a leader and the description of the scene which
follows, and between the description of the scene and the action
proper. This method of spacing, when combined with the rule of placing
all directions in the extreme left-hand margin, results in a script
that is almost sure to be satisfactory, and is certainly attractive,

In conclusion, do not forget that a _good_ typewriter is a tool of the
writer's trade, and perhaps the most important tool of all. As for
the question of which is the _best_ typewriter, it is entirely a
matter of opinion. If you live in a small town, where there is no
typewriter agent or agency, see if, among your business acquaintances,
there are not represented all the standard makes. Ask permission to
examine as many different makes as you can find; try what each will
do; make up your mind whether you prefer the single or the double
keyboard. If you choose a machine with the single keyboard, you must
get used to the shift-key system of printing capitals, yet many
writers prefer the single keyboard. If you are _buying_ a machine the
makers will gladly substitute for one of the needless characters
already on the keyboard--such as @--an odd character for which a
writer of photoplays or of fiction would have particular use, such as
the exclamation mark.

Having a typewriter, take care of it. Clean the type regularly with a
stiff brush; keep it cleaned and oiled; protect the platen from spots
of oil or grease of any kind; and give the machine the general
attention which it deserves.

From all this, it may seem that undue stress is laid upon the neat
appearance of the script, and the way it is planned from a mechanical
viewpoint. But we re-affirm what has been said at the opening of the
present chapter, and, in addition, we assert that not only are
neatness and correctness in the preparation of the script of
importance now, but, in the good times to come, to which all photoplay
writers are looking forward, the names that will be featured on the
posters and in the advertising matter of the companies will be the
names of the writers to whom the big checks are paid, and for whose
work there will be a steady demand, and they will be the names of the
writers who consider it worth while to TAKE PAINS.



For a few moments, it will be well to pause in order to survey the
road we have patiently travelled in our efforts toward writing the
photoplay, and also to look briefly at the course that lies ahead.

In the preceding six chapters we have determined the precise meaning
of the word "photoplay;" touched upon the qualifications necessary to
success in photoplay writing; familiarized ourselves with the
vocabulary of the craft; looked briefly at the parts of the photoplay
script; examined a complete specimen; and found what are the proper
methods for its typing.

After all this foundation work, containing the general information and
instructions necessary to enable the photoplaywright to take up
intelligently the actual planning, building, and writing of the story,
we enter upon a second group of discussions, chapters VII to XII,
which are essentially lessons in _how_ to write the photoplay.

The third section, from Chapter XIII to the end, takes up the details
of instruction and information in such a way as to supplement the main
points before discussed--minor yet really important points which are
sure to be of value to the photoplaywright in his work of turning out
a script that will need little or no changing on the part of the
director or the staff-writer.

_1. Importance of the Title_

Nearly everything that has been written on the subject of titles for
novels and short-stories applies quite as much to titles for "regular"
plays and the photodrama. No photoplaywright who is earnest in his
desire to turn out only the best and most original work should neglect
to read thoroughly the chapter on "The Title" in each available book
in the list of works on the writing of the short-story in Appendix A,
at the end of this work. Do not be satisfied with what has been
written specially for writers of the photoplay; go deeper; study what
has been written for fiction writers and dramatists, and so equip
yourself thoroughly. We should like to write at the beginning and end
of every chapter of this book this reminder: Only those who are
thoroughly equipped will be able to remain in the ranks of
photoplaywrights when once the various manufacturers have drawn out
enough competent writers to keep them supplied with scripts. There
will always be room for the competent writer, but a competent writer
he must be. And as one element in competency this matter of the title
is important, vitally important, when it comes to selling your script.

_2. General Functions of the Title_

"The title has for its main function the advertising of the story to
the public."[8] Is not this, even if there were no other, a sufficient
reason for making your title as attractive, interesting and
appropriate as you possibly can? True, there are thousands of
picture-play patrons who go to their favorite theatre night after
night, prepared to see anything that may be shown for their
entertainment. But there are also thousands who are _not_ regular
attendants. Many go only when attracted by the title of a picture
based on some well-known book, poem, or play. A great many more are
guided in their selection of moving-picture entertainment by the
attractiveness of the titles displayed on the posters and banners
announcing the regular daily programs. As a means of attracting all
such, the advertising value of the title is important.

[Footnote 8: Evelyn May Albright, _The Short Story_.]

"A good title," Barrett has said[9] "is apt [appropriate, fitting],
specific [concerning itself with, and narrowed down to, something
individual enough to grip the attention], attractive [interesting and
calculated to inspire attention], new [fresh and unhackneyed], and
short." The bracketed comments, of course, are ours.

[Footnote 9: Charles Raymond Barrett, _Short Story Writing_.]

_3. Titles to Avoid_

Judging from the titles of many dozens of scripts that the writers
have seen slipped into the "stamped addressed envelope enclosed" and
sent back to amateur photoplaywrights, one of the greatest mistakes
that the young writer makes in his choice of titles is in making them
commonplace and uninteresting. When an editor takes out a script and
reads the title, "The Sad Story of Ethel Hardy," would he be
altogether to blame if he _did_ put the script back into the return
envelope utterly unread, as so many editors are accused of doing yet
really do not do? To anyone with a sense of humor, there is more cause
for merriment in the titles that adorn the different stories that a
photoplay editor reads in the course of a day than is to be found in a
humorous magazine. Yet it is as easy for some writers to select a
good, attractive title for their stories as it is difficult for

Do not choose a title that will "give away" your plot. The title
should aid in sustaining interest, not dull the spectator's attention
by telling "how it all ends." To quote Mr. Harry Cowell, writing in
_The Magazine Maker_: "A title is a means to an end. The end of a
story should justify the title. If the title gives the story away, the
writer may have to give it away, too, or sell it for a song, which is
bad business." Let the title suggest the theme of the story, by all
means; but keep your climax, your "big" scene, safely under cover
until the moment comes to "spring it" upon the spectators and leave
them gasping, as it were, at the very unexpectedness of it. Avoid
titles beginning with "How" or "Why," for they are prone to lead in
this direction. A good exception is the well-known play, "Why Smith
Left Home."

If you use a quotation or a motto for a title, be sure it is not
overworked. Variations of "The Way of the Transgressor," "And a
Little Child Shall Lead Them," "Thou Shalt Not Kill," and "Honesty Is
the Best Policy" are moss-covered.

Avoid baldly alliterative titles, such as "The Deepening of
Desolation," "Elizabeth's Elopement," and "Tom Truxton's Trust." Had
not the three elements mentioned in the title, "Sun, Sand and
Solitude," practically made the story possible, it would never have
been used; even so, it is really too alliterative. Usually, the
over-use of alliteration is artificial and suggests a strained effort
to be original.

For more than one reason, names, as titles for photoplays, are not
very desirable, especially for original stories. To entitle a
photoplay "Andrew Jackson," or "Jane Shore," if the plot is chiefly
concerned with either of those two personages, is, of course, the
proper thing; but the class of historical stories indicated by these
or similar titles is usually turned out by the film company's own
staff of writers. Once in a while, however, it happens that an
original story of modern life is written around one character who so
completely dominates the action that the name constitutes the very
best title that could be given to it. Two good examples of stories
having names as titles are "Mickey," in which Mabel Normand played the
title r�le, and "Innocent" (the name of the heroine), produced by
Path� and featuring Fannie Ward.

One-word titles are good only when they are especially apt. Such
titles as "Jealousy," "Retribution," "Chains," "Rivals" and
"Memories" have been worn threadbare.

"Eschew titles that are gloomy, as 'The Sorrow of an Old Convict,'
Loti; or old style, 'Christian Gellert's Last Christmas,' Auerbach; or
trite, 'The Convict's Return,' Harben; or newspapery, 'Rescued by a
Child;' or highly fantastic, 'The Egyptian Fire Eater,' Baumbach; or
anecdotal, 'A Fishing Trip;' or sentimental, 'Hope,' Bremer; or
repellent, 'A Memorable Murder,' Thaxter."[10]

[Footnote 10: J. Berg Esenwein, _Writing the Short-Story_.]

"The American editor, like the heiress, is willing, anxious, to pay
big money for a genuine title; only she is on the lookout for an old
one, he for a new," says Mr. Harry Cowell, in _The Magazine Maker_.
And though he speaks of titles for fiction stories, what he says
exactly fits when applied to photoplay writing. Again, Mr. Cowell says
that "the best of titles, once used, is bad"--for re-use, of course.

Mr. Epes Winthrop Sargent remarks: "There are dozens of instances of
title-duplication to be noted in the past year, some of the titles
being used more than twice. A matter of greater moment is to avoid
duplication of plot." It is of still greater moment to avoid both.
Because he discovered that the Essanay Company was about to release a
picture called "Her Adopted Father," a certain writer changed the
title of one of his stories from "His Adopted Mother" to "The Bliss of
Ignorance." This avoided, not a duplication, but a too great
similarity in titles; at the same time the change was an improvement,
when one considers the theme of the story.

As a photoplay author, you should subscribe for one of the
trade-papers, if for no other reason than to keep posted on the titles
of the various subjects released by the different manufacturers. In
this way you will have a much better chance of avoiding the repetition
of titles. It goes without saying that originality in a title is only
less desirable than originality in a plot; yet every now and then some
manufacturer will release a picture with a title similar to, or even
quite the same as, one already produced by some other company. For
example, on July 15th, some years ago, Lubin released a picture called
"Honor Thy Father." Four days later, on the 19th, Vitagraph put out a
picture with the same title. Yet this was the merest coincidence. On
August 17th of the same year Reliance released "A Man Among Men,"
while Selig's "A Man Among Men" was released November 18th. The plots
were totally different, and the Selig story was written and produced
in the plant before any announcement of the Reliance picture was made.
Again, on January 8, of the next year, Selig released "The Man Who
Might Have Been." Twelve days later, Edison put on the market "The Man
_He_ Might Have Been," by James Oppenheim.

The exhibitor is the one who suffers as a result of these similarities
in titles; many people see the poster and imagine they have seen the
picture before, not noticing the difference in the make of film, and
so go elsewhere to see some show that is entirely fresh to them.
Therefore keep posted, as fully as possible, as to what the
manufacturers are putting out.

Of course this matter of title-duplication has a bearing, though a
remote one, on titles that are similar yet not identical, as when
Artcraft releases "Wolves of the Rail" (with William S. Hart) and
Triangle puts out "Wolves of the Border" (with Roy Stewart). Perhaps
there is no valid objection to such similarity, which can be called
imitation only when the themes are more or less alike, but it actually
seems to have been the policy of many companies to follow the line of
least resistance when selecting titles for their pictures, using a
title, provided it is good in itself, and appropriate to the picture
under consideration, regardless of whether or not it is already
familiar to the public as the title of another photoplay, fiction
story, or legitimate drama. Needless to say, this has led to a great
deal of confusion--and, in one or two cases, to law suits.

Bear in mind that the titles of already published fiction and already
produced stage plays are not the lawful prey of the photoplaywright
merely because he is working in a different literary field. More than
one librarian has told us of the confusion caused by reason of Anna
Katharine Green's title, "The Woman in the Alcove," having been used
later by another popular woman novelist. Again, such a unique and
thoroughly distinctive title as Gouverneur Morris's "It" has been used
for a very different type of short-story by another writer.
Occasionally, we will admit, this happens by the merest
chance--although not when a certain motion picture concern puts out a
picture showing life in an American factory town and bearing Kipling's
well-known title "The Light That Failed." Your literary conscience
must dictate what you should do--willing as we are to admit that there
is, very frequently, a great temptation to use the title already
employed by another writer because of its extreme appropriateness to
your own story.

It may be said that most photoplay producing companies are led to use
unoriginal titles because of the poor and inappropriate titles given
the stories sent in to them by the authors themselves. Your duty,
then, is to help to keep the producing company from "going wrong" in
this respect by supplying them with the very best and most original
title you can devise for every story of yours which you are fortunate
enough to sell.

_4. Where to Look for Titles_

Good titles are everywhere--if you know how to find them. The Bible,
Shakespeare, all the poets, books and plays that you read, newspapers,
even advertisements on billboards and in street cars, all contain
either suggestions for titles or complete titles, waiting only to be
picked out and used. But be sure that someone else has not forestalled

Sayings, proverbs, and well-known quotations are a fruitful source of
titles, as we have already intimated. But sometimes the real
significance and value of such a title are not apparent to a great
many of the spectators until they have witnessed the climax of the
picture. This arises from their ignorance of literature and is, of
course, their loss. Many good and extremely appropriate titles of this
character are taken from the Psalms, from Shakespeare, and other
poets. Frequently these quotations, used as titles, are so well known,
and their meanings so apparent, that almost every one of the
spectators will at once understand them, and catch at least the theme
or general drift of the story from the title. Sometimes, again, the
real significance of a title is best brought out by repeating it, or
even the complete quotation from which it is taken, in the form of a
leader at the point in the action where its significance cannot fail
to be impressed upon the spectators. For example, a certain Selig
release was entitled "Through Another Man's Eyes." Before the next to
the last scene, which showed the ne'er-do-well lover peering in at the
window, while his former friend bends over to kiss his wife--who might
have been the wife of the wayward young man, had he been made of
different stuff--the leader was introduced:

     "How bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through
     another man's eyes!"

     --SHAKESPEARE, _As You Like It_.

5. _The Time to Choose a Title_

Notwithstanding that the title is the first in position on the
writer's script, as well as on the film as exhibited, it is frequently
the last thing decided upon. A writer may have his theme well in hand,
know every motive of every character, have settled to almost the
minutest detail just how his scenes are going to work out as they
unfold his story, yet, when he begins his first draft of the script,
he may not have the slightest idea of what title he will eventually
give it.

On the other hand, he may create a story _from_ the title. Having hit
upon an expression that suggests a story by starting a train of
thought, he may find that it is directly responsible for the way in
which he builds his plot; its very words suggest the nature of the
story, and supply at least a suggestion of how it can be
developed--they hint at a possible plot, suggest the setting, and
show, almost as one might guess the theme of a novel by glancing for a
moment at one of the illustrations, what the probable outcome of the
story will be. Hence the expression becomes a natural title for the

As an example of the foregoing, in "The Fiction Factory," by "John
Milton Edwards," the author says that "the sun, sand and solitude of
the country God forgot" did, or caused, or made something--just what
does not now matter. The point is that those ten words supplied one of
the present authors with not only titles for two of his photoplays,
but with the plot-germ for the plays themselves. Both are stories of
Arizona: "Sun, Sand and Solitude," and "In the Country God Forgot."

_6. Choosing the Title Last_

But you may decide to leave the naming of the story until after you
have made the rough draft of both synopsis and scenario. Your story is
told; you know the motives that have prompted your different
characters to do what they have done; you know the scene; and you
understand the theme, or _motif_--as the word would be used in
music--which underlies the whole action. The question arises: To what
do you wish to have your title call _particular_ attention? If a
woman, or a girl, has the leading part, and it is what she does in
your play that really makes the story, it would be best to feature the
girl and her deed of cleverness or daring in your title, as in "The
Ranch Girl's Heroism," "A Daughter's Diplomacy," or "A Wife of the
Hills." Or you may attach most importance to the locale of your story,
the background against which the rest of your picture is painted, and
call it, for instance, "A Tragedy of the Desert," "In the North
Woods," "A Tale of Old Tahiti," or one of the titles of Arizona
stories, just cited. Again, the interest in your story may be equally
divided between two, or among three, people, as in "The Triangle,"
"The Girl and the Inventor," and "The Cobbler and the Financier." Note
that every title here given is the actual title of a picture play
which has already been released. Bear in mind, too, that many
photoplays are released bearing poor, commonplace, and inappropriate
titles, and the foregoing are not so much named as models as for the
purpose of illustrating the specific point now being discussed--that
the _feature idea_ may often direct your choice after the story is
worked out.

A great many comedies have titles which state a fact, or specifically
make an announcement concerning what happens in the photoplay, as
"Arabella Loves Her Master," or "Billy Becomes Mentally Deranged."
Photoplays with such titles are, as a rule, the product of the
European makers. Once in a while a dramatic picture will be given such
a title, as "Tommy Saves His Little Sister"--a picture made in
France--and "Annie Crawls Upstairs," the last a beautiful and touching
picture by the well-known writer of magazine stories and photoplays,
James Oppenheim, produced by the Edison Company. Again, there are more
general titles exploiting the theme of the story, as "The Ways of
Destiny," "The God Within," and "Intolerance." There are also
symbolical titles, which have, naturally, a double meaning, playing
upon an incident in the plot, as "A Pearl of Greater Price," and
"Written in the Sand."

_7. The Editor and the Title_

Some successful writers have expressed dissatisfaction when editors
have ventured to change the titles of their scripts after having
accepted and paid for them. Doubtless some of these objections have
been not without reason. Many editors and directors have, in the past,
taken entirely too much upon themselves, in this and other respects
taking liberties with the scripts received which, if known to the head
of the firm, would have led to their being at least reprimanded. But
in such studios, the editors, and especially the directors, worked for
days at a time without having once come in contact with the head of
the firm; as a result, they all did pretty much as they liked. During
the last few months, however, changes have been made in every studio
in the country, and at the present time the scripts that writers send
in are not only handled much more carefully, but, if the title of a
story is changed in the studio, there is usually a very good reason
for so doing.

Let us suppose, for example, that a certain company (such as, at this
writing, Goldwyn) is featuring women stars only. A writer sends in an
unusually good script entitled "Not Like Other Girls"--which, by the
way, is a well-known book-title. At about the time that his script is
received at the Goldwyn scenario department, the company decides to
feature, in addition to its women, a certain male star. This writer's
story, while one with a "woman lead," is also one whose plot is
capable of being worked over and slightly altered so as to provide a
good vehicle for the leading man who has just been engaged. On the
strength of this fact, the company buys the author's story without
even informing him of their intention to make alterations in it--or
they may, of course, tell him of the contemplated alterations and
request his help in recasting the story. Not only is the action
changed in different ways, but the title is sure to be altered to make
it appropriate for a male leading character--and all quite

In this condition of affairs, by no means infrequent, the
photoplaywright may find a strong reason for being familiar with the
people composing a certain company, for the actual structure of the
play as well as the title will influence its acceptance in some
instances. It is well to ask: Are men or women featured in their
pictures; or do they put out stories with a male and a female "lead"
of equal strength? Your story should be good enough to make it
acceptable to any editor; yet, if you plan to send it first to a firm
that features a woman in most of its pictures, as you have the
opportunity of knowing if you study the pictures you see on the screen
and read the trade-papers, do not write a story with a strong male
"lead," and do not give it a title that draws attention to the fact
that the principal character is a man.

Remember, once again, that your title is the advertisement that draws
the public into the theatre. The title is to the public what the title
combined with the synopsis is to the editor--the all-important
introduction to what is to follow.



The synopsis is a brief--a clear, orderly outline--of the plot of your
story. However, before considering the preparation of the synopsis,
one important element must be considered:

_1. What Constitutes a Plot_[11]

_A fictional or a dramatic plot is the working plan by which the story
is made to lead up to the crisis (or complication, or cross-roads of
choice), and then swiftly down to the outcome (or unfolding of the
mystery, or untying of the knot, or result of the choice)._

[Footnote 11: The student is advised to read _The Plot of the Short
Story_, Henry Albert Phillips; and the chapters on plot in the
following treatises: _The Short Story_, Evelyn May Albright; _The
Contemporary Short Story_, Harry T. Baker; _A Handbook on Story
Writing_, Blanche Colton Williams; _Short Stories in the Making_,
Robert Wilson Neal; _The Art of Story Writing_, Esenwein and Chambers;
and _Writing the Short-Story_, J. Berg Esenwein.]

There can be no real plot without a complication whose explanation is
worked out as the story draws to its close. A mere chain of happenings
which do not involve some change or threatened change in the
character, the welfare, the destinies of the leading "people," would
not form a plot. Jack goes to college, studies hard, makes the
football team, enjoys the companionship of his classmates, indulges in
a few pranks, and returns home--there is no plot here, though there
is plenty of plot _material_. But send Jack to college, and have him
there find an old enemy, and at once a struggle begins. This gives us
a complication, a "mix-up," a crisis; and the working out of that
struggle constitutes the plot.

So all dramatic and all fictional plots give the idea of a struggle,
more or less definitely set forth. The struggle need not be bodily; it
may take place mentally between two people--even between the forces of
good and evil in the soul of an individual. The _importance_ of the
struggle, the _clearness_ with which it is shown to the spectator, and
the sympathetic or even the horrified _fascination_ which it arouses
in him, have all to do with its effectiveness as a plot--note the
three italicized words.

_2. Elements of Plot_

Dividing the subject roughly, in this brief discussion, three
important elements of plot deserve consideration:

_(a) The preliminaries_ must be natural, interesting, fresh, and
vivid. That is, they must not seem manufactured. It is all well enough
to say that Jack has made an enemy at College, but _how_ did the
enmity arise? The young men will not become opponents merely to suit
the photoplaywright. You must think out some natural, interesting,
fresh, and vivid cause for the antagonism. Such a logical basis for
action is called _motivation_. And so with all the preliminaries on
which your plot is based--they must motivate what follows. Remember
that forces or persons outside the two characters may lead them to
quarrel. Swiftly but carefully lay your foundations (mostly out of
sight, in the manner of a good builder) so that your building may be
solid and steady--so that your story may not fall because the
groundwork of the plot does not appeal to the spectator as being
_natural, convincing, interesting, fresh, and vivid_; these words bear

_(b) The complication_, or struggle, including all its immediately
surrounding events, must be (usually) surprising, of deep concern to
the chief character, and arouse the anxiety of the spectator as to how
the hero will overcome the obstacles. Jack discovers that the girl he
has just learned to love is the well-loved sister of his college
enemy. How will this complication work out? An interesting series of
movements and counter-movements immediately becomes possible, and any
number of amusing or pathetic circumstances may arise to bring about
the denouement--which simply means the untying of the knot.

The struggle in a plot may be either comical or tragic. Mr. Botts
ludicrously fights against a black-hand enemy--who proves to be his
mischievous small son. Plump and fussy Mrs. Jellifer lays deep but
always transparent plans to outwit her daughter's suitor and is
finally entrapped into so laughable a situation that she yields
gracefully in the end.

And so on indefinitely. Hamlet wars against his hesitating nature.
Macbeth struggles with his conscience that reincarnates the murdered
Banquo. Sentimental Tommy fights his own play-actor character. Tito
Melema goes down beneath the weight of his accumulated insincerities.
Sometimes light shines in the end, sometimes the hero wins only to
die. To be sure, these struggles suggest merely a single idea, whereas
plots often become very elaborate and contain even sub-plots,
counter-plots, and added complications of all sorts. But the basis is
the same, and always in some form _struggle_ pervades the drama;
always this struggle ranges the subordinate characters for or against
protagonist and antagonist, and the outcome is vitally part and
substance of all that goes before--the end was sown when the seeds of
the beginning were planted. This touches upon the third element:

_(c) The Denouement_, or disclosure of the plot just before its close,
is one of its most vital parts.

"Novelty and interest in the situations throughout the story, with an
_increasing_ interest in the denouement, are the essential demands of
a plot."[12]

[Footnote 12: Evelyn May Albright, _The Short Story_.]

It goes without saying that you must interest your audience, but you
must also satisfy them--gratify the curiosity you have earlier
aroused. It is all very well to write an "absorbing" story, in which
the excitement and expectation are sustained up to the very last
scene, but be sure that the theme is essentially such that _in_ the
last scenes, if not before, your action will unravel the knot that has
become so tantalizingly tangled as the play proceeded. No matter how
promising a theme may be in other respects, it is foredoomed to
failure if from it comes a plot of which the spectator will say as he
goes out, "It was a pretty picture--but I couldn't understand the

Another thing: If it is important that, in every case, the spectators
must be "shown" what happens in the working out of a plot, it is
equally important that they be shown _why_ it happens. This also has
to do with sound and comprehensible motivation. "It is not so much a
case of 'show me,' with the average American, as a common recognition
that there must be a reason for the existence of everything created.
He is inclined to give every play a fair show, will sit patiently
through a lot of straining for effect, if there is a _raison d'�tre_
in the summing up, but his mode of thought, and it belongs to the
constitution of the race, is that of getting at some truth by
venturesome experiment or logical demonstration."[13]

[Footnote 13: Louis Reeves Harrison, in _The Moving Picture World_.]

Bear that truth in mind, no matter what you write of, and never start
anything that you can't finish--which is simply one way of saying, do
not start to write a story _at all_ until you have every scene,
situation, and incident, so thoroughly planned, motivated and
developed in your mind that when you come to write it out in action in
the scenario you cannot help making the audience understand the plot.
Never attempt to introduce even a single situation without a logical
cause; be sure that "there's a reason."

"Break away from the old lines," advises Mr. Nehls, of the American
Company. "Try to write scenarios that will hold the interest with a
not too obvious ending, with sudden, unexpected changes in the trend
of the story."

If the story contains a mystery, do not allow the end to be guessed
too soon. Interest thrives on suspense and on expectation. The
surprising thing, yet the natural ending, swiftly brought about, marks
the climax of a good photoplay plot. Many a promising photoplay script
has failed because it did not make good its prophecy. The plot opened
well, but "petered out"--the complication was a good one, but the
unfolding of the mystery, the result of the struggle, the aftermath of
the choice, were disappointing.

And one final word in this connection: The _photoplay public loves a
"happy ending"--unless it must be forced_.

_3. The Study of Plot-Structure_

A careful study of fictional and dramatic plot will well repay the
photoplaywright. But little more can be said here on the technique of
plot, though it deserves a treatise in itself; but much will be gained
if these few words are taken seriously, and no stories are submitted
except those revolving about ORIGINAL, CLEAR-CUT, PLAUSIBLE

This advice applies even to humor, for humor takes things which are
ordinarily serious and by introducing the incongruous makes them
laughable. It is the sudden interruption of smooth going, the
unexpected shifting of the factors in the problem, the new and
surprising condition of affairs, the swift disappointment--it is any
of these in countless variety that makes plot possible.

Learn to invent plots. Invent them wholesale--by day, by night. Turn
the facts of everyday life into plots. Draw them from jests, from
tragedies, from newspapers, from books, from your own heart--and don't
omit the heart, whatever else you do omit. At first, invent merely
complications; later work out the situation entire. Thus you will
cultivate an inventive attitude and at least _some_ good plots are
sure to result.

_4. Preparation of the Synopsis_

The synopsis of the plot is the first part of the script to be read by
the editor, for from it he decides whether the whole script is worth
reading further. For this reason, even were there no other, the
importance of the synopsis should need no argument. Besides, many
companies now are willing to consider "synopsis only."

The _final_ preparation of the synopsis should be the last stroke in
the completion of the script. We emphasize "final" because, as has
been briefly pointed out in a previous chapter, the writer should at
the very outstart draft a rough, or working, synopsis, to be used as
a guide while working out the various scenes in his scenario.

The reasons for reserving the synopsis for improving and polishing at
the very end of the writing may easily be understood. Suppose an
author were to write the complete synopsis of his story first, and
then in writing his scenario follow that synopsis rigidly, adding no
scene not indicated in it, introducing no character that it does not
mention, and otherwise being bound by his earlier work. He might
indeed produce a good scenario, but would it be quite as good as it
might have been had he allowed himself a freer rein in working it out?
Might there not have been a scene or two added that would have aided
materially in making every little detail of his plot clear to the

Again, a writer will frequently find, when working out his scenario,
that he can improve his story by transposing some of the scenes as
originally planned. In fact, there are a dozen ways in which the story
may be altered for the better while in course of construction. Why,
then, should the author hamper himself by obstinately adhering to his
original plan or synopsis of it? In photoplay writing an author should
not promise himself never to change his mind.

An experience of a certain writer will serve to illustrate the
impracticability of writing the final form of the synopsis first. A
few years ago, when all editors were asking for the complete script,
and when most companies were insisting upon a synopsis of
approximately two hundred and fifty words, the editor of a company
for which he writes suggested that, instead of preparing the complete
script before submitting it, the author should merely write out his
synopsis in the usual way and send that in. If the synopsis was
satisfactory, his being told to go ahead and finish the script would
mean that the story was as good as purchased. Appreciating this
kindness, three synopses were submitted by the writer, and two of them
accepted; the third was for certain reasons unavailable. It was
necessary, then, to write out and send in the scenarios for the two
satisfactory synopses, and the author started in. Notwithstanding that
the firm in question places no restriction on the number of words in
the synopsis of scripts submitted to them, and that this author, for
that reason, seldom sent in, even in those days, a synopsis of less
than a thousand words, giving the theme and details of the plot, he
found that in working out the scenarios of both stories the original
plots could be improved, strengthened, given a more decided "punch,"
by making some changes. In one, he added a character and transposed
several scenes, thereby strengthening the whole plot. In the other,
elimination of two scenes of minor importance made it possible for the
director to give more footage to a big scene. These changes being made
in the scenarios, the original synopses could not be used. It was
therefore necessary to write two new ones which corresponded with the
scenarios that went with them. Thus the original synopses of the two
accepted stories really amounted to nothing more than working, or
first-draft, synopses.

5. _Length of the Synopsis_

How many words should be allowed for the writing of a synopsis still
remains a matter of opinion. Almost every writer wishes that he could
use, within reason, an unlimited number. The acceptance or rejection
of the script depends so almost entirely upon the interest the editor
takes in the synopsis, that it unjustly hampers a writer to be limited
in the number of words he may use. This is peculiarly true if the plot
should happen to be one that requires the explanation of several
minor, yet important, details of the story. And even though you are
sending to a company that asks for the complete script, you must bear
in mind that some editors base their decisions wholly upon what they
get from the synopsis.

On the other hand, more scripts suffer from having the synopses
loosely and wordily written than from being over-compressed. The young
writer especially cannot be too careful in drilling himself in the art
of clear-cut, concise, yet effective expression. To be able to tell a
story in outline, using few but vivid words, is an art worth

However, now that the market has expanded from one to five, and even
more, reels, the limit of words is not so closely drawn. Indeed,
today, whether the studio is one that asks for the complete script or
insists upon examining the synopsis only, you may almost feel safe in
sending in a synopsis containing _just as many words as are really
needed_--which means, simply, that the editor's first consideration is
to be able to "get" your whole story from one reading of your
synopsis, whatever its length. It _should_ be concise; it _must_ be
clear and readily understandable. A busy editor has no time to waste
in re-reading certain paragraphs or even sentences the meaning of
which is obscure. One of the first things to remember is that certain
companies send out the call for "synopsis only" because they prefer to
have their staff writers do the continuity of scenes (write the
scenario), instead of accepting the scenario prepared by the author
and upon occasion, altering it in the studio to suit their special
requirements. Why so many concerns prefer to do this is easily
understood. Instead of cutting up the originally submitted scenario
and substituting different settings or locations, and perhaps, even,
different large and difficult-to-obtain "props," they simply provide
the staff writer with the synopsis of the story purchased from you,
and tell him to go ahead and prepare the continuity, knowing as he
does, and keeping in mind while at work, to just what approximate
expense the company is prepared to go, just what sets are available or
can be built, what necessary locations can be reached within a
reasonable time, and what players--especially if they must be
distinctive types--are in the company or may be readily engaged.
These, of course, are matters over which the outside writer can have
no control; if he is selling to a concern that demands the synopsis
only, he must make up for what he does not know about the inside
workings of the studio by giving the editor and (especially) the staff
writer _every needed detail_ of his plot. Only by so doing can he
feel sure of eventually seeing the story on the screen in the form of
an artistic and satisfactory working out of his original idea.

Some companies that request the synopsis only also like the writer to
submit two synopses. The first, for the special benefit of the editor,
and _shorter_ than the two-hundred-and-fifty-word synopsis of a few
years ago, is intended to show the editor or his reader almost at a
glance if the story is what that particular company could use at all.
The second synopsis, of course, is the longer and more detailed one
from which both he and the staff man can get _all_ the necessary
details if your story is purchased. By reading the market departments
of such magazines as _The Writer's Monthly_, and the various trade
journals, you can keep posted as to which concerns like this double
synopsis. For your own good, always observe the rule if the company
lays it down, and remember that it is an easy matter to make a brief
synopsis from the longer one already prepared.

Again, while it is also necessary to observe strictly the rule of
sending the "synopsis only" to companies that demand it, one of the
present writers has found that many firms welcome the author's
continuity, _after the story has been purchased on the strength of its
synopsis_, for the sake of the finer details of action and the
technical and mechanical suggestions contained in it, and even though
they use it merely as an additional aid to the staff writer in
preparing _his_ continuity. Such a company, of course, merely gives
the writer a courteous "thank you" for his continuity, as contrasted
with those that pay a certain amount for the synopsis and, usually,
double that amount if the scenario also is _called for_; but the
earnest writer has the satisfaction of knowing that, with the
additional details supplied in the scenario, or continuity, the staff
writer stands an even better chance of perfectly preparing the blue
print, as it were, of the story from which the director will work
while building the photoplay.

These things being so, this writer works along the following lines:
From a rough draft, or working synopsis, he prepares the complete
scenario, just as he would do for a company that was having a story
done to order. To this, in any case, must be attached a synopsis. He
therefore writes a very complete, detailed synopsis, preparing it in
the manner which will presently be described. In addition, it is a
very simple matter to write a synopsis of from one hundred and fifty
to two hundred and fifty words, according to the story, and have it
ready in case he finds it advisable to submit to a "two synopses
requested" concern.

Now, whether the company is or is not one of those that will accept
the author's own continuity as an additional guide for the staff
writer, if it is a concern that asks for a complete, detailed
synopsis, this writer sends in what he has more than once humorously
termed a "camouflaged continuity." He does not, so to speak,
send in the "plot of action"--the full continuity--with the
technical directions and scene numbers left out, but a genuine,
specially-written synopsis, in proper narrative form. However, it is
written _directly from_ his own complete, detailed continuity, and
the action, though in narrative form, is made to run along exactly as
it does in the continuity. This, it may be said, is almost the same
process which was followed by writers a few years ago, when complete
scripts were first in demand, and which we advocate earlier in the
present chapter. But you must bear in mind that the method here
outlined is used _in connection with_ the writing of a synopsis of
from three thousand to six thousand words, or even more, if really
necessary, as contrasted with the two-hundred-and-fifty-word synopsis
generally demanded a few years ago. Furthermore, the synopsis is
written in such a way that anyone could separate this writer's
sentences and paragraphs by drawing a lead pencil between the lines,
thus dividing it into almost the exact number of scenes, with the same
continuity of action as shown in the scenario. The minor details of
action are omitted, of course, and there are little side remarks
written in, in connection with characterization, etc., which would be
out of place in the scenario.

As for its mechanical preparation, this synopsis is double spaced,
with a left-hand margin of one and one-half inches. As the story runs
on, many statements are made which give the staff writer an
opportunity to use a leader (sub-title) at that point if he wishes to;
but if in his own scenario the writer whose practice we are quoting
has a number of leaders (frequently ordinary statement, or
before-the-scene, sub-titles, but usually cut-in, or dialogue,
leaders) which he really feels are of special importance, and worded
just right, they go into the synopsis _written in red_, and started
in the left margin at "0," with double space both above and below
them. In this way they stand out clearly and give the staff writer or
the sub-title editor (if the firm employs someone to attend to that
special work), a chance to pick them out quickly and decide whether or
not he wishes to retain them. Even more important than the matter of
keeping in the sub-titles after the picture has been produced is that
of directing the action of the players when putting on the picture, so
as to work directly up to the leader that fits into the action at a
certain point. Knowing this fact, the writer gives the director help
in the way just described; what necessary changes are made after the
script has been sold is a matter over which no free-lance writer has
any real control.

At the end of this chapter is reproduced a page from one of this same
writer's synopses, illustrating just how far he usually goes in giving
details of the action when writing a complete synopsis, and showing
how the suggested inserts are separated from the narrative of plot.
Let us repeat, however, that not all companies that ask for the
detailed synopsis care to have also the scenario, even as a gift. This
explains the introduction of little bits of detail and certain
suggestions which ordinarily would have no place in the synopsis were
it not that, in order to insure as fully as possible the proper
interpretation of his story, the writer inserts them in this way for
the benefit of both editor and--especially--staff writer.

The importance of trying to acquaint yourself with the preferences of
the different editors as to the length of the synopsis should be
apparent to any writer--although it is well to remember that editors
change and studio rules change with them. For a feature-story of five
reels or more you may have, say, from six to twelve typed pages--the
length of the synopsis, of course, depending upon the nature of the
story and the action it contains. You must be especially careful to
ascertain the preferences of an editor who reads scripts for a star
such as Douglas Fairbanks, because you know that a story prepared
especially for his use (although not written to order) may not sell
elsewhere if his company rejects it. However, regardless of its
length, the object of the synopsis is to present a clear, interesting
and comprehensive outline of the story--of what is worked out in
action in the scenario, if you send one--and to give editor, staff
writer and director all the help you possibly can without for a moment
making it appear that you are trying to teach them their business.
This does not mean that if you know _your_ business you need hesitate
to send in a scene-plot diagram as your suggestion for a certain
important set, or supply historical or other needed data, or give your
own idea of how best a certain effect can be obtained. All
broad-minded and progressive directors are glad to receive such help.
But do not attempt such suggestions until you have thoroughly mastered
the technique of photoplay writing and have also seen on the screen
many examples of how different effects have been procured in the past.
It is not out of place to say now what is enlarged upon in a chapter
to follow: The screen is, after all, the greatest of all schools for
the would-be professional photoplaywright.

Here are some wise words from Mr. Epes Winthrop Sargent, in _The
Moving Picture World_:

"The successful seller of synopses first makes his story interesting,
not through inflated literary style, but through clearness in the
exploitation of idea. He makes his second point through the fullness
of the _necessary_ detail. His third point is made through the
omission of _unnecessary detail_. His last advantage is that he knows
when to give scenes that are out of the ordinary and leaders that will
be useful to the continuity writer. He undertakes to sell no more than
an idea, and, selling an idea, he does not confound it with history
nor expect the buyer to be a mind reader. That is the great trick in
synopsis writing. Learn what to put in and what to leave out. Learn to
tell what the continuity writer needs, and learn to omit the things
that will suggest themselves to the imagination of any intelligent

_6. The Form of the Synopsis_

An examination of the scripts of some amateur photoplay authors shows
that there is a frequent tendency to misunderstand the form in which
the synopsis should be written. This may be due to the writer's being
impressed with the necessity for not making his synopsis too long. At
any rate, the examples we have in mind are written--the story is
told--exactly as the scenario _should_ be written, only even more
briefly and without being subdivided into numbered scenes. Thus,
instead of writing: "Blake conceals himself behind a boulder and, as
Tom is about to pass him, steps out and orders him to throw up his
hands. He compels Tom to surrender his revolver and cartridge belt,
hastening Tom's actions, when he momentarily hesitates, by firing a
shot close to his head;" the writer may say: "Blake sees Tom
approaching up path. Hides behind boulder. As Tom is about to pass
boulder, he is held up by Blake, who makes him strip off gun and
cartridge belt. Tom too slow in actions, so Blake shoots past his
head. Tom drops belt and gun on ground, etc." Obviously, the mistake
consists in not writing the synopsis in narrative form.

It is well to note another point also. Although some manufacturers in
preparing synopses of their stories for the trade journals write them
in the past tense, it is always advisable to tell your story in the
present tense. In the scenario, you _must_ follow this custom, and in
the synopsis you _should_ do so.

In adding bits of characterization to your synopsis, and particularly
in pointing out the dramatic incidents of your plot, consider the
value of suggestive words and phrases. Not _many_ words, but words
that suggest pictures, call up whole scenes, tell entire stories, are
needed. And this is particularly true when you are writing to meet the
"synopsis only" demand. Don't over-adjective your synopsis, but such
qualifying words as you use should be vivid, clear and precise. One
specific word outweighs a score of general statements. Consider the
difference between "horse" and "broncho;" "house" and "bungalow;"
"woman" and "sour spinster." Be definite.

A careful examination of any well-written synopsis will convince the
novice that several rewritings are not too many to give to a synopsis
before deciding that it is _clear, concise, and interesting_. Each of
these points is well worth considering carefully. Interest, no one can
teach you; conciseness may be attained only by cutting out needless
words and _studying_ how to express the utmost in terse language; and
clearness is surely equally worthy of conscientious effort to master.
A first-class rhetoric, like Genung's, or Hill's, will be of great
value in acquiring conciseness and clearness of style, as well as
other good qualities of expression. One point only is there time to
dwell upon here: the lack of clearness arising from the careless use
of personal pronouns. For example, compare the relative clearness in
these two statements:

"In a moment of excitement, Harley strikes Jim a heavy blow. The whole
thing dazes him, and he scarcely knows what to do. After a few hours,
he determines upon revenge and, after taking his brother into his
confidence, warns him that he will shoot him on sight, etc."

"In a moment of excitement, Harley strikes Jim a heavy blow. The whole
affair dazes Jim, and he scarcely knows what to do. However, after a
few hours, he determines upon revenge, and, after taking his brother
Ted into his confidence, he warns Harley that he will shoot him on
sight, etc."

In the following 248-word synopsis, we have a model of clearness,
conciseness, and interesting statement. The same general form, applied
to a longer synopsis, should satisfy any editor. For the second, or
short, synopsis, demanded by certain companies, one of about this
length, and as carefully prepared, would undoubtedly be entirely
acceptable. Add to the conciseness and clearness of this Vitagraph
synopsis the suggested inserts, leaders, etc., already described in
connection with the synopses usually sent out by one of the present
writers, and you have what comes pretty near to being the ideal form
when the wishes of the editor, staff writer and director are all
considered. You will find other synopses in chapters V and XX.


_Produced by the Vitagraph Company_

With all his faults, Jack Martin, an Arizona gambler, has one
redeeming quality, a deep love for his motherless child. The baby is
taken sick. Leaving her with Aunt Jane, the Mexican housekeeper, Jack
goes for Doctor Winton, who is also the sheriff. The child dies.
Crazed with grief, Jack gets drunk and shoots the town Marshal.
Leaping astride his horse, he escapes into the desert. Far out on a
sandy plain, he comes across the dead body of a young Apache squaw,
who has been bitten by a rattlesnake. By the side of the lifeless form
he finds a child who has nursed from its mother's breast and imbibed
the poison.[14] Jack thinks of his own child and his heart goes out to
the little one. Jack has eluded his pursuers and his horse has
dropped from exhaustion. He knows that he is free to escape. He
hesitates, but determines to save the little papoose by doubling back
on his tracks and meeting the posse, of which the doctor-sheriff is
the leader. On rounding a curve in the canyon, he comes upon his
followers, who cover him with their weapons. Holding out the child to
the doctor, he begs him to do something for it. The sheriff examines
it and discovers that it is dead. Jack, with tears in his eyes, stands
ready for his capture, conscious that inasmuch as he did it for one of
God's little ones, he has not done it in vain.

[Footnote 14: The scientific inaccuracy of this statement need not now
be considered.]

Mr. Epes Winthrop Sargent has well epitomized some important
principles in synopsis writing when--in _The Writer's Monthly_ for
April, 1918--he says that "the good synopsis:

"Starts with a 'punch' fact.

"Tells the story clearly in full detail as to facts, with as few words
as possible.

"Identifies as fully as possible all the leading characters at their
first introduction.

"Fully establishes minor personages as they enter the story.

"Gives _all_ of the facts required by the staff writer in the
construction of a continuity.

"Presents these facts fluently and interestingly, with some suggestion
of literary charm, but without the use of florid phrase or elaborate
descriptive writing.

"Presents facts in their logical order, but not necessarily in the
exact order of their happening.

"Is as brief as is consistent with clearness of statement, but may run
5,000 words or more IF fewer words will not permit the story
to be clearly told."

[Illustration: Paint Frame on Which Scenery is Painted]

[Illustration: Checking "Extras" Used in Rex Beach's Photodrama, "The
Brand." Produced for Goldwyn at its Culver City Studios]


     The Man who Mocked     - 2 -

Dear Dwight:

What do you say to a trip to Italy? Father
is very anxious to continue his historical
researches, especially in Rome and the Campagna.
We'd be delighted to have you as one of our party.
Run up to the house tonight and we'll talk it over.

                      As ever,

     Delafield cares nothing for the ruins and historical treasures
     of the Eternal City, but he is mightily interested in being
     near Muriel, and he leaves the house prepared to accept this

          As he comes down the steps of his house to enter his car,
     an old blind man, led by a little dog on a cord, shuffles
     along and collides with him. Delafield steps back, pushing the
     man from him, who, as if fearing a blow, raises his arms to
     guard against it and then hurries on, while Delafield, sneering
     as he watches him, steps into his car and drives off.

          At the Trevor's, he is shown into the library, where Muriel
     and her father are sitting in earnest conversation. They rise to
     greet him, the professor shaking his hand warmly. When Muriel
     goes to him, Delafield takes her left hand in his (close-up),
     and with his right index finger touches the engagement ring
     on her finger and then points to himself, thus indicating that
     he already looks upon her as his property, albeit he plainly
     shows his genuine regard for her. She presently picks up the
     book to which she and her father have been referring before
     Delafield's entrance and shows it to him, saying:


     At which Delafield smiles good-naturedly, but plainly shows that
     he considers the theory so much rubbish, answering:


     The professor is plainly disappointed by this speech, but he
     passes it off with a smile, answering:


     The truth of which remark is not apparent to Delafield until
     some time later. He smiles at the professor's earnestness,
     which Muriel quite evidently shares, and is about to speak to
     the girl again when her brother, Jack, enters. He is about
     twenty-two, clean-cut and jovial, and he greets Delafield
     heartily, at the same time asking his father:]



The expression "the cast of characters" may be used in any one of
three senses: the list of principal characters as it is thrown on the
screen to serve the purpose of a theatre program; the actual group of
actors used in the production of the photoplay; and the complete cast
of characters as made by the writer for his script. Of course it is
not necessary here to consider each of these three uses of the term,
but it will be quite easy to avoid confusion if we bear the
distinctions in mind.

_1. Showing the Cast on the Screen_

Introducing the cast of characters as a printed part of the pictured
drama is a comparatively recent improvement in the art of the
photoplay. For many years the picture "fans," as we have come to call
them, were kept in ignorance of the real names of the players who
entertained them on the screen. Then in Great Britain the exhibitors
came to realize that the added interest that would come of having the
various artists known to the public by name would mean an increase in
the box-office receipts, and they began to give out fictitious names
for such favorites as Mary Pickford, Florence Turner, and Mary Fuller.
This opened the eyes of some of the manufacturers to the wisdom of
giving on the films the names of the players as well as the names of
the characters represented by them, and the Edison studio, of which
Mr. Horace G. Plimpton was then manager, was one of the first American
concerns to give the cast of characters in connection with the
pictured story. Leaving aside the wishes of the public, it was an
injustice to the players not to have included the casts sooner, just
as the names of actors and actresses are given in a "legitimate"
theatre program.

Following the first showing of the casts on the films, different
manufacturers began to see the wisdom, as well as the additional
artistic effect, of showing the name of the author of the photoplay,
and this practice has gradually grown until, today, it is very seldom
that the name of the writer is omitted. There are patrons who feel
that, at the present time, the preliminary announcements on most
films, especially "features," are rather overdone, inasmuch as they
usually give the names of the author of the story, the writer of the
scenario, or continuity, the director, the cameraman, the "art title"
maker, and the supervising producer. However, most writers and actors
feel that the manufacturers are quite welcome to go as far as they
like in this direction, so long as they continue to give the credit
due to those who write and enact the story.

Undoubtedly, one reason why the manufacturers hesitated about giving
all this information on the film in the days of the single-reel
photoplay was that they had the matter of footage to consider. With an
even thousand feet to a reel, and a reel to a story, no footage could
be spared for preliminary announcements without crowding the
story-part of the film. Today, with one-, two-, three-, and a few
four-reel pictures, and feature productions of from five reels up,
less attention need be paid to the matter of footage consumed by both
preliminary statements and the regular leaders and inserts, as further
pointed out in Chapter XII.

Again, today, one company at least--the Essanay, of Chicago--has
broken away from the old rule of making pictures run to one, two, or
more even reels. They decided to let all their photoplays run on until
the story was logically told (with the aid of the printed inserts) and
then to end it, regardless of the length to which it had run. Then,
instead of announcing in the trade-papers that the picture was in so
many reels, or parts, they simply stated that the screen-time of the
picture was so many minutes, or an hour and so many minutes. From
this, the exhibitor may easily reckon the approximate length of the
picture. The important point in this connection is that it would seem
that the foolish old custom of making a picture run to an arbitrary
length, either by padding it out or by cutting it down, regardless of
all reason and logic, will soon be a thing of the past. The harm done
to certain productions in the past by forcing them to adhere to a
certain number of feet--so many even reels--can hardly be estimated.
Imagine stage plays being written to run so many even hours, instead
of ending logically when the story is fully and consistently worked

At any rate, today, and especially in the case of those concerns which
call for the synopsis only, the free-lance photoplaywright has a much
better opportunity to centre his attention on turning out a good
story, without having constantly to keep in mind the matter of how
many reels of film it will take to tell it--which, of course, is as it
should be. Thus, as has just been shown, the gradual breaking of the
restrictions on footage has resulted in proper screen-publicity being
given to the cast.

_2. The Time for Showing the Cast_

The methods adopted by producing companies in presenting the names of
characters and players on the screen are varied. Indeed, no set rules
are followed. The producer's whole object in each case seems to be
simply to present every cast-announcement of this kind in as striking
and artistic a way as possible. Some companies list the characters at
the very outset--or all the principal characters, at least--with the
names of the players. Others open with a statement-leader, which
gives, so to speak, the "theme" of the story to follow, this leader
being at once followed by the name of the leading male or female
character, sometimes with and sometimes without an additional
descriptive statement. With the particular method followed by the
producer the author is little concerned. His best plan is simply to
make out a complete list of the people in his story, following one of
the forms given later in this chapter. At the present time, nearly
every big concern employs a sub-title editor whose duty it is to
eliminate, alter, or add to the writer's own leaders and inserts, and
this person also "fixes up" to comply with the firm's rule any
additional wording that may be attached by the author to the names of
his characters when the cast is made out.

_3. The Number of Characters_

The "legitimate" dramatist, especially the untried dramatist, must be
very careful to use only as many characters in his play as are
absolutely necessary. Every theatrical manager knows that he is taking
a chance, and a big chance, when producing the work of a new writer.
The writer, also knowing this, and realizing that every additional
character means an addition to the salary list--and therefore to the
manager's risk--wisely uses no more characters in the unfolding of his
plot than he can help. Even when an actor "doubles" two parts, he
expects a proportionately larger salary for so doing.

In the moving picture studios, on the other hand, the players are paid
by the week, to work, as it were, by the day. The photoplay actor
plays as many different parts as the director finds it necessary to
cast him for. If necessary, in a big production, a director can draw
on any or all of the players making up the stock company, provided he
does not prevent them from playing the parts in another picture then
in course of production, for which they have been previously cast. So
that, so far as salary is concerned, unless certain "types," either
men or women, are specially engaged for a production, the film
manufacturer does not need to worry about how many "principals" are
needed to take part in a picture. He has, of course, to consider the
salaries of the "extra people," or supernumeraries, when a picture
calls for their employment. But the principal reason for keeping the
photoplay cast as small as possible is that the fewer the principal
characters the more easily understood is the story. In this respect,
better twenty extras and five principals than twenty principals and
two extras.

Remember, then, to use as few principal characters as possible in
developing your plot. This does not mean that you may be prodigal in
your use of extras; quite the contrary. But, since extras who are
posing as cowboys, soldiers, guests at a ball, bystanders in a street
scene, or saloon loungers, are easily distinguished from the
principals, it is a matter of small importance how many are used so
long as the scene is full enough to harmonize with the idea. It would
be silly, of course, actually to specify the number of "travellers and
bystanders" used in a scene at a railroad station at train time. The
director will employ as many as he thinks necessary.

_4. How the Director Assigns the Cast_

It frequently happens that members of the regular stock company are
used to fill in in certain scenes, although they may not be cast in
the picture at all. When, for example, the scene is laid in a
ballroom, or when boxes and orchestra chairs in a theatre are shown,
the director uses as many of the regular company as are
available--knowing that they may be relied upon to sustain the
necessary action, and feeling sure that they will "dress" the scene
suitably. Extras are then drawn upon for as many more people as he
may require.

A distinction must be made between extras who merely fill in or dress
a scene and those who play a small part, or "bit," in one or more
scenes. In every studio there are men and women who are known as
"regular" extras--people who are on hand every morning and who remain
until they are either told that they can work in a certain picture or
that they will not be required that day. Practically all of these
regular extras are experienced actors and actresses, and most of them
continue to report daily in the hope that, being given a small part to
play, they may in this way attract the attention of the director and
eventually be offered positions in the stock company. Many of the best
known photoplayers in the country today made their start in
moving-picture work in this way after having forsaken the "legitimate"

_5. Planning the Cast_

Strictly speaking, it is no longer advisable, nor even possible, to
plan your cast ahead, when writing photoplays, any more than it would
be possible to state exactly in advance how many characters you would
introduce if you were setting out to write a novel. Today more than
ever before the demand is for good _stories_. Given a good story, a
competent director will do the rest. He will not hesitate to engage
for that production just as many people as may be necessary, whether
they are special "type" players, male or female, or for "straight"
parts. Your cast, in other words, must inevitably be a result of the
final working out of your story. The one thing you _can_ do in advance
is determine whether you are going to write what is simply a good
story or is a story designed as a vehicle to exploit some particular

This latter procedure is always a risky one for the writer to adopt.
The story planned and worked out to fit the talents of a certain star,
especially if designed to feature the very unusual work of such a
player as Douglas Fairbanks, may not sell at all if it fails to sell
to the one for whom it was planned, and the writer's work goes for
naught. By far the wisest plan is to write for certain particular
stars _only under contract_, or at least to write only stories that
stand a chance of selling elsewhere if rejected by the firm at which
they were first aimed.

If you _are_ writing "to order" for a certain star, and if you are
reasonably sure that the supporting players are permanent members of
that particular company, you may plan your story so as to give the
director a chance to use all the people at his disposal to the best
advantage, for today, while character-actors are just as busy as ever,
it is the actual "type" that is usually cast for a certain part if
such a man or woman is procurable at all.

As for whether a certain "small" part is played by an "extra" or by a
regular member of the stock company, you need not worry. The director
will do his best for every part, however small.

One thing that you should _not_ overlook in making up your list of
characters, we repeat, is to show the director how he may cast his
available people to the best advantage. To do this, you should not
only mention every character, no matter how unimportant, but in the
case of all those characters who do not actually come under the head
of principals in that particular picture, you should give the number
of the scene or scenes in which they appear. This will, in many cases,
enable the director to use some of his people in more than one
character by "doubling" two minor r�les.

As an example, let us suppose that you have written down your
principals--the ones who will keep the one part through the whole of
the action. You can then write:

     Mrs. Brown's maid, in 9 and 11.[15]
     Trained nurse, in 22.
     Policeman, in 15.
     Blind beggar, in 27.
     Colored porter, in 28.

[Footnote 15: Meaning _scenes_ 9 and 11. Of course, you can only make
this arrangement _after_ your scenario has been blocked out, scene by

Here are five minor characters, and yet, if the director desired, he
could use only two people to play all five parts. Mrs. Brown's maid in
9 and 11 could easily change to a trained nurse for 22. The actor
playing the policeman in 15 could just as easily make up as a blind
beggar for 27; and he would then be able to change again and go on as
a colored porter in 28, the next scene.

A point that many who are not familiar with the inner workings of the
studios do not realize is that although Scene 10, let us say, is
"done" on one day, Scene 11 may not be taken until the following day,
or even a week later. It frequently happens that one set is allowed to
stand for several days, on account of "re-takes" that have been found
necessary, or because a director has difficulty in obtaining a certain
lighting effect. In such cases certain players are required to play
the same part over and over again, even though between the "re-takes"
they may "work" for other directors in the same studio.

_6. Actual Work on the Cast_

You will probably find that the best and easiest way to prepare your
cast of characters is to keep a rough list of all the people who take
part in the action, as you write the scenario. Because, of course,
although the cast of characters is the second division of the script,
it should have its final preparation after the scenario has been
completed, for the same reason that the synopsis is also finally
prepared when the scenario has been finished.

Keep a sheet of paper beside you as you write your scenario. First put
down the names of all your _principal_ characters so as to have them
before your eyes as you write. Then as you work out your scenario,
scene after scene, set down every character introduced; for example,
if you use a doctor, who merely pays one visit to a patient appearing
in only one scene, set down the following on your memorandum sheet:

     Doctor, in 2.

and so on. At the time you write Scene 2 you may think that that _is_
the only one in which you will use the doctor; later on, perhaps as
you are giving the action of Scene 16, you may find that you have
occasion to introduce a doctor again. Unless Scene 16 is supposed to
be located in another part of the country, the chances are that you
might just as well bring in the same physician again, and you then
simply make it

     Doctor, in 2 and 16.

_7. Naming the Characters_

Of course it is unnecessary to give a name to _everyone_ appearing in
a picture. The cast of characters is made up of the names only of
those whose work in the photoplay materially advances the action in
some way or another. On the "legitimate" stage any character who has
even a "line" to say may be said to have a "speaking part." Only these
are supposed to be in the cast proper. Similarly, in the photoplay no
one whose work in the picture is not in some way necessary to the
working out of the plot need be given a name. In the same way that you
would write "Doctor, in 2 and 16," or "Policeman, in 8," write

     Guests at ball, in 13.
     Stock brokers and clerks, in 22.
     Clubmen, in 27.

The following is quoted from Mr. Epes Winthrop Sargent's weekly
department, "The Photoplaywright," in _The Moving Picture World_. He
says all that could be said upon a subject that is of the greatest
importance, no matter on what division of the photoplay script you are
at work--the necessity for simplifying everything so as to make it
quickly and easily understood by editor and director alike:

"When you start to write a play decide what you are going to call your
characters, and adhere to your decision. If you have a character named
Robert Wilson, do not indiscriminately call him Bob, Robert, and
Wilson. Decide on one of the three and use that one invariably. If
your character travels under an alias, being known as Montgomery in
society, and Jimmy the Rat in the underworld, do not call him
Montgomery in the society scenes and The Rat when he gets among his
proper associates. Call him Montgomery straight through, and the first
time he changes from Jekyll to Hyde tell the audience, in a leader,
that he is known as the Rat; but in the plot of action hold to
Montgomery, because you started with that and do not want to confuse
the director. The editor is going to read in a hurry the first time
through, and he cannot continually consult the cast to identify your
constant changes in cognomens.

"Be careful in selecting your names. Do not let them sound too much
alike, or confusion will arise. Often a story will be sent back that
might be regarded more carefully were the characters more individually
named, and perhaps fewer of them named. Too many names are apt to be
confounded with each other. Names too much alike or not possessed of
individual sound are apt to be confusing. In either case your story
is not readily understood on a first reading and never passes to a
second perusal. Take pains with your literary baptisms."

It seems scarcely necessary to point out that it is both easier and
better to call the young people by whatever Christian name you decide
to give them and to refer to their elders by their last name. You can
say Freeman or Mr. Freeman, when speaking of Jess's father, but do not
say that Tom and Miss Freeman are discovered by her father making
love. Simply say Tom and Jess. If Jess's father is a farmer or a
miner, it may seem more natural to say Freeman, or Jess's father. If
he is a banker or a stock broker, you may choose to speak of him as
Mr. Freeman. The most important thing is to make the name, as clearly
as possible, suggest the age, rank, and general characteristics of the
person to whom it is given.

A good deal has been written concerning the advisability of using only
short and simple names for most characters in the photoplay. Others
have advised photoplay authors to try to discover unhackneyed names
for their characters. There are, of course, hundreds of short and
appropriate "first" names for people of different nationalities; the
trouble, especially with amateur writers, is that such names as Tom,
Jack, Jim, and Charley, and May, Mary, Grace, Ethel, and Kate, are
used over and over again, and without any regard to the surname which
follows them. Simple and common names _are_ desirable, so long as they
really fit the characters who bear them. John and Tom and Mary and
Kate are names that will be used over and over again, both in fiction
and in photoplay. But unusual names are desirable too, provided they
fit the characters. The work of an amateur writer can almost always be
told by the names he gives his characters.

In the writing of photoplays, where the author has no description to
rely on to explain who and what his characters are, there is especial
need of names that will help to indicate the social status of his
different characters. In real life, a bank president is as likely to
be a Casey or a Smith as he is to be a Rutherford or a Pendleton, but
the chances are that, when given to a great banker, either of the last
two names would make a greater impression on "popular" spectators.
Again, certain names instantly make us think of villainy, while others
as plainly tell us that the owner of the name is an honest man. The
authors of the "good old" melodramas used exaggerated names that today
would probably be laughed at. "Jack Manly" and "Desmond Dangerfield"
would hardly "get by" in modern drama or in present-day picture plays;
but the idea of appropriateness that was responsible for such names
being used is what is needed by photoplaywrights who desire to name
their characters convincingly. Percy certainly does not suggest a
prizefighter, any more than Miriam portrays a cook.

By all means keep a special notebook in which to jot down new and
unusual names to fit characters of every nationality and of every
station in life, _but try to get names that are short and easily
pronounced_. Very few photoplaywrights adhere to only one line of
writing. A clever and ambitious writer may "do" a story of city life
this week, and one with the scenes laid in Mexico the next. You can
get plenty of names for your "down East" story, but will you be able
to find eight or ten really appropriate names for your photoplay of
life in "Little Italy" or the Ghetto? The following methods of
obtaining suitable names--especially surnames--for characters have
been found very helpful:

1. If you live in a city, cover the different foreign quarters
thoroughly and note in your book names of every nationality that
strike your fancy.

2. If the public library in your town gets French, Italian, or other
foreign papers (all great city libraries do, of course), go over them
and get similar lists of foreign names. You can never tell when a
typical Russian surname, or an Italian Christian name, may be wanted
for one of your stories. This will prevent your calling a Spaniard
"Pietro" or an Italian "Pedro."

3. Buy an old or a second-hand city directory. An out-of-date New York
or Chicago directory contains names enough, of all nationalities, both
Christian names and surnames, to last you a life-time and will cost
you little. But directories are not _absolutely_ trustworthy after

4. When reading novels and short-stories, copy any names that
particularly strike you. Use only the first or the last name in every
case, of course, and do the same when selecting names from the
directory or from signs in the street. You would not name your hero
Richard Mansfield, nor his uncle John Wanamaker, but you might wish to
call the uncle Richard Wanamaker and make John Mansfield the hero.

5. Select from regular theatre programs names that please you, but
transpose the first and last names as recommended above. If you choose
a French Christian name from one of Henri Bernstein's plays, do not
take the surname of another character _in the same cast_ to go with
it. Rather take it from another French play, or from a French story in
a magazine.

You do not wish to find, when the time does come for your cast of
characters to be thrown upon the screen, that the director has found
it necessary to change half of your names. Make them so good and so
appropriate that there will be absolutely no excuse for altering them.

One thing to be remembered, however, is that the picture spectators of
today have been gradually educated up to expecting and approving many
things which the spectators of a few years ago would have looked upon
as too "highbrow." This is due in no small degree to the many screen
adaptations of literary classics and fictional successes generally
which have been made, as well as to the large number of stage plays
that have been transferred to the screen, for, of course, the authors,
publishers and dramatic producers have always stipulated that the
casts be kept as they originally were made out--except that
occasionally certain characters who in the stage-production of a
certain play were merely spoken about and described have been, in the
photoplay form, actually introduced, and thus added to the cast. But
the point is that there is no longer the frantic striving to keep
everything as "short and simple as possible" that once existed, and
this applies to everything in the nature of inserts quite as much as
to the names used for characters in the picture. Little by little
"art" in motion picture production is becoming a reality instead of
being merely a high-sounding word used occasionally by the

_8. Describing the Characters_

Since there is no restriction placed upon the way in which a cast of
characters is made out, the writer may choose between the simple
statement-form, when giving the names of his characters, and that in
which the appearance and dominant traits of the character are set
forth. You can say:

     Silas Gregory, a miser,

or you can draw a picture of the man himself in the very way you
describe him, thus:

Silas Gregory, an extremely wealthy and eccentric miser; a bachelor
and a man who both by his appearance and his nature repels the
friendship of his fellow men; inclined to practice petty cruelty on
children and animals; suspicious of and seeming to hate everybody
except his old body-servant, Daniels, to whom he is strangely

While the foregoing is a rather long description of a character to be
included as part of the cast-outline, and while some of the points in
connection with Gregory's nature could be more forcibly demonstrated
by having him _do_ little things in the action that would make them
apparent, the point is that you are supplying these items of
information for the benefit of the editor and the director, and that,
as must be apparent, the fuller their understanding of your meaning in
everything you write, the better will be their interpretation and
production of your story.

It is very important to keep this point constantly in mind. Seldom is
it today that the cast appears on the screen exactly as prepared by
the author. Almost all the big companies at the present time are given
to long sub-titles, and to lengthy statements in connection with the
introduction of the principal characters. Many readers will see the
similarity between the second of the foregoing descriptions of the old
miser and the printed statement, in connection with a similar
character, shown in the Triangle and Paramount pictures written by C.
Gardner Sullivan, as well as in many others. The statement on the film
which introduces a principal character, today, is much more in the
nature of an actual leader than it is a mere announcement of the names
of the character and the player. Thus, in Universal's feature
production of "The Kaiser," the heroic blacksmith of Louvain was
introduced in this way:

     Marcas, the blacksmith of Louvain, was a mighty man. This
     man, Marcas, lived in faith and love and friendship, and, by
     the sweat of his brow, had won peace and happiness.

     MARCAS......................ELMO LINCOLN

In writing out your cast, give your most important characters first.
Try, also, to simplify it and eliminate unnecessary words, first
writing the name of a principal character and then giving the others
in the order of their relationship, as:

     Charles Waldron, a wealthy rancher.
     Mrs. Waldron, his wife.
     Bessie, his eldest daughter.
     Jean, his youngest daughter.
     Dick, his son.
     Graydon, Waldron's foreman.

This will save words and show at a glance just how the other five
characters are related to or connected with Charles Waldron.

Make it a rule to write your cast on the last sheet of your synopsis
_if you have plenty of room left after finishing the synopsis_.
Otherwise, use a separate sheet. Don't crowd the two divisions as if
you were trying to economize paper. In the cast proper, give the names
or occupations of every character whose work in the action really
helps to advance the action of the play. Also name the scenes in which
appear the various characters--other than the principals, who are
likely to dominate nearly every scene.

The first two sample casts which follow do not give the
characteristics of the different people concerned in the plot. They
are simply reproduced as examples of photoplay casts which have been
printed in the manufacturers' bulletins and other advertising matter,
after the photoplay itself had been produced and was ready for
release. The third and full cast is altered, so as not to be
recognizable, from a photoplay which has not yet been produced. This
last of the three forms is the one we recommend you to follow.



_Elmer N. Wells_

Pierre, a French Canadian trapper.......
Baptiste, his brother...................
Duncan McLain, a trapper................
Mary McKenzie, the factor's daughter....
John McKenzie, the factor...............
Mail Carrier............................
Half Breed..............................

_Produced by the Selig Polyscope Company_



_W.A. Tremayne_

Fran�ois Vian, an old musician
Pierre le Noir, his neighbor
Oscar Muhlbach, a German spy
Bertha le Noir, Pierre's sister
General of the German army
Infantry officer

_Produced by the Vitagraph Company of America_




TED CARSON     President of the Freshman class at
               College; twenty, blonde, bright,
               athletic, full of gay spirits.

FAY NORTON     The college co-ed beauty, inclined
               to love Ted, who loves her.

NITA CARSON    Ted's twin sister; a freshman
               co-ed, in love with Hal Coates.

HAL COATES     President of the Sophomore class;
               twenty-four, dark; athletic rival of
               Ted, whom he looks down upon.
               A college leader; lover of Nita.

DAN WILLIS     Ted's chum; a slim and mischievous

"BUCK" SLAGLE  Hal's chum; an unprincipled Sophomore.

DEAN HALL      A nervous professor; comedy character.

POLICEMAN      In 16, 17 and 18.

STUDENTS       Throughout.

WAITERS        In 16, 17 and 18.

CO-EDS         In 4, 6, 7, 10, 13 and 17.



The first step in the preparation of the scenario--or continuity of
scenes--is not a step at all--it is a state of mind: the mood of

_1. The Picture Eye_

No matter how easy it may be for you to write a clear, brief and
interesting synopsis of your story, nor how successful you may be in
drawing up your cast of characters, you will fail in producing the
right kind of scenario to accompany them until you acquire or
cultivate the picturing eye. To possess it is simply to be able to
visualize your story as you write it--yes, even before you write it.
You must not only write that "Hal Murdoch steals his employer's
letter-book so as to find out some important facts," but you must
yourself first _see_ him do it, just as you expect to see it on the
screen. On the regular stage, the "business" of the actors--important
as it is--is nevertheless of secondary consideration; dialogue comes
first. On the photoplay stage it is just the reverse--at all times it
is action that is of primary importance. It is what your characters do
that counts. Leaders, letters, and other inserts help to make clear
what you are trying to convey to the audience, but for a proper
understanding and interpretation of your plot the spectators depend
upon what they see the characters do; so how can you expect the
editor, the producer, or the spectator, to "see" your plot
understandingly unless you yourself are able to visualize every scene
and incident distinctly as you are putting your thoughts on paper?
This is what Mr. C.B. Hoadley has to say on this subject, quoted from
_The Photoplay Author_, now _The Writer's Monthly_:

"Suppose you have a story that has all the requirements for an
acceptable motion-picture play. You seat yourself to write it, chock
full of enthusiasm and faith in the idea, and in the exuberance of
your spirits you see visions of a substantial check. Very well. But
have you a visualization of the story? Can you close your eyes and see
it on the screen? Or will you 'get stuck' about the tenth scene when
it appears to be running smoothly, and then finish along the lines of
least resistance, mentally concluding that the plot is so excellent
that the editor or director will finish the work you have so
enthusiastically planned? This happens to about fifty per cent of the

Mr. Phil. Lang, former editor of the Kalem Company, offered this
sensible advice in reply to a question as to whether his company could
use psychological scripts. We quote from _The Moving Picture World_:

"The successful photoplaywright is the one who has developed the
'picture eye.' If you will visualize each scene of this scenario,
abandoning the 'psychology' which inspired it, you can readily
determine how it will appear to the picture patron. The psychology of
an action or the development of an act in the photoplay is only
psychology when the natural pantomime and business make it clear to
the spectator. By the process of visualizing you can readily determine
if your play offers anything different from others of the same
character which have been done."

Strive, then, to cultivate this ability to see your scenes in action,
remembering that it is the thing of all things most calculated to help
you in writing a clear-cut, logical, and interesting scenario of your
plot. What you cannot clearly visualize is not worth writing.

_2. Identifying the Characters Early_

There is nothing more annoying to the spectator or more calculated to
insure the widespread condemnation of your photoplay after it has been
produced than to fail in establishing the identity of all your
principal characters early in the action. The basic relationship of
each character to the others should be made clear just as soon as
possible after each makes his first appearance in the picture, if,
indeed, it is not made clear just before his appearance by the
introduction of an explanatory insert.

We urge this clear identification of characters so that your
spectators may be saved the annoyance of needless speculation, and be
able to yield to the play their instant attention and sympathetic
interest. Furthermore, this course will enable you to tell your story
and develop your plot with much greater ease, since the onlookers,
understanding who everybody is, and how they are disposed towards
each other, will grasp the points of the plot more quickly. Remember
that the motives actuating the different characters are virtually sure
to be the very foundations of a photoplay plot.

Almost everyone has sat half through a photoplay which was perfect in
all other respects, but far from pleasing because it left the
spectators guessing for minutes as to "who's who."

"Keep your first characters on the screen, even though in different
scenes, long enough to get everyone familiar with them and their
environment in the story before introducing a new and unexpected phase
in the tale. To fail in this is faulty construction."[16]

[Footnote 16: Herbert Case Hoagland: _How to Write a Photoplay_.]

_3. Prompt Beginning of the Action_

A common mistake among amateur photoplaywrights is to waste far too
much time on preliminaries. If a guest is expected from a distant
city, all that is necessary, as a rule, is to write in a short letter,
which is opened and read by the host- or hostess-to-be, announcing
that the guest will arrive at a certain time. But the young writer--to
judge from many scripts we have examined--thinks that in such a case
it is necessary to show the housemaid preparing the guest-chamber,
another scene in which the hostess instructs the chauffeur to be ready
at such an hour to meet her guest at the station, and so on. No matter
what kind of story you are writing, go straight to the point from the
opening--make the wheels of the plot actually commence to revolve in
the first scene--_plunge_ into your action, don't wade timidly in inch
by inch. To use up two or three scenes in showing trivial incidents
which may happen to the characters while they are, so to speak,
standing in the wings ready to make their entrances, is as tiresome as
it is useless. If the hero of the Western story makes his first
appearance by dashing into the scene madly pursued by a band of
Indians, the spectator is not interested in finding out what he was
doing at the time he first discovered the red men closing in upon him;
it is how he will escape them that engages their whole attention. Once
get your action started vividly and the interest of the spectators
will permit you to give all the really necessary foundation
information as you move on with your story.

_4. Sequence in the Action_

Apply the same rule of directness to the introduction of new
characters in the scenes that follow. There is one main theme, one
main line of development, in every well constructed story--and only
one. See to it that you do not digress from it except as you bring up
from the rear other essential parts of the action. There is absolutely
no place in the photoplay for side trips.

As simply and as emphatically as we can put it, the most important
thing in connection with the writing of the scenario is to have the
action progress smoothly, logically, and interestingly from the first
to the last scene. Wherever possible, one scene should lead into the
next scene, and each scene should appear to be the only one
possible--from the standpoint of the action it contains--at that stage
of the plot's development. If, even for a moment, a scene appears to
have been written in solely for effect, or merely to delay the climax
of the story, the picture is open to criticism for padding. Not only
should the denouement (the untying, the clearing up of the story at
the close) appear to be the only one logically possible, but each
successive scene should follow the one preceding it with

To be sure, this does not mean, as we explained in the chapter on
Plot, that the sequence of your scenes must be the simple,
straight-forward sequence of everyday life, in which one character is
seen to carry out his action without interruption from start to
finish. Quite to the contrary, photoplay action must often interrupt
the course of one character so as to bring another personage,
or set of personages, into the action at the proper time to
furnish the surprising interruptions and complications--and their
unfoldings--required to make a plot. But all this really _is_ the
progressive, logical development of the story in good climacteric

Elsewhere in this volume we have spoken of the way in which the action
progresses in the twelve- to sixteen-scene comic pictures in the comic
supplements to the Sunday newspapers. Take for example the well-known
"Bringing Up Father" series of "comics." Commencing with the basic
situation, the action moves progressively to a logical conclusion, the
climax coming, usually, in the next to the last picture. The last
picture is the surprise-denouement--the event which naturally and
inevitably follows the climax. There is, of course, a wide contrast
between one of these series and a "dramatic" photoplay; but the same
principle that governs the evolution of the story in the comic
supplement should be applied to the working out of your photoplay
story. Cultivate the picturing eye, we repeat, so that by being able
to visualize each scene as you plan it in your mind you cannot fail to
produce in your scenario a series of scenes whose action is logically
connected and essentially natural and unforced.

_5. The Interest of Suspense_

To say that there must be a logical sequence in progressing from scene
to scene, and that each must appear to be the natural outcome of the
one preceding it, is by no means to say that you must suggest in one
scene what is about to follow in the next. It is when we review a
photoplay in retrospection that we decide whether proper care has been
given to the planning of the scenes so as to make them lead smoothly
one into the other, but while we are watching a photoplay for the
first time, half the charm lies in _not_ knowing what is coming next.

Suspense, then, must be kept in mind as the scenario is being planned.
You should not only keep the spectator in suspense as to the climax as
long as possible, but in building up your plot you should work in as
many unexpected twists as you can without destroying its logic. Mr.
Hoagland says: "Suspense is a delightful sensation, though we all beg
not to be kept in it." So whet the spectator's imagination by
springing little surprises and minor climaxes whenever they can be
introduced without seeming to be forced. Make each such incident
another step upward toward your climax proper; hold back the "big"
surprise, the startling denouement, until the very end. The most
enjoyable feature of Anna Katherine Green's "The Leavenworth Case" was
that she kept the reader in the dark until the last chapter as to who
was the real murderer. All the many detective novels that have since
appeared have been successful exactly in proportion as the solution of
the mystery has been withheld from the reader until the end of the

Naturally, this requires careful planning. About twenty years ago, one
of the high-class fiction magazines published a story in which a
reporter who had been interviewing the leading woman of a theatrical
company was caught on the stage as the curtain rose on the first act.
The leading woman was supposed to be "discovered" at the rise of the
curtain, but the newspaper man was both surprised and embarrassed by
_his_ being discovered. Nevertheless, having his overcoat on and
carrying his hat in his hand, with great presence of mind he turned to
the actress and said: "Very well, madam; I will call for the clock at
three this afternoon." Then he made a deliberate exit, and the leading
woman read her first speech. But, as the play progressed, there was
scarcely one in the audience who failed to wonder why the "actor" who
had spoken the line about the clock did not reappear according to
promise. At a certain point in the action of the drama, just where the
intervention of someone from outside would have been most opportune,
the audience expected that the "jeweler" would make his reappearance;
but of course he did not, the play ended as the author had intended it
to end--and the audience went out feeling that something had gone
wrong somewhere--as it had.

The lesson to the photoplaywright is plain: Never introduce into the
early scenes of the scenario any incident that is likely to mislead
the spectator into thinking that it is of sufficient importance to
affect the ultimate denouement, when it really has no bearing upon it.
Reverse this, and you have another good rule to follow in writing the
scenario. As one critic said in substance, if you intend to have one
of your characters die of heart disease toward the end of the play,
prepare your audience for this event by "registering" in an earlier
scene the fact that his heart is affected. Do not drag in a scene to
make this fact clear, but, in two or three different scenes, have him
show that his heart is weak, and be sure that every one of these
scenes serves the double purpose of registering this fact and
introducing other important action relevant to the plot. In other
words, make the slight attacks which the man experiences all through
the story merely incidental to the scenes in which they occur. Then
when the fatal attack comes, the audience is prepared for it, yet
they have not been actually looking forward to it through several
scenes. While speaking of heart disease, we would call the attention
of the writer to an observation lately made by the photoplay critic of
_The Dramatic Mirror_: "Scenario writers notwithstanding, it is
exceptional for people to die because an unexpected piece of news
shocks them, even when they suffer from weak hearts. Robust men do not
part from life so readily, and film tragedies of this kind generally
fail to carry conviction because the facts presented are divorced from
the customary laws of nature."

Do not introduce a new character in one of the late scenes, especially
if he or she is importantly connected with the plot, even though you
use that character in the picture for only a brief interval. If the
appearance of a certain man in one of the late scenes will help in
saving the life of a condemned man, try to plan the entrance of this
character into the story in an earlier scene, even though only for a
period long enough to establish who and what he is. In this way you
may avoid a long and otherwise unnecessary leader just when you are
approaching your climax and thus halt the interest.

_6. Action May Be Too Rapid_

If you are writing the scenario of a dramatic plot, it is evident
that, within reasonable limits, the more dramatic situations--the more
"punches," in the vernacular--you can put into it, the more likely it
is to find favor in the eyes of the editor and the producer. But too
many writers, conscious of this fact, make the mistake of forcing the
pace. The solid photoplay of today should not be made to resemble a
cheap melodrama, in which something highly sensational is sure to
happen every three minutes. Just because you have seen a sensational
episode in a play on the screen, do not attempt to crowd your scenario
with minor thrills and sensations, regardless of whether the incident
pictured is relevant to the plot. If your plot is a strong one, its
unfolding will _suggest_ scenes of sufficient dramatic quality to hold
the interest. But do not search your brain for startling situations to
introduce here, there, and everywhere in the action, paying no
attention to whether they have little, if anything, to do with the

Imagination is the writer's greatest asset, but imagination run riot
is photoplay madness. It must be intelligently exercised else it will
fairly run away with the plot, and the result will be a literary
wreck. You must study--and hence realize at least fairly
completely--the possibilities of your story before you start to write
it at all. Haphazard work will never bring you anything--in photoplay
writing or in any other creative line.

_7. Centralizing the Interest_

It is almost impossible to produce a really effective photoplay
without centering the attention of the spectator on one of the
principal characters and holding it there until the end. Even when the
principal characters are lovers, either one or the other is bound to
stand out in the picture more than the other. As in a play on the
regular stage, either the hero or the heroine must dominate the action
or the spectator is very likely to miss some of the best points of the
plot because of the shifting interest. In such a play as "Romeo and
Juliet," many would find it difficult to determine which of the two
principal characters evokes the more sympathy and interest in the
spectators. Yet a careful study of the play will leave no doubt that
it was Shakespeare's intention that one of the two "star-crossed
lovers"--Juliet--should dominate the action of the drama very subtly
and certainly, the other being, though in only the slightest degree,
it is true, subordinate to the "principal." The same thing is true in
the stories of Damon and Pythias, Paolo and Francesca, and Pelleas and
Melisande. You must determine at the very beginning whether it is to
be the man or the woman, and, having trained the spot-light upon that
one, keep it there until the end.

A certain picture, released about four years ago by a European
manufacturer, was concerned with a husband, his wife, and his
friend--a man who for a period of some months was a guest in the home
of the pair. In the ordinary sense, it was not a problem plot; the
friend was an honorable man, and the husband, who had the most sincere
admiration for his old college companion, was a fine fellow in every
way. Yet, as the story progressed it became apparent that there had
been a love affair between the wife and her husband's friend when
they were both scarcely more than children. Little incidents in the
action of the next few scenes gradually caused the audience to
sympathize with the friend. Then, toward the end of the play, the
sympathy was definitely shifted to the husband. This, of course,
viewed in the proper light, was as it should be; but only a scene or
two from the end of the picture an incident happened that again caused
the audience to feel that it was the friend who alone deserved the
woman's love. The result was that out of all the hundreds of people
who saw the picture in the two days during which it was shown at a
certain theatre, none expressed themselves as being satisfied with it,
although only a few were able to say directly that they did not
approve of the play because of the frequently shifted interest.

Thus the picture failed because whoever wrote it did not keep in mind
the important fact that divided interest will go a long way toward
destroying the dramatic value of any story, regardless of how perfect
it may be otherwise.

Use as few principals as possible, no matter how many minor characters
or extra people are employed; and be sure to keep the subordinate
characters in the background sufficiently to prevent them from
detracting in any way from the interest that should be constantly
fixed upon your principals, and especially the _two_ principals who
make possible nine-tenths of all the stories written.

_8. Managing Changes of Scene_

In preparing the scenario it is important to remember that if a leader
is introduced _before_ a scene, the leader should be written first,
and followed by the number and description of the scene. And in
describing your scenes you should study the convenience of the
director: where more than one scene is to be done in a set, refer back
to the _original_ scene number. Thus if Scene 5 is the sheriff's
office, and the same background is used for scenes 7, 9, and 14, when
writing Scene 14 say:

     14--Sheriff's office, same as  5--

No matter how many times that setting may be used as the background
for a scene of your story, write it out every time just as you did at
first. Do not merely say: Same as 5. Follow the scene number, whether
it be 7, 9, or 14, with: "Sheriff's office;" then add the "same as 5."
Also, do not forget what was said in Chapter VI regarding the writing
of your scene-number at 0 (or 0 and 1, if there are two figures) on
the scale-bar of your typewriter. In this way, if 5 is your left
marginal stop, you will have almost a half-inch space between the
number and the description of the scene. Bridge this space with the
hyphen or short-dash character, and you will be sure that the
director's attention is quickly drawn to each change of scene.

It is extremely important to remember that in telling your story in
action even the slightest change of location means another scene. Let
us make this point perfectly clear:

Suppose you have a scene in which a fire ladder is placed against the
wall of a burning building, only the lower part of the ladder showing
in the picture. A fireman starts to mount, and finally disappears
overhead. The scene changes, and we see the upper windows of the
building and the upper portion of the ladder. Suddenly the fireman's
head appears as he climbs up (into the picture), then his whole body
comes into view, and presently he climbs in at one of the windows.

These are written in as two separate scenes, though it is plain that
in real life they are actually one, and in the photoplay they are not
separated even by an insert of any kind, thus seeming to be one, as

But now suppose that when the fireman starts up the ladder the
cameraman "follows him"--tilts his camera so that the result is a
"shifting stage"--the eye of the spectator following the fireman as he
goes up and until he reaches the top of the ladder and climbs in at
the window. That, of course, constitutes only one scene--the swinging
of the camera to follow the progress of the actor simply enlarges the
stage, as it were. Such scenes as this second one are frequently seen
in photoplays--an a�roplane leaving the ground and rising in its
flight, a band of horsemen riding "across" and eventually "out of" a
picture, a man climbing down the side of a cliff, and the like. But as
a rule they are simply arranged by the director's instructing the
cameraman to swing his camera as described--the writer of the script
does not introduce an actual direction to the director to obtain the
effect in this way but writes them in as two scenes.

In taking such panoramic scenes as those just described, the tripod of
the camera remains unmoved. Even in a railroad drama, where we see an
engine run down a track for a quarter of a mile or more, the camera is
mounted on another train, which closely follows the one seen in the
picture, and hence it is plainly, from a technical standpoint, only
one scene, though while it is being shown on the screen the background
is changing continuously. It is the _abrupt_ shifting from one
locality to another that constitutes a "change of scene" in the

This being so, it follows that each change of scene must be given a
separate scene-number in your scenario. We have examined dozens of
amateur scripts in which scenes would be found written thus:

8--Library, same as 2.

     Tom looks on floor, fails to find locket, and then goes into
     one room after another searching for it.

This, of course, is impossible. Even though the director were willing
to show Tom going through the different rooms looking for the lost
piece of jewelry, each scene would have to be separately and
consecutively numbered in the scenario. If in the tenth room visited
Tom should find the locket and then go out on the piazza to speak to
Mabel about it, the scene showing the piazza would be 18 and not 9.

It is quite as incorrect to divide into two or more parts the action
of what should be one scene, as already explained, as it is to try to
make one scene out of two or more by running them together in the way
illustrated in the foregoing bad example. To avoid both errors, bear
in mind that besides giving every scene a separate scene number, you
must write a scene into your scenario whenever it is necessary to
supply a new background for some bit of action. For example, you
cannot say:

     Scene 4. John comes out of the store, walks down the street
     for a couple of blocks, and enters the bank on the corner.

That much action would be written about as follows:

1--Exterior of store.

     John comes out of store and walks down street, out of


     Enter John. Passes down street and out of picture.

3--Exterior of bank on street corner.

     John comes down street, approaches bank, and enters.

In the foregoing example, three scenes are given to show how John gets
from the store to the bank; but it might not be really necessary to
take three scenes to show this action. We might see John leave the
store and start down the street, the camera being set up in such a way
as to take in not only the doorway of the store but also a
considerable portion of the street. If the scene showing the front of
the bank were planned in the same way, so as to show John approaching
up the street, as though coming from the store, the connecting scene
(2), which merely shows him between the two points, could very well be
left out altogether, to be supplied by the imagination of the

Experience alone--combined with the study of the pictures seen on the
screen--can teach you just what scenes are really necessary and which
may be avoided; the point to remember is that you should not waste
footage on even the shortest scene that can be eliminated without
detracting from the interest or breaking the logical sequence of the
events in your story. In other words, make it your hard and fast rule
to write _nothing_ into your scenario that does not aid materially in
telling your story and making your meaning clear to the spectator. On
the other hand, see that you _omit nothing_ that will tend to produce
the same result.

Going back to the example just given, we would point out that we
purposely introduced into it an example of what _not_ to do. Scene 3
is described as the "exterior of bank _on street corner_." That is
something that it is best to leave entirely to the director. Let him
do the locating of all the buildings used in a story, unless there is
an exceptionally good reason why you should specify just where a
certain building ought to be. The chances are that there is no special
reason why the bank in your story should be located on the corner of
the street, and the director might be able to locate a bank suitable
for the purpose of the scene in question within a block or two of the
studio. If there is a really important reason for having the bank on
the corner, he may have to go a mile or more away from the studio to
find one; and, inasmuch as it is frequently the case that the director
will take his cameraman and the necessary actor or actors out with
him, and do such a scene as this one outside the bank while another
set is being built up inside the studio for him to work in, it will
easily be seen that the more you can help him out by making things
convenient for him the more likely he is to express a desire to
examine other stories written by you.

This point will bear repeating: A scene is so much of the entire
action as is taken in one place without stopping the camera; in its
photoplay sense, _scene_ never refers to the action between certain
players, nor does a new scene commence when another character enters
upon a scene already in course of action.

It is a mistake, in working out the scenario, to keep the action in
the same setting too long at a time. Frequent changes of scene are
advisable. In his article in _The Photoplay Author_ for March, 1913,
Mr. C.B. Hoadley tells of a script written by a well-known actress who
is also the author of several successful "legitimate" dramas. Having
appeared in a notable picture drama, she determined to take up
photoplay writing herself. Her first effort--a comedy drama--was
returned. The lady was highly indignant; yet the reason for the
rejection of her script becomes apparent when it is known that the
entire action of her story occurred in a hotel corridor and in a room
in the same hostelry. Only nineteen scenes were used, and of these,
eighteen were to be played in the one room without a break in the
settings. Imagine the monotony of such a production, even on the
regular stage!

But while it is best to have a frequent change of scene, it is also a
mistake to risk confusing the spectator by changing often from one
scene to another far removed from the first, especially without the
use of some explanatory insert.

In connection with the error of some amateur writers referred to on
page 146, of making what is (or would be, if their script was worked
out as planned by them) actually one scene when they intend it to be
two, it may be said that this is one of the commonest and most amusing
errors of beginners. The mistake lies simply in their failure to
observe the rule of _always separating two different scenes in the
same set or location by interposing a scene in a different setting, or
by introducing a leader_. If this rule is not observed, the
result--even though it goes no farther than the amateur script--is
decidedly funny. To illustrate, take the following example:

23--Bedroom, same as 12--

     Thorn, still looking through contents of bureau drawer,
     stops, listens, indicates that he hears someone coming down
     hall, and then, closing drawer, crosses to the window again
     and makes his escape.

24--Bedroom, same as 12--

     Tom is sitting at the table opening the letters laid there
     by the landlady. He opens one, etc., etc.

A glance at the foregoing will show that, if produced as written, the
result on the screen would be a continuous scene in the bedroom
setting. Thorn would be seen making his exit by way of the window, and
then _instantly_ there would be Tom sitting at the table, opening his
mail! There would be lacking the logical action of his coming into the
room, crossing to the table, and sitting down. The whole effect would
be much the same as in those "fairy" plays produced several years ago,
where "stop camera" work was resorted to to obtain the effect of a
supernatural being suddenly appearing on the scene, greatly to the
astonishment of the mere mortals present.

Introduce a scene showing Thorn just landing on the ground after
sliding down a rain-water pipe from the roof of the veranda, or even
insert a leader between the two scenes as now written, and the mind of
the spectator is prepared for almost anything that he may find to be
going on in that room when he sees it again. But too much care cannot
be taken to guard against everything that may make for jerky or
illogical action of this kind. The merciless scissors of a careless
operator in the picture theatre may remove three or four inches of the
film at a certain point, with the result that a character leaving one
side of the room and starting to go out by the door on the other side
may be made to cross the room at a bound, causing a surprised laugh
at a very serious moment of your play. Do not approximate this
ludicrous effect by writing your scenes as illustrated in the
foregoing example.

Still another laughable error of the novice is to introduce into a
scene certain action which could not be properly registered in mere
pantomime. We lately examined an amateur script in which the following
appeared as part of the action between a girl and a man in a farm

     so (Mary) tells the stranger that her father is over in the
     next field, milking the cow. He starts to, etc.

Now, whether or not the spectator in the theatre were shown a previous
scene in which Father actually milked a cow, the pantomime of Mary, in
trying to make plain without the aid of a cut-in leader the fact that
she was telling the man what her father was doing, would be extremely
ludicrous, to say the least. You must give thought to every bit of
action you write, remembering that it is of no use to say that
so-and-so happens if the action described will not register clearly in
pantomime. Here again experience will teach you what to put in and
what to leave out.

_9. The "Cut-Back"_

Readers of the boys' story papers published a few years ago will
remember how at the end of one chapter the hero would be left hanging
by a slender vine over a yawning chasm, "one thousand feet deep." The
next chapter, instead of continuing the logical sequence of action and
explaining how he was rescued--or rescued himself--would begin: "Let
us now return to Captain Barlow and Professor Whipple, whom we left
facing the band of dwarfs at the mouth of the cave, etc." These
stories exemplified practically the same technique as is employed
today by photoplaywrights who use what has become known as the
"cut-back," sometimes referred to as the "flash-back."

Mr. D.W. Griffith is commonly credited with having "invented" this
technical device, which is simply a frequent switching from one scene
to another, and then back again to the first, in order to heighten
interest by maintaining the suspense. Its use has been well
illustrated by Mr. C.B. Hoadley, who cites a play in which the
contrasting pictures of "a gambler seated at cards with convivial
companions, and his wife at home in a scantily furnished room keeping
vigil at the bedside of their sick child," are flashed back and forth
in such a manner as to keep the contrast before the spectators while
yet developing the drama effectively.

Another good example of the use of the cut-back was shown in an old
Biograph subject, "Three Friends." One of three friends who have sworn
never to separate falls in love with a young woman of the village and
marries her. A second of the trio is enraged to think that his friend
has broken up the triangle; the third, of better nature, is merely
very much disappointed. As a result of breaking up the trio, the two
bachelors leave the factory to go to another town. A baby is born to
the young married couple, and they are very happy for a time. Then the
second friend, Jim, comes back to his old shop to take the position of
foreman. As the result of a quarrel between him and the young husband,
the latter is discharged. From that time on things go badly with the
young couple, and soon bad is followed by worse. When they are on the
verge of starvation, and the husband has returned home after a
fruitless search for work, the wife goes out to try to beg a bottle of
milk. While she is away, the husband, thoroughly disheartened,
resolves to ask her to die with him, confident that neighbors will
care for the child. She returns home empty handed, and, though at
first shocked and horrified by his proposal, finally consents. Just as
the husband covers his wife's eyes with his hand and raises the
pistol, the two friends of former days burst into the room. One of the
husband's shop-mates has told the third friend of how "Jim fired
him"--as a leader tells us--and the reproaches of the third friend
have been instrumental in bringing about a feeling of remorse in the
heart of the foreman. The two hurry together to the little home,
arriving just in time to prevent the tragedy.

All through this picture the cut-back is used most effectively. Early
in the action, supposedly a day or two after the young man had met his
future wife, we are shown the two other men waiting for him at the
saloon, the three glasses of beer standing untouched upon the table.
The scene then switches to the young man and the girl out walking,
gazing from a bridge into the river. Back to the saloon again, and we
see the two friends looking at their watches, about to leave, the
third glass still standing untouched. Then, back to another pretty
exterior, where the young man proposes and is accepted. Toward the
climax, the use of the cut-back becomes even more effective: we see
the wife go out to get the milk; the two friends at the same old table
in the saloon; the husband bending over the child, taking out the
revolver, and indicating what is in his mind to do; then the scene in
the saloon, where the fourth man tells the kind-hearted friend how the
foreman has discharged his former comrade; back in the house again, we
see the man and the woman prepared to die together; then the exterior
of the saloon, with the two friends coming out; another home scene
leading up to the expected tragedy; the two friends hurrying down a
street--and even though they are hurrying, we know that they are
unaware of what is going on in the house which is their destination,
and we are fearful lest they may arrive too late; the man with his
hand held over the eyes of his wife, the revolver being slowly raised;
the two friends at the gate of the cottage; and then the climax as
they enter the room just in time to avert the tragedy. Thus the
cut-back effect kept suspense and interest at highest pitch every

Some years ago the same company released a drama, "The Cord of Life,"
in which the cut-back was used so effectively to heighten the suspense
and add to the thrill that many people in the audience of the theatre
were leaning forward in their seats and making excited comments--the
supreme test of a picture "with a punch."

One caution is necessary in the use of the cut-back--_do not use it as
an excuse to digress_. Above everything else, when you have started
the ball of your plot rolling, keep it rolling _forward_. You must not
switch back to some earlier scene for the purpose of picking up a
point that you have overlooked. Nor is it possible to go back and
follow the characters who have been temporarily dispensed with. If
they reappear, it must be in a scene which naturally follows, and does
not come with a sense of perplexing surprise. Remember this: When
characters are reintroduced they must not have been too long absent
from the plot-movement, but they must have been all the time
consciously or subconsciously present in the mind of the spectator _as
being essentially in the story_.

Unfriendly critics of the photoplay--and there are some such--have
said some harsh things about "the mugging close-up and the
nerve-wracking cut-backs," nor have their criticisms been wholly
without point and justification. But only, of course, when these
technical devices are abused by over-use. Mr. Sargent has pointed out
that the close-up of the silent drama is only another form of the
spot-light used on the regular stage, and, similarly, the cut-back
finds its duplicate in the "off-stage" sound-effects of the regular
drama. Instead of the "galloping horse" effects of the legitimate
stage, we get on the screen the actual scene of the horseman dashing
ahead. But anything overdone is bad, and cut-backs and other similar
devices are no exception to this rule. Not only is our attention
called to the fact that the writer or director is working a certain
technical trick to death, but in following the story its working out
is spoiled for us as a result of the very thing used with the
intention of heightening our interest.

"Even Griffith, in his big production, 'Hearts of the World,' taxes
suspense too far at one point," says Mr. Sargent. "So clever a
trickster as he (and, like Belasco, he is more the artistic trickster
than the artist) has failed to realize that suspense, carried too far,
becomes first tiresome and then amusing. This applies most directly to
the single situation, but it is almost equally applicable to a
situation strong in itself, but which is depended upon to yield
suspense out of proportion to its value."

And, since Mr. Griffith's main suspense-producer has always been his
self-invented cut-back device, the error of over-using this technical
trick is made even more apparent by what this critic points out. Here
again a careful study of the methods of several different leading
directors is your best guide.

_10. How Various Kinds of Inserts Are Used_

The use of leaders, letters, and other inserts needs some treatment in
connection with the scenario. The ordinary statement-leader, such as
"Two years later. Bob returns to his old home," is used before the
scene to which it applies. It shows the spectator the passage of time,
and explains what is about to follow. The ordinary, before-the-scene,
leader, is frequently employed to make such a statement as, "Tom
accuses his brother of having forged the check." But the other way of
telling the audience what Tom does is the use of the cut-in leader--of
which more later. This enables us to read Tom's own words--the
distinguishing mark of the cut-in.

This very effective form of the leader takes its name from the fact
that it cuts in, or is inserted into, the midst of a scene. That the
cut-in leader may tell all that is necessary much better than could a
long statement of what is going on is evident because the direct words
of a character are more effective than the same ideas expressed in the
third person.

Another consideration is that using the cut-in and omitting the leader
before the scene makes it possible to start the scene with action that
does not at first disclose Tom's intention. Then when the proper
moment arrives, the cut-in leader is flashed on the screen, and the
result is that, instead of the spectator's anticipating what is about
to happen, he is likely to be as much taken by surprise as is the
guilty brother.

After introducing the cut-in leader, write _Back to scene_, the same
as after an inserted letter, telegram, newspaper item, or the like.

In what follows we give examples of proper scenario form, as well as
examples of the way in which the leader, cut-in leader, letter, bust,
and mask are used.

[Illustration: View of Stage, Lubin Studio, Los Angeles, California]

[Illustration: Wardrobe Room in a Photoplay Studio]


9--Maxwell's library, same as 4--

     Tom enters, followed by Ralph. Tom goes straight to desk,
     opens it, and takes out envelope. From it he takes Ralph's
     letter and the check. Glances over letter again, Ralph
     standing by, watching him with nervous expression.

_On screen, letter._

     Dear Blakely:

     I send you enclosed my father's check to cover amount of my
     debt to you. Kindly send receipt to me at old address.



_Back to scene_.

     Tom lays letter on desk and picks up check, looking at it
     closely. Suddenly starts, frowns, glances at Ralph, and then
     looks intently at check again. Opens drawer of desk and
     takes out reading-glass. Holding check in left hand, he
     examines it closely through the glass.

10--Bust of Tom's left hand holding check, right hand grasping glass,
focusing the glass upon the name signed to the check. This shows that
the name has been written in a very shaky hand.

11--Back to 9--

     Tom lays reading-glass on desk, looks at his brother
     accusingly, and then thrusts check close to his face.


_Back to scene_.

     Ralph looks at Tom despairingly, his face betraying his
     guilt. Tom hangs head in shame, at thought of his brother's

12--Hallway, showing door of library--

     Wilkins, the butler, kneeling before library door, his eye
     glued to key-hole.

13--Portion of library, same as 4, seen through key-hole--

     Ralph is explaining to Tom how he came to owe Blakely the
     money, etc.

Now let us take up the different points just as they have been
introduced in the foregoing example, and briefly explain each.

The leader is shown, first of all, simply as an example of an ordinary
before-the-scene leader. In writing a scenario such as the one of
which this might be a part, if you introduced the cut-in leader in
Scene 11, there would be no necessity for giving also the ordinary
bald statement-leader before Scene 9. The fact that "Tom discovers his
brother's crime" is made plainer by Tom's own spoken words, in Scene
11, than an ordinary leader before the first scene in the library (in
this example) could make it. In the middle of this scene (9) Tom reads
his brother's unsent letter, and you write "On screen, letter,"
following this note to the director with the letter itself. After the
letter you write "Back to scene," showing that the scene in the
library is not ended and that the action which is broken by the
flashing on the screen of the letter is continued just as soon as Tom
lays the letter down--that is, as soon as it disappears from the

The "bust" comes next, but since we wish to compare the bust with
another technical device, the "close-up," let us pass it by in detail
for the moment. But you must remember, when introducing a bust, that
it is a separate scene, and must, therefore, be given a separate and
distinct scene-number. The bust breaks the scene in the library as Tom
scrutinizes the check through the reading-glass. The letter previously
shown also broke the scene, or interrupted the action; but the bust,
being considered as a separate scene, is given a scene-number--10.

After the bust (10), Scene 11 takes us back to the library; but we do
not follow the scene-number (11) with "Maxwell's library, same as 4"
(4, as the example shows, was the number of the first scene played in
the library). Instead, we write "11--Back to 9," which shows that the
action in the library is picked up and continued from the point where
it ended (on the screen) when the bust picture was flashed.

_11. Masks_

After Tom has openly accused his brother of forgery, as shown by the
cut-in leader, the scene changes to the hallway outside the library
door. We see Wilkins, the butler, who is implicated in the plot
against Ralph, kneeling and peering into the room through the
key-hole. This is a very short scene, but it is necessary to show two
things: not only that the brothers are being spied upon, for we are
not interested in merely watching the butler kneeling there, but it is
important for us to see _what_ he is watching so intently--the action
in the library. So, after we have shown the spy kneeling outside the
door, the scene is shifted back to the continuation of the interview
between Tom and Ralph. This time, however, we see it on the screen in
a way that merely _suggests_ the butler kneeling outside the closed
door. On the screen appears a large key-hole, and within its limits
the scene between the brothers is acted.

The effect thus produced is termed a "mask." Ordinarily the lens of a
moving picture camera is masked by a metal plate, rectangular in
shape, one inch wide by three-quarters of an inch high. The use of
this mask prevents the light from spreading up or down the film as it
is being exposed. As explained in Chapter III, each of the sixteen
tiny pictures that make up a foot of film is termed a "frame," and,
the camera being masked as described, the light is permitted to act
upon only one frame at a time. But within this limit of one inch by
three-quarters of an inch another mask may be used, cut in any form
that the producer may desire. It may be a key-hole mask, as in the
foregoing example; it may be simply circular, to suggest that the
scene is viewed through a telescope; or a mask with hair-line bars,
which will suggest that you are looking through a window. We examined
a script a short while ago in which a travelling salesman for an
optical goods house amused himself in the interval before train time
by watching through a pair of binoculars the street below and the
buildings opposite his hotel window. The scene enacted in an office of
a building not far away led him to believe that a murder was being
committed, and the action which followed was extremely funny. The
scene in the office, watched by the "drummer" through the binoculars,
appeared on the screen as though viewed through a large and very round
figure eight, lying on its side, thus: [symbol: figure-eight].

The four just mentioned are the commonest forms of the mask; but we
have seen masks cut in the shape of oak leaves, bottles, and other
forms, though these latter were used merely to obtain novel effects.

The mask may be used as an inserted scene--as we have here chiefly
considered it--or it may serve as a sort of excuse for the entire
action of the photoplay, as in the case of the commercial traveller
and his binoculars, and add effectiveness by its novelty of

_12. The Bust and the Close-up_

In former usage, the term "bust" was employed to describe any enlarged
view, as a watch, a face, a hand turning a door knob. Now the term has
been given a less wide range and has been superseded in its broadest
meaning by another technical expression--the "close-up."

The bust now means any enlarged _object_, such as a hand holding a
watch, a box of cigars on a table with a note pinned to a cigar, or
any object shown close to the camera, _where no action is called for_.

If Maud comes into a room and sees her sister staring at the window
sill, crosses to the sister's side and stares also, it is natural that
we wonder what it is that causes the consternation. The camera is
manifestly too far away to show unmistakably what Maud picks up--say,
a broken-off knife-point. Suppose that it is part of the plot to have
the spectator also grasp the fact that there is a dark stain on the
knife-point. We must get it closer. So we write the scene up to the
point where Maud holds up the object, then we start another scene and

     43--Bust of Maud's hand holding knife-point to show
     blood-stain in shape of rude star.

There is no action. The hand simply holds the object. A scene of this
kind is usually taken before a black curtain or in front of some such
indeterminate background. Later, this bust scene is inserted into the
film at the proper point. A point worthy of notice is that bust scenes
are always taken, and close-up scenes are _nearly_ always taken,
either before or (usually) after the scenes into which they break have
been done. If the plot demands that a certain character examine his
watch at a certain point, and if the spectator is supposed to see
exactly what time the watch shows, the director is not going to stop
his camera, bring the camera nearer to the player or the player nearer
to the camera, as his method may be, make the bust picture, and then
resume the taking of the "wide-angle," or full-size-stage, scene. Much
time can be saved by making the _different kinds_ of scenes
separately. This explains why every scene and every kind of scene in
the entire scenario _must_ be given a separate scene-number. The
scenes in a photoplay may be likened to a cut-up picture puzzle, each
part of which must be properly assembled and inserted in its proper
place to make a complete, understandable picture.

As has already been said, the bust picture in photoplay is like the
spot-light in the regular theatre. It centres the spectator's
attention on a certain object and holds it there until the important
object is fully observed by the watcher. It "not only magnifies the
objects, but it draws particular attention to them. Many points may be
cleared in a five-foot bust picture which would require twenty to
thirty feet of leader to explain, and the bust picture always
interests. Sometimes in a newspaper illustration a circle surrounds
some point of interest, or a cross marks where the body was
discovered. The bust picture serves the same purpose, and answers, as
well, for the descriptive caption that appears under a cut."[17]

[Footnote 17: Epes Winthrop Sargent, _The Technique of the

Bear in mind, then, that the introduction of a bust scene makes the
succeeding portion of the action in that setting _another scene_, with
its own consecutive number.

In the past few years, the number of scenes to the reel has been
almost doubled, in most studios; and this is due to the increased use
of the close-up. The bust and the close-up are entirely separate in
their utility and effect, yet, properly used, each has been found a
valuable addition to the technical devices of photoplay construction.
It is now frequently the practice of many directors to bring the
camera nearer to a certain character, or group of characters, at some
important point of the action for the sake of emphasizing facial
expression or certain bits of "business" that are vitally essential to
a proper understanding of the plot.

This may be accomplished in three different ways--the method employed
always depending upon the nature of the scene as well as of _the
setting or location_. First, if the surroundings of the character at
that stage of the action are important as having something to do with
the "business" being carried out--if, for example, it is necessary to
show, at close range, the actions of two characters who are seated at
a table--the director has the camera moved down toward them, and that
particular close-up, or series of close-ups, is taken usually, as has
been said, after all the wide-angle scenes in that setting have been
"done," for the obvious purpose of rendering unnecessary the frequent
shifting of the camera.

If, on the other hand, the director merely wishes to emphasize at
certain points in any scene the facial expression of his players, as
affected by the humorous, startling, or other emotional "business"
incidental to the plot at that point, and if the surroundings of the
character or characters may be indeterminate without detracting from
the value of the scene, the player or players may be brought _nearer
to the camera_, and the close-up may even be made with the subjects
posed against a plain, dark background. This method of obtaining the
close-up is frequently resorted to, and, it may be said, is not always
truly "artistic," if seriously considered, inasmuch as it tends to
detach the character from the surroundings of the scene, and make the
result more than ever in the nature of a figure in the spot-light. We
have seen many pictures, particularly those with female "stars"
featured--as, for example, the Mary Pickford pictures--in which the
action of a scene would be broken several times, and the head of the
pretty "star" shown photographed against a plain, very dark

The third method used in the studios is one which actually changes a
wide-angle view into a close-up without breaking or interrupting the
action in the slightest degree. This is accomplished by mounting the
camera on a specially built platform on wheels--on a truck--which as a
rule is operated on wooden tracks previously prepared to suit the
action taking place in that set or location. Take for example the
Babylonian setting (the principal Babylonian setting, that is) in the
D.W. Griffith production, "Intolerance." When this scene is first
thrown on the screen we see an immense open court, surrounded by
banquet halls and long corridors, with walls reaching up to tremendous
heights, the walls themselves banked with huge figures of heathen gods
and images and great elephants, compared to which the human figures
participating in the scene are mere pygmies. At the back of this
enormous setting is a flight of steps, perhaps a hundred feet or more
in width, upon which are probably a hundred girls going through the
graceful motions of a religious dance. We are permitted, for several
feet of film, to view the immensity and the grandeur of ancient
Babylon in this wide-angle view. Then, smoothly and steadily, we
approach the back of the set--the great flight of steps, with the
dancing figures. Hundreds of details of architecture and sculpturing
are unfolded as we draw nearer, and when the truck suddenly stops, we
have a close-up of part of the steps with the dancing girls just
finishing their performance.

The point is, simply, that if a mere close-up of a certain character
or group of characters is all that is desired, either of the two
methods first explained is used. But if the director has an unusually
beautiful and imposing setting which he wishes to show off, the moving
truck, with the constantly turning camera, gives him exactly what he
wants to show. Close-ups of this type may be likened to the more
frequently used panoramic scenes--"panorams"--obtained in open-air
work by mounting the camera on a train, an automobile, or some other
moving vehicle. Another point is that the ordinary close-up, produced
as first described, is the one most used because it does away with the
footage consumed in the gradual-approach method.

Suppose, now (following up the previous example of the use of the
bust), that having shown Maud's hand holding up the broken-off point
of what she believes to be her brother's knife, we go back to the
wide-angle view of the room and show the two sisters together, and
Maud casting the knife-point from her in horror. Let us imagine that
they are supposed to suspect some other character--their brother, in
fact--of having used the knife of which this is a part, to commit some
crime. This character now comes into the room. We want to register
certain expressions and, what is equally important, we want to isolate
one character's expression from that of another, so that the eye and
mind of the spectator will not be confused by the wide range of vision
employed in the full--or wide-angle--scene. We show the brother as he
comes into the room and stops, seeing the eyes of the two girls fixed
upon him. How shall we isolate him? Not by the use of the bust, for
the bust is now employed only to give a close view of an _inanimate
object_. We use the close-up, and we write the scenes thus:

42--Living room, same as 15.

     Maud comes in to find Ethel staring at an object lying on
     the window sill. She crosses and stares down at it also,
     then, with a shudder, picks up--the knife-point!

43--Bust of Maud's hand holding knife-point to show blood-stain in
shape of rude star.

44--Back to wide-angle of room.

     Maud flings the knife-point from her in horror, then turns
     to Ethel and clings to her. Both look towards door as Frank
     enters. He advances a pace or two, sees them, and stops,

45--Close-up of Frank. His eyes suddenly drop, he sees the object
lying on the floor, and, slowly, his hands go up over his eyes.

46--Close-up of Maud and Ethel. Maud slowly turns to her sister with a
question in her eyes--"Is he guilty?"--and bows her head, then looks
up quickly and fixes her gaze on Frank.

47--Close-up of Frank. With agony in his eyes, the boy protests his
innocence. Suddenly he pauses, realizing that he is not making an

48--Back to wide-angle of room.

     Both sisters are staring at Frank. Maud's look is one of
     unmistakable accusation. She looks down at the floor. Frank
     follows her gaze. Maud stoops, picks up the knife-point, and
     holds it out towards him. He slowly advances and takes it
     from her. He knows what they expect--what they demand!
     Slowly, hesitatingly, he draws a pocket knife out of his
     pocket. The sisters come closer, drawn magnetically by the
     horrible thing they fear to see--the meeting of the knife
     and the broken point.

49--Close-up of Frank. A very close view to show him slowly opening
the knife, the point of which is broken off. The other hand puts the
bloodstained point to the broken blade. They match! They fit

50--Back to wide-angle of room.

     With an anguished face the boy cries:


_Back to scene_.

     He sees a hardening of Maud's face. Silently his hands
     unclench; the knife-point falls to the table. Then, with an
     access of fear, he closes his knife, thrusts it into his
     pocket, and rushes wildly out, while the two girls merely
     stare after him, too horror-stricken to move, to follow.

The foregoing is a good example of how "straight" action, all in one
uninterrupted wide-angle scene, would not be half so convincing,
dramatic or suspense-holding as the broken-up series of scenes, all in
the same setting, all in the one situation. Incidentally, Scene 49
shows very clearly the distinction between the bust and the close-up.
This is a very close view of the boy's hands, but it cannot be called
a bust because of the fact that it is an action scene. The close-up
compares with the bust in much the same way that any painting with
supposedly human, moving figures compares with those pictures which
come under the "still life" classification.

This illustration of the use of the bust and the close-up is taken
from an actual script, prepared by one of the Vitagraph Company's
staff writers. It will be noticed that the "description" of the scene
following the bust scene is "44--Back to wide-angle of room," instead
of "44--Back to 42," which it would have been had this Vitagraph
writer followed the same rules of technique as were used by the writer
of the script from which the example on page 159 was taken. The
Vitagraph writer follows the same rule in writing the description of
close-up scenes, also. Either form is correct, and it is optional
which you use. There are certain technical terms as well as methods of
writing for which there are no hard and fast rules, and this accounts
for the fact that some writers will say "leader" when others use the
term "sub-title," and so on.[18]

[Footnote 18: Compare the Vitagraph-made working scenario in Chapter
XX with the one-reel scenario reproduced in Chapter V.]

Shortly before one of the present writers was appointed scenario
editor for the Edison Company, Mr. Bannister Merwin, who for several
years was one of Edison's chief contributing writers, gave up his work
in this country and went to England to live. He is now active in the
British film world and also a director--or "producer," as Mr. Merwin
still calls it--for one of the largest English motion picture
manufacturers. The present writer found that Mr. Merwin's work had
left a considerable impression upon the methods of work of the various
Edison directors, and, indeed, he has always been regarded as one of
the leading authorities on photoplay technique. The three paragraphs
which follow are taken from a letter written by Mr. Merwin to Mr. Epes
Winthrop Sargent, and published in _The Moving Picture World_. Several
important points in connection with the scenario are briefly but
interestingly discussed. In connection with what we have just been
discussing--the close-up--it may be said that, as Mr. Merwin himself
says, all writers make use of the close-up at certain points of
different scenes; but what this author-director says in addition may
be taken as another warning against the _over-use_ of this effective
technical device:

"My present notion of the best construction for long feature stories
follows somewhat the lines of the stage play. The line of climactic
development should be a series of ascending waves. After each crisis
or climax there should be a slight lull. And the first few hundred
feet, like the first ten minutes of a play, should be devoted to
getting your audience acquainted with your characters and their
relationships. To place a very important action in the first few
hundred feet before the audience knows who the characters are or what
they are to one another tends to create confusion. People will later
say, 'Oh, was _he_ the one who did that?' Of course the characters
must do things in these first few hundred feet, but they should be
things that express their characters interestingly rather than things
that have important significance in the plot development. Perhaps I
put the point a little too strongly, for there are always exceptions,
but you will know what I mean.

"The thing is to look at one's own work from the viewpoint of the
audience, and continually ask one's self such questions as, 'Is it
clear? Can I follow it without confusion of mind? Does it constantly
keep my interest stimulated?'

"Now the question of breaking one's scenes with close-ups and varied
shots from different angles. Of course, we all do this in preparing
our scripts. But lately I have wondered whether it would not be better
to leave the breaking up of the scene to the producer, except in very
obvious cases. You see, I am now speaking as a producer as well as a
writer. The value of the close-up almost always is governed in
practice by floor conditions. I mean by this several things. For one
thing, if the cast is not the ideal cast you have had in mind when
writing the play the character you have set down for a close-up may
not be able to express what it is essential to express in that
particular close-up. The producer must then find some other means of
punctuating the situation. For another thing, no producer is likely to
build a set and handle his people in it in exactly the way you have
conceived. For that matter, no two producers are likely to handle the
set and the characters in the same way. It follows that very often the
producer can secure a natural close-up in the course of the action
where you have called for a special close-up scene. And on the other
hand the producer may find that he needs a special close-up scene at a
point where your conception of the movements of the characters has not
made it appear necessary. Anyhow, the close-up is an interpretation.
If, as I hold, the producer is an interpreter, would it not be better
to leave this matter of close-ups to him, and write your scene
straight, with emphasis on the points that should be brought out most
strongly? I don't say that this surmise is right; I merely am
wondering. In any event, we do not want to see the close-up overdone.
We don't want too much of the Griffith staccato. It leads to what a
certain friend of mine once called Tom Lawson's method of
muck-raking--'The method of universal emphasis.'"

It is interesting to note in the first paragraph of the quotation from
Mr. Merwin's letter that he advocates giving, in most pictures, "the
first few hundred feet" to a proper introduction of the characters and
to laying the foundation, as it were, for the story proper. This is in
marked contrast to the method of a few years ago, when one-reel
pictures were the rule, and when very little footage could be spared
for such introductory scenes. Today, with very much longer pictures,
there is no excuse for any writer's ever feeling himself cramped for
room in which to make clear everything that the spectator ought to
know in connection with his characters and his plot.

Finally, in connection with the _story_, as written by you, and the
_picture_, as put on by the director, we again quote Mr. Sargent:

"If you _need_ a close-up, write it in, numbering it as a separate
scene. If you do not need a close-up, don't write one in, even though
you see innumerable close-ups used. Let the director make these as his
fancy or judgment may dictate. He can see just where and how the use
of the close-up can help the _pictorial_ quality of the picture. You
are apt to concern yourself only with the narrative value of the
close-up, employing it only where it is necessary in order to get the
_story_ over clearly. You cannot possibly imagine the scene exactly as
it will be set up or played, therefore you cannot tell where and how
_pictorial_ close-ups or other effects will be useful. Leave that to
the director and he will handle the numbering according to his special
system. Number _your own_ close-ups, because they are separate scenes
even though they are in reality a part of other scenes."

What this critic means by the director's "special system" of handling
the numbering of close-ups that he may decide to use after the story
has been placed in his hands is simply that such added close-ups will
be inserted into the working script in this manner (40 and 41 being
your original scene numbering):

40--(a) Henderson steps forward to give his prisoner
    a better view of his face.

    (b) Close-up of Trask and Henderson. In the
    stronger light, Trask recognizes his old enemy
    and his face is convulsed with hate.

    (c) Henderson steps back, laughs, and holds out
    the handcuffs, etc.

41--This scene as originally written.

It will be seen that the action contained in (b) is the inserted
close-up action. In what remains (c) we get the end of the scene as
written by the author.

_13. Visions, Memories, Dreams, and Other Devices_

We have already referred to the old method of obtaining certain
effects in so-called fairy-tale pictures by "stop-camera" work, or by
simply stopping the character at a certain point just prior to the
scheduled appearance of some supernatural visitant, having the other
characters hold their positions while the witch or the fairy character
walks into the scene and takes her proper position in it, and then
starting the camera again, the result on the screen being that the
supernatural figure stands, in the fraction of a second, where nothing
of the kind appeared before. Today, stop-camera work is used very
seldom--as a rule only to obtain ludicrously sudden and unexpected
effects in certain types of "slap-stick" comedy. A far more artistic
effect, when it is desired to introduce visitors from other worlds, is
obtained by "superimposure," or by taking the picture twice, as it
were. On the first "take" the characters go through the business
already rehearsed, and the director keeps careful track of just when
each important move is made by counting while the cameraman turns the
crank. If, at the count of "Eleven!" one character registers surprise
and points excitedly at an unoccupied corner of the room, it is the
first step in introducing the fairy, or the spectre, who is to appear
there in the picture as shown on the screen. After the scene has been
gone through with, following this rule, the film is run through the
camera a second time, the "stage" being empty of players up to the
count of "Eleven!" at which point the unearthly-visitor character is
brought into the scene at the proper place in the setting, either
appearing quite suddenly or being more gradually dissolved in,
different studios having different methods of accomplishing this. The
point is that visions of this kind are obviously written into the
scene proper, just as you would introduce any new character. If it is
a ghostly visitor of some kind, you simply say: "Harding looks in
horror (at whatever point of the room or location you desire). Vision
of Blake, standing quite still and pointing an accusing finger at
Harding." Or, if Tom is in the city and has reason to believe that
Frank, back on the farm, is taking advantage of his friend's absence
to win his sweetheart away from him, write the scene down to the point
where Tom straightens up in his office chair and stares (perhaps
directly into the camera) with a worried expression, and then say:
"Vision-in portion of the apple orchard, with Frank making love to
Mary as they stand beneath one of the trees."

Everyone who has attended the motion picture theatres has seen dozens
of examples of "visions," produced in one or another manner, and it
should be easy to distinguish between "visions" and "thoughts" or
"memories." The latter _may_ be introduced as part of another scene
just as the vision (using the word in the sense of "apparition" or
"supernatural visitant") is introduced; but it must be borne in mind
that the photoplay spectators have in the past few years been
gradually educated up to a rather perfect comprehension of what
results different technical devices produce--even if they do not quite
understand the technical why and wherefore; and for this reason it is
best when writing action in which the characters are supposed to show
what they are thinking about or describing to use the fade-out and
fade-in device, as the meaning of this is now very clearly understood.
The spectators are quite used to seeing the picture fade out, or "go
black" at the end of certain scenes, just as they are familiar with
the use of it at the actual end of the photoplay. Apart from these two
uses, they have come to associate the fade-out with the thought of
the immediate introduction of a "memory," either related to others or
silently indulged in, or a mere thought, or, if the character is seen
going to sleep, of a "dream."

If the fade-out is used, it means three scenes instead of one, of
course, because following the introduction of the "memory," or
whatever it may be, you return to the scene proper, just as you go
back to the wide-angle view after using a bust or a close-up scene.
They would be numbered, for example, 17, 18 and 19, and you would
write the action as follows:

17--Library, same as 6.

     Fenton continues to make love to Beverly, presently ending
     what he is saying with an impassioned plea to fly with him
     at once. For just a moment she seems on the point of
     yielding; then she starts back and shows that she is
     thinking of what it would mean. (Fade out into--)

18--Bedroom, same as 8.

     Dean, lying in bed, wakes up and calls out, as if calling to
     his wife. Then he falls back again on the pillow, exhausted.
     (Fade back to--)

19--Back to 17.

     Fenton reaches out to grasp Beverly's hand, but she draws
     quickly back and urges him to stop pleading with her, at the
     same time crossing etc.

If you are using the "dissolve" or "interpose" (see definitions in
Chapter III) you introduce the device in the same way as above; but
bear in mind that the dissolve is somewhat harder to accomplish than
the fade, and, again, while it merges one scene into another in an
artistically beautiful manner, it is not so readily recognized by the
spectator as an announcement, so to speak, of what is to follow.

The diaphragm (in or out), as the definition in Chapter III states, is
used to indicate a lapse of time in the action of a story without
using a leader. Also, in scenes between which there is supposed to be
only a very brief interval, but which nevertheless call for a definite
break of thought, the diaphragm is resorted to. Some directors will
say "Circle out!" that being the effect on the screen--the oblong
picture changing to a circle, which gradually becomes smaller and
smaller until the diaphragm of the camera is entirely closed and the
film "goes black." The reverse of this, of course, is called
"diaphragming in."

As several critics have pointed out, the fade and the diaphragm should
never be used to denote synchronized action. Action occurring in two
places at practically the same moment should be cut one into the
other, for this is the primary function of the cut-back. At no time
should the diaphragm be used in this connection, either as a means of
fading out or to reduce the field, for this robs the action of any
suggestion of immediate change. Here the use of cutting back is
imperative, and no other device should be substituted.

As has been indicated, photoplay terminology is, even yet, only in
process of formation. The terms given and defined in Chapter III are
the terms in common daily use in the majority of studios, but there
is no ancient precedent to compel any writer to adhere to any of
these terms if he is in the habit of using others. There is too great
a disposition on the part of amateur writers to split hairs over the
correct technical term. A matter of far more importance is to turn out
a good story.

_14. Camera Tricks and Special Effects_

With the way most trick-effects are produced in the studio the average
writer need be little concerned except as a matter of interest.[19]
The object of discussing them here is to show how certain plots, or
parts of plots, are made possible as a result of knowing how these
things _may_ be accomplished, whereas without this knowledge the
writer with a good idea might fear to include it in his story in the
belief that it was impossible of production. It may be remarked that
what is said here has a bearing on Chapter XV, in which is discussed
the matter of expense in picture production. Some of the very
companies who a few years ago were warning the beginning writer
against introducing action that would necessitate too great an outlay
of money are today producing features seemingly regardless of expense.
Yet most concerns are really exercising a wise economy and getting
some wonderful results with cleverly planned trick-camera work.

[Footnote 19: See Homer Croy's _How Motion Pictures Are Made_.]

For example, in one episode of the Wharton serial, "The Eagle's Eye,"
the German conspirators in New York, seeking to injure the cause of
the Allies and lay the blame on the American 'longshoremen at the same
time, arrange to have a train of freight cars, crossing on barges from
Manhattan to Jersey, dumped into the North River by removing the means
by which they are held in place on the tracks of the barge and
"letting 'em slide." The effect on the screen is wonderfully like what
a long-range photograph of such an actual event would show. All that
was needed to produce the scene was a tank of water with a miniature
barge pushed along by a tiny tug-boat, the latter steaming up very
realistically. When the toy barge and tug-boat were right in the
middle of the "stage," three or four toy freight cars were allowed to
slide off into the water. Above the tank, as a background, was hung
some white or light colored cloth, making everything from the
waterline up a white blank. Against this blank was superimposed, by
running the film through the camera twice, a picture of the New York
sky-line as seen from the Jersey shore. The unruffled surface of the
water in the tank--so unlike the wavy North River--was almost the only
thing to show certain of the spectators that the scene was not the
real thing. In another episode of the same serial, after the German
spies have caused an Allied grain ship to be loaded on one side only,
so that she will turn turtle as soon as released from her moorings,
another very realistic scene shows the ship actually turning over, as
much as the comparative narrowness of the slip will let her, after
they have cut the ropes holding her to the dock. Here, again, a model
vessel in a built-up miniature slip supplied the means of obtaining a
startlingly realistic effect. The scene lasted only a few seconds, so
that little opportunity was given the spectator to see how it was
worked, but the effect of the brief scene was very convincing.

In scores of feature productions models or miniatures of various kinds
have been resorted to to obtain startling or novel effects, and have
saved the outlay of thousands of dollars in the production of certain
pictures. Double photography, or superimposure, is a ready ally when
the director wants to get an effect showing a specially arranged
fictitious scene played against a real and frequently well-known
background, as in the North River scene just described. In the same
picture, "The Eagle's Eye," the Whartons, who produced it, displayed a
new feature in photography--a genuine photographic device rather than
a trick--in what they described as "the triple iris"--three diaphragms
opening at once and disclosing the heads of Boy-Ed, Von Papen and Dr.
Albert, and then fading and showing a scene in which these three
characters were seen grouped in conversation.

Another effect which might, perhaps, be classed as a trick was used in
the Mary Pickford feature, "Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley." It was in
reality merely a clever scene intended to take the place of a leader,
while being also an improvement on a leader because of the fact that
to almost everyone in the audience it instantly "put over" the idea
back of the action at that point of the story. At the time that
Amarilly's good-hearted but socially impossible mother, with her
little brothers and sisters, are being entertained by the rich
hostess who desires to shame the little girl from the tenements in the
eyes of her son, there is flashed on the screen, against a dark
background, an empty glass gold-fish bowl with the fish themselves
wriggling and gasping on the table beside it. The idea of "fish out of
water" was very apparent to the spectators. Later, when the
tenement-bred family had returned to their humble home, another
picture showed the gold-fish contentedly swimming about in a
well-filled bowl. It is such an effect as this that any clever writer
might think of suggesting in his scenario, and it is legitimate in
every way--far more so, in fact, than some of the tricks of
diaphragming and fading so frequently made use of by certain

A startlingly novel effect was shown some time ago in the Vitagraph
Company's production of Arthur Stringer's story, "Mortmain." Just as
Mortmain was put under ether the scene proper faded out, giving place
to a dull blur in which the faces of the doctor and his attendants
were brought right up to the lens of the camera and then withdrawn for
several feet, the action being extremely rapid, and being repeated
several times, by means of the camera mounted on a truck, as already
described. This was accompanied by another dark-background strip of
film, across--or rather down--which shot fiery streaks, like the tails
of discharging sky-rockets. The whole effect of an�sthesia was vividly
reproduced, and the effect on the audience was most marked. The idea
of what Mortmain experienced in his last conscious moments "got
across" in no uncertain way. Especially startling and realistic--to
those who have been there--was the effect of the patient's feeling
himself dropping, dropping, dropping through space into--oblivion.

It is extremely unlikely that this work will be made use of by anyone
who has not visited the picture theatres often enough to have seen ten
times as many camera tricks, special effects, and examples of the use
of different technical devices as are herein described. But if you
_are_ taking up photoplay writing without having seen many photoplays
on the screen, you are but half equipped, notwithstanding all the help
you may receive through text-books and trade-journal articles. In
other words, we urge upon you the wisdom of keeping in mind that the
real finishing school for screen writers is the picture theatre

_15. Dual-Character Double Exposures_

Undoubtedly, the gradual perfecting of the double exposure
(superimposure) device in motion-picture making has made possible the
screening of innumerable good stories which would otherwise have been
almost impossible of production. When only a few years ago the
Vitagraph Company made their very creditable production of Charles
Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities," the two leading male characters,
Sidney Carton and Charles Darnley, were played by two different
actors--the final action of the plot turning on the fact that these
two were "doubles," for this fact makes possible Sidney Carton's
supreme sacrifice for his friend and the woman he loves. There was a
fairly close facial resemblance between the two actors who played
these parts--enough, with the aid of the wigs they wore and other
make-up, to make the picture convincing. Today, no director would
think of putting on such a picture with two different actors in the
dual r�les of Carton and Darnley. When, in 1917, the Dickens classic
was released as a William Fox feature, William Farnum played both
r�les, and some really remarkable results were obtained in scenes
where both characters were present at the same time. Almost everyone
has seen pictures containing examples of the possibilities offered by
double exposure in making pictures of this nature.

In the first place, when two characters are supposed to be "doubles,"
it is certainly more convincing to have one player portray both r�les.
Again, any additional trouble that is attached to making pictures of
this kind, on account of the double exposures involved, is confined to
those scenes in which both characters are present in the scene at the
same time, and even then the difficulty is minimized by the use of

For example, to show Carton in one scene where Darnley is not present
is simply to take an ordinary scene in an ordinary way. Then, suppose
you wish to show Carton seated in a chair at one side of the room
while Darnley leaning against the table at the other side of the room
talks with him. In pictures of this kind the director frequently uses
more close-ups than usual merely to avoid the necessity of making
double exposures, in connection with which the greatest trouble is
always the keeping track--by counting, for instance--of the moves of
the two different characters. But it is a much easier matter for the
dual-r�le actor, made up as Carton, to be photographed singly in one
part of the room as he goes through with the action of one or more
scenes, after which, dressed as Darnley, he goes through the
synchronized action of that character. Synchronization--or harmony of
movement in time--of course demands that the action of both characters
be properly matched--to use a common and easily understood term--but
it will be seen that when the spectator watches only one character at
a time there is not the need for the _perfect_ synchronization of
action that is always demanded of the wide-angle double-exposure
scene, in which one man, playing two different characters, must face
himself and keep the action natural and convincing at all times.

Very few things in the development of motion picture art have advanced
so noticeably as this trick of portraying dual characters on the
screen by means of double exposure of the film. Theoretically,
it is extremely simple. There is a middle--or at any rate an
arbitrary--dividing line to the stage. A mask being placed over
one-half of the camera lens, the film is run through and the action of
Carton in a certain scene in which he is supposed to face Darnley is
taken. Careful track is kept of just what important moves he makes at
different stages of the count. Later, after he is made up as Darnley,
the first half of the lens is masked in the same way as before, while
the second half is exposed and the action of Darnley is gone through
with, with the gestures and other action properly timed to
synchronize with the action of his "double"--and that is all there is
to do. But the skill of the director is tested in his timing of the
moves of the characters, just as his knowledge of lighting and
backgrounds is tested so as to avoid showing the line where the two
differently exposed parts of the film join. Then, too, certain
directors have, of late, procured some "double" effects which well
deserve to be called wonderful, as when in a certain William Fox film
the two different characters, played by the one woman, are made to
meet and kiss each other most naturally.

To repeat, double exposure (to use the simplest term for this camera
trick) has made possible the writing of many stories for the screen
which a few years ago would have been rejected because of the
inability of the company to procure two people similar enough in
appearance successfully to portray the "doubles." No author with a
really fine idea for a dual-character story need hesitate to offer it
to the film companies today. But there is still enough additional
trouble attached to the production of this kind of story to justify
the editors in rejecting everything but the very best in the way of

_16. Features_

The most surprising thing, when one looks back and considers the
single-reel stories of a few years ago, is that a complete, logically
told story could ever have been produced in one thousand feet of film,
part of which was consumed by sub-titles and inserts. Of course, the
sub-titles and inserts _helped_ to tell the story in those days, just
as they do now, but even so, the comparatively small amount of footage
allowed to each picture seems even less than it actually was in the
light of the five- to eight-thousand feet and more to which we expect
feature pictures to run today.

The fact remains, however, that for several years one-reel pictures
were the rule; and a still more important fact, considered from the
standpoint of the writer, is that many--a great many--of the stories
that were then confined to one thousand feet of film were far better
_stories_, if not quite so pleasing as _pictures_, than many that are
now being put out in lengths of five-thousand feet or more and labeled
as features.

The reason is clear; there simply could not be a clearer or more
undeniable reason: When a story had to be told in one thousand
feet--perhaps a few feet less than that, but never a foot more--it had
to be _all story_, all meat. "Padding" was a thing quite unknown in
1909. The wonder was that so much story could be crowded into so few
feet of film. Good as was the Famous Players five-reel production of
Dumas' "Monte Cristo"--judged by the standards of the year in which it
was released--a great many people who saw it were struck by the fact
that this feature production had very little more actual story in it
than had the carefully condensed one-reel version of the same
novel-play that was put out by the Selig Company in 1908. What it did
have was more detail, and a great deal more opportunity for pictorial
effects. The one-reel Selig release gave every essential detail of
the romance, with the necessary explanatory inserts in the way of
leaders, letters, etc. The Famous Players feature production gave
the essential details plus innumerable details that were by no
means essential--although very effective as helps to a better
understanding of the locale, the period in history, and the author's

The Famous Players "Monte Cristo," however, was not, at any point,
"padded." It might have been two reels longer--and probably would have
been three reels longer had it been produced a little later--without
giving too much of the wealth of picture-material contained in the
complete story of Edmond Dantes. We mention these two pictures solely
for the purpose of drawing a comparison between the kind of stories
put out in 1908 and those that were beginning to appear about six
years later. But "padding"--the filling up of the picture with
non-essential and often very extraneous details or pictorial
effects--has steadily increased with the yearly increase of the
so-called "features," and has unquestionably been responsible for the
falling-off in interest among countless former photoplay "fans." They
have gone into the theatres expecting to see a "big star" in a "big
story"--and have come out after having seen only the "big star." Just
who is responsible for this very unsatisfactory state of affairs it is
sometimes hard to say. Occasionally the story, if written by an
"outside" writer, is lacking in plot-material in the first place, and,
having been purchased on account of its having, none the less, several
good situations, is allowed to go into production without being built
up in plot (which is quite another thing from "padding") by one of the
studio staff-writers. Or it may be that, the logical length of that
particular story being five thousand feet, the director lets it run on
for another reel, or even two, in order to be able to work in several
hundred feet of quite unnecessary close-ups of the female "lead," who
chances to be his wife, and whose popularity he is naturally anxious
to maintain. This actually has happened; but even a conscientious and
otherwise artistic director may occasionally "stretch a picture out a
little" in order to take advantage of the beautiful natural locations
of the part of the country in which he is working.

All these things being so, it becomes more and more the duty of the
author to see that his story _has_ plenty of _story_. Give the
director a strong, well-developed plot and he will have far less
opportunity and much less excuse for introducing anything that will be
in the nature of padding. Moreover, so evident is it that photoplay
audiences have come to recognize the padded story when one is shown,
that the producers have started to call a halt on this foolish
practice, and as a result stories accepted from the outside are
closely scrutinized to see if they are full length in actual material.

So far as any special rules in connection with the writing of the
feature picture is concerned, there are really none--unless the
admonition to try to make a five-reel story five times as interesting
and five times as cleverly plotted as a one-reel story may be called
a rule. In other words, the writer who can turn out a salable
synopsis for a one-reel story ought to be able to write an equally
good synopsis for a five-reel feature; and similarly, if you can write
the continuity for a one-reel story--if you can write a single-reel
scenario of the kind that would have been acceptable in any studio a
few years ago--you undoubtedly can write a five-reel continuity that
is up to the technical standard demanded by those companies that
accept complete scripts today. And of course the same applies to the
"synopsis only" script.

The one thing that you cannot do, unless you are actually on the staff
of a certain company, is obvious, and has been referred to in the
chapter on "The Synopsis": You cannot write any story with the
certainty that it will be entirely unchanged after being accepted for
production. Any one of a dozen very good reasons may demand that some
alteration, addition to or elimination of certain scenes or parts of
scenes in your story must take place while it is in the director's
hands. There is a vast difference between the necessary changes
carefully made by an artistic and painstaking director and the
indiscriminate slashing to pieces of a writer's story common among a
certain variety of directors in the past. Fortunately for the writer,
this class of director is rapidly being outlawed, and the
photoplaywright should write at all times in the confident belief that
his perfect-as-he-can-make-it story will be adequately "put on" by a
director who knows his business and is, as Mr. Merwin says, an
interpreter of the author's plot.

We need only repeat here one other thing that we said in Chapter VIII:
No matter what the length of the story, today, it is always run
through--in all but the very smallest and most out-of-the-way theatres
and towns respectively--without interruption, because two projecting
machines are used, and another reel is started as soon as one
finishes, there being no perceptible break in the action on the
screen. For this reason, if you are writing a five-reel feature-story
with, say, forty scenes to a reel, you start with Scene 1 and number
straight through to Scene 200. There should be a series of rising
climaxes, but no special forward-looking climax exactly at the end of
each thousand feet.

Also, of course, it is quite unnecessary to have an equal number of
scenes to each part. The action of your first reel--more or less
introductory--may demand only thirty or thirty-five scenes, whereas
when your story gets to moving rapidly you may see the necessity for
running up the number of scenes by introducing several short scenes,
or "flashes."

_17. Serials_

We advise a rereading of the definition of the term "serials" given in
Chapter III. In addition to what is there said, it may be stated that,
as a rule, it is best not to write a complete serial--even though only
in synopsis form--unless you have what is beyond question a sure
market. As a matter of fact, most serials are written at present by
big-name writers of fiction--such as Arthur B. Reeve--or "inside"
writers, such as George B. Seitz, who has been responsible for
several successful Path� serials. The comparatively few "outside"
writers who have "made good" with serials follow the plan of writing
the synopsis of the first four or five episodes (which in film form
would mean eight or ten reels), which they submit for the editor's
approval in the regular way. If the editor likes the idea, or theme,
of the story, and thinks it would make a successful picture, he will
commission you to finish it. Four or five episodes of well-planned,
suspense-holding plot will be sufficient to assure him that you are
capable of keeping up the same speed and making the story consistently
interesting all through.

To reiterate what was also pointed out in the definition in Chapter
III, you must bear in mind that while the end of each separate reel in
an ordinary feature need not end with a forward-looking climax, the
end of each _episode_ in a photoplay serial _must_ be a climax of a
most thrilling nature, or, at any rate, must be such a climax as will
greatly excite the interest of the spectator and insure his coming to
the theatre when the next episode is shown. The serial photoplay is
exactly like the well-written and carefully edited serial story of
fiction. Judged from the box-office viewpoint, the supreme test of a
good photoplay serial is its ability to keep the same spectators
coming to the theatre where it is being run week after week.

What has been said as to the thrilling climax at the end of each
episode, or chapter, must not be interpreted as meaning that a mere
thrilling _situation_ is all that is required. In the boys'
story-papers of a few years ago, referred to in our discussion of the
cut-back, the hero was frequently left hanging over the edge of the
cliff, or tied to the railroad track, or waiting for the timed fuse to
reach the keg of powder. These situations in themselves were
sufficient to make juvenile readers wait anxiously for seven whole
days in order to find out what would happen "in our next." It has been
demonstrated, however, that what holds the attention of the photoplay
spectator, young or old, is the mystery connected with the story, and
it is the solving of this mystery that must constantly be kept in
mind. "Who is the masked stranger?" "Who is the owner of the
mysterious clutching hand," "Who is the mysterious and ominous
personage who inevitably sends a telephone message of warning when
about to strike down a new victim?" These are the questions that keep
them guessing from week to week and draw them back to witness every
episode. Your climax may be a thrilling situation--should be, in
fact--but it must also be a definite way-station on the journey to the
point of discovery.

While there is still a great deal of absolute nonsense--viewed from
any standpoint of common sense and logic--in most photoplay serials,
and while the long-drawn-out mystery is often made possible only by
the introduction of weird and unnatural happenings not even possible
in real life, there is now a tendency toward serials more true to life
and more dependent for their success upon plots that will stand the
acid test of logical reasoning. The very fact that each separate
episode, with its various situations in the working out of the
mystery, had to be depended upon to draw the crowds back again to see
the next episode, was taken as sufficient excuse for the introduction
of situations that would make the wildest exploits of "Diamond Dick"
or "Old King Brady" read like the Sunday-school stories of a
generation ago.

The Wharton serial, "The Eagle's Eye," already referred to, was the
first in which historical facts were reproduced in their logical
order, held together and made more interesting by a veneer of fiction.
The fictional head of the Criminology Club and the daring woman Secret
Service operative seemed almost to be secondary characters compared to
the much-talked-about agents of the Imperial German Government whose
nefarious acts made so much trouble for the American detectives and
Secret Service agents headed by ex-Chief Flynn, under whose
supervision the serial was made.

The future holds out immense possibilities for producers and writers
of thoroughly good photoplay serials. Whereas in the past many serials
were to be seen only in the second-rate houses, on account of the fact
that their impossibly thrilling situations and weird plots appealed
only to the juvenile and less intelligent spectators, now with the
improvement in the _stories_ of serial pictures has come an increase
in the spectators who follow them up, and a consequent introduction of
serials into theatres where at one time nothing of the kind would have
been tolerated.

In conclusion, it may be said that for purposes of plot-study the
photoplay serial can hardly be surpassed. Good, bad or indifferent,
every photoplay serial reveals a sheer ingenuity of plotting that is a
genuine inspiration to the writer of often better material. And a
careful following-up and study of a _good_ serial is a liberal
photoplay-writing education in itself.

_18. Final Points_

More and more, in those--all too few--studios where full scripts are
desired, the directors of ability and intelligence are welcoming the
help extended by the author--if the author himself is known to be a
finished workman. Elsewhere we have quoted Mr. Bannister Merwin, who,
long before he became one himself, held that the director was
rightfully an interpreter--a reader of and builder from the blue
print--of the author. Mr. Merwin was also one of the first
photoplaywrights to submit what might be called a fully elaborated
script--one in which every scene was so carefully worked out that the
_motive_ behind every action of every character was made absolutely
plain. Notwithstanding the greater length of such a scenario, or
continuity, its advantages are emphatic, and directors are, as has
been said, approving it more and more as they learn that the author's
intention is to assist--to insure a proper interpretation of his
thought--and not merely to try to teach the director his business. The
script that opens up a way into the very heart of the character so
that the actors and the director may be guided in interpreting it, is
certainly vastly superior, in that regard at least, to the scenario
which concerns itself chiefly with external action. Motives and the
whole inner life of the man, set down clearly and briefly, are in the
last degree valuable in showing what a character really is and _why_
he does what he does.

_Conciseness._--But this desirable sort of scenario elaboration
MUST NOT lead to over-expansion. Brevity and conciseness are
not necessarily one, any more than are fullness and prolixity. Be
concise--cut close to the line; having started your action by setting
forth a basic incident at once interesting and plausible, keep the
wheels of your story in motion, letting it accumulate speed as it runs
on, and never slow down until after the climax has been passed. Keep
your eye--your "picture eye"--on your characters as they move about
and carry out the actions which you have planned to have them perform;
but describe those actions, as well as the motives which actuate them,
in just as few words as possible. Do not trifle with the tendency to
be wordy, or even to introduce too many scenes.

The time is rapidly coming when the production of a photoplay will
mean the earnest and intelligent co�peration of the author, editor,
and director. But there is a very decided difference between including
in the paragraphs of action everything really necessary to the proper
understanding of the motives actuating the different characters and
the indiscriminate introduction of extraneous details that neither
assist in telling the story nor help in making it interesting.

_Over-Condensation._--On the other side of the golden middle-ground
lies the weakness of too great brevity, and this is the very fault
that some otherwise good writers at times permit themselves to
display. Their plots are strong, and their work is so well and
favorably known that their scripts are accepted; but because they have
over-condensed it becomes necessary for the editor or director to add
to the business of a certain character, or possibly to devise
explanatory inserts. Too little is worse than too much. In many cases
it is the writer's failure to include a few words describing a bit of
by-play or a short piece of business that makes the scenario faulty,
even though it may find a grudging acceptance.

_The Number of Words._--The question has frequently been asked by
amateur writers: "How many words are there in a full-reel
photoplay--what is the average number of words to a scene?" and so on.
No such consideration as the number of words in a script enters into
the production of a motion-picture drama. "Photoplays are put on,"
said one prominent producer, "with a stop-watch in one hand and a
yard-stick in the other." It is the number of feet of film used, and
not the number of words contained in the scenario, with which the
director is concerned. There can be absolutely no set rule--in from
ten to fifteen words you may say all that is necessary in the
description of a scene that will use up three hundred feet of film.
Another scene which consumes one hundred feet may require five times
as many words, or more, to make perfectly clear to the director a
short but very important bit of business. If you leave out the
non-essentials, you will save on the number of words, but you should
never hesitate to tell all that is necessary in order to make clear
the motives and actions of your characters.

_Simple, Clear English._--The scenario is really nothing more than the
synopsis rewritten in detail and divided into scenes. Observe that the
paragraphs of action are written in the present tense to help YOU keep
the action simple and vivid and PRESENT. Absolutely nothing is to be
gained by attempted "fine writing," yet it is true that the best-paid
writers today are for the most part the ones who are giving attention
to clearness and precision of detail and description when writing the
third division of their scripts. But description does not mean
hifaluting word painting--_it means clear, concise setting forth of
exactly what a thing is_.

_The Uselessness of Dialogue._--Dialogue, naturally, is out of place
in the scenario. If Frank asks Ethel where she hid the letter, and she
replies by opening a volume which she takes from the bookcase and
taking it out, that is all that is necessary. Do not write a line of
dialogue which tells just what Frank says to her, except as may be
required for an occasional cut-in leader. Neither is it necessary to
say what words of hers accompany the action of taking the letter from
the book where it has been concealed. Yet there is one way in which
dialogue may serve a useful purpose in writing the scenario. If by
writing a single phrase you can tell the _editor_ and the _director_
as much as you could by writing several lines of action, there is no
reason why you should not use the line--not as dialogue, however, but
as stage directions.[20]

[Footnote 20: Note the introduction of occasional bits of dialogue in
the "action" portion of the O. Henry story in Chapter XX.]

_Exterior Backgrounds Valuable._--In planning your scenario remember
that for scenes that do not positively demand indoor settings it is
best to provide an exterior background, or location. No matter how
well provided with scenery a studio may be there is always a certain
amount of time lost in erecting sets. Even though the director does
not take the scenes in the order in which they are written, he will be
able to save a great deal of time if, between the scene that is done
in the library and the one enacted in the court-room, he can take his
people out and get three or four, or even more, scenes in the open
air, where the setting is ready for him. Carefully plan every scene
_before you write it_, and see, for instance, if Dick could not
propose to Stella in the garden, or on a bench in the park, just as
well as he could in the drawing room or in the ball-room. Help
yourself to more sales by helping the director to easier work.

_Human Interest._--In the Biograph photoplay, "Three Friends,"
previously referred to in this chapter, there was one short scene that
was especially effective--one of those human-interest bits that are
characteristic of photoplays that sell. After the arrival of the two
men, and the reconciliation between the foreman and the young woman's
husband, the former hurries the latter off to the factory, promising
to "give him back his job." The third friend hangs behind, and,
realizing that the wife is without money to buy food, hands her a
banknote. She hesitates to take it; but he, noticing the revolver
which she now holds, takes it from her and thrusts the money into her
hand in its place, indicating that he is only buying the "gun" from
her. The woman smiles gratefully, and the kind-hearted friend hurries
out after the other two men.

It will pay the student to remember all the little human touches of
this kind that he sees in the photoplays of others, and, while by no
means copying them, try to work into his own stories bits of similar

Human interest must be woven in the plot, and not thrown in in chunks.
As for how to do it, "Each mind," says Emerson, "has its own method. A
true man never acquires after college rules." But of one thing make
sure: Plan your human appeal from the start, so that the actual climax
may loom up distinctly from the time you write your very first scene.
As Jean Paul has said, "The end we aim at must be known before the

In conclusion, we offer a short catechism that the writer will do well
to consult before sending out his script:

Is my plot really fresh?

Could it be called a colorable imitation of any magazine story, book,
or play?

Is it strong enough?

Is it logical?

Does it suit the time of year?

Is the plot not only possible but _probable?_

Is the material desired by the producer to whom I am sending it?

Does the company make that style of story?

Are the points properly brought out, that others may see them as I do?

Can I make it better by altering it?

Will it pass the Censors?

Even if it does, will it offend even one spectator?

Do the synopsis and scenario match properly, or have I hinted at
action in my synopsis which is not adequately worked out in the
continuity? On the other hand, does the synopsis tell everything that
happens in the scenario?

Is it impracticable for the camera?

Have I introduced scenes that would cost too much to produce?

Is the cast too small?

Is it too large?

Finally, some anonymous writer has said: "Don't let go of your script
until you are positive that you have made every detail clear, that
your layout of scenes has told the story in self-explanatory action,
and that you have answered every prospective 'Why?'"



It has been said in an earlier chapter that it is optional with the
writer whether to submit a scene-plot with his complete script;
nevertheless, we believe that it is advisable.

_1. Why Prepare a Scene-Plot_

The reason is a plain one: Until the writer has become known as a
professional, it is the spirit in which the scene-plot is sent rather
than its actual value to either editor or director that counts in his
favor. It indicates his willingness to help both these busy men so far
as lies in his power; further, it shows that he is willing to do at
the beginning of his career that which he would never for a moment
think of leaving undone after his complete scripts are once in demand;
but, most of all, it shows that he has enough confidence in his work
to believe that--provided the story is acceptable--it will be produced
essentially as he has planned it.

Naturally, it often happens that the director adds scenes to those
planned by the author, and even oftener some of the author's scenes
are cut out; in either case, however, so much of the scene-plot as
remains unchanged will have its value. The author may feel that the
director's alterations are unwarranted, but that functionary rarely
makes additions or cuts unless he works an improvement.

The writer sends the scene-plot along so that, in case no drastic
changes are necessary, the director may have all ready his list of
scenes arranged in proper chronological order. From these he will
prepare his regular scene-plot diagram, which the carpenters and
mechanics will use in building the scenery, and by which the stage
hands and property men will be guided in setting the scenes and
placing the furniture and other "props."

_2. The Scene-Plot Explained_

Let us now explain the difference between the _only kind of scene-plot
with which the photoplaywright is concerned_ and that which the
director means when he uses the same term.

Practically all directors have had experience as theatrical producers,
or stage directors, or stage managers, before entering the
moving-picture field. What is known as a scene-plot in regular
theatrical work is a list of the various scenes, or sets, showing
where the different "hanging pieces" (drops, cut-drops, fog drops,
foliage, fancy, kitchen, or other borders) are hung, and how all the
various pieces of scenery that are handled on the floor of the stage,
as wood and rock wings, "set" pieces, "flats," and "runs," are to be
arranged or set. Almost every stage carpenter has, in addition to
this list, a supply of printed diagrams showing the exact position on
the stage of everything handled by the "grips," or scene-shifters, as
well as the proper arrangement on the set of the furniture and larger
props. Both the list and the diagram are usually printed on one sheet,
and this, known as the scene-plot, is sent ahead to the stage managers
of the theatres in the next towns to be played. At the same time, a
"property plot," being simply a list, act by act, of the various props
not carried by the company, is sent to the property man of the house.

Now, the principal difference between the regular and the
moving-picture stage is that, in making photoplays, _natural_
exteriors are used, in almost every case. Consequently, landscape and
other exterior drops are almost unknown in moving-picture work. As
actual drops they _are_ unknown; when such painted backgrounds are
used, they are usually painted on canvas or a sort of heavy cardboard,
which is stretched over or tacked to a solid framework. So that even
in making out his working scene-plot diagram, a director finds that
there are many technical terms which he constantly used in his
theatrical work but seldom or never employs in his capacity of
photoplay producer. Nevertheless, he still uses a scene-plot diagram,
drawing it himself on regular printed forms.

As may be gathered from the foregoing, the scene-plot diagram for a
photoplay setting is entirely different from the diagram of the
setting for a scene on the regular stage. The former shows, printed,
the comparative shape and dimensions of the "stage," and gives, in
figures, the depth of the stage and the distance from the camera to
the "working line," below which (toward the camera) an actor must not
step if he wishes his feet, therefore his whole body, to show in the

To say "the depth of the stage" is to say that the printed diagram is
marked off in a scale of feet from the camera's focus. The figures at
the right side of the sheet indicate the distance in feet from the
camera, while those at the left show the width of the field, or range
of the camera lens, at different distances. Only that portion of each
piece of furniture which is marked a solid black in the diagram is
supposed to show in the picture. Thus half of a table may be "in" and
half "out" of a picture, or scene. This diagram-form is made out by
the director for virtually every set that shows an interior scene, and
he frequently draws one also for exteriors, where a building, or even
what appears in the picture to be a complete, permanent structure, is
set up by the carpenters and mechanics out of doors. Such a scene-plot
diagram is reproduced at the end of this chapter.

The scene-plot which you as a photoplay author are called upon to
prepare, however, is simply a list of the scenes used in working out
your scenario. Here you must distinguish between "scene" and "set" (or
setting) in photoplay writing. We know that the scene is changed every
time that the camera is moved. One scene or ten may be taken, or
"done," in the same set--that is, a half-dozen scenes might be taken
successively in a business office without changing the set at all.
Therefore, although you have two hundred _scenes_ in your five-reel
scenario, only twenty _sets_ may be needed in which to play them.

_3. How Scenes and Sets Are Photographed_

We know that a scene is ended when the cameraman stops "grinding;" we
understand, also, that a change of setting is brought about by moving
the camera, even though, in the case of taking two exterior scenes,
the camera is only moved enough to take in a new "stage" three or four
feet to either side of that shown in the last scene.

The word "scene" seems to be a stumbling block for some beginners.
Take for example the setting showing the bedroom in the ranch house,
as listed in the scene-plot of "Without Reward," and given in this
chapter. In doing the five scenes that take place in that room, Scene
4 would be taken, the camera would be stopped, and, in some studios, a
large white card with the figure "9" painted on it in black would be
held a few feet in front of the lens. About a foot of film would then
be exposed, which would thus register the number _of the next scene_
to be taken in the same set.[21] Then Scene 9 would be done. This
scene being ended, the numbering-of-the-scene process would be
repeated, the next scene being number 17. Then, in turn, would come
scenes 28 and 30--or, rather, although listed on the scene-plot as two
scenes, 28 and 30 would really be photographed as one unbroken scene,
for, as a glance at the scene-plot will show, Scene 29 is a bust
scene, which means that the film would be cut at the proper place
after the scene had been taken, thus dividing it into two scenes,
separated by Scene 29 in the finished photoplay.

[Footnote 21: Different studios have different methods for recording
the number of the next scene to be taken. Some use the numbered card
system--as explained in the body of the text--in which a stand, or
tripod, having a rack on top with cards numbered from 1 to 50, and
other cards marked "Retake," etc., is placed on the working line
between each scene. In other studios the film itself is marked with
the number of the scene, just as one writes the name of a picture on
the film when using an "Autographic Kodak" camera.]

[Illustration: The Reception of King Robert of Sicily by His Brother,
the Pope--a Historical Photoplay Produced in the Essanay Studio,

[Illustration: Same Set, with Players Getting Ready for Action. The
Three Poplar Trees are Real, while the Rest of the Background is a
Painted Drop]

Now, since Scene 30 is the last to be taken in the bedroom setting,
let us suppose that the setting showing the interior of the sheriff's
office is standing on the studio floor right next to the bedroom set.
The camera is merely shifted over and set up as required to take the
two scenes (24 and 26) done successively in that set, and the same
process is gone through that was followed in making the five scenes in
the bedroom.

This, then, is the one thing that the photoplaywright must remember:
All the _scenes_ that are to take place in one _setting_ or location
are made before the camera is moved an inch, and, in one way or
another, according to the particular studio, the film is marked after
each scene so as to show the number of the scene coming next. The
reason is plain: because scenes 28 and 30 (which are subsequently
divided by the bust picture) and scenes 4, 9 and 17, are all done in
the same set, if the camera were not stopped and the film marked
before each new scene with the number of that scene, the operators in
the cutting room, where the different parts of the film are assembled,
would--unless guided by the director--mistake _all_ that part of the
film showing the bedroom setting for one unbroken scene.

_4. How Scene-Plots Are Handled by Directors_

The scene-plot for the writer's story, "Without Reward," just referred
to, follows:

     Exterior of Sheriff's office, main street of town, 1, 23.

     Dr. Turner's office, 2.

     Exterior, Freeman and Doctor riding to ranch, 3.

     Bedroom in ranch house, 4, 9, 17, 28, 30.

     Corner of ranch house, looking toward stable, 5, 7, 16, 22,
     27, 31.

     Exterior, supposedly at distance from, but within sight of,
     Ranch, 6.

     Kitchen of ranch house, 8, 10, 32.

     At door of stable, 11.

     Foothill trail, 12.

     Rocky part of hillside, showing entrance to cave in side of
     cliff, 13, 15.

     Interior of cave, 14.

     Exterior, Steve riding to town, 18.

     Road on outskirts of town, 19.

     Same road, farther on, 20.

     Exterior of Dr. Turner's house, 21.

     Interior of Sheriff's office, 24, 26.

     Rear of Sheriff's office, showing corner of building and
     side wall, 25.

     Bust of Jess's right hand, holding photograph, 29.

Here, it will be seen, there are four interior and thirteen exterior
sets, or backgrounds. Scene 14, the interior of the cave, was counted
as an exterior when giving the number of interior and exterior sets
following the title in writing the synopsis. This was because,
although in the picture it would appear to be taken inside a rocky
cave, the chances are that it would really be made in some recess of a
rocky cliff-side, where there would be enough light to make the
photography distinct, without allowing the rays of the sun to cast any
shadows that would make it seem unnatural, since the cave was
supposedly dimly illumined from the daylight outside. At any rate, it
would not be a studio setting--whether the stage was an indoor or an
open-air one--so it would be classed as an exterior.

After the cameraman had taken Scene 3, which shows Freeman and the
Doctor riding to the ranch, he could probably find a suitable
background for the scene showing Steve riding toward the town, by
merely turning his camera half way around. Thus Scene 18 might be
taken after Scene 3; after which, by again moving the camera only a
short distance, a suitable spot might be found in which to take Scene
12. Scenes 19 and 20 were intended to be taken on a fairly well-kept
piece of roadway, supposedly on the outskirts of the town, and it
might be necessary to travel some distance to find the desired spot.
So it will be seen that the order in which the scenes are written has
nothing to do with the order in which they will be taken. Scene 29,
so called, is really a part of Scene 28, being simply a bust of the
girl's hand holding a photograph. The words written on the back of
this picture have an important bearing on the action which follows;
therefore it is important that they should be read by the spectators.
So, the much enlarged bust picture is introduced, in which, as has
been explained in the preceding chapter, the hand with the photograph
is held so close to the camera that when the picture is shown on the
screen the writing is easily read. In writing out the scene-plot,
never omit mentioning the bust picture, if one is used, and give it a
number as if it were a distinct interior or exterior, but when giving
the total number of interior and total number of exterior settings
(which follows your title in writing the synopsis), do not include it
as being either one or the other. It is not even necessary to say "One
bust picture." On the other hand, close-ups are regarded as regular
interior or exterior scenes, and must be counted as such and so
mentioned when giving the number of scenes, as described.

_5. How the Director Provides the Sets_

The director having gone over the author's scene-plot to aid him in
preparing his own diagrams of the various settings, it is merely
necessary, so far as the exteriors are concerned, to go out himself,
or send out his assistant, to pick the natural settings required. In
fact, in most modern studios, an elaborate card index system of
listing locations, sometimes situated miles from the studio, is
maintained. Unless an exterior scene calls for a log cabin, church
front, or some building of special construction other than such real
buildings as may be easily found in the neighborhood of, or within a
reasonably short distance from, the producing plant, he does not have
to draw a special diagram-plot for the scene. Even when a new building
is needed, it is only necessary to instruct the carpenters to build,
say, a log cabin of a certain size on the location he points out, with
a door, windows, etc., as determined by him for the requirements of
the scene.

With the interior scenes it is different. The sets for these are
planned by the director to obtain the very best stage- and scenic
effects possible from the standpoints of architecture, lighting, and
arrangement of properties.

_6. The Director_

A first-class company will employ from four to ten, or even twelve,
directors. Frequently a new director is recruited from among the
actors in the stock company. "Director" and "producer" mean
practically the same thing in photoplay parlance; a man will _direct_
the acting of the players while engaged in _producing_ a picture. As a
rule, if a man is known as a "dramatic" director, he adheres to that
kind of work, just as a first-class comedy man will seldom touch any
other kind of production.

There is always a certain amount of friendly competition among the
directors in any studio, since they constantly vie with each other in
obtaining the most artistic settings for the various scenes of their
respective stories.

_7. Writing the Scene-Plot_

The actual writing of the scene-plot should come after the scenario
has been completed. One way of doing it is to go over the scenario and
write out the various settings, and then give the numbers of the
scenes played in each. This, however, is a very roundabout and
tiresome method. The best and simplest way is to keep a slip of paper,
similar to the one on which you make note of the characters when
writing the cast, and jot down the settings as you come to them,
adding the number of the scene. In this way as you work on the
scenario you have before you a list of every setting used, and can see
at a glance what scenes are played in each different setting. Then
when your scenario is finished you have simply to slip a fresh sheet
of paper into your typewriter and make a neat copy of the complete
scene-plot. As a safeguard, it is better, before recopying, to check
up so as to make sure that you have every scene accounted for, by
counting from "one" to whatever may be the number of your last scene.

In writing the scene-plot it is only necessary to give a list of the
exterior and the interior settings; at the same time, it is sometimes
advisable, especially in the case of exterior scenes, to add a few
words that will help the director to understand just what the setting
is intended to be without having to refer to the scenario, where such
details would naturally appear.

The following example is selected from the scene-plot of "Sun, Sand
and Solitude," a scene-plot diagram from which we reproduce on a
succeeding page. The theme of this story is the discontent of a young
wife, caused by seeing, month in and month out, the sun-baked
stretches of the Arizona desert.

     Exterior, showing desert, 17. For this scene, select an
     extremely barren and unpleasing bit of desert landscape.

     Another exterior, 24. A stretch of desert landscape; if
     anything, more barren and solitary than 17.

     Another exterior, 28. While still typical desert landscape,
     it is much less barren and desolate than either 17 or 24.

There is no law of writing, and no studio rule, to compel you to do
any of these little things to help a busy editor or an earnest
director, but, just because they are busy men, why not try to help
them? So long as the "help" is not overdone, and is intelligent,
clear, and concise, it is sure to help your script toward an

[Illustration: [diagram]]

     The scene-plot diagram reproduced on the opposite page is
     the author's original diagram for the "Living room of ranch
     house" setting in his photoplay, "Sun, Sand and Solitude."
     With a little study of this diagram the reader will be able
     to judge just how the scene would appear in the picture on
     the screen. Of course, it is neither customary nor necessary
     to send such a diagram as this when you are submitting your
     script. There is a possibility, however, that the producer
     might use the author's diagram as a guide in preparing that
     particular setting, should the photoplaywright send one
     similar to the one here reproduced.

     The dotted lines show the dimensions of the enlarged stage
     for special very large sets. Since the line _E_ represents
     the background of this enlarged stage, it will be seen that
     it is almost twice as wide as the background for the
     interior setting here shown. By "background" is meant the
     space on the diagram between _B_ and _D_, not the "desert
     backing," which, if the scene were taken inside the studio,
     would be simply a painted background, taking the place of
     the "drop" which would be used on the regular stage. It will
     be noticed that, although there are a couple of steps
     leading to the veranda, there is only one post indicated on
     the diagram. This, of course, is because a post at the other
     side of the steps is unnecessary, that point being "masked"
     by the piece of scenery representing the back wall of the
     room. The open door shows a portion of the veranda railing
     and the post on the left of the steps. As the scenario
     shows, Dean is carried up these steps, and into the bedroom
     on the left, after he has been thrown from his horse. To the
     right of the door, and looking out upon the veranda, is a
     bay window, forming a window-seat. Attention is called to
     the fact that what is so frequently called a "bay window"
     is, properly, a "bow window," the three sides of a bay
     window being at right angles to each other. The sideboard at
     the right of the stage is absolutely essential to the climax
     of the plot, though only half of it--enough to show the
     upper left-hand drawer distinctly--need appear in the



A full reel contains approximately one thousand feet of film. The
ordinary five-reel feature is therefore somewhat less than five
thousand feet in length. With far less stress laid upon the admonition
to "Make your leaders and inserts brief" than formerly, the writer
still must keep in mind the fact that the major portion of a
five-thousand-foot film must be devoted to _scenes_--to action which
the spectator merely watches--and that the inserts, of whatever
nature, must never be allowed to crowd this action-part of the

At the same time, any story with the average amount of
plot-complication can be told--the action-portion, that is, can be
fully worked out--in from 3,800 to slightly over 4,000 feet; which
means that something less than one thousand feet of film may be, and
frequently is, given up to the various inserts.

This matter of footage is one which demands the attention of both
director and cameraman. On the side of the motion-picture camera is an
indicator, by which is computed the exact number of feet exposed each
time the cameraman turns the handle. At the conclusion of each scene
the director cries "Cut!" The cameraman stops turning, looks at the
indicator, and announces "Seventy-five!" or whatever the number of
feet used. In some cases it is necessary to take the scene again,
altering the "business" slightly or hurrying the action a little to
reduce the footage consumed in a certain scene. A point worth noting
is that the director can seldom figure in advance the exact amount of
footage a certain scene will require--even after it has been rehearsed
and timed several times; whereas he _can_ always tell the exact number
of feet he must give to each of the various inserts, because "insert
footage" is reckoned in advance, a certain number of feet being
allowed for each word.

Photoplay audiences have gradually been educated up to an appreciation
of sub-titles, or leaders, when they are all that they ought to be (a
point which we shall presently discuss); and less attention is paid to
the rather selfish cry of the illiterates in the audience who insist
that "they came to look at pictures, and not to read a book." As one
of the most prominent theatre managers in San Francisco recently said
in the _Motion Picture News_: "In many pictures the big scene is 'put
over' by a sub-title. The wording of a sub-title in a big situation
can make or break a picture, and it is therefore false economy to
allow this work to be done by any person other than one with real
literary talent, who is thoroughly conversant with the art of

We have already pointed out that in most studios the work of writing
leaders and inserts is now attended to by one specialist--the
"sub-title editor," as he is usually called. Just as much care is put
into the preparation of everything in the nature of an insert as
attends the making of the scenes of the picture.

_1. Why Inserts Are Used_

Before the advent of pictures of five and more reels, with their
consequent greater room for inserted matter in addition to the
necessary scenes, the general opinion was that the perfect photoplay
had no leaders and needed none. Certainly, such a picture would be
ideal if a photoplay were to be a motion picture and nothing more than
that, since it would be so perfectly acted and so self-explanatory
that no inserted explanation of any kind would be necessary.
Practically, however, the only photoplay that can be made without the
aid of at least a few leaders or other inserts--that is, that can be
nothing but pictured action--is one on the order of the Vitagraph
Company's one-reel release of several years ago, "Jealousy," in which
the entire picture was made in a single set. In it Miss Florence
Turner was the only actor, telling the whole story clearly,
coherently, and with strong dramatic force, and making every phase of
the plot clear, the only outside assistance she received being the
momentary appearance of two other hands than her own--a man's and a
woman's--through the curtains covering the doorway. This, of course,
was pure pantomime, and most artistically performed; the woman's every
thought, so to say, was portrayed, and understood by the spectator as
if the play were accompanied by a printed synopsis of the story.

But it would seem to be impossible to produce a photoplay having
changes of scene, plot complications, from six to a dozen or more
characters, and lapses of action-time between the different scenes,
without employing any inserts. Even in a small group of scenes it is
often extremely difficult to make a certain important point in the
action "register"--that is, show the spectator what is in the minds of
the characters as the scene is worked out. In such a case, even though
the scenario as planned by the author does not contain an insert at
that point, the director may deem it advisable to introduce one to
make the situation clear. The use of inserts, then, is necessary.

_2. The Over-Use of Inserts_

The over-use of them, on the contrary, is not only entirely
unnecessary but a positive drawback to the director, and frequently
one of the reasons why an unavailable manuscript is returned to the
writer. A good rule is to employ inserts only when it is impossible to
progress and still make every point of your plot clear and effective
without their aid. This need for an insert of some sort at a given
point may be inherent in the material and therefore desirable as well
as needful, but do not admit such a necessity without serious thought.
Ingenuity accomplishes wonders. Remember, the use of a leader is in
most cases a frank confession that you are incapable of "putting over"
a point in the development of your plot solely by the action in the
scenes--you must call in outside assistance, as it were. A scenario
written by a novice often contains many leaders which he considers
necessary to tell his story, yet the same plot in the hands of a
trained writer could be made into a photoplay with many less
sub-titles. Like fire, the leader is a good servant but a bad master.
Once you discover that you are getting into the habit of introducing
an explanatory insert before almost every scene, it is time to remodel
your idea of what constitutes proper technique.

But when a leader can be used to advantage, do not hesitate to insert
it--it has a distinct value and that value must not be despised. True,
_any_ leader halts the action because it destroys the illusion to some
extent, and diverts the attention from the picture to the explanatory
words. But it is also true that it puts the mind of the spectator in a
mood to accept and appreciate the action which is to follow.
Therefore, use the leader, or any other insert--_discreetly_.

We have repeatedly advised the would-be photoplaywright to study the
pictures as he sees them on the screen, and to gain therefrom a
knowledge of what is required by the manufacturers. At this point,
however, we would warn writers _not_ to copy the example of certain
companies whose pictures are nearly always overloaded with sub-titles
which appear to have been introduced for no other reason than to
afford the sub-title editor an opportunity to do some clever writing.

Many critics have asserted--not entirely without cause--that the type
of photoplay comedy-dramas originated by Douglas Fairbanks are less
than one-half action, the rest being merely clever but often
unessential sub-titling. While this criticism is rather severe, it
cannot be denied that certain stories of the kind mentioned,
featuring this star and others, have been far too dependent for their
appeal to the spectator upon the humorous, epigrammatic sayings of the
characters. True, it is usually after leaving the theatre, and
reviewing the picture in retrospect, that the spectator realizes
that the accent has been too definitely on the sub-titling and
not enough upon the action, but when he does realize it, he feels
disappointed--and watches the next release featuring the same star to
see if it will be repeated. More than ever before, in this day of
feature photoplays, there is a constant opportunity to use leaders and
other inserts with telling effect. The point simply is that with more
leeway than the writer has ever been given before, you should learn to
take advantage of every shining opportunity to work in a really
effective sub-title, while constantly guarding against the temptation
to introduce one on the slightest excuse.

Let such inserts as you do use be phrased in clear, terse language.
The old example in the schoolbook, that it is simpler and therefore
better to say, "A leather apron" than, "An apron of leather," holds
good with inserts, and especially leaders. Short, clean-cut sentences
strike the eye and penetrate the mind the most quickly and
effectively. If you doubt this, look at a good advertisement. So do
not only dispense with every needless insert, but cut out from each
insert every needless word.

_3. The Danger of Over-Compression_

In cutting, do not go too far. Use enough words to be clear and
definite. Vagueness is an abomination and confusing pronouns make an
author as ridiculous as his scene is unintelligible. Remember that the
leader is shown on the screen for only a moment, and it is for you to
assist the spectator by making your leader so plain "not that it _may_
be understood," as Quintilian used to say, "but that it _must_ be

It is quite as possible to use too few inserts, especially leaders, as
it is to use so few words in them as to mar their meaning. Young
writers are often more eager to follow the advice of their mentors
than they are bold to use their own common-sense; and having had the
importance of brevity well pounded in, they produce scripts with the
double fault of not having enough action to make the plot clear, and
not enough inserts to help out the action.

As an example of this tendency toward over-compression, take the
script of one amateur writer. It contained a scene in which Mary, the
heroine, constantly abused by a drunken step-father, steals out of the
house at night as if about to start for some other town where she can
make her own living and be free from the step-father's abuse. In Scene
7, Mary, carrying a suit case, leaves the farm-house where she had
always lived. Scene 8 shows her "plodding wearily" along the road
leading to town. Then in Scene 9 we are back in the kitchen at the
farm-house. "The room is deserted. (Everyone supposed to be in bed.)
The door opens and Mary enters, carrying suit case, which she puts
down just inside the door. She staggers to the rocking chair and drops
wearily into it, as if completely fatigued." And so on.

On reading the script, one's natural supposition is that Mary has
thought it over while "plodding wearily" toward town, and, remembering
the comfortable bed which awaits her at the old home--even though the
next morning will bring more ill treatment at the hands of the
step-father--has returned to make the best of it. After reading three
more scenes, however, we learn that Mary had not only reached the
town, but had gone so far as "the big city," from which she had
returned after a fruitless search for work. Scene 9 is really supposed
to take place two weeks after Scene 8!

Now, laying aside the fact that no scenes are introduced to show what
happened to her after she went to the city, the script does not even
give a scene showing her boarding a train to go, so there is nothing
even to hint that Scene 9 did not take place on the same night that
Mary left home.

The point of all this is that, had this script been accepted at all,
and even had not the producer chosen to introduce any scenes showing
Mary in the city, a leader of some kind between Scenes 8 and 9 would
have been absolutely necessary. This, of course, was an amateur
script, and the whole story was impossible from the standpoint of
logic and the sequence of events; but in more than one picture that
has been shown on the screen we have noticed the omission of a leader
at a point in the action where one was very necessary, as a
consequence of which the spectator was left--for the space of two or
three scenes at least--to guess at what was what.

It is worth remembering that you are not an accomplished
photoplaywright until you can produce a story that is thoroughly
understandable _all the way through_ by action and inserts. You are a
clever writer, undoubtedly, if you can produce a "leaderless" script.
But it is no indication of cleverness merely to _leave out_ a
leader--only to find, when your story is produced, that the director
has found it necessary to add what you have simply cut out or never
put in. He is a foolish and short-sighted writer indeed who gives any
director such an opportunity to doubt his knowledge of photoplay

In this connection, let us quote Mr. Frank E. Woods, who, besides
being well known as a critic, photoplaywright, director and supervisor
of productions under Mr. David W. Griffith, is an acknowledged expert
in editing motion pictures.

"Many a picture," says Mr. Woods, "has been ruined by inadequate
sub-titles. The makers of the picture have assumed that because _they_
understood the meaning of every action, the spectators should also
understand, forgetting that the spectators will view the picture for
the first time. The moment a spectator becomes confused and loses the
sense of what he is seeing on the screen, his interest is gone. While
he is wondering 'What are they talking about now?' or 'Who is the chap
in the long coat?' or 'How did he get from the house in the woods?'
the film is being reeled off merrily and the spectator has lost the
thread of the story. Going to the other extreme and inserting
sub-titles where the meaning is perfectly obvious, or telling in
sub-titles that which is to be pictured immediately after, should also
be avoided, although pictures are sometimes criticized for having too
many titles when in fact the keen-eyed critic is the only one who
finds them too many. The average spectator is none too alert.... The
sub-title should be in complete harmony with the story and should
never divert interest from the story. It should never be obtrusive. It
should be there only because it belongs there. Therefore all
sub-titles should be couched in language that harmonizes with the
story. Every word should be weighed. Nothing should ever shock the
spectator out of his interest in the picture by its incongruity,
extravagance or inanity. Too much in a sub-title is as bad as too
little--like seasoning in a pudding. The function of the sub-title is
to supplement and correct the action of the picture, to cover lapses
in the continuity, and to supply the finer shades of meaning which the
actor has been unable to express in pantomime."[22]

[Footnote 22: "Editing a Motion Picture," by Frank E. Woods, in _The
Moving Picture World_.]

In passing, let us note one point of considerable moment.
Notwithstanding the fact that many pictures are shown in which a
leader immediately follows the title, it is much better not to arrange
it so. Let your title be followed by a scene--by action--even though
the scene be a short one. Then, if necessary, introduce your first
leader. If when the photoplay opens the title is flashed upon the
screen, and immediately a leader is shown, there is a chance that,
having taken in the title almost at a glance, the spectator may
momentarily divert his gaze and so miss your first leader, only
turning his eyes toward the screen again when he notices that a scene
is being shown. Again, even though he may be watching closely, the
spectator is seldom quite so attentive to an explanatory insert which
is shown before the opening scene as he is to one introduced later,
when he has already become interested.

Most critics are also agreed that the use of leaders introducing the
principal characters (usually accompanied by a few feet of film in
which the character named is also pictured, perhaps in the act of
bowing to the audience, or in some pose characteristic of the part he
plays) is a mistake, when such "introducing" is done before the first
scene of the story has been shown. Undoubtedly _anything_ coming
before the first scene is really out of place--so far as its being
part of the story is concerned. Again Mr. Sargent stated a fact when
he said that "What goes before the first real scene of a story is no
more a part of that story than the design-head is a part of the
fiction story. No magazine editor expects the author to be his own
artist and supply an illustrated title. Start your story with the
first scene of action, and let the director supply the preliminary
scenes [close-ups of the principals] and leaders to suit himself."

As a matter of fact, though, the very best reason for not introducing
from three to six or eight characters before the opening scene is that
by the time the story has advanced a little many of the spectators
have forgotten "who is who," whereas they have a much better
opportunity to fix a character's name and occupation--so to speak--in
their minds if that character is briefly but properly introduced at
the point of his first entrance into the action of the play. Only the
fact that we were already familiar with the faces of the contemporary
historical characters shown in such features as Ambassador Gerard's
"My Four Years in Germany" made it possible for us to keep track,
during the first few scenes in which each one appeared, of the persons
shown. No one could possibly have memorized the "panoramic" leader
giving the cast, with its thirty or more names of characters and

_4. Four Special Functions of Leaders_

Properly used, leaders can accomplish four results very
satisfactorily: (a) Mark the passage of time; (b) clear up a point of
the action which could not otherwise be made to "register;" (c)
"break" a scene; and (d) prepare the mind of the spectator to enter
into the scene in the right spirit.

_(a) Marking the passage of time._ In the amateur script previously
discussed, we found the need for this use of the leader. The
introduction, between scenes 8 and 9, of a leader telling the
spectator that the events in Scene 9 were supposed to happen "Two
weeks later" than those taking place in Scene 8, would have gone a
long way toward clearing up the plot of the story. In this case, of
course, it would have been necessary to add to the statement
concerning the passage of time another statement as to what had
happened in the interval, the complete leader reading: "Two weeks
later, Mary returns home after failing to get work in the city." Or,
better still: "After two weeks of fruitless search for work in the
city, Mary returns to her old home."

Try to get away from the monotonous use of the "Next day," "The next
day," and "Two years later," style of leader. Say: "The following
afternoon," "After five years," "Later in the evening," or "Six months
have passed." Even though you find when your story is produced that
the director has seen fit to omit altogether the leader that you
"wrote in" at a certain point of the action, you have the satisfaction
of knowing that, _had_ he used one there, he could not have improved
upon the one you wrote.

_(b) Clearing up a point in the action_ is too obvious a use of the
leader to require much discussion. Some things mere actions cannot
express, and some explanations must be verbally made because pantomime
suggestion is inadequate. To take their proper place in the photoplay
all such leaders should be more than merely explanatory: they should
have genuine dramatic value--just as much as an important speech would
have in a "legitimate" dramatic production. In the pictured drama the
leader really fills in a significant part of the plot which could not
be portrayed by wordless action.

Miss Lois Weber, a well-known photoplay author who has also produced
some very fine feature photoplays, says in _The Moving Picture World_:
"Often the right words in a leader or other insert are the means of
creating an atmosphere that will heighten the effect of a scene, just
as a tearful conversation or soliloquy, at a stage death-bed will move
the audience to tears where the same scene enacted in silence would
leave it dry-eyed. Naturally, the wrong words may have the opposite
effect, but that is no argument against the leader; it only argues
that the wrong person wrote it."

_(c) "Breaking" a scene_ with a leader may be explained by an
illustration, which at the same time will serve to exemplify how the
mind experiences a more or less unconscious _(d) preparation for the
ensuing scene_.

Suppose you have a comedy scene showing a bathtub gradually filling
with water because the faucet was left open. In the time required to
fill the bath and cause it to overflow, five or six hundred feet of
film would be used up if the scene were not changed. Instead of this
waste of film, you could, after registering the fact that the running
water was rapidly filling the bath, introduce a leader: "Ten minutes
later--the tide rises."

Such a leader prepares the spectator for the funny scene that is to
follow; and when the next scene is shown, in which the water is
overflowing the bath and turning the bathroom into a miniature lake,
the spectator realizes what has happened in the ten minutes which,
according to your leader, has elapsed since the last scene was shown.

Or, in your story, a lumberman may be injured by having a tree that he
is chopping down fall on him. To show the whole process of felling a
good-sized tree would take too long--it would consume too much
footage, and be monotonous to the spectator. Also, it is the effect
and not how it is obtained that makes a picture of this kind
successful. For these reasons the man should be shown as he starts to
chop down the tree. Then after he has made some perceptible progress
you might introduce a leader. "The accident;" and, following the
leader, show the man pinned to the ground by the fallen tree; then
proceed with the succeeding action. You may be sure that the audience
will understand that the man has been knocked down by and pinned under
the tree as it fell; it is only necessary to show these two scenes.

A leader, however, should never be employed to "break" a scene unless
there is absolutely no chance to introduce in its stead a short
_scene_, the showing of which will help the progress of the plot; or
unless a leader will serve the double purpose of breaking the scene
and supplying the audience with an explanation that is important just
at that time.

Taking the two examples just given, in which a leader is used to break
the scene, there is scarcely any doubt that, were you writing these
scenes in scenario form, you might easily substitute scenes that would
help the action of the story and allow you to dispense with the
leaders altogether. For instance, you could show the scene in which
the absent-minded man leaves the water running into the bath and goes
out of the room. Then, show a scene in his bedroom, where he is
contentedly removing the studs from his shirt. Suddenly he remembers
that he has left the water running. With an expression of dismay, he
jumps up and runs out of the room. Flash back to the bathroom scene.
The tub has overflowed and the room is filling with water. As the
excited man opens the door, the flood pours out into the hall. The
short scene in the bedroom makes the leader unnecessary. Better
fifteen feet of film showing the bedroom scene than five feet of

Again, after the lumberman had started to chop down the tree, you
might flash a short scene showing a couple of other men at work in
another part of the forest. All at once they both stop work and
register that they have heard something that startles them. One speaks
excitedly to the other, and both run out of the picture. You then show
the scene with the man lying beneath the fallen tree. Presently the
two men who heard his cries for help come running up to him.

_5. Cut-in Leaders_

One very effective form of the leader is the cut-in, described in
Chapter X. It takes the form of the speech of one of the characters,
being written in quotation marks. This device of throwing on the
screen the supposed words of a certain character at the moment of
action enables the photoplaywright to tell all that is necessary much
better than he could by a long statement of what is going on--a point
that is well worth remembering. Directors are now using the
explanatory cut-in leader as much as possible, to the exclusion of the
ordinary one which merely states facts. This does not mean that they
are trying to substitute "dialogue" leaders, but that wherever the
newer form can be used to advantage it is less objected to by the
audience than is the bald statement-sub-title--doubtless because it is
in line with the illusion of reality in using the player's words, and
is not merely an insertion by the director or the author, as other
inserts evidently are.

For the reason that all leaders more or less interrupt the action of a
scene, some directors prefer decidedly not to use cut-ins more than is
necessary, their argument being that for a few seconds following the
right-in-the-middle-of-the-scene leader, the mind of the spectator is
engaged with the import of what he has just read on the screen, and
the action immediately following the leader is at least partially

Yet a cut-in leader is usually one that suddenly discloses an
important point of the plot. It may be that one of the characters,
when the scene is about half through, unexpectedly makes a statement
which amounts to a confession of some crime. We read on the screen,
"Judge, she said that to save me. That is my revolver!" No sooner has
the cut-in been shown, and the action resumed, than the eyes of every
spectator are fastened upon the face of the character in the scene
who should, by all logical reasoning, be most affected by that
confession. If a scene is important enough to require a cut-in leader,
it is reasonable to suppose that it has the full attention of the
spectator after the first few seconds of action. This being so, it
would seem that the spectator is far less likely to miss a point of
the action _immediately following a cut-in_ than he is to miss what
occurs at the beginning of a scene, following an ordinary
between-the-scenes leader. It is a fact that a few directors drag the
action of a scene for the first few seconds following an ordinary
leader for the purpose of again centering the attention of the
beholder on the action itself, before developing--_in_ action--another
point of the plot.

We have already referred to "panoramic" leaders giving long casts of
characters, the leader moving upwards on the screen instead of
sidewise as in panoramic _scenes_. Today, the panoramic sub-title, as
well as the panoramic letter or other insert, is quite common,
especially in feature pictures. Those directors who, notwithstanding
all, still favor the use of introductory matter before the first
scene, frequently resort to long panoramic sub-titles as a means of
making the spectator familiar with the theme of the story before
starting to tell it, just as Kipling has so frequently introduced an
introductory paragraph of the same nature in his short fiction. To our
way of thinking, a thematic sub-title of this kind, used before the
opening scene, is far less out of place than the ordinary introductory
titles merely having to do with the characters, because it really
does help prepare the spectator for the _kind_ of story he is about to

Then, again, it may be added that the present-day length of leaders
greatly modifies what we say--as a sound guiding principle--in Section
7 of Chapter XVII. A great many excellent detective-story films have
been produced, either from original synopses or as adaptations of the
work of fiction writers. In these, there has been no hesitation on the
part of the director and sub-title editor to use just as many words in
a leader as might be necessary to make every point of the story
entirely clear and interesting. Paramount's "The Devil Stone," showing
the train of tragic events that followed the stealing by a wicked
Norse queen of the great emerald belonging to a certain Breton priest,
was one example of an intensely interesting detective story in which
sub-titles supplied much more than a third of the story--and supplied
it, apparently, quite unobtrusively. Here, again, only common sense
and experience can show you what to do.

Before leaving the subject of leaders let us say once more that you
must seek to find the golden middle ground between the leader that is
too flowery in its language and the other that is too stilted and
prosaic. Again, in connection with the length of leaders, study the
two following from Universal's feature, "The Kaiser, the Beast of
Berlin," the first of which contains only seven words, while the
second contains fifty-five.

     Joy died, Hope fled. Desolation became supreme.

     Then came the Master crime. An unoffending people was ground
     into extinction beneath an iron heel. A nation was
     destroyed. The Crime against Belgium being completed to its
     fullest, the Prussian stalked onwards with his twin
     comrades, Frightfulness and Horror. A new blotch of
     infamy--the _Lusitania_--was added to the Black Name of the

Notice, also, that as is being done with many feature pictures of this
or similar type today, the producers have adhered throughout to the
past tense in wording their sub-titles.

_6. The Use of Letters, News Items and Similar Inserts_

The great thing in using inserts other than leaders is to be able to
tell what would be most effective in scoring a point of the plot at an
important place in the story. You may start to "write in" a letter and
then suddenly get the idea that the same point might be better
explained if a newspaper paragraph were used. But no matter what other
kind of insert you employ, it will doubtless seem to be more a part of
the action than will a plain leader. For this reason it is best,
whenever possible, to use a letter, telegram, news item, or some
similar insert, in place of a leader. A carefully worded letter
introduced at just the right time will sometimes tell the audience as
much concerning the complications of the plot as would five or six

Letters should be short and to the point, but they should also tell as
much as possible of _what can not be told in action_. Better a single
letter of thirty-five words which tells everything than two or three
notes of a line or two each that only suggest what the writer means.
Some of the so-called "letters" which are seen on the screen are
simply ridiculous on account of their very brevity. If it is a mere
note that is dashed off and sent to one of the characters, or a note
left where it will be found by someone after the writer has gone away,
its brevity is allowable; but when a "letter" is written by a man to
an old friend of his--a friend who, he is told, is living in a distant
city, when for years he has supposed him to be dead--and contains but
seventeen words, it is likely to make the spectator doubt the strength
of the former friendship.

It is not always necessary actually to write a long letter; but it is
best in such instances to _suggest_ that a long letter has been
written. This may be accomplished in two ways: You may either show a
paragraph in the body of the letter, with a line or two just before
and just after it, thus:

On screen, letter.

     and it was from him that I learned the truth.

     I'll leave for Wheeling on the first train tomorrow, and
     hope to clasp your hand again before Monday night.

     Honestly, old man, it seems too, etc.

or you may write out the ending of the letter in such a way as to
suggest that much more has been said in the forepart of the message,

On screen, letter, folded down to show only this:

     so I'll leave for Wheeling on the first train tomorrow, and
     hope to clasp your hand again before Monday night.

     Honestly, old man, it seems too good to be true. I won't be
     able to believe that what Morgan told me _is_ true until I
     see you with my own eyes.

     Until then, believe me to be

     As ever, your sincere friend,

     Stephen Loring.

To illustrate the way a letter will consume footage, we reproduce one
for which fifteen feet were allowed.

     Lord Cornwallis:

     Am now within forty miles of Charlottesville. Thomas
     Jefferson and the entire Virginia Assembly will be my
     prisoners today.


As we know, a letter will sometimes be written by a character in one
scene, but the spectators will not learn its exact contents--though
they may know just about what he is writing--until a scene or two
later, when the letter is delivered to and read by the one to whom it
is addressed. On the other hand, we sometimes see an actor write a
letter, immediately after which, as he reads it over, it is flashed on
the screen. Then, later, we see it delivered, but although the one
receiving it is seen to read it, it is not flashed upon the screen
again, because the beholder has so recently been shown what it
contains. But it sometimes happens that more than one letter enters
into the development of the plot at a certain point, and hence there
may be some slight confusion caused by the spectator's not knowing
which of two letters the player is supposed to be reading. It is to
avoid this confusion that directors generally flash a few feet of the
letter a second time, simply to identify it. Thus, if the letter that
Tom wrote to Nelly in Scene 6 is delivered to her together with one
from her friend Kate in Scene 8, you may write:

     Postman hands Nelly two letters. She registers delight upon
     noticing handwriting on one envelope. Opens it immediately
     and reads:

On screen. Flash two or three feet of Tom's letter, same as in 6.

Back to scene.

Few spectators will object to the introduction of letters, telegrams,
newspaper items, and the like--provided there are not too many such
inserts--because these seem to fit into the picture as a part of the
action, and are not, like leaders, plainly artificial interpolations
by the author. It need hardly be pointed out, however, that letters
and other written messages must not be introduced except for logical
reasons. More than one case has been known in which the scenario
submitted to an editor specified that one character was to write and
hand to another a note which the second character was to read--the
note, of course, was to be shown on the screen--when the contents
were simply the words which, on the regular stage, the first actor
would speak to the other! Of course, no director would allow such a
thing to take place in his picture. In a situation where the story
could actually be advanced by showing the beholder what a certain
player was supposed to be saying to another, it would be only
necessary to introduce a cut-in leader, as previously described.

We have spoken of substituting a newspaper item for a letter. Wherever
this can be done, it is well to do it; the newspaper item, being
printed, is at least readable. One or two of the studios use letters
in which the handwriting is so poor that before all the spectators
have read the contents of the letter it has disappeared and the scene
has been resumed.

Let us suppose that Edith--not knowing that her friend Eleanor has
fallen in love with Jack Temple, whom they met at a resort the
previous summer--writes Eleanor a letter in which she says:

On screen, letter.

     and I'll send it in my next letter.

     By the way, I heard a report that Jack Temple--the fellow
     that you thought was so bashful--was seriously injured in
     the wreck of the Buffalo Express last week. I

Back to scene.

The expression on Eleanor's face, as she reads this, would be the same
as if she had picked up a newspaper and read:

     at the time of the collision.

     Among those reported injured are James T. Appley, Syracuse,
     N.Y.; Lloyd W. Stern, Boston, Mass.; Mrs. Geo. P. Rowley,
     Bangor, Me.; and John Temple, New York City.

     Conductor Thomas Hammond told a _World_ reporter that as
     soon as the report

Of course, at some point in the action previous to the scene in which
Eleanor reads this report in the newspaper, you will have made the
spectators familiar with the hero's name by means of a leader or some
other insert.

"Where the information is brief," says Mr. Sargent,[23] again, "it may
be better displayed as a newspaper headline. A two-column display head
is better shaped for use on the screen than the deeper single-column
head. A deal of information may be conveyed in a headline and the
spectator seems to read the item over the character's shoulder rather
than to have been interrupted by a leader."

[Footnote 23: Epes Winthrop Sargent, _Technique of the Photoplay_.]

Mr. William Lord Wright, author of "The Motion Picture Story," has
this to say on the subject:

"Nearly all photoplays now contain a flash of newspaper headline. It's
a good way of putting over the information essential to the plot, but
it is suggested that the headlines be properly written. Perhaps the
author of the playlet was a novice in writing headlines, or maybe the
director was a know-it-all. If not a newspaper man and a headliner, we
would advise the author who wishes to use headlines in his action to
get some newspaper man to write them for him. Some of the would-be
newspaper heads we have read on the screen lately are not impressive
or well written. Headlining is a difficult art."

If you have occasion to use a will, mortgage, or other legal document,
in telling your story, you will realize that the property man in every
studio has the blank forms on hand for anything that you may
introduce. It is therefore only necessary to show, say, the back of
the mortgage on the screen, with the names of the principals written
upon it. Then, later in the scene, or in some other scene, you can
show the body of the mortgage. But if you show the body of such a
document in Scene 10, after having shown the outside in Scene 4, it
would be well to flash the outside, or cover, again in 10, before
displaying the contents--for the purpose of identifying it, as in the
case of the letter.

In passing we may mention the letter or other document which is
actually written by the actor who is _supposed_ to write it. Such a
piece of writing, of course, must be, and is, not an "insert," but
rather a part of a close-up scene. It might appear in the scenario

27--Close-up of upper part of Allison's body, right hand writing in
pencil on one of Enderby's letterheads. He writes:

     It took eleven years to get you, Enderby, as I swore I
     would, some day. Now that I've kept my oath, I'm ready to
     pay the price, and you will

It is comparatively seldom, however, that this kind of close-up is
made use of--usually because the actor or actress does not write a
sufficiently clear hand for satisfactory "screening." More often the
player will be seen starting to write the note, and then the close-up
of another hand, _supposedly_ that of the player, will be shown,
writing the words designed to be read by the spectator. In either
case, they are close-ups, but the wording must be given in full, just
as if you were writing an ordinary letter or other insert to be shown
on the screen _after_ it has been written. But do not confuse what we
have just said with the fact that, nowadays, nearly every letter that
is screened is shown in what is literally a _bust_ picture, the letter
or document being held in the hands of the player as he or she reads
it. This is merely an additional realistic touch added in the studio;
the writer supplies his insert in the regular way.

The proper use of leaders and other inserts is a part of the technique
of photoplay writing that is best learned by practise. Be sure to keep
a carbon copy of your script. Then, if your story is accepted and
produced, when you are watching it on the screen note the leaders
carefully, comparing them with the ones you originally wrote, and
profit by what you see. If the producer has seen fit to make changes
of any kind, there is a reason, and it is generally safe to assume
that it is a good one.



By "the photoplay stage" we mean all that sweep of view which is taken
in by the range of the camera, whether in the studios or out of doors.
At first this may appear to be of very wide area, but the scene-plot
diagram (see Chapter XI) will give a good idea of space-limitations in
staging the picture.

_1. Scope of the Stage_

To begin with, the actors must be constantly on the alert to avoid
"getting out of the picture" while the scene is being taken. Suppose
an actor is seated in a reclining chair that has been "set" where the
line _A_ cuts it in half, so to speak. If he is leaning forward, he
will be completely in the picture. But if he forgets himself and leans
back it is likely that the upper part of his body will not appear when
the film is developed. To avoid this, the V-shaped lines shown on the
scene-plot are actually marked on the floor, in some studios. A piece
of strong cord, or sometimes wire, is stretched tightly from _B_ to
_C_ and thence to _D_. Within this V-shaped space the complete set
must be made, and within these limits the entire scene is played. In
the case of a set requiring more than the ordinary amount of depth, a
larger stage is obtained by setting the back part of the scene (or
set), as shown by the dotted line _E_, and laying down a special pair
of V lines to cross the permanent ones on the studio floor. When the
camera is placed at the apex of this larger V, the picture is,
naturally, made many feet deeper, with a corresponding width of
background as the lines diverge.

_2. Number of Stages Used_

As a rule, there are at least four of these V-shaped stages side by
side on the floor of the studio in any of the big producing plants.
Thus four entirely different sets may adjoin each other; and, as was
pointed out in a previous chapter, a director may finish Scene 8 in
Set I and move directly to Set II, where the scene "done" may be 9, or
any later scene, depending very often upon whether the players will
have to make a change of costume or make-up. A careful director will
always try to avoid waits by having his scenes set up in the order
that will allow him to proceed with as few delays as possible.

In some studios, the fact that walls and ceiling are of glass permits
the taking of most scenes, on a bright day, without the aid of
artificial light. In the majority of studios, however, all scenes
taken indoors are produced with the aid of artificial light, daylight
being excluded. Natural lighting, in _indoor_ studios, has been found
to be rather unsatisfactory; artificial lighting, with constant
experimentation in an effort to produce better "effects," is what is
most used today.

_3. Stage Lighting_

The Cooper-Hewitt system of interior lighting is probably the most
used in the various Eastern and West-coast studios. Everyone--at any
rate, everyone living in the city--is familiar with the peculiar
lights used in many photographers' studios. These Cooper-Hewitt lights
seem to be merely large glass tubes that shed a ghastly blue-green
tinge over everything, and under which photographers may take pictures
regardless of exterior light-conditions. In addition to the
Cooper-Hewitt lights, in a studio equipped with that system, there
are, of course, various other kinds of special lights used in
obtaining certain unusual effects.

In other studios, a brilliant white light is used, rows of overhead
lights being supplemented by tiers, or "banks," of side-lights, so
that there is no shadow on any part of the set unless it is the
specific purpose of the director to _have_ a shadow in a certain

One of the big producing plants has two studios--one in which both
daylight and artificial light are used, and another, at the top of the
building, with glass walls, and a ceiling which constitutes the roof
of the building, where every scene is taken with natural light. On a
bright day the latter studio is used; if there is no sunlight at all,
the downstairs studio is kept busy. On the immense floor of the
daylight studio, as many as eight different ordinary sets may be
erected side by side at one time.

During the past five or six years, and especially since the Pacific
Coast has become a great photoplay-producing centre, more and more
"interior" scenes are made on outdoor stages. This method of taking
the scenes in a picture has now been reduced to a fine art. The
outdoor stages, not needing the artificial lighting systems, have
their various overhead and side screens, so that scenes may be
photographed regardless of the natural light-conditions.

Frequently the director will put up a special outdoor stage
overlooking the sea, or a beautiful garden or landscape, on which to
build a certain interior setting planned to have that outlook. Indeed,
today, the artificial background for any interior having windows or
open doors is unusual. In Jacksonville, Florida, and other southern
cities, as well as in California, the outdoor stage is the most used.
The outdoor stage is especially useful in taking, let us say, a scene
showing the interior of a house supposedly during a heavy storm, with
the rain beating against the windows and being dashed in at the door
when it is opened. On the exterior stage, such a scene can be taken at
almost any hour of the day, and with the screens to dim and diffuse
the rays of the sun, and the skillful use of an ordinary hose in the
hands of the property-man or assistant director, a very realistic
storm scene can be secured. Many extremely realistic rainstorm effects
can also be arranged for exterior scenes, and as for lightning--sheet,
forked, or any other variety--it is one of the easiest things to
"get" imaginable. The mere scratching of the negative film with a pin,
throughout the number of frames covering the flash of the lightning,
the scratching, of course, being in the shape the lightning is to
take, makes it possible to have thrillingly natural stabs of fork and
chain lightning just where it is needed in any scene. You need never
hesitate to call for a lightning storm if your story warrants one at a
certain point.

A practical point in favor of the outdoor stages is that there is a
tremendous saving in the company's bill for lighting. Besides the
cost, the outdoor "interiors" are as satisfactory in every way as
those made beneath the artificial lights.

It is unnecessary to point out to anyone who has visited the picture
theatres that outdoor scenes taken at night are now as common as
exteriors photographed at mid-day. Everything from camp-fire effects
to night battle-scenes has been accomplished with wonderful results.
Interior effects of firelight, moonlight, candle-light, etc, are
easily procured, and are usually most convincing and sometimes
exceedingly beautiful, when taken in conjunction with the setting.

_4. Rehearsals of Scenes_

Different studios have different rules for preventing so much as the
possibility of there being some fault with the photography when a
certain scene is "done." In some studios the rule is to take every
scene at least twice, or even three times. When the films are
developed, the one which is not only clearest and sharpest
photographically, but which shows--even though by ever so small a
difference--the best action on the part of the players, is kept, and
from this the positives are printed. In other studios, each scene is
taken only once at first; and if the film proves to be faulty the
scene must be retaken, even though a day or so later. In every studio,
of course, each scene is rehearsed before being "done." Sometimes
running over the scene once or twice is sufficient, while other big
scenes may be rehearsed fifteen or twenty times. Not only to obtain
the best effects in action and grouping is a scene rehearsed many
times, but repeated goings over are often necessary in order to change
the action slightly, or to cut it down so that it will run only a
certain number of seconds, each sixty seconds representing,
approximately, as many feet of film.

_5. Respect for Stage Limitations_

At all times you must keep in mind the limitations of the photoplay
stage. If you have the picture eye, as described in Chapter X, you
will be able to see just what you can, and can not, write into a
picture so that it will register. If it does not register, it might
better not have been written. As Mr. Sargent once said, "Pretty nearly
everything is possible to the camera, but not all things are
practicable." In the same article, he gave a practical illustration of
camera limitation that should guide photoplay authors in determining
what not to write:

"Suppose you've written a chase scene. A band of horsemen dash through
the picture. The hero is wounded and falls from his horse, rolling to
the side of the road. The pursuers thunder past and then the heroine
comes in and rescues the hero. This is photographically possible, but
not practical. The dust and the smoke will create a haze that will dim
the end of the scene. It can be done by letting the hero lie while the
dust settles, the camera being stopped meanwhile, but unless the scene
is strong enough to repay this trouble the script will be passed over
in favor of one that can be made without so much fuss."

Almost every day, directors and cameramen--especially cameramen--risk
life and limb in an effort to secure some novel scenic effect as a
background for their pictures. It should be remembered, however, that
what the director may choose to do when it comes actually to taking
the scene has nothing to do with the scene as you write it--so far as
the actual background is concerned. Do not demand that the struggle
between the sheriff and the leader of the cattle rustlers must take
place upon just such and such a kind of precipice. You may be certain
that if the situation is a strong one the producer will spare neither
time nor pains to secure the most perfect setting it is possible for
him to obtain.

The moving picture camera, it is well to remember, is of no light
weight when set up on its massive tripod. The cameraman cannot place
it in position to take all the pictures that you might be able to take
with a snap-shot camera held between the hands. The body of the
camera, without the tripod, may be placed upon the overhead beams in a
studio in order to get some novel scenic effect below; or a special
platform may be built for camera and operator when the director is
determined to get a scene on the side of a cliff, where no neighboring
cliff or rocky platform was furnished by nature; but when the director
goes to such pains as these to obtain an effect there is a reason, and
generally the reason is an unusually strong story that justifies
special effort on the part of all concerned in its production.

Mr. William E. Fildew, one of the foremost screen cameramen, long
associated with director William Christy Cabanne, says in _The Moving
Picture World_:

"As to what constitutes the greatest difficulty in the making of
motion pictures, I should reply the insecurity of the tripod in the
making of outdoor scenes. Exteriors require the greatest amount of
attention from the cameraman because of the varying light and shade
and the mobility of the camera itself and its liability to accident.
The location chosen by the expert may be all that is desired, and
there may be a whole lot of trained performers, but you can't get a
trained camera. The tripod must be nursed like a contrary child. It
_must_ be firmly set." Mr. Fildew speaks of the difficulty he had, on
one occasion, when he was obliged to follow the progress of an express
train while operating his camera from an a�roplane, they being
constantly buffeted by pockets of wind, while flying for many miles at
a low altitude in order to keep within the desired focus. He cites
another case, when he was photographing the sea scenes for the Fine
Arts picture, "Daphne and the Pirates," the waters outside San
Francisco Bay being chosen for the locale. A pirate ship crew was to
board a merchant ship, and a big battle to follow on the latter's
deck. A heavy storm came up just as the two ships came together, and
Mr. Fildew, 120 feet up in the air, holding to a mast that swayed like
a pendulum, was compelled to go through with what was a most difficult
and dangerous piece of work, which, however, resulted in some
exceptionally fine scenes. In these instances, of course, it was a
matter of the director's planning almost everything just as he wanted
to take it; the point we insist upon is that it is better to write
certain difficult scenes more in the form of a suggestion than as if
it were absolutely necessary to take them just as you have visualized
them. Not a few successful writers try to think of two different ways
in which an important part of the story may be "put over." Thus, just
as an off-hand example, you might suggest that the running fight
between the bank robbers and the police may take place in a couple of
automobiles _or_ in an auto and a locomotive. Rest assured that the
director will provide the locomotive instead of the second automobile
if he can procure one.

Watch the pictures on the screen and you will see what effects are
produced; and it follows that if a thing can be done once it can be
done again. But will it be _worth while_ in the case of _your_ story?
This is a point that you must determine before venturing to specify
that particular effect. Do not be carried away by the fact that it
_is_ your work. Weigh the importance of that scene and compare it with
the dramatic value of the scenes which precede and follow it; if the
scene with the unusual and difficult effect is the big scene of an
unusually big and interesting story, write it in. The chances are that
the director will be only too glad to stage it according to your
original idea. But do not ask him to waste his time or the company's
money in producing a scene the expense and bother of obtaining which
is out of all proportion to the importance of the rest of the picture.
And do not forget that the camera, wonderful as it is, cannot and does
not do everything that it seems to do. In other words, do not mistake
an effect produced by trick photography for one that is merely the
result of exceptional care and work on the part of both cameraman and



_1. Watching the Pictures_

Unless you are already a successful fiction writer when you first
determine to write photoplays it is not going too far to assert that
you have never yet really watched a motion picture. You have
_witnessed_ many, but only the playwright and the theatrical man may
be said to _watch_ plays, whether on the stage or on the screen, with
every faculty alert and receptive, ready to pounce on any suggestion,
any bit of stage business, any scenic effect, or any situation, that
they may legitimately copy or enlarge upon for their respective uses.
This keen attitude is partly a matter of inborn dramatic instinct, but
it is even more a matter of training and habit--therefore cultivate

Not only does the professional photoplaywright remain wide
awake when watching real photoplays, but he often finds as much
plot-suggestion in other classes of films as there is in the
story-pictures, for plot-germs fairly abound in scenics, vocationals,
microcinematographics, educationals, and topicals, as these several
sorts are called by the craft. A certain successful writer has sold no
less than thirty photoplays, all the plots of which sprang from
scenics and educationals. One, for example, was built upon an idea
picked up in watching a film picturing the making of tapioca in the

At the outstart you must admit to yourself that to see every release
of every company is impossible, and even if it were possible it would
be unnecessary. In the big cities, for example, it is often difficult
to locate a theatre that is exhibiting the particular picture you are
anxious to see, either on the date of its release or later. Nothing is
more common in a moving picture studio than to hear one actor say to
another: "Tonight such and such a theatre is showing such and such a
picture [one in which they have worked]; let's go over to see it." And
if the actor is anxious to study acting through watching the work of
himself and others on the screen, how much more should the writer be
willing and anxious to study the technique of the photoplay by paying
frequent visits to the picture theatres? Try, then, to see as many
photoplays as your time and means will permit, for purposes of study.
Nor do we recommend seeing only pictures that the critics have
praised, for it is possible, at times, to learn as much from a poor
picture as from a good one. You must teach yourself, as you watch the
screen, what to _leave out_, as well as what to put in; we may learn
much from the mistakes of others.

One point especially worthy of notice is that when you see a good
picture on the screen it may be one written by a successful
photoplaywright, and as such likely to repay close study to see how
the successful construct their stories. Or it may be a picture written
in the producing studio from the bare idea purchased from an
"outsider." In either case, look out for and carefully study the
pictured stories produced by writers who are "putting them over."

If you are taking up photoplay writing as a profession, or even as an
avocation, there is only one way to undertake it--be fully equipped to
succeed. It is not enough, as we said in an early chapter, to have had
previous training as a fiction writer; nor enough to have acquired a
knowledge of photoplay form and construction. You must be "up to the
minute" in your knowledge of the market for scripts. Therefore be in
touch with what writers, editors, and producers are doing. Do
everything in your power to avoid writing stories similar to others
that have been done within the past year or two, at least. It is not
merely a question of plagiarism, important as that is--it is a matter
of helping yourself to sell your script by not offering old ideas to
the editors. Fully one-half of the _good_ stories that go back to the
authors are returned because the companies have already done a similar
picture and do not wish to have exhibitors and their patrons declare
that "The Cosmopolitan Company must be writing over their old pictures
because they can't get new stuff."

_2. What to Look for in a Picture_

Besides avoiding the similar use of ideas that have been utilized by
others, it is most important in watching a picture to be able to see
what the one who wrote it did _not_ see--to be able to pick up an idea
that he _might_ have employed in working out his story, and from it
get the inspiration and plot-foundation for a photoplay of your own.
In addition to studying the action to see how certain effects are
produced, count the number of scenes and the number of leaders used in
the different makes of pictures. It will serve as a guide to what the
different makers want. In case you do not care to sit through a second
showing of the film, or do not want to risk missing part of the
picture by counting the scenes and leaders, make a practice of
carrying a few small cards, with a line drawn down the middle of each.
As the card is held in the hand, mark with a pencil a short stroke on
one side for every change of scene, and on the other side a stroke for
each leader, letter, or other insert--this will serve as a convenient

_3. The Note-Book Habit_

To have the plot-instinct is a great blessing for the writer. Lacking
this, however, the most valuable asset he can possess is the note-book
habit. Carry one with you _constantly_. Jot down everything that may
be of help in framing and developing a plot, as well as in creating a
dramatic scene for a story. Remember that plots are not lying around
fully developed, awaiting only some observant eye to discover them,
but they almost always grow out of single ideas--plot-germs--which one
may recognize as incidents and situations in everyday life or in
unusual circumstances. Do not wait for the fully developed plot to
come to you, for the chances are that it will not. Jot down the single
idea and in time it may germinate and become a fully developed
plot--even though you may have to use hot-house methods and force its

[Illustration: William S. Hart, Leaning on the Camera, with part of
His Supporting Company and the Cameraman and His Assistant in a Scene
from "The Poppy Girl's Husband," an Artcraft Picture]

[Illustration: Harry Beaumont Directing Fight Scene Between Tom Moore,
Goldwyn Star, and the Villain, in "A Man and His Money"]

It seems incredible that any writer, knowing, as he must, that the
idea, the plot-germ, is what really makes the story, should neglect to
note it down the moment it comes to him; and yet there are those who
simply trust memory to retain an impression. In the photoplay
especially "the idea's the thing" for here you cannot depend on
description or on good writing to sell your story.

The rule of jotting down your thought on the instant does not apply
merely to ideas that come as inspirations, or thoughts suggested by
what you read or see, but it applies especially to the ideas that come
to you at the time you give yourself up to concentrated thinking in
play-production. A certain writer on the photoplay--we do not recall
who--once wrote a paragraph headed "When do you do your thinking?"
This critic found that he could think best when riding, say on a
street car. Others have discovered that ideas come to them most freely
when they are sitting in a theatre. One writer has learned that his
best plot-ideas come to him after he lies down for the night. For this
reason, a tabouret with pad and pencil always stands at his bedside,
and a special self-installed switch for the electric light is within
reach of his hand. Now, with his note-book always with him when he is
away from home, with note-books and card-indexes close at hand when he
_is_ at home, and with the means of instantly putting his thoughts on
paper if they come to him after he has gone to bed, he knows that he
is in a position to take advantage of every stray idea that may
contain a plot germ, or that may aid him in developing a story already
in course of construction.

If the beginner would only understand the importance of systematic
note-making, he would soon reduce by one-half the labor of unearthing
plots for his stories.

_4. The Borrowed Plot_

All is grist that comes to the mill of the writer who keeps a
note-book. Almost everything that he reads, sees, or hears, offers
some plot-suggestion, or suggests a better way of working out the plot
he has already partly developed. But, in taking plot-ideas from the
daily papers and writing stories suggested by the anecdotes and the
conversation of friends, proceed with great care, lest you make
trouble for yourself or for others. In a later chapter we show how
many cases of alleged plagiarism are simply the results of two people
taking the same idea from the same newspaper paragraph. The point here
made is that if you take an idea from a newspaper item there are three
courses open to you--one safe course, and two not safe. The unsafe
ways are, to recopy the story bodily, using in your story all the
facts set forth in the news item; or else to change it only enough to
insure its being "the same, yet not the same." If you adopt either of
these two foolish and dangerous methods, you are extremely likely to
find that you have either been forestalled by someone who wrote a
story on the subject before you did, or that your story, following
closely the original facts, has given offense to someone who was
concerned in the actual case. If you live in a small community, the
risk of thus offending is, of course, correspondingly greater.

The one safe way is to use the plot-germ, and _only_ the plot-germ,
taken from the item in the paper. If you can take the central idea and
remodel it so that the very reporter who wrote the original item would
not recognize it, you may legitimately claim to have produced an
original story. That is, moreover, what you _should_ do, leaving aside
all questions of your script's being accepted, and the possibility of
its being refused because of its similarity to one previously
purchased from some other writer.

The main incidents of a prominent court trial may supply you with an
idea for a strong, original story, but you should not think of
following the facts of the case just as they occurred in real life. To
_copy_ a story from a newspaper item and to _get_ a story from the
same source are two entirely different things. Press clippings, as an
author once remarked, "are not first aid to the feeble minded. They
are merely sign-posts that point the way to the initiated." And
another has said: "It is the art of seeing and appreciating just a
line or two in some newspaper item and working it up that makes
newspaper study pay."

The really practised writer realizes that the best plot-suggestions
are to be found in the shorter news items--the five-to-ten-line
fillers--and not in the big sensations of the day. But then, the
practised writer can find ideas anywhere.

One thing of which the beginner should beware is the practise of
writing stories from plots suggested by friends. As a rule, the young
writer, not yet having learned to think for himself, is quick to
accept these friendly suggestions. He is told the outline of an
unusually good story and straightway turns it into a photoplay. It is
accepted, but a short while after it has been released someone
recognizes in it a short-story that has appeared in a popular
magazine. It is not difficult to imagine the result--before very long
the film manufacturing company is compelled, whether by a sense of
justice or by law, to make settlement with the magazine company
holding the copyright on the original story, and the beginner finds
that he is decidedly _persona non grata_ with at least one
manufacturer. Should the matter become generally known, he is likely
to find himself barred by other companies also, as every editor has an
inborn dread of the plagiarist, even though he may have been innocent
of any thought of wrong doing.

_5. Keeping Well Informed_

The best means of avoiding unconscious plagiarism and the use of old
material is to keep informed as fully as you possibly can of what is
released week by week. You cannot be too well posted on what is going
on in the photoplay business-world. Your selling-average will be
higher as a result. The editor knows what is old and what is new, and
so must you, though doubtless not so perfectly. Every editor's office
is stocked with books, reference works, magazines, trade publications,
and files of newspaper clippings. These all contain something of
practical value in working up the bare ideas bought from contributors
or in writing his own story--for editors as well as producers often
write photoplays.

You can hardly go too far in making a study of the various
motion-picture trade journals, because, quite apart from the material
furnished by the different studio publicity departments--which
material, for a certain week, may be practically the same in all the
publicity mediums--each periodical may be depended upon to have at
frequent intervals if not in every issue some good special article
that will either help to instruct the writer or furnish a "tip" as to
the immediate needs of a certain company. While we make special
mention of _The Moving Picture World_ because of the fact that it has
had Mr. Sargent's department as a regular feature for over eight
years, we also recommend the student to keep regularly in touch with
what is published in the _Motion Picture News_ (New York), the _New
York Dramatic Mirror_, _Motography_ (Chicago), and--for the sake of
their critical reviews--any other trade periodicals he may be able to
procure. Apart from the trade journals, you can always be sure of
finding well-written special articles or regular departments of
interest to photoplaywrights in such monthly and semi-monthly
magazines as _Photoplay_ (Chicago), _Motion Picture Magazine_ and
_Motion Picture Classic_ (Brooklyn, N.Y.), _Picture-play Magazine_
(New York), and _Moving Picture Stories_ (New York). Many popular
magazines also print excellent photoplay material frequently and such
craft-periodicals as _The Writer's Monthly_ (Springfield, Mass.) are
always especially helpful to authors. All such tools of the writer's
trade you should get as regularly as you can--and _use_ them.

So long as you get your plot-ideas honestly, where you get them is
altogether your own matter. But get them you must, for, as A. Van
Buren Powell has said: "Everyone will grant that in photoplay writing
'The Idea's the thing.' The script of the beginner, carrying a
brand-new idea, will find acceptance where the most technical
technique in the world, disguising a revamped story, will fail to coax
the coy check from its lair."

_So, let your ideas be original._ Get your inspiration, your
plot-germ, from any source, but be sure that, before you claim the
story for your own, you have so changed and reconstructed the original
that it is absolutely yours.

Here is a paragraph by Mr. Eugene V. Brewster, in _Motion Picture
Magazine_, of which he is editor: "It is extremely difficult to think
out a plot that has not been done before. You may not have seen it
before, you may have invented the whole thing out of your brain, but
the probabilities are that the manufacturers have done the same thing,
with slight variations, time and time again, and that the same idea
has been submitted to them dozens of times. You may think you have
worked out something entirely new, but you should remember that the
regular writers employed by the manufacturers have been reading and
thinking for years in an effort to devise something new, and that they
have been trained to do this very thing."

True, it _is_ difficult to think out a plot that has not been done
before; but this very fact, instead of discouraging the writer, should
offer him the greater incentive to discover original ideas for his
stories. That the manufacturers are once in a while forced to make
over their old plays should convince the photoplaywright that they are
more than willing to buy new ones if they are the kind they are
looking for, and that he should study the market to see what the
manufacturers want, and then write the kind they _are_ looking for.

Lastly, we would say most emphatically that the staff-writers employed
by the different companies have absolutely no advantage over the
trained and intelligent free-lance author in the production of
original plays. It is just as hard to think up original plots if one
is on the salary list of one of the manufacturers as it is for you who
do your work at home and turn out only one script a month. The
important fact is, that the staff-writer would never have been offered
the position he holds had not the editor recognized his ability to
keep up a fairly steady output of plays with plots and technical
points of more than average merit. He was an original writer _before_
he became a member of the staff, _not because_ he is in the employ of
the producer.

The field is wide and growing, but nowhere is there room for
untrained, incompetent, hit-or-miss dabblers. The man who is in
earnest, who keeps in touch with what is going on in the trade, who
watches the pictures to gain ideas and inspiration, who studies the
life about him to find plot-suggestions and motives, and who, once
started, keeps at it--working, working, working--cannot fail to find
that his reward will justify the effort.



The caption of this chapter must be taken as a serious warning that
there are certain things which you cannot write into a script unless
you wish to insure its rejection. These specific warnings are based on
the experiences of amateurs who have had their scripts returned with
the brief and unsatisfactory statement that they were "not available
for present use," or that the "cost of production is too great."

_1. Asking the Impossible or the Impracticable_

It is a constant source of mingled amusement and dismay to editors to
read some of the impossible or impracticable things that amateur
photoplaywrights wish to have done in the course of the action of
their stories. Three things are responsible for this common fault in
photoplay plotting: the writer's very limited knowledge of the
limitations of the photoplay stage; an intense desire to be original;
and the fact that, having seen in the pictures themselves so many
evidences that the manufacturers do not let the question of expense
stand in the way of attaining spectacular and realistic effects, they
go blindly ahead and introduce scenes to take which would so
enormously run up the cost of producing the picture that the expense
involved would be out of all proportion to the value of the scene as a
part of the story.

Better to illustrate these points, we reproduce a paragraph from an
article by Mr. R.R. Nehls, manager of the American Film Manufacturing

"Ordinary judgment should tell a writer about what is possible in the
way of stage equipment to carry out a plot. We can provide almost
anything in reason, such as wireless instruments, automobiles, houses
of every description, cattle, etc., but we cannot wreck passenger
trains, dam up rivers, and burn up mansions merely to produce a single
picture. There is no rule to guide you in these matters save your own
common sense."

Now, the foregoing paragraph was written by Mr. Nehls some six years
ago. We include his opinion in this volume, however, because it is
absolutely necessary to consider expense when planning a story for the
screen. On the other hand, it must be said for the benefit of the new
and talented writer who really has or can evolve big situations for
his stories that never in the history of the motion picture have
manufacturers been so ready to do the big thing in a big way as they
are now. That is to say--and this whole statement should have your
most careful consideration--the only thing that a manufacturer
considers today is the question of whether or not a certain effect,
scenic, mechanical, or whatever it may be, is _worth_ the money which
would have to be spent to obtain it. It would be folly to say that
train wrecks, burning houses, destroyed bridges, and the like, are
"impossible" in a film story, after every patron of the picture houses
has seen on the screen everything from the wrecking by earthquake of a
whole village to the burning of a huge sailing vessel--have seen, in
very fact, almost everything that it is possible to see on the earth,
above the earth, or in the waters under it. We have indeed reached a
period of amazing spectacular effects, produced, in most cases, at
enormous cost. And yet today a far closer watch is kept on the cost
than ever before.

How are we to reconcile these two apparently conflicting statements?
The answer is simple: Nothing is too costly if it pays for itself--as
reckoned by the sale of prints when the picture is placed on the
market. If, for example, "The Birth of a Nation," "Civilization,"
"Cabiria," "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," and ever so many
other super-features that have been made since these were produced,
had cost twice as much as they actually did, they would still have
been exceedingly profitable ventures for the ones who put them out. If
you have the story to justify the big scenes and effects you will
unhesitatingly be provided with all the effects the story calls for.
Today, economy is practiced _after_ the story has been purchased; the
unusually good plot is not persistently returned because of the
expense attached to putting it into film form. Ways and means are
found within the studio to produce, for every thousand dollars paid
out, an effect--a result--such as to make it appear that from three to
five times that amount has been expended. Sometimes, indeed, an
effect produced at comparatively trifling expense, often by trick
photography or by "faking" or substituting for some expensive
property, is even _more effective_ than the real thing would have
been. As an example, the effect on the screen of a miniature--a
"fake"--Zeppelin falling through the clouds, a blazing mass, was
convincing, thrilling and easy to produce, whereas from the
spectator's point of view it would have been well nigh impossible to
make a satisfactory photograph of a real Zeppelin consumed by flames
and falling to destruction, even though it had been both possible and
financially worth while to burn a real dirigible.

Another thing to be remembered is that Mr. Nehls wrote his statement
at a time when one-reel pictures were the rule; and what would have
been considered enormously expensive for a single-reel story is not
thought so much of when it is to be included in a production of five
reels or over. A good rule, followed by many successful writers, is to
plan your story--estimating as well as you can according to what
unusual effects or settings, are called for--so that a five-reel
subject, say, will not call for more than five times the outlay
demanded by a single-reel picture. It is not an easy thing to do, we
will admit; but you can do your best to figure the expense in this
way. Many manufacturers are willing to pay out as much for a
thoroughly good five-reel picture as some others would pay for a
six-or seven-reel feature; if they do so in the case of _your_ story
so much the better for you, in the light of the additional credit you
will receive for having turned out an especially fine piece of work.
The point is: Don't be too ready to add to the expense merely because
it is a multiple-reel story. The test should be: Is the expensive
scene or effect absolutely essential to a proper unfolding of your
plot? If it is, include it; if not, leave it out or find as good a
substitute effect as you can. In any event, omit expensive scenes for
minor parts of your plot.

_2. Considering the Expense of Settings_

Do not write a scene into your scenario that will necessitate too much
work for scenic artists, carpenters, and property men. A truly big
theme is, of course, entitled to careful, and even elaborate, staging;
but it is usually only necessary to set forth the big theme and
describe the setting in a general way; the producer will do the rest.
Do not be extravagant in your requirements. This should be one of your
first considerations when you start to write a scene: could it be
played as well in some other setting that would not require so much
"staging?" Perhaps, in the setting that you thought of first, it might
be necessary to use several extra people, thereby adding to the cost
of production. No doubt it would be very pretty and effective to have
Ralph make up his quarrel with Dorothy as she sits down close to the
camera in the crowded ball-room; but, if the play did not already
contain a ball-room scene, could not the reconciliation be shown just
as well in the library or on the street near her home or in a
drawing-room scene where only a few guests are assembled, the guests
all being regular members of the stock company?

Some pictures calling for special properties and extra people fully
justify the additional expenditure; others do not. He is a wise writer
who knows his own script well enough to be able to judge.

_3. How Some "Too Expensive" Scenes Were Taken_

In a great many cases, pictures containing a�roplanes, burning oil
wells, railroad wrecks, houses that are completely gutted by fire, and
other exceptionally spectacular features, are the result of the merest
chance. For example, a few years ago the Thanhouser studio at New
Rochelle, N.Y., caught fire and burned to the ground. The fire was a
spectacular one, as the chemical contents of the building burned like
powder, and there were several explosions. The fire occurred at 1.30
o'clock in the afternoon, and many of the players were at lunch at
their hotels when the alarm was turned in. But the players, the
cameraman, and the director quickly got together, and even before the
fire was well out they had produced a thrilling fire picture, "When
the Studio Burned," in which was shown the rescue of the "Thanhouser
Kid" by Miss Marguerite Snow, then leading woman of the company. Thus
advantage was taken of an unfortunate happening to add to the fame of
the Thanhouser company.

Again, it may happen that several scenes of a big fire are taken while
it is in progress, and the film laid aside until a suitable photoplay
is either written by a staff-writer or sent in by an outside author.
Then the picture is completed, the fire scenes previously taken being
inserted between other scenes showing the action of the plot.

One of the most thrilling and realistic fire pictures ever produced
was "The Incendiary Foreman," released by Path� Fr�res early in 1908.
It had a well-developed plot that kept the dramatic interest keyed up
every moment, but the features of the film were the many thrillingly
realistic fire scenes, in which the Parisian fire department battled
with the flames while several enormous buildings were being destroyed.
One of the earlier scenes depicted the yard of the Path� factory, and
showed a quarrel between the foreman and one of the workmen. The
ensuing action led one to believe that this was the factory that was
consumed by the flames, but one or two of the later scenes made it
plain to those who could read French and who watched the picture
closely that the actual fire scenes had been taken during the
destruction of an immense oil refinery. Yet the combination of the
rehearsed scenes and the views of the real and disastrous
conflagration made a picture that drew record-breaking houses to every
theatre where it was exhibited.

Again, whether or not the producing concern releases a weekly or
semi-weekly current-events reel, every company at times makes use of
portions of such pictures, either made by themselves or procured from
other firms. In the same way, educational pictures of every kind are
made use of--certain parts of them, that is--to provide fitting and
convincing atmosphere for original stories. When the Whartons put out
their very fine patriotic serial, "The Eagle's Eye," written and
produced with the intention of exposing the plots formed in the United
States by agents of the Imperial German Government, the first episode
was called "The Hidden Death," and showed on the screen exactly how,
in all probability, the sinking of the _Lusitania_ was brought about
by Count von Bernstorff and his various agents. The actual
advertisement placed in New York City newspapers by the German Embassy
at Washington, warning all travelers that they sailed on steamers
belonging to Great Britain at their own risk, as a state of war
existed between that country and Germany, was shown on the screen, as
were several photographs of newspaper first pages with news of the
crime after it had been perpetrated. Also, the _Lusitania_ was shown
sailing down the North River toward the Upper Bay, starting on her
last voyage. This picture, of course, was at least three years old at
the time the film was shown in the theatres, and may have been much
more than that, since many pictures of this and other great ocean
liners have been made in years past, and at times when no one could
possibly have guessed their ultimate fate.

Practically every photoplay of the Great War that has been released up
to the present time has been made up in part of scenes taken on one of
the fighting fronts, at the American, British or other training camps,
or during street parades and military reviews, these pictures having
first been made for news weeklies, official war pictures, or for
patriotic propaganda purposes. Fitted in as a part of a war story,
they greatly enhance the effect of those scenes which are entirely the
creation of the author's brain.

On one occasion, a certain Edison director was putting on a feature
which showed--as originally written--the sinking in mid-ocean of a
great liner. While rehearsing the scene on deck which showed the
passengers taking to the life-boats, he made repeated experiments with
certain lightning effects, none of which quite satisfied him. He also
had some trouble with one of the made-to-order life-boats. Finally,
rather disgusted with the way things were going, he decided to cut out
the lowering-of-the-boats scene and to have a fire at sea instead of a
mere foundering. In a very few minutes, with the aid of "smoke-pots"
and "blow-torches" a thrilling burning-ship scene was made, with the
people scrambling toward the life-boats. Later, several long-distance
views of the burning of a real ocean vessel, made by the company
several years before, were introduced with most convincing effect,
while the action of the story was in no way interfered with on account
of the change. The scene described, of course, was made in the studio,
with a specially built deck scene. Had there been other scenes aboard
ship needed in the story's working out, the director would undoubtedly
have secured permission to take all the scenes needed aboard one of
the ocean liners always to be found in the port of New York.

So it is that hundreds of pictures released every year contain
thrilling, unusual, and beautiful effects which the author has never
dreamed of writing into his scenario, but which have been supplied by
a careful director with a memory for what the company has made in the
past. And the thing to be remembered, of course, is that while it is
very easy for a director to use something which is already made and in
the company's possession--or readily procurable from another
company--it is not so easy, at times, _to make_ the big scene or
effect that the novice introduces into his story.

Leaving aside the staff-writers, in almost every company[24] there are
one or two photoplaywrights; in many cases the leading man is also the
director of the company, writing and producing a great many of the
plays they turn out. Where this is so, that company is in a position
to take advantage of any unforeseen happening or accident. Being in
the vicinity of a railroad wreck, they hurry to the place and take the
scenes they need. Then, probably many miles away, and on an entirely
different railroad line, with the permission of the company and
possibly at a slight extra expense, they take the other railroad
scenes--perhaps a week after taking those at the scene of the wreck.

[Footnote 24: "Company," as here used, refers to the group of players
working under a certain director, several such groups making up the
stock company maintained by the film manufacturing concern.]

Thus the unthinking amateur writer, seeing the result of the
producer's efforts on the screen, takes it for granted that the
company has gone to the expense of buying up several old coaches and
an engine or two and producing an actual wreck merely for the sake of
supplying some thrilling situations in a railroad drama. True,
head-on collisions have been planned and pictured, box-cars have been
thrown over embankments, automobiles have been burned, a�roplanes have
been wrecked, and houses have been destroyed, to furnish thrilling
episodes in the pictures produced by various companies, but unless the
story itself fully justified the additional expense and trouble, it is
safe to say that the company, having the opportunity to purchase some
old engines and coaches cheap, took advantage of this to write and
produce a picture in which their destruction could be featured--that
is, the photoplay was the result of the special scene, and the scene
was not made specially for that particular plot.

To repeat, in introducing scenes that call for additional expenditure
on the part of the manufacturer, the question to ask yourself is,
_will the resulting effect really justify the added cost of

As a striking example of how unusual and--from the standpoint of what
may be artificially arranged--seemingly impossible scenes may be used
in photoplays, consider the following--and then avoid the introduction
of such scenes unless you know _absolutely_ just how your effect may
be obtained.

The Vitagraph release, "A Wasted Sacrifice,"[25] more fully described
in the next chapter, contained a scene in which a young Indian woman,
stepping upon a rattlesnake, was bitten, and died. One scene showed
her walking along, with the papoose on her back, all unsuspecting of
the danger that threatened. Then came a close-up showing the rattler
coiled with head raised. The next full-sized scene showed the woman
just about to step upon the snake concealed in the grass. In the
second close-up which followed, showing only the snake and the woman's
moccasined feet, the reptile struck with startling swiftness and
savageness. The whole effect was thrilling in the extreme--and we do
not doubt that more than one young writer was tempted to write a story
with a similar scene. But how often would a producer be able to obtain
such an effect? It seems obvious that the scene was in stock and the
play built around it, but the truth is that the scene was specially
made. The snake was caught, and its poison extracted, and then the
scenes were taken. In the close-up scene the snake was inside an
enclosure stretched on the ground. The first close-up showed the
snake, coiled. In the second, the girl was in the enclosure with the
snake. But the close-up did not show the enclosure, of course. And
rattlesnakes are not readily obtainable "props"!

[Footnote 25: The synopsis of this photoplay is given in Chapter

_4. Animal Actors_

Another mistake frequently made by the beginner is in writing stories
that require the assistance of trick animals. We know one
motion-picture actor who, at the time when he was on the extra list of
a well-known Chicago company, wrote to a New York producer that he
would furnish the working scenarios for two or three plays in which
his trick dog could work provided that he himself were allowed to
direct the scenes in which the animal took part. He was told to go
on, and carried out his part of the contract as offered. The result
was several very exceptional pictures in which his dog's clever work
was featured. But how many writers are prepared not only to write the
script but also to furnish the dog and direct its acting? It is better
to leave the writing of such stories to some member of the company
owning the trick animal.

The Selig Company maintains a large menagerie, as does also the
Universal Company; and a script in which caged animals are used might
be accepted by them. Even a story requiring animals that were
unconfined might "get by;" but it would be advisable, in either case,
first to try to find out whether the director who would take such a
picture considered the story worth while writing. That is, we think
the photoplaywright would do well--although no such suggestion has
been offered by either company--to send a _short_ synopsis of the
story he intends to write, showing just how the animals would be made
use of. We have no doubt that the editor would let you know if he
considered the idea a good one; and if he did, you could complete your
script or detailed synopsis. It would be understood, of course, that
his approving your idea would in no way guarantee the acceptance of
your script. But of one thing you might be sure: if your idea were not
purchased, it would not be used at all, as every reputable company
pays for everything they use.

_5. Child Actors_

What applies to animals applies equally to child actors: it is always
best, before submitting a story in which a child plays an important
part, to be reasonably certain that the company has such a juvenile
player, or that they can procure a child with the necessary ability to
perform the part. Several concerns have as members of their stock
companies child actors of marked ability. In some studios, however,
the director finds it necessary to "send out" for clever children of
whom he may know--sometimes the child has acted under his direction
before; sometimes he has heard the reports from directors of other
companies--and if there is doubt in the director's mind that the child
can handle the part, your story may be rejected as a result.

_6. Costume Plays_

In the chapter on "What You Should Write" we discuss the question of
writing historical dramas, which come under the head of costume plays.
It should be said here that, merely as an economical consideration,
you should always avoid sending scripts calling for special--and
therefore expensive--costuming to any company unless you know that
they are in the habit of producing plays of that nature. By studying
the pictures you see on the screen you can easily learn what companies
go in for costume or historical plays; such companies are always glad
to receive really strong and interesting stories of this character
from outside writers.

_7. Lighting_

We have already touched upon the use of special lighting arrangements
in special scenes, but it is well to say again that it is best to let
the director decide how a scene shall be lighted. He will consider the
matter from the standpoint of practicability and expense; you are very
likely to think only of the effect. Don't be too ready to write scenes
calling for verandas hung with electric lights in supposed night
scenes, Japanese lanterns at garden parties, unique moonlight effects,
and similar things that will make for expense--even if they are

Finally, economy should always be the guide followed by the author in
writing his story. If, after it has been accepted, the director
chooses to stage it with more than ordinary care and expense, so much
the better. But the director and not the author will be the one to
decide how it is to be staged. If the story is good, it will not be
slighted in its production.



_1. The Work of the Censors_

From the time that you begin to write moving-picture plays, one
important fact must be borne constantly in mind: The National Board of
Censorship inspects and passes on all films before they are permitted
to be released, and this Board will not pass any subject it considers
objectionable. It is not our province to discuss the methods of the
censors in making decisions, though in some sections the local board
carries the censorship idea to extremes, even barring some subjects
that have already passed the National Board. It is safe to say,
however, that the folly of hacking to pieces a film portraying
Shakespeare's tragedy of "Macbeth," on the ground that it contained
too many scenes showing murder and other crimes, will soon become
apparent even to over-zealous police and other censors of certain
cities. As Mr. W. Stephen Bush writes in _The Moving Picture World_:
"A very small and a very short-sighted minority of motion picture
manufacturers, together with occasional lapses of National
Censorship," are responsible for the exceedingly silly and
presumptuous system now existent in some localities.

It is because of this "small and short-sighted minority" that we offer
this advice: Write as your conscience and a sense of decency as an
individual and as a good citizen dictate. The chances are that then
your photoplay will meet with no serious objection. Do not introduce a
crime-scene into your picture simply because when you saw a similar
scene in a photoplay it aroused a moment's thrill among the
spectators. The fact that it passed the National Board and the local
censorship committee--if your city has one--does _not_ mean that it is
the kind of picture the better class of theatre patrons want, and the
better class ought to be set up in your mind as the judges of all you
write. A bad example will not justify you in writing a play containing
objectionable scenes. The safe ground is the best ground because it is

The following list of features disapproved by the National Board of
Censorship gives a good general idea of the things that may be
regarded as under the ban, not in one or two special cities, but
throughout the country. It is not a copy of an official list, as, to
the best of our knowledge, none such is sent out; it is merely a draft
prepared by Mr. John F. Pribyl, then with the Selig Company, after he
had had a conversation on the subject with the Secretary of the
National Board, Mr. Walter Story, and courteously transmitted by Mr.
Pribyl to the authors of this volume.


_The Unwritten Law:_ The Board does not recognize the so-called
unwritten law as a justification for the killing of any being.

_Crime:_ 1. When crime is the obvious purpose of the picture--that is,
when the whole story hinges on the perpetrated crime.

2. When the crime is repulsive and shocks the spectator.

3. The shooting in "cold blood" of any being.

4. Any crime that portrays a unique method of execution.

_Suicide:_ The Board will not pass a picture in which there is a
suicide or any suggestion of a suicide, with incidents leading
thereto. The purpose of the Board is to prevent all suggestion of
self-destruction to those who are morbidly inclined.

_Burglary:_ There is no objection to a burglary scene in a picture so
long as there is no actual demonstration of the act of burglarizing;
for instance, the burglar may be shown entering through an open
window, but must not be shown in the act of "jimmying" the window. He
may be shown with his back to the audience, opening a safe and
extracting therefrom money or papers, but he must not be shown opening
the safe by any means known to the art of burglars.

_Vulgarity:_ All vulgarity and suggestion must be avoided. For
instance, flirtations with women who are unmistakably of easy virtue.
Letters making appointments with such women are objectionable, as is
any "rough-house" conduct with them.

_Mischief:_ The Board objects to pictures that will suggest to the
mind of youth acts of mischief, such as mutilation or destruction of
property for the purpose of perpetrating a joke on someone, especially
playing jokes on invalids or cripples.

_Lynching:_ Lynching is only permissible when the incident happens in
the days when Lynch Law was the only law, i.e., in the early days of
the Far West when the Vigilantes were the only effective means of
enforcing order.

_2. Other Objectionable Subjects_

The foregoing, of course, is not a complete list, as points are coming
up continually. For instance, scenes showing kidnapping are forbidden
by the police of many cities, and the introduction of that form of
crime into a film story is frowned upon by the National Board. The
point is that scenes of crime and violence are not absolutely barred,
nor are offenses against the moral law, but where permitted these must
not be presented offensively, and they must be _essential_ to the
story, rather than the _purpose_ of the play. This is a difficult
point which nothing but common sense and experience can perfectly

As an example, a story written about a murder or a robbery will not be
passed, but such an incident may be allowed in a story in which it is
not the leading feature. In any event, the incident must serve to
point a moral and not serve as a spectacle.

Another thing to remember is that--aside from the moving-pictures
exhibited in the various "regular" theatres--dozens of incidents
which are shown on the regular stage without being questioned in any
way, would never be allowed on the screen. This is partly due to the
fact that such a large percentage of the attendants of moving-picture
theatres are children and undiscriminating adults. The writer of
fiction entering the field of photoplay writing will do well to bear
this further fact in mind: the very incident that might be the means
of selling a story to a certain magazine might be the cause of a
rejection if introduced into a moving-picture plot. The photoplay has
standards all its own.

"One type of the unpleasant drama," says a writer in the _Photoplay
Magazine_, "is the kind showing scenes of drinking and wild
debauchery, where some character becomes drunk and slinks home to his
sickly wife, beats her, and then, finally, after reaching the last
stages of becoming a sot, suddenly braces up and reforms." The same
writer also remarks: "The only time that murder should be shown, _and
that very delicately_, is either in a detective drama or else in good
tragedy, where the removal of some character is essential to the
plot." "Every one of Shakespeare's tragedies tells of crime," says an
editorial in _The Moving Picture World_, "but does not exploit it, and
never revels in the harrowing details to produce a thrill."

It is not to be denied that careless and unthinking directors are
responsible for a good deal of what is objectionable on the screen. At
the same time--and this is especially true of comedy subjects--the
director is merely, as a rule, carrying out the author's
_suggestions_, if not his actual directions. The best way is not to
give the director the opportunity to adopt objectionable
features--leave even questionable incidents out of your photoplay.

For example, the elopement is legitimate moving-picture material,
provided it is not introduced in such a way as to instill mischief
into the minds of young men and women. At least one picture was
produced a year or so ago which showed two high-school girls eloping
with a couple of young rakes who in another part of the photoplay
"registered" that they were by no means the kind of young men who
would ever have received the sanction of the girls' parents to marry
their daughters. Such a picture may have been conceived innocently
enough, but as a subject that would be shown to thousands of young
people all over the world it was decidedly deserving of censure. And
yet some of the very incidents that served to make the picture doubly
objectionable in the eyes of grown people, especially fathers and
mothers, might have been the result of the director's unthinkingly
adding certain scenes that served to portray young men in a bad
light--incidents which were not even thought of by the author when he
planned his picture of a youthful escapade. We sympathize with the
lovers when Dorothy's father refuses to let her marry Jack, to whom
she is plainly devoted. But when, in another scene, we see Jack
wasting his time in pool-rooms or lounging in a saloon, we give the
father credit for being a good judge of character, and not simply a
harsh and stubborn guardian.

Writers should remember that even though a film is passed by the
National Board, if it gets into a city in which the local censorship
board objects to one or two scenes, these scenes will be literally cut
out for exhibition in that city. Afterwards, they may be put back; but
if this happens in several communities, the film is likely to be
shortened by many feet, since in cutting and re-splicing each cut
means the loss of at least two "frames," or pictures, and even more if
the operator does not know his business--not to mention the loss of
the actual scenes cut out. Suppose that two or three of a writer's
"strong" scenes are cut when his picture is shown--in Detroit, for
instance--the result on the screen is more likely to become an
illogical and incoherent jumble than the powerful "drama with a punch"
he had intended it to be. But "Censorship realizes," says Mr. A.W.
Thomas, in the _Photoplay Magazine_, "as does every editor and author,
that morality is to be desired, and to this end, crime or suggestion
of crime is presented, as a rule, to convey the moral. 'Crime for
crime's sake' is to be condemned. Sensationalism and forbidden themes
are seldom seen nowadays."

Aside from murder and suicide, why is it that so many young authors
imagine that to be strong a story must have at least one violent or
tragic death-scene? That there are hundreds of gripping stories,
pictures with the biggest kind of "punch," in which no death or
suggestion of death is shown, is well-known to every photoplay patron
whose mind and heart are in good working order. And yet editors are
every day returning scripts in which a murder, a suicide, a death as
the result of a duel, or a death arising from disease or accident, is
shown--all for no other reason than that the writer imagines he is
thereby producing a strong drama.

_3. Depressing Dramas_

Death in a picture is neither undesirable nor out of place--_provided
it is necessary to the proper and inevitable development of the plot_.
But the mistaken idea that to snuff out a human life in a thrilling or
a heart-rending manner, when there is really no logical necessity for
it, makes a picture either strong or dramatic is responsible for
scores of unaccepted scripts. Yet it would not be well to try to apply
to all picture stories Mr. George Cohan's motto, "Always leave them
laughing," for, as every intelligent exhibitor knows, and as a certain
producer once said, "they come to weep as well as to laugh." The point
that seems to have escaped many young writers is this: There is very
often a more decided, a more convincing, and a far more welcome,
"punch" in a scene which shows the saving of a human life than there
is in one which shows a death, even of the most unworthy character in
the cast. To have your villain nursed back to life by the man whom he
has so persistently and cruelly persecuted, and then to have him show
the change of heart that one would expect in him in the circumstances,
will be far more dramatic and gripping in the eyes of an intelligent
audience than to have your hero "hurl the black-hearted ruffian to
his doom" over a cliff a thousand feet high.

There is a distinction, with a very decided difference, between the
picture that fills the spectators with gloom and the one that simply
allows them to have what many women would call "a good cry." "It is a
great thing to be able to lift the spectators out of their seats with
a big, gripping melodrama," remarks Mr. Sargent, "but it is a far more
creditable thing to send them home with a tear in their eyes while a
smile hovers about their lips."

_4. The Use of Deadly Weapons_

It is understood, of course, that the use of guns, knives, and other
weapons is seldom objected to by the censors when they are employed in
a historical picture, or one that shows pioneer life. The trouble is
that some young writers, knowing that they are granted more license in
this direction when doing "Western stuff," make the mistake of abusing
this liberty. Mr. R.R. Nehls, of the American Film Company, says: "The
most noticeable fault with manuscripts dealing with Western life is
the natural inclination to run too much to gun play, stagecoach
robberies, etc. Please remember that we do not wish to distort
conditions in the great West--rather we seek to portray it as it
really exists today."

Mr. Nehls, it will be noticed, says "the great West ... as it really
exists today." It should be apparent to any writer that in turning out
stories of the present-day West there is even less excuse for
promiscuous gun-play than in a story, say, of California in the days
of the Forty-Niners. But Indian massacres, soldier warfare, Indian and
cowboy fights, usually come under the head of "historical" subjects
and are therefore permissible.

_5. Plays Offensive to Classes of Patrons_

It seems scarcely possible that any intelligent photoplay writer would
introduce into one of his stories an incident calculated to offend the
religious or political faith of any patron, and yet in the past
different pictures of this kind have been the cause of more than one
unthinking moving-picture theatre manager's losing some of his best
patrons. People as a rule have no objection to being preached to in a
mild and entertaining way when they go to a picture show, but they do
object to having their feelings hurt. A man who is over-fond of drink
may sit through a play on the screen in which the evil results of
intoxication are depicted and come away filled with a determination to
reform his way of living, but the man who after paying his admission
is asked to sit through five or more reels of film almost every foot
of which is a shock to his religious or his political sensibilities
will come away filled only with the determination to avoid that
theatre in the future, if not, indeed, to eschew moving-pictures

During 1911 and the early part of 1912 several pictures were released,
both by European and American manufacturers, which were so objected to
by Roman Catholic picture-patrons that not only were they suppressed
but the whole film-manufacturing industry was aroused and put on its
guard against producing more pictures of this kind. Here is a rule of
photoplay writing that you must not violate: Do not offend the
religious beliefs of a _single patron_ if you wish to retain the good
will of the editors and manufacturers. And have you stopped to think
how broad that statement really is? Have you taken into consideration
the many different nationalities, with their widely different creeds
and religious convictions, which see the pictures daily put upon the
market? As one critic says: "The photoplay film goes to Europe and
Australia and South Africa. Some of them even get to China; so you can
realize that what may seem foolish to you may be sacred to someone
else, and exhibitors have to be careful."

To say that you must be careful not to write stories that will be
likely to arouse the ire of certain photoplay patrons because of the
way a political theme is handled does not mean that you cannot
introduce political themes at all. If, for instance, you have a
particularly good suffragist story--one which contains both heart and
human interest--there is little doubt that it would sell. Several such
pictures have been shown in the past year or two. Or if you have a
story in which the leading male character is a Socialist, it may be
appreciated by many photoplay-goers without giving offense to those
whose views do not coincide with the hero's. But, to quote the editor
of _The Coming Nation_, stories are not wanted "where the hero arises
and makes a soap-box speech on Socialism, converting all by-standers."
And at all times you must keep in mind that, no matter what political
theme you exploit in your story, heart-interest must predominate if
you wish it to sell--another way of saying that unless you are sure
that you have a very strong and unusual story, it is best to leave out
politics. That form of journalism which is best known as muck-raking
is also out of place in the pictures.

Few films, however, outside of the sectarian subjects which were the
cause of so much disturbance a year or so ago, have given displeasure
to so many people as those--fortunately, they have not been
many--which revealed and held up to the public the secret and dark
sides in the lives of famous men and women of history. "There are some
things that are sacred," says a writer in _The Moving Picture World_,
"even from the hand of the most circumspect of picture makers." It is
a source of regret that even a shadow of reproach should be cast upon
distinguished men, particularly when the question of blame is
debatable, as when, for instance, a picture portraying the love affair
between Sir John Millais, the artist, and Ruskin's wife, was actually
produced by a well-known company.

No matter what the opportunity to produce what seems to you to be a
strong or interesting story, never offend against good taste. "Plays
that antagonize the finer element in an audience," says Mr. Louis
Reeves Harrison, "had better never be shown at all. There is nothing
funny in what is cruel, though vulgar brutality in a play may get a
laugh from a few who have not yet emerged from primitive egoism."

That last sentence should constantly be borne in mind.

A certain film, "Adrift," released back in 1912, showed an incident
that in real life would have been impossible. The rejected suitor of a
woman who is afterwards seen on the downward path seeks to relieve his
lonely existence by the adoption of a child. Because a certain little
girl in an orphan asylum bears a striking resemblance to the woman he
has loved and lost, he decides to adopt her. And he does; they are
seen leaving together, the child being turned over to its new guardian
in the most off-hand way imaginable. Of course, later, the child,
having grown to womanhood, falls in love with and marries her
guardian; but in real life how little chance there would be of a
foundling institution's giving one of its girl charges over to a young
bachelor in this informal manner, if, indeed, he were allowed to adopt
her at all. Of course, it is not always possible to say whether the
script for such a picture was the work of an outside writer or whether
it was written by the director himself. But it sometimes happens that
a picture _is_ produced _because_ it was written by the director
himself, whereas the same story, sent to the editor by an outside
writer, would be returned with a warning to avoid similar scenes or
situations in the future.

The difference between the photoplay and prose fiction, or even the
regular drama, is illustrated by the so-called problem plays and
novels. These are acceptable mainly because their themes can be
explained from every point of view, and treated in a manner that
renders them less objectionable, when skillful dialogue and discussion
are used in telling the story, than if they were to be acted in
pantomime. Besides, to give the same story in motion pictures would
necessitate the use of more leaders and other inserts than would be
practicable, even in a feature picture, unless the director were to
risk offending the public, if not the Censorship Board, by putting on
scenes that, insufficiently explained, would be far too risqu� for the
photoplay stage. Furthermore, when there are so many good, pleasant,
and interesting themes to choose from, why elaborate what is
unpleasant or morally objectionable?

_6. Themes Unsuitable to the Producing Company_

In the chapter on the limitations of the photoplay stage we have
already said something about the inadvisability of calling (in your
scenario) for elaborate snow-and rain-storm effects. But of course it
is another matter to plan stories with winter or with summer
backgrounds. Take into consideration that most of the Eastern
companies, once the winter season is at hand, look for stories that
may be done mostly in the studios, with interior settings. If the
company has a branch studio in California or in Florida--facts which
you can easily learn from the trade publications--they will very
probably take suitable stories calling for outdoor scenes. As the
winter season approaches its end you begin to offer scripts that call
for exterior scenes, though, of course, there are some scenes which
it would not be possible to do until summer is well advanced.

It is impossible here to lay down any exact rules for submitting to
any company; you must be guided by your good judgment and your
acquired knowledge of how the company to which you submit your scripts
has its field-forces distributed. But in order to make scripts
acceptable for production by a company that has a field-force working,
say, in the Adirondacks, it is necessary to get your stories to them
in good time. Therefore, post yourself concerning the movements of the
various companies, and when you learn that a certain concern has a
field-company in the West Indies, send them the best script you have
or can write, suited to the locality in which they are working. If it
is accepted, you may be sure that the editor will be very glad to keep
you informed as to how long they are going to stay. In that way you
will avoid sending to a company a story with a Jamaican background
when the field-company has been moved to the Delaware Water Gap

_7. Hackneyed Themes_

Here is a list of subjects no longer wanted by the editors--unless the
theme is given a decidedly new twist--because they have become
hackneyed from being done so often. Many such lists have been printed
in the various motion-picture trade-papers and the different magazines
for writers. We give the tabooed themes that have so far been listed,
and others drawn from different sources. A careful study of this list
may save you from wasting your time writing a story that has already
been done--perhaps two or three times, in one form or another--in
every studio.

(1) The brother and sister, orphaned in infancy, parted by adoption
and reunited in later life. They fall in love, only to discover the
blood relationship.

(2) The little child stolen by gypsies, and restored to her family in
later life, generally by means of a favorite song.

(3) The discharged workman who goes to do injury to his former
employer, but who performs some rescue instead and gets his job back.

(4) The poor man who attends a fashionable dinner. He conceals in his
clothing delicacies for his sick wife. A ring or other valuable is
lost. He alone of the party refuses to be searched. The valuable is
found and his story comes out.

(5) The man who assumes his brother's crime for the sake of the girl
he loves, and who, he thinks, loves the brother.

(6) The child who reunites parted parents or prevents a separation.

(7) Baby's shoes. Edison, Vitagraph, Universal and other companies
have worked out all the sentiment attached to them. Bannister Merwin,
Robert E. Coffey and other authors have reunited separated couples by
means of baby's shoes. Don't do it any more.

(8) Two suitors for the hand of a girl. They go to one of the parents
to decide, or she gives them a common task to perform. One wins by
foul means. He is found out, and she marries the other.

(9) The convict who escapes and robs an innocent man of his clothes,
thereby causing another to appear temporarily as the jail-bird.

(10) The story of the girl's name and address written on the egg which
is relegated to cold storage for twenty years, then to be discovered
by a love-lorn man who seeks out the writer, who by this time has at
least one unromantic husband and a brood of children.

(11) The pathetic "Mother" play in which Thanksgiving and pumpkin pies
tug hard at the heart-strings.

(12) The play in which the rich crippled child is contrasted with the
poor strong child, and in which the two are brought together and
exchange confidences--and money.

(13) The husband jealous of his wife's brother, whom he has never

(14) The burglar who breaks into a house, to be confronted by his own
child, who has been adopted by the family.

(15) The policeman who calls on the cook and removes his hat and coat,
which are used by another.

(16) The child who reunites parents and children separated through an
unapproved marriage.

(17) The child who redeems the criminal or who saves the discouraged
from the downward plunge.

(18) The employee who gets an interest in the business, and his
employer's daughter, either with or without opposition from the
foreman or the junior partner.

(19) The bad small boy.

(20) The sheriff who is rescued by the outlaw and who later allows him
to escape, or prevents his being lynched.

(21) The revenue officer who falls in love with the moonshiner's
daughter, and who is forced to choose between love and duty.

(22) The Southern boy who enlists in the Federal army, and is cast out
by his father for so doing. Or the young Northerner who, acting as a
Federal spy, falls in love with a Southern girl, the daughter of a
Confederate officer. There are dozens of variations of the Civil War
"brother against brother" plot, but all have been done so often that,
unless you can give such a theme a decidedly new "twist," it is much
better not to send it out. And note that merely to give the old theme
a "Great War" setting is _not_ to render it more acceptable.

(23) Stories requiring too much trick photography, and stories based
upon "love pills," "foolish powders," and other "influences."

"Editors and public tired long ago of the poor boy whose industry at
last brought him the hand of his employer's daughter; the pale-faced,
sweet-eyed young thing whose heroism in stamping out a fire enabled
her to pay off the mortgage; the recovery of the missing will; the
cruel step-mother; answering a prayer which has been overheard; the
strange case of mistaken identity; honesty rewarded; a noble revenge;
a child's influence; and so on to a long-drawn-out end."[26]

[Footnote 26: J. Berg Esenwein, _Writing the Short-Story_.]

In avoiding trite subjects the surest teachers are common sense, a
wide reading, the constant study of the photoplays seen on the screen,
a friendly critic, and the printed rejection slip. _And do not forget
this most important point_: It is not so much the time-worn _theme_
that makes a story hackneyed as it is the threadbare _development_ of
the theme. A new "twist," a fresh surprise, coming as the climax to an
old situation, may redeem its hackneyed character. But when you can
combine a fresh theme with a new treatment you have reached the apex
of originality. Time spent in working on unhackneyed lines will save
you many later heartaches.

_8. Inconsistent Situations_

A word or two concerning inconsistencies in film stories. While the
inconsistencies and absurdities occasionally seen on the screen are
often traceable to the director alone, the writer must do his share
toward eliminating what is incorrect or out of place. Take for
instance the Red Cross in war-pictures. The introduction of the Red
Cross into American Civil War pictures was something that one of the
present writers had commented upon and criticized two or three years
before Mr. Herbert Hoagland, of Path� Fr�res American company, wrote
his helpful little book on the technique of the photoplay[27], but,
since Mr. Hoagland puts it so comprehensively in that work, what he
says is quoted here:

"In a Civil War story the scenario called for a field hospital with
the Red Cross flag flying from a staff. Well, the Red Cross wasn't
organized until the closing year of the war, and then it was done in
Switzerland. The Southerners and the Yankees never saw this emblem of
mercy _during the whole four years of strife."_

[Footnote 27: Herbert Case Hoagland, _How to Write a Photoplay_.]

Following the foregoing paragraph in his book, Mr. Hoagland speaks of
another script in which an officer in Confederate uniform is informed
by a courier--in Confederate uniform--that war had been declared
between the North and the South. "But," the Path� censor of scripts
remarks, "there was no gray uniform of the Confederacy before the
C.S.A. was formed!"

As one critic has remarked, "Screen credit for the author may not
bring him the credit for which he is looking." In other words, if the
director bungles a scene or allows some historical or other inaccuracy
to creep into the picture, the blame may be placed by the unthinking
spectator on the author--or even, in case of the picture's being an
adaptation of a novel, on the writer who prepared the continuity, or
scenario. Thus, while what Mr. Hoagland wrote was written in 1912, the
Red Cross flag was seen waving bravely in Paralta's "Madame Who?",
produced in 1918, and we feel sure that neither Mr. Harold MacGrath,
who wrote the novel, nor Mr. Monte M. Katterjohn, the staff-writer
who wrote the scenario, was responsible for the error.

So it will be seen that the photoplaywright may easily find himself
under the fire not only of the professional critic, but also of the
lay patron and of his brother writers. Do not, therefore, risk
anything that may, so to speak, make it easier for the director to "go
wrong." To quote Davy Crockett's motto, "Be sure you're right; then go

As an example of what may happen if you fail to observe this warning,
consider the Vitagraph release, "A Wasted Sacrifice," referred to in
the previous chapter.[28] The big "punch" in this story, as already
pointed out, was where the young squaw steps on the concealed
rattlesnake. Women in the audience screamed; men felt the proverbial
"cold chill" run down their spines. Then came the climax, in which the
young Westerner, hoping to save the life of the papoose, takes it away
from the dead mother and hurries back to meet the doctor-sheriff who
is pursuing him with the posse. The doctor tells him that the child is
dead; his sacrifice--from which the story derives its title--has been
unnecessary. The poison, drawn from the breast of the stricken woman
by the nursing child, has killed the baby. A real "punch," indeed! But
wait. A prominent physician in an Eastern city writes to the producing
company protesting that it is impossible for a child to draw poison
into its system in the manner described. And the physician _knows_!
In other words, what happened in the picture could not happen in real
life. The backbone of the plot has been broken! Seven in ten people
might not know the difference; they would never question the
probability of the scene. The other three in ten _would know_, and,
seeing your name on the film, would put you down as a first-class
"nature faker," or else as a very careless and badly informed writer.
And remember that even though the director may be the one most to
blame for not taking the trouble to verify the action introduced into
your story before putting it on, _you_ will be the one blamed by those
in the studio, and your next story will undoubtedly be looked at
askance, and probably rejected.

[Footnote 28: See synopsis in Chapter VIII.]



"With inventiveness and imagination the most commonplace, the
everyday-life subject, such as the ills and cares we have to bear,
becomes, by a proper exposition of human nature under those
conditions, a story both entertaining and instructive. But
_entertaining_ first, instructive second; to _try_ to be instructive
is to cease to be entertaining.

"The strength of a story consists in the eloquence, vividness,
and sincerity with which a given problem in human life or
character is presented. Human nature is made up of all sorts of
traits--selfishness, cupidity, self-sacrifice, courage, loyalty. All
life is made up ... of a compromise between elements in the struggle
for happiness. These elements make for the story, happiness being the
chief factor for which humanity is searching."

Though written for short-story writers, these words from an article by
Mr. Floyd Hamilton Hazard are so true, and so applicable to the
writing of photoplays, that we reproduce them here.

Substantially similar ideas were advanced by Mr. Daniel Frohman, the
theatrical impresario, in an interview in the New York _Sun_, and no
one will doubt the close relationship which exists between the
general principles of plot-structure as applied to the "legitimate"
drama and to the photoplay.

We may now see the first big element in all vitally dramatic themes:

_1. The Human Appeal_

"Your script," wrote a certain editor in returning a young writer's
photoplay, "needs to be introduced to the 'H.I.' twins--Heart Interest
and Human Interest. Those two elements are responsible for the sale of
more manuscripts than anything else with which the writer has to do."

In choosing a theme for your photoplay, then, constantly bear in mind
the great truth that, no matter how original, how interesting, or how
cleverly constructed your plot may be, it will be sadly lacking unless
it contains a goodly percentage of one or both of these desirable
qualities. The frequently-quoted formula of Wilkie Collins, "Make 'em
laugh, make 'em cry, make 'em wait," simply sums up the proper
procedure when you set out to win the interest and sympathy of the
spectators. "The greatest aid in selling scripts is the injection of
the human-interest bits. Every effective bit of business concisely
told helps the sale because it helps the editor," Mr. Sargent remarks
in one of his criticisms. "Reach your readers' hearts and brains,"
says Arthur S. Hoffmann, editor of _Adventure_, in _The Magazine
Maker_. And then, after citing the dictum of Wilkie Collins, he adds:
"Make 'em hate, like, sympathize, think. Give them human nature, not
merely names of characters."

When all is said, you can hope to reach the minds of the masses only
by first reaching their hearts.

_2. Writing for All Classes_

Notwithstanding the great advances in the art of moving-picture
production during the last few years, and the corresponding
improvement in the film-stories shown, the great mass of photoplay
patrons are still, as they always were, of the middle class. Better
pictures have gradually drawn into the picture theatres a more highly
educated type of patron, but very few exhibitors would stay in
business if the middle-class spectators were to discontinue their
attendance. The average working man can take his little family to the
picture theatre, say once a week, for fifty cents, whereas it would
cost him about that sum for one poor seat in a first-class regular
theatre. Hence the immense popularity of the picture theatre, and
hence too the necessity for effort on the part of the theatre manager
to please _all_ his patrons.

First, of course, he must please the majority, but he must by no means
overlook the tastes of the minority. Every man, as the wise proprietor
knows, enjoys most what he understands best. The plain people are not
necessarily the unintelligent ones, for the working man can both
understand and enjoy pictured versions of Dante's _Inferno_ and
Sophocles' _Oedipus Rex_, but he will feel more at home while watching
a picture of contemporary American life; and who shall say, provided
the photoplay be a good one, that he is not receiving as much profit
therefrom as from the film version of either of the classics!

The really successful photoplaywright is nothing if not versatile.
Unless he is content to have a very limited market, he more than any
other type of professional writer must be able to write for all

Furthermore, he must be able to write on a variety of themes. The
photoplaywright who can produce only Western dramas, or stories
dealing with slum life, will find his sales averaging very low as
compared with the author who can construct a society drama, a Western
story, a photoplay of business life, a story of the Kentucky
mountains, or still other types. To be able to write photoplays that
will appeal to every class of photoplay patron is the supreme test of
the photoplaywright.

These words of a celebrated French novelist and playwright, Ludovic
Hal�vy, are worthy of attention:

"We must not write simply for the refined, the blas�, and the
squeamish. We must write for that man who goes there on the street
with his nose in his newspaper and his umbrella under his arm. We must
write for that fat, breathless woman whom I see from my window, as she
climbs painfully into the Od�on omnibus. We must write courageously
for the _bourgeois_, if it were only to try to refine them, to make
them less _bourgeois_. And if I dared, I should say that we must write
even for fools."

_3. A High Quality of Imagination Demanded_

Another well-known French dramatist, Marcel Prevost, who is a
photoplaywright as well, in a recent issue of the Paris _Figaro_
replied to a question whether motion pictures are harmful to the
legitimate theatre, by stating that, while he likes the pictures,
their authors are lacking in imagination.

That there is a great deal of truth in what M. Prevost says seems to
be proved by the fact that when famous playwrights and best-selling
authors have supplied photoplay plots to the manufacturers, they have
been exceptionally well paid. We refer, of course, to stories
specially written for the photoplay stage, for when a film
manufacturer produces a story by a well-known fiction writer, which
originally appeared in novel or in short-story form, the manufacturer
does business with the author's publishers, unless the author has
specifically reserved for himself all dramatic rights--a practice
which, by the way, is becoming more and more general.

[Illustration: Arrangement of Electric Lights in a Photoplay Studio]

[Illustration: An Actor's Dressing Room in the Selig Studio]

An editorial in _Motography_ says: "The best motion picture dramas
produced today are reproductions of literary classics. These films do
not achieve immortality; they merely further assure the immortality of
the original work. Why cannot a photodrama be produced that is fine
enough to live on its own merit--why must the picture always seem to
be secondary while literature and the drama continue to furnish the
primary motives?

"The answer lies in the peculiar requirements of photoplay
authorship. The writer of printed fiction is a master of _words_. He
revels in artful phrases and unique constructions. He woos immortality
not by his plots, but by his clever handling of words--his 'style'."
And then the editor goes on to say that the photodrama will become
great when it has developed its own great men. "The photoplay author
of fame," he says, "must be a specialist."

This also is true; but at the same time he must, as in any other
profession, first of all be a student. He must serve his
apprenticeship; and while he _is_ serving his apprenticeship he must
cultivate the imagination which M. Prevost declares to be so

Imagination cannot be developed by remaining in a rut. Experience is
not only the best teacher, but the very finest developer of thought,
and of a vivid and facile imagination. Thus constant practice causes
the building of plots to become a sort of second nature.

Granting that you have the technical skill to develop the plots you
evolve, the question which you have to answer is: What are the most
suitable themes for photoplays?

No one can give you such a list, though he may do what has been
attempted in another chapter--furnish a moderately full list of what
_not_ to choose as themes. Some general positive principles, however,
are important, and these are now to be considered.

_4. Write of What You Know_

The fact that the market is wide makes it the less excusable when a
writer courts rejection by attempting themes with which he is not
familiar. If you live on an Eastern or Middle-West farm, or in a small
town, remember that--especially between the months of May and
September--the film companies almost without exception are looking for
good stories of country life. Then why try to write stories of
business life in a large city, of society, of theatrical or circus
life, or even of the far West, until you have succeeded with a few
stories that might easily be set within a short distance of where you
live? Correct and faithful local color, at times, has much to do with
selling a story, though you always need a good idea and a clever plot.

The same rule, naturally, should be followed by the young writer whose
home is in a large city. If you can turn out a good, original story
truthfully portraying New York's East Side, Broadway, or Wall Street;
Chicago's "Loop" district; the social and political life of
Washington, or any other such background, there is an editor waiting
to purchase that story.

All this is _not_ to say that you must write only of things which are,
or have been, within the range of your personal experience. Many a
writer has successfully built his story on well-verified second-hand
knowledge. If you are not familiar with the subject at first-hand, and
cannot get direct, personal information, get the knowledge from books
and periodicals, _but get it exactly--squeeze the last drop of
information_ from the subject. If there is no library in your town,
search your own as well as borrowed books and magazines until you find
at least enough correct data to enable you to turn out a script that
will not betray second-hand knowledge. Jules Verne had only indirect
knowledge of most of the countries which he depicted, yet to read his
books one would believe that he had travelled everywhere. Because he
had read up on and investigated his subjects he was able to produce
such thoroughly convincing, and always interesting, books as "A Tour
of the World in Eighty Days," "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,"
and "The Clipper of the Clouds," in which he wrote, and apparently
authoritatively, of almost every country on the globe.

Until your work is pretty well known by the editors, it is just as
well not to attempt to write historical dramas. But if you do write
them, the greatest care must be taken to adhere closely to facts,
especially in composing scripts in which famous historical personages
figure. Three or four years ago a certain company that made a
specialty of two- and three-part historical, Western, and military
dramas, was called to account by an army officer in Washington for
having brought out a photoplay of pioneer life which held up a
well-known officer of the United States army in a rather bad light by
making him responsible for an act of great injustice to a famous
Indian chieftain. The author of the photoplay--whether a staff-writer
or a free lance--was doubtless unaware that he was doing an injustice
to the memory of a gallant and kind-hearted American soldier; but,
however the picture came to be written, it elicited the strong
disapproval of someone _who knew_, and who did not hesitate to tell
the makers that a mistake had been made.

Manufacturers have to be careful; they cannot afford to offend anyone.
Moreover, the motion picture has come to be looked upon as a great
educational factor, and no picture can be truly educational that is
not strictly accurate. If you want to write historical photoplays
after you have become known to the editors, very well; but be sure
that you adhere closely to historical facts. It is far better to spend
a week in the reference room of the public library than to have to
suffer a rebuke from a manufacturer, even though the director be also
to blame for not being familiar with the subject before attempting to
make the picture. And the loss of your prestige may prove harder to
bear than the rebuke.

_5. Write on What Interests You_

Next in importance to writing on a subject with which you are familiar
is to write about that with which you are in sympathy. You cannot
interest your audience unless you yourself are interested in your
theme when the story is written. If you would arouse fire in your
spectators you must first feel fire within you. To write a story
merely because it is timely is not to do yourself justice. Suppose,
for instance, it is about time for a new president to go into office.
It may occur to you that to send in a script bearing upon that timely
subject will be a sure way of "coaxing a check from the editor." You
have some slight knowledge of politics and of Washington life, but
you are not particularly interested in either. You are, however,
anxious to sell a script, so you read up on the subject and work up a
photoplay. The chances are that you will continue to own the script,
for you did not put the snap into it that you would have done had you
been both familiar with your theme and genuinely interested in it.

_6. Write on Unusual Themes_

Many a writer is deterred from developing an unusual theme for fear
that no company will be found to produce it. Enough has been said on
this subject to warn the photoplaywright against writing impracticable
scenes. But with this limitation in view every effort should be made
to strike into untravelled fields. In a day when most of the big
manufacturers have two or three, or even more, field-companies
operating in different parts of the country, when almost every maker
of films has an Eastern and a Western organization, and when several
companies have a "globetrotting" troupe working in some distant part
of the world, there is very little chance of a thoroughly good and
desirable photoplay plot's failing to find acceptance, provided it is
intelligently marketed. No matter where you may live, no matter what
you may write of, if it is good it will sell--_some_ editor is waiting
for it. But you must find that editor.

_7. Write Stories Requiring Only Action_

In selecting your theme, ask yourself if either dialogue or
description may not be really required to bring out the theme
satisfactorily. If such is the case, abandon the theme. The
comparatively few inserts permitted cannot be relied upon to give much
aid--the chief reliance _must_ be pantomime.

For this reason it is inadvisable to write detective stories, unless
you have a plot that can be easily and convincingly told in action.
The average fictional story of this class depends more upon dialogue
and the author's explanation of the sleuth's methods of deduction than
upon rapid and gripping action. In a fictional detective story, the
crime usually has happened before the story opens. In a film story,
this would be impracticable, unless a long explanatory insert were
introduced either before or after the first scene or two. But long
inserts are not wanted, even in multiple-reel stories. Since events in
a photoplay must appear in chronological order, you cannot depict
murder without showing the murderer in the act, and that will soon
bring you counter to the censors.

Aside from the consideration of the censorship is this point: in a
fictional detective story the real murderer is not revealed, in most
cases, until the last chapter. In the photoplay, on the other hand, it
would be necessary to show the spectator almost at the first who the
real murderer is--the other characters in the picture, and not the
spectators, being the ones in doubt as the story progressed.

This is a difficult condition to bring about effectively. Still, it
can be done, and there is a chance for a writer who can produce
logical and interesting detective scripts, as there is always a
market for any uncommon theme that is both original and handled with
technical correctness.

An author who is anonymous has said "While the story may have for a
plot a subject involving complication, or mystery, each scene must be
easily understood, or the audience, taxed by trying to fathom motives
or emotions with which it is unfamiliar, or with which it is not in
sympathy, loses the thread of the story, and consequently pronounces
the photoplay lacking in interest. Remembering the brevity of the film
drama, compactness and simplicity in every feature are to be desired.
It does not require a great cast of characters nor unusually
spectacular scenic work to produce the big idea. The depths of human
woe and suffering, or the very heights of joy and attainment, can be
pictured in a flash. The dramatic story should consist of a strong and
preferably unique plot, simple and direct in its appeal to the heart,
and expressed or conveyed to the audience by a logical sequence of
episodes or incidents, all having direct bearing on the story, and
each one of sufficient strength to hold the attention of the
spectators. The story must be human, the characters and their motives
and actions human and true to life. _The drama is perfect as it
reflects a correct imitation of nature._"

_8. Write Mainly of Characters That Arouse the Spectator's Sympathy_

Each hero must have his opposite, as each great cause must have its
protagonist and antagonist. Indeed, as we have seen, it is this
warfare that makes all drama possible. But it will not do to glorify
the doer of evil deeds and thus corrupt the sympathies of the
spectators. The hero and not the "villain" must swing the sympathies
of those who see. Be certain, therefore, that pity for, and even
sympathy with, a wrong-doer is not magnified, through the action of
your play, into admiration by the onlookers, for in the photoplay as
in the legitimate drama the leading character may be a great offender.
This way danger lies, however, and you must walk with extreme caution,
or the censors "will catch you--if you don't watch out!"--to say
nothing of the lashings of your own conscience.

Without repeating what was said in Chapter XVI regarding the
introduction of crime into film stories, we would impress upon the
photoplaywright the necessity for always having a fully sufficient,
though not necessarily a morally justifiable, motive for any crime
that is introduced in a story; besides, the introduction of a crime
must be necessary to the action and not a mere spectacular scene. But
remember that it is not sufficient to avoid "crime without motive;"
the motive must be one which will, after the crime has been committed,
leave no doubt in the mind of the spectator that the crime was
virtually inevitable, if not absolutely unavoidable. If it is the hero
of the story who commits the crime, the very greatest care must be
taken to show that he had a really powerful motive for his act, if he
is to have the sympathy--though not the approval--of the audience
after yielding to temptation.[29] This, of course, does not refer to
deeds of violence which are really not only excusable but actually
right, in the circumstances--like the killing of an attacking
desperado in self-defense.

[Footnote 29: To make this basic motive clear, natural and unforced is
what we call good motivation in fiction and drama.]

As an example of the point we are trying to emphasize, take a story
like "The Bells," the play in which Sir Henry Irving appeared so
often. Mathias the innkeeper, who later became the Burgomaster, was a
character, who, by reason of Irving's superb art, won and held the
sympathies of the audience from the start. Yet after Mathias had
murdered the Polish Jew and robbed him of his belt of gold, even the
art of Irving could not have made us sympathize with the character had
we not been shown that Mathias was urged on to his crime--a crime for
which he was constantly tortured ever afterward, and which occasioned
his tragic death--by two very compelling motives. His primary motive
was the urgent need of money. But he had a two-fold need of money: he
had been notified by the landlord that he must pay his over-due rent
or be turned out of his home; and he had been told by the doctor that
unless he could immediately remove his sick wife to a milder climate
she would certainly die. Thus, impelled by the thought that only by
the speedy acquisition of sufficient money could he hope to save the
life of his wife, he commits the deed which he would never have
committed had his only motive been the necessity for raising money to
pay the rent. Mathias was esteemed by his neighbors as an honest man;
he was a man whose conscience smote him terribly when he was
contemplating the murder of the Jew; and after the crime had been
committed--fifteen years later, in fact--that same guilty conscience,
wracking his very soul, drove him on to his death.

Shakespeare's Macbeth is a character with whom we are forced to
sympathize measurably, because we know that he is not naturally a
criminal. Yet, after all, Macbeth is a man who--as Professor Pierce
has pointed out--"has been restrained in the straight path of an
upright life [only] by his respect for conventions." Mathias, on the
other hand, is not held in check by conventions; he is _essentially_
an honest man. He commits a crime, but what stronger motive could a
man have than the one that drove him on to its commission? And
yet--and this is the mistake that we wish to point out to the young
writer--seven years ago a certain company released "The Bells" as a
two-part subject, in which, according to the synopsis published in the
trade journals, Mathias's only motive for committing the most
detestable of all crimes was that he was behind in his rent! Even the
magazine that gave in fiction form the story of the picture failed to
mention what is brought out so strongly in the play--the innkeeper's
distress at the thought that his wife's life depended upon his being
able to raise the money to send her to the south of France without
delay. The author _mentioned_ that Mathias had a sick wife, but that
was all. The whole treatment of the story in fiction form, moreover,
was farcical, such names as "Mr. Parker" being intermingled with those
of the well-known characters, "Mathias," "Christian," and "Annette,"
while the wealthy, dignified Polish Jew was turned into a typical
East-side clothing merchant. The real fault lay with the producer who,
ignoring the great and pressing necessity that prompted Mathias's
crime, garbled the original plot to the extent of allowing the
innkeeper to murder the Jew because (according to the fiction-version
in the magazine) he needed one hundred and seventy-five dollars to pay
the rent! First, last, and all the time you must remember that your
story _is not_ a good story if the leading character is not, at all
times, deserving of the spectator's sympathy, even when his action is
not worthy of approval.

It is a matter for real regret to have to be compelled to state that,
in spite of the many artistic advances made in motion-picture
production during the past six or seven years, this most important
point was deliberately overlooked when the Path� Company made its very
fine feature-production of "The Bells" in the Fall of 1918. We say
"deliberately overlooked" because the writer who prepared the scenario
for this modern five-reel version had the same opportunity as had the
scenarioist who made the other adaptation, years ago, to read the
original stage-play and to introduce this most compelling motive for
Mathias's crime. If anything, the fault is more glaring in the Path�
production than in the older picture, for the wife is shown as a woman
in apparently perfect health, although naturally worried by the fact
that her husband's inability to raise the required amount of money may
result in their losing both their home and their means of livelihood.
All the fine acting of Mr. Frank Keenan as Mathias, and all the
wonderful scenic and lighting effects, were not sufficient to make us
lose sight of the fact that the ones responsible for the picture's
production had not given proper thought to the necessity for showing
that the innkeeper had an unusually compelling motive for taking the
life of and then robbing his guest. And, make no mistake, no matter
how fine the production may be in other respects, this sort of thing
is not overlooked by the intelligent, right-minded spectator of the

_9. The Theme and the Market_

With regard to what are known as "costume plays"--and what we say is
intended to apply to original stories, since it is never wise to
attempt an adaptation of a popular book or play, even though you are
armed with the right to do so, unless you have previously taken the
matter up with some producing company--there is, perhaps, as was
pointed out in Chapter XV, twice as much chance to sell such stories
as there was a few years ago, since today every company is doing
things in a much bigger way than in former years. But this must not be
construed as meaning that the different companies are simply looking
about for new ways to spend money. On the contrary, economy--sensible
economy--is becoming more and more the keynote of film production. In
every department, unnecessary expense is done away with. This applies
to both the purchasing and the producing of photoplays. Better prices
are being paid, yes; but stories calling for what appears to be
unnecessarily expensive settings or costuming are usually rejected.
That is why you may rest assured that no costume plays will sell
unless they have a strong and unusual story back of them. Again, by
"costume" plays we mean stories ranging all the way from Bible times
down to American Civil War times. What is regarded by the editor as a
costume play, also, may not be wholly that; it may be a story in which
only a few of the scenes are laid in a past age, as when, in the
Paramount production of "The Devil Stone," the heroine, in a series of
"visions," sees herself as the wicked Norse queen of centuries before,
and learns how the fatal emerald first came into her possession.

There is absolutely no way of knowing what company will be most likely
to buy a so-called costume play. If you honestly believe that you have
the material for an unusual story calling for settings or costumes of
other days--or even of our own day but of foreign lands--go ahead and
write a comprehensive synopsis of it. If you send it to a company
which asks for synopses only, you will be playing safe whether it
interests them or not. If, on the other hand, you plan to submit it to
a concern which likes to pass on a full script, with both synopsis and
scenario, you can send in the synopsis alone and explain that if they
are at all interested in _that_, you will submit the continuity of

As might be expected, stories of this kind are usually written in the
studio, because the staff-writer has the opportunity of finding out
just when and where the picture can be made, what types of male and
female players will be able to take part in it, and what special
effects he may include. Still, to repeat, many of the bars against
costume plays and stories calling for foreign and other hard-to-get
settings have been taken down in the last year or two; but the demand
for only strong, interesting stories is more insistent than ever, and
you must still observe the rule--which, it may be added, will never
change--of acquiring a thorough knowledge of the different markets if
you wish to sell your stuff regularly and to the best advantage.

Themes! They are everywhere. The pathetic, the tragic, the
humorous--countless admirable photoplays are to be drawn from these
sources. And the most encouraging thought is this: Given the same
basic idea for a plot, no two people will work it out in exactly the
same way. Individuality will make a difference. "Happiness," as Mr.
Floyd Hamilton Hazard has said, "does not always mean the same thing
to everybody. It means many different things to different people. It
is a theme upon which many varied tunes can be played."

In conclusion, we quote and warmly endorse this advice from Mr.
Herbert Hoagland, censor of photoplays for Path� Fr�res.

"Select for your theme an idea which embodies _good_ things. Avoid
anything coarse or suggestive. Make your stories clean, wholesome,
happy--a dainty love story, a romantic adventure, a deed
gloriously accomplished, a lesson well learned, an act of charity
repaid--anything of a dramatic nature which is as honest as daylight.
Good deeds are just as dramatic as wicked deeds, and clean comedy is
far and away more humorous than coarseness. Keep away from scenes of
brutality, degeneracy, idiocy or anything which may bring a poignant
pang of sorrow to some one of the millions of people who will see your
story in the pictures, unless the pang will be one of remorse for a
bad deed done or a good deed left undone. In a word, help the
film-makers produce films which will help those who see them, and make
the whole world a little better for your work."



Let it be remembered that the lines of division between the several
sorts of comedy are not sharply defined, for one often overlaps the
other; nor is a rigid adherence to type insisted upon by either
playwright or public--for example, on the regular stage we have
farce-comedy, and other hybrids.

_1. Types of Humorous Plays Distinguished_

_Comedy_, strictly, is a lighter, more refined, type of humor than
farce. It deals with those amusing situations which do, or may, happen
every day, without the introduction of the extravagant and the
unnatural. True comedy is distinctly probable. Its humor is the humor
of reality, however laughable it may be. It may press humor to an
extreme, but that extreme must never strain our credulity.

_Farce_ is essentially extreme. It deals with the absurd, the
ridiculous, not with the physically impossible. Though not in itself
probable, all its actions proceed just as though the basis on which it
is worked out were probable.

To illustrate both types, we may recall an extremely humorous comedy
situation which was worked out by Miss May Irwin some years ago in
"The Swell Miss Fitzwell." One of the characters had conspired with a
physician to deceive the former's wife by pretending to break his leg.
As a matter of fact he tumbles down stairs with an awful clatter and
the leg is actually broken. The doctor comes in, according to the
scheme, and, not knowing that the leg is broken, begins to twist it
with fine professional vigor. The victim howls and protests that he is
in agony, but the doctor merely whispers in a cheerful aside, "Keep it
up, you are playing your part beautifully!" And so the play goes on.

All this might easily have happened in real life, and the audience is
tickled--not to see a man apparently suffer, but at the humor of the
biter being bit. The very incongruity is the foundation of the
humor--incongruity, mingled with surprise.

But farce would not be content with twisting the leg, it would go to
any absurd extreme imaginable. Suppose, for example, that the doctor's
twisting of the victim's leg should so enrage him that he would leap
upon the doctor and bite the torturer's leg in the manner of a dog.
The wife, coming in, might think that her husband had hydrophobia, and
a whole train of farcical results might follow. We have all seen
unnatural yet uproariously funny situations to which such a
complication might lead in farce.

_Burlesque_ takes a well-known and often a serious subject and hits
off its salient points in an uproarious manner. One might burlesque
"Hamlet" by causing a red-nosed Prince of Denmark to do a juggling
act with "poor Yorick's" skull.

_Extravaganza_ deals with the unnatural and the impossible. The
super-human antics of the acrobatic buffoons in Hanlon's perennial
"Superba," and those of the Byrne Brothers in "Eight Bells," are
familiar examples.

_2. Comedy a Difficult Art_

A writer in one of the photoplay journals, advising writers who are
struggling to succeed, concludes by admonishing them either to avoid
stories which because of prohibited themes are likely to make them
unpopular with editors, or else to "try comedies."

It may be that this writer is one of those who have never tried to
write comedy scripts, or possibly he is one of the favored few who
have a special talent for humor. Whichever may be the case,
notwithstanding this well-meant advice, the truth is that the
thoroughly effective comedy script is the hardest of all to produce,
and this is proved by the fact that, no matter how many manufacturers
announce that they "will not be able to use any more Western, slum
life, or war stories for some time to come," they _never_ declare that
they are "over-stocked with good comedy scripts." There is _always_ a
market for a fine, clean comedy.

_3. Comedy Requires a "Full" Treatment_

But superior comedy scripts, we insist, are hard to write. One of the
less obvious reasons is that there are generally about twice as many
scenes in a comedy script as in any kind of dramatic story. This does
not mean, of course, that the comedy script is hard to write merely
because it takes longer to write it. The labor expended on its
mechanical preparation is trivial compared to the brain-work necessary
to the building of a story which, while having almost double the usual
number of scenes, must still display lively action, logical sequence,
and convincing (which in the case of comedy means probable) situations
from beginning to end.

Especially in comedy must each scene tell; hence there can be no
excuse for "writing in" a number of scenes which have no dramatic
value whatever, for that is palpable padding. True, you may have seen
many comedy subjects in which one or two fairly good ideas were
stretched out until you could almost picture the director kneeling in
front of the camera, stop-watch in hand and megaphone at lips, wearily
pleading: "Ginger up! Work fast! It will soon be over." Unfortunately,
there have been many such "funny" plays, and there will be more, for
the right kind of comedy is not to be had for the asking. The number
of scenes in a comedy photoplay arises from the necessity that the
action be brisk, scene follow scene rapidly, and the whole be played
from a full third to a half faster than is the case in a dramatic

To say that comedy requires a fuller script-treatment than is needed
for a dramatic subject does not mean that in writing comedy scripts
you should write in line after line of action that would only be
useful to give the director a few details which he could very well
think of himself. No matter what part of the script you are writing,
be constantly on the alert to avoid including non-essential details.
Take pains, of course, to show the director just what bit of by-play
it is that is responsible for a certain situation that will "get a
laugh," but do not be verbose, and do not go into tiresome details.
"It is a very easy matter, for a writer fired with enthusiasm, to

_4. Length of Comedy Photoplays_

Seemingly, the day of the split-reel comedy is past. A few years ago,
when one thousand feet was considered the proper length for the
average dramatic subject, a full-reel comedy was the exception. They
ran from four hundred to six hundred feet, the remainder of the reel
being taken up with a scenic or other educational subject. Thus we had
what came to be known as "split reels," as we have previously
explained. Today, even the slap-stick comedies are produced in not
less than one full reel, and they usually run to two reels. On the
other hand, there are one or two comedy-producing companies which
adhere to the single-reel length for their light comedies of domestic

Far more than in writing dramatic scripts, you must be guided in
deciding the length of your comedy photoplay by the company to which
you are submitting. This entails taking a chance as to whether you
sell at all or not, in the event of your story's not being suitable
for the market at which you have aimed it. For example, those writers
who have both sold to and had scripts rejected by the editor who looks
after the wants of such a comedy team as Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew know
that if a script does come back from them it is seldom "placable"
anywhere else. For markets such as this, the fact that a synopsis only
is usually called for is a real benefit to the writer, saving him much
time and disappointment in the event of non-acceptance.

Another thing that experienced writers know is that certain of the
larger producers of slap-stick comedy are not in the market for
outside material. After being deluged with all kinds of "comedy"
stories for years, the Keystone Company finally found it necessary to
announce that nothing could be considered from free-lance writers, on
account of the peculiar nature of the comedies produced by them and
the necessity of having them written by inside writers who were
familiar with the studio, its players, and the surrounding possible

Thus, in its way, the market for comedy scripts or synopses is more or
less limited, and yet there is, as has been said, a good demand for
first-class humorous stories for the screen. One important rule to
keep in mind is that they should be, in every case, just as long as,
_but no longer than_, the idea that is back of them. You must never
pad a comedy plot, or even a comedy idea; to do so is fatal to the
attainment of artistically perfect results, if not to its acceptance
by the editor.

In writing dramatic stories, on the other hand, more freedom is
allowed. To be sure, here padding is bad also, but in a dramatic
subject the central idea is almost always big enough to justify one of
the several lengths to which screen dramas now run; but, largely
because comedy action is played so much faster than dramatic action,
you must firmly refuse to allow yourself to expand a humorous story by
even so little as a single scene beyond its logical and natural end.

Comedy ideas, perhaps more than any others, should be carefully
classified, and in classifying you should try to determine, from the
very first, the length to which that particular story ought to run.
Having once arrived at your decision, keep to it. It is
quality--clever situations and funny action--and not quantity that
counts in the writing of humorous photoplays. Most of the good comedy
themes have been worked over so often, either by the authors
themselves or by the director, that it requires considerable skill to
give them that much-desired new twist[30] that is necessary to make
them acceptable. In the writing of dramatic photoplays, a word or two
will often suggest the necessary "business" of a certain character,
but in comedy it is especially important that every action, every bit
of by-play, should be made to count; and for that reason it is
necessary to give each scene a much fuller treatment in the script
than would be necessary in describing dramatic action.

[Footnote 30: Treated in Chapter XIX.]

_5. Classes of Photoplay Comedy and Their Requirements_

While the written-and-spoken drama recognizes not only the four major
types of humorous plays already referred to, but several sub-types in
addition, there are only three general classes under which humorous
photoplays are usually grouped: (a) Comedy-Drama, (b) Light-Comedy and
(c) Farce.

Of the comedies, two kinds are in almost constant demand--the comedy
of society life, and the comedy of everyday life, with special
emphasis upon domestic scenes. In treatment, these two kinds may be
cast in any of the three foregoing forms, but usually they will adhere
to the principle of comedy, even when they may verge on farce, or take
on certain aspects of the more intense dramatic tone.

When writing photoplay comedies, remember always that comedy of
_action_ is more important than comedy of _idea_. That is, it is not
enough that you work up to a funny climax, but the action leading up
to the climax must be funny as well. A humorous idea underlying your
comedy is good, but unless this idea is constantly worked out through
humorous action, the effect is largely lost by its being too subdued.
In fact, the photo-comedy _cannot_ be purely the comedy of idea. On
the regular stage, most light-comedies succeed by reason of the bright
and humorous dialogue which the author puts into the mouths of the
players. Funny "business," and the by-play of the players, help, of
course, but the humorous lines of the piece are depended upon to make
it a success.

It is just the opposite in photoplay; dialogue (unless cut-in leaders,
taking the form of a speech made by one of the characters, may be
called "dialogue") is entirely absent, and humorous action and funny
situations must take its place.

The requirements of a comedy script are very definitely covered by Mr.
Sargent in the following, taken from his department in _The Moving
Picture World_:

"In photoplay ... the majority of the scenes must each have its own
comedy action while the narrative is advanced, and it is here that the
average writer of comedy falls short. If a scene is not naturally
funny, put some humor into it. Do not force the comedy action, but
invent something that is germane to the plot and natural to the
situation. If you can do this you can write comedy, but until you can
get a laugh in every scene you are not writing comedy, no matter how
funny the central idea may be. As a rule the central idea furnishes
the comedy for only one scene; not for the entire play. In comedy you
must play faster, work harder, and strive constantly for the natural,
unforced laughs. And remember that the editors go to vaudeville shows,
the same as you do. They know the old sketches and the whiskered
jokes. If they wanted them they would write them themselves."

The success of a comedy composition lies fundamentally in the novelty
of its plot, or in some new and interesting phase of an old situation;
it prospers in proportion to its interest-holding qualities, its
natural logic, its probability, and the constant humor of the
individual scenes and situations. There is a wide difference between
comedy and comic pictures, and the difference lies chiefly in that
comedy depends largely for its humor on the cleverness displayed in
the construction of the plot, whereas the comic picture is usually
merely a series of funny situations arising from one basic situation,
but having little or no plot. In the "comic," the scenes are loosely
connected, while the humor of the picture depends upon the uproarious
fun in each scene. These comic pictures, usually of the slap-stick
variety, would naturally be classed as farces; but even in photoplay
it is possible to produce a better and more natural brand of farce
than that which depends for its humor upon the silly antics of
different characters in a series of loosely connected scenes, which
have no logical or consistent plot.

There is steady demand for the unusual and genuinely humorous light
comedy--by which is meant the kind of photo-comedies that approximate
the legitimate plays usually employed as vehicles by Mr. John Drew and
Mr. Cyril Maude. They may treat of society, of business life, or of
life in the home, but on account of the light, airy, and subtly
humorous way in which the situations are developed they take far
higher artistic rank than may be accorded to farce. There is also a
good demand for comedy-dramas in which there is a strict regard for
dramatic values in handling the different scenes, and in following out
the plot, which has its serious elements, but in which the
comedy-element remains comedy from first to last.

The domestic comedies produced by Metro, featuring Mr. and Mrs. Sidney
Drew, of which we have already spoken, are so well known, and these
artists are so universally popular, that a word or two from Mr. Drew
on the subject of screen comedy should be interesting and instructive:

"Comedy is and always will be an amusing story humorously told," says
Mr. Drew. "If it _is_ a good story, well told, then it is a comedy,
but if it has no story or cannot be told humorously, then no amount of
bolstering will ever make it into a comedy. You may add a lot of
knockabout and perhaps get an acceptable farce, or you can write in
sensation and get travesty, but you cannot by these means change the
unfit into comedy, and the broad use of 'comedy' to apply to anything
intended to be diverting is a misuse of an ancient and honorable
word.... To my way of thinking comedy is first of all a good story. It
is a story and not merely an incident or a collection of incidents.
There must be a plot to obtain and hold the interest. This plot does
not necessarily require profound depths, but there must be a distinct
and clearly defined objective upon which the interest may be centred,
and the interest must arise from mental processes and not from mere
mechanical appeal.... Humorous action does not mean gross horseplay.
The action itself may not always be marked to be amusing. To take a
crude illustration, suppose that a character in the story is about to
thrash his ancient enemy. He feels so certain of victory that he
bribes the policeman on the beat not to interfere. Now he goes to the
field of battle and unexpectedly gets the worst of it. He is the first
to call for the police, and the scene flashes between the suborned
officer placidly smiling at the sounds of the affray and never
dreaming that it is his patron who is calling for aid. There is
nothing humorous in the spectacle of a policeman on a street corner.
In a comedy of incident he would have to suffer indignity to get a
laugh. In the comedy with a plot, the plot makes the action humorous.
We are not, in reality, laughing at the policeman. He is merely the
symbol of the idea. We are laughing at the predicament into which our
hero has thrust himself. It is this thought, and not the sight of the
policeman, at which we laugh. The policeman merely stands for the
thought, yet it is humorous action within my meaning of the term in
that the policeman represents the thought.

"In our own comedies Mrs. Drew and I seek to appeal to the mind as
well as to the eye, but to appeal to the mind _through_ the eye. We
value the advantage of brightly-written sub-titles, but believe that
these should supplement and not replace the comedy in the action. The
clever leader may either prepare for the comedy-situation or may
follow and intensify it, but it is always an accessory and not the
chief aim. It is absurd to talk of the leader as an intrusion to be
avoided. It should be avoided only when it really is an intrusion. The
cleverness of an author displays itself in the expertness with which
he handles leaders rather than in his skill in avoiding them."[31]

[Footnote 31: Sidney Drew, "Comedy Picture Production," in _The Moving
Picture World_.]

_6. General Advice_

It is most important that, having started to write a farce, for
instance, you _keep it a farce_ throughout. One fault of many amateur
scripts is that they show a tendency to be a little of everything. A
strong emotional drama may--even should--have its "comedy relief," but
it is a very unwise thing to introduce a note of tragedy into a farce
or even into a straight comedy composition.

At this point it will not be out of place to say a few words in
connection with this matter of "comedy relief," of which we have just
spoken, as used in writing _dramatic_ stories. The over-use of comedy
relief, so called, is mostly due to misguided directors who have seen
the success attending its introduction by prominent directors who
really understood how and when to use it. A departmental writer in the
_Motion Picture News_, speaking of the small army of directors "who
worked with Griffith," says:

"Probably the most obvious of all the blunders made by the men who
seek to emulate the wonderful work of Griffith is their introduction
of comedy, chiefly through the medium of domestic animals, when they
are forced to stop the action of their story to do so. Griffith's
comedy is always spontaneous, incidental--it seems to have been
inspired at the moment and runs in as part of the main action. The
comedy of the men 'who worked with Griffith,' while perhaps inspired
at the moment, rises not from the situations of the story but from the
contemplative mind of the director himself. This is the general rule,
at any rate. There are exceptions, of course, and notable ones, too,
but that all-powerful _motif_ of 'comedy relief' often gets the better
of the director's judgment and results in a product that is so
unbalanced that much of the illusion is destroyed. In fact, comedy
relief is a difficult element to gain. It should always be purely
incidental, unforced, arising from some major situation, and so
creating the desired contrast. When it is obviously sought after and
introduced without regard for its suitability it is not comedy relief
but comedy-out-of-place."

Since this, like the over-use of the close-up, is something for which
directors are largely responsible, it is the photoplaywright's duty to
help by being very careful about how he himself writes in comedy
intended to "light up" tense, serious, dramatic action.

No matter what class of humorous photoplay you may be writing, you
must keep in mind what we enlarged upon in Chapter XVI: Nothing is
funny that offends against good taste, or that, in any way, causes
pain to any number of the spectators. Comedy, to be worthy of
appreciation, must always be good-natured. National types as
caricatured by many comedians with the aid of eccentric costumes and
weird make-ups are usually as far from being real national types as
one could well imagine. Humor must have more than mere extravagance or
caricature for its basis. Even in farce and in musical comedy, as well
as in vaudeville, the once familiar green-whiskered Irishman, the
Frenchman who is all shrugging shoulders and absurd gestures, the
negro who walks as if he were trying to take two steps backward for
every one forward, and whose most noticeable facial feature is an
enormous mouth, and the "Busy Izzy" type of Jew, who when not getting
robbed himself, or being otherwise abused, is doing his best to
defraud others, are gradually going out of fashion. And in the
photoplay, which is now seen by all classes of people and is for all
the people, racial characteristics must be treated in at least a
fairly accurate manner, _and always good-naturedly_. Six or seven
years ago, more than half the comedies produced were based upon a
chase, or else depended largely upon slap-stick humor to raise a
laugh. Not a few of them had as their chief comedy-incident an act of
downright cruelty to some animal, or even to some human being. Today,
when manufacturers are vying with each other to produce better,
cleaner, and more universally enjoyable pictures, the script that
violates Censorship rules or studio ethics by including any of the
foregoing undesirable subjects stands but little show of reaching the
production stage, if, indeed--which is extremely unlikely--it is
accepted at all.

"Good sense is at once the basis of and the limit to all humor. He who
lacks a fine perception of 'the difference between what things are and
what they ought to be,' as the always-to-be-quoted Hazlitt expressed
it, can never write humor. All the way through we shall find that
mirth is a matter of relationships, of shift, of rigidity trying to be
flexible, of something shocked into something else.

"Let us think of a circle on which four points have been marked:


              5 The Serious 1

4 The Contemptible          2 The Laughable

              3 The Ridiculous]

"Beginning with a serious idea, we may swiftly step from point to
point until we return to the serious, with only slight variations from
the original conception. Take the perennial comedy-theme of the impish
collar, and visualize the scenes:

"1. A man starts to button his collar. Nothing is less comical, as
long as the operation proceeds normally.

"2. But the button is too large and his efforts begin to exasperate
him, with the result that his expression and movements become
incongruous. We see, and laugh--though he does not.

"3. He begins to hop around in a mad attempt to button the
unbuttonable, and soon rips off the collar, addressing it in
unparliamentary language. He is ludicrous, ridiculous, absurd.

"4. In his rage he violently kicks a pet dog that comes wagging up to
him. Our laughter subsides, for the fellow is more contemptible than
amusing--a deeper feeling has been born in us.

"5. The little dog limps off with a broken leg--we are no longer
amused, we are indignant. What is more, not only have we gotten back
to the serious, but there is no amusement left in any of the previous

"Still applying the test of the _extent_ of the variation from the
normal as shown in the effects, we conclude that _serious consequences
kill humor_. The mere idea of such consequences, when we know that in
the circumstances they are really impossible, may convulse us with
merriment, as when we see a comedian jab a long finger into the mouth
of his teammate and the latter chews it savagely. In real life this
might sicken us with disgust--I say 'might,' because we can easily
conceive of such a situation's exciting laughter if the victim were
well deserving of the punishment. It is human for us to laugh when the
biter is bit; indeed, variations on this theme are endless in humorous

"_Sympathy also kills humor._ The moment we begin to pity the victim
of a joke--for humor has much to do with victims--our laughter dies
away. Therefore the subject of the joke must not be one for whose
distress we feel strong sympathy. The thing that happens to a fop is
quite different in effect from that which affects a sweet old lady.
True, we often laugh at those--or at those ideas--with whom or with
which we are in sympathy, but in such an instance the ludicrous for
the moment overwhelms our sympathy--and sometimes even destroys

[Footnote 32: J. Berg Esenwein _Writing for the Magazines_; published
uniform with this volume in "The Writer's Library."]

This one thing bear especially in mind: _clean_ comedy is even more
essential than clean drama. It is so easy, when writing humorous
material, to go wrong without intending it--indeed, even without
knowing it. Under the guise of comedy some producers are responsible
for scenes and situations that manage somehow or other to pass the
censors, whereas the same scene in a dramatic photoplay would not be
tolerated for a moment. But these are exceptions.

The marital relation should be touched upon only in a way which admits
of no offense being taken by right-minded and refined people. Real
infidelity had far better be left out of humorous photoplays
altogether. Here more than in any other branch of photoplay writing
you should remember that what merely _might_ be tolerated on the
regular stage would never do on the screen. It is well to remember
also that just as the American public has tired of the chase and the
foolish powder, it has also sickened of the coarse, suggestive, and
even the questionable subjects that could once be depended upon to
"get a laugh." There is absolutely no excuse for introducing anything
into a picture today that would offend the good taste of any member of
an audience. The local censorship boards of some cities have made
themselves ridiculous in the eyes of thinking photoplay patrons, but
the work done by the National Board of Censors has been the means of
slowly and surely causing the lower class of photoplay patrons to
acquire an appreciation of good dramatic subjects as well as more
refined comedy.

It may be said in passing that not all the companies producing
farcical photoplays or slap-stick, as it is generally called--exclude
the work of the outside writer. Such firms as do accept outside
scripts of this kind are prepared to "go the limit" in the matter of
expense in order to make their pictures superlatively funny and
unusual in the matter of staging. The Path� comedy, "Cleopatsy,"
featuring the famous clown Toto, was a striking example of how a
slap-stick comedy today is unhesitatingly given as elaborate and
sumptuous a scenic investiture as was accorded a few years ago to
screen-versions of Shakespearean or other "classic" plays. The laughs
in this Path� production were produced, principally, by the
introduction of business and situations that simply could not have
happened in the time of Cleopatra, Antony and C�sar. Thus we saw
traffic policemen with their Stop and Go signals in the middle of the
Sahara; telephones, check books, motorcycles and automobiles in use,
and so on. In addition, the leaders were filled with modern business
and other slang; and the spectacle of a huge negro wrapping Cleopatsy
in a modern Axminster rug and carrying her in to show her to Antony
(instead of, as according to history, C�sar) kept the spectators in a
roar of laughter. For an originally-worked-out idea such as this there
is nearly always a ready market.

Finally, remember that comedy-action should run as smoothly as a
well-oiled machine. Start with a good, fresh, funny idea and then
make each scene run smoothly and logically into the next. There are
certain series of comic pictures in the comic section of the
newspapers which might well serve as your models for progressive and
logical action. Mr. Bud Fisher's well-known "Mutt and Jeff" and Mr.
George McManus's "Bringing Up Father" series are excellent examples.
Particularly in the McManus pictures do we get funny, logical, and,
above all, generally natural--in the sense of its being
probable--comedy action. Take as an example the one which is
sub-titled "It's a pity the valet left--he would have been such a nice
playmate for Father." "Father," as we know, is the very much
hen-pecked husband of a socially impossible woman who holds her place
among the "400" only by reason of her husband's wealth. It is Father's
constant ambition and determination to spend as much of his time as
possible amongst his old "roughneck" working-man pals, instead of in
attending his wife's receptions and other society functions. A
sociable companion of his own class is what he constantly seeks. In
this picture there are, as is usual in the Sunday supplements, twelve
scenes. The action of the picture may be roughly synopsized as

Scene 1. Mrs. Jiggs introduces Mr. Jiggs--"Father"--to the new, and
very English, valet--who "waited on Count de Miles until he died." To
which Father (possible sub-title) replies: "No wonder he died!"

Scene 2. The butler, in Father's room, announces that he "thinks
he'll like the job and that Father won't find him hard to please."

Scene 3. Shows Father making a critical inspection of the statue-like
valet, and muttering that "his folks must have been fond of children,
to raise him!"

Scene 4. Shows Father glancing up at a shield and some ancient
battle-clubs, spears and axes, hung on the wall. We can easily guess
what is passing in his mind.

Scene 5. Father takes the valet over to the window and stands him
facing out, saying that he wishes to show him the wonderful view.
Behind his back Father holds one of the war-clubs.

Scene 6. As the valet gazes out of the window, Father swings the club
upward, preparing for a mighty blow, muttering as he does so: "It's a
duty I owe my country."

Scene 7. Just as Father is about to strike, the valet glances down at
something on the corner of the dresser, and exclaims: "Ah! A pinochle
deck! My favorite game!" To which Father replies: "_Oh!_ Do you play

Scene 8. Here they are in the middle of an exciting game, Father
winning everything, the chips piled high before him. The valet asks:
"Will you pardon me? I'll see if I can get some of my wages in

Scene 9. In the lower hallway. Shows the valet asking Mrs. Jiggs for
his salary in advance, adding that "the count always paid him ahead."

Scene 10. Back in the room upstairs, with Father at the table, on
which are piled the valet's clothes, while the constantly losing valet
plays his last hand from behind a screen.

Scene 11. Shows the entrance of the butler, who tells Father that Mrs.
Jiggs "wishes to see him at once."

Scene 12. Shows the inglorious dismissal of the pinochle-loving valet,
dressed only in three of Mrs. Jiggs' hat boxes, the bottoms of which
have been knocked out. When Mrs. Jiggs declares "Pack your things and
get out immediately--you are fired!" the valet answers gloomily: "I
have nothing to pack, Madam!"

This, although merely an idea drawn out into a dozen pictures, is the
sort that might easily be made the foundation for a laughable short
comedy. Barring the fact that one or two of the scenes are played (so
to speak) in the same setting, with no leader or other scene
separating them--as would be the case in photoplay--this newspaper
"funny" is much better put together, much more logical, and is just
about the same number of scenes as were many of the split-reel
comedies of a few years ago. Almost all of the more popular comic
series in the newspapers, in fact, may be studied with profit by the
would-be writer of screen comedies. There is action, and often very
funny action, in every picture, and the plot moves quickly, logically,
and without the slightest sign of unnecessary detail or irrelevant
action, to an extremely funny climax, which, best of all, is usually a
surprise to the reader.

Apply the same working-principle to the writing of humorous
photoplays, especially the plan of having a surprise climax followed
by a quick denouement, and you can hardly fail to produce a comedy
that will cause the editor to notify you favorably.



_No_ story is an old story if you give it a new "twist"--a fresh turn,
an original surprise, an unexpected course of narration. As a matter
of fact, this is what fiction writers and dramatists have been doing
for hundreds of years; taking an old idea, they have twisted it about,
enlarged upon it, provided a new setting for the story, and created
something new, yet in truth far from new, from the idea furnished by
another writer. Who evolved the "original" plot in any certain case is
a question that will forever remain a question, for the earliest plays
and stories are no longer extant. But this we do know: there are only
a very few original or primary plots, and all the plays, novels, and
short-stories that have been written are variations of these. Some
writers have made the twist more pronounced, and their work, judged by
present-day standards, is classed as original. Others, without trying
to conceal the source of their plots, nevertheless give them new
treatment, and so are not charged with plagiarism. Therefore we may
conclude that that writer is entitled to be called original who is
capable of so twisting and remodeling the theme used by another writer
that it is, in the remodeling, virtually recreated.

_1. An Example from Fiction_

As a concrete example, let us compare Poe's short-story, "The Cask of
Amontillado," with Conan Doyle's "The New Catacomb." In both of these
the theme is revenge, brought about by having the one seeking to
entomb his enemy alive--the same theme, precisely, as Balzac had used
earlier in "La Grande Bret�che," and Edith Wharton in later years in
"The Duchess at Prayer." In "The Cask of Amontillado," Montresor
desires to be revenged upon Fortunato because the latter has both
injured and insulted him. Exactly how he has been insulted we are not
told; nor do we know the extent of his "injuries." It is sufficient
for the purpose of the story that we know that his Latin blood has
been roused sufficiently to make him eager to compass the death of his
enemy--who is none the less his enemy although, up till the very
moment when Fortunato realizes the awful fate that is to be his, he
(Montresor) pretends friendship for his victim. After Montresor's
revenge has been accomplished by walling up Fortunato in a
subterranean vault, the perpetrator feels no remorse. He has completed
what he set out to do, and is satisfied. He has "punished with
impunity" and he has made the fact that he is the redresser felt by
"him who has done the wrong."

What chiefly impresses the reader is the lack of motive for
Montresor's crime--for crime it surely is, whatever his real or
fancied wrongs--other than the motive of a madman. At the conclusion
our sympathy for the unfortunate victim of Montresor's hate is
perhaps as great as is our pity for Montresor himself.

But note that Doyle's story is not only an original piece of
fiction--as we have just interpreted that expression--but also one in
which we recognize that the seeker after revenge is thoroughly
deserving of our sympathy, even though we do not entirely approve of
his bringing about the death of even so unworthy a creature as we know
his enemy to be. In Doyle's story, as in Poe's, the background is
Italy, but Italy of the present day, so we feel that we understand the
motives of the characters better because they are of our own time.
There is a definite and grievous wrong committed against the young
woman with whom the central character is in love, therefore the wrong
is committed indirectly against the lover himself. We are made to
realize the despicable nature, the utter heartlessness, of the young
woman's betrayer, and we actually _hate_ him as soon as the facts are
made clear to us. We realize how great has been the love for her
cherished by the man who finally punishes the one who has wronged her,
by causing him to be entombed alive in a Roman catacomb which he
himself has but recently discovered.

In Poe's story, Fortunato is chained to the wall of the vault, after
which he is literally walled up and buried alive. In "The New
Catacomb," the redresser of the wrong takes the evil-doer down into
the catacomb and leaves him while he finds his own way out by means of
a trail of cord, knowing that the other, unable to follow him, is
being left in what will be his tomb.

The dramatic intensity of Doyle's story is just as great as in that
written by Poe; the "hero" is as much deserving of our sympathy as the
"villain" merits our condemnation; and the treatment of the theme,
from first to last, makes Doyle's an absolutely original story,
although there is little doubt that it was suggested, or, at least
influenced, either by the one written many years before by the
American master of the short-story, or by Balzac's remarkable tale
referred to above.

The discriminating photoplaywright will have no difficulty in making
the application of this illustration of how an original story may grow
out of an old theme. _But be careful not to turn this liberty into an
excuse for adhering closely to a borrowed theme._

_2. Plagiarism_

In justice to writers in general it is only fair to believe that most
cases of plagiarism are quite unintentional. The fault usually is in
the writer's memory. Turn your eye inward, and form the habit of
tracing the origin of your inspirations--sometimes it may chagrin you
to find how near to unconscious imitation you have been. You may get
the inspiration for a story and write it; it may be accepted and
produced; then, after its release, some friend will casually remark
that it reminds him of a Vitagraph picture that he saw a year or two
ago. And only after he has called your attention to it do you realize
that that Vitagraph story, seen and forgotten, _was_ the source of
your "inspiration"--and perhaps you have committed an unconscious

In an earlier chapter we have urged photoplaywrights to keep in touch
with the market so as to avoid writing on trite themes. But that
practise will not help the conscious plagiarist. Why should he invent
a new twist when he can steal one? This would seem to be his
short-sighted logic. Fortunately, there are not many unscrupulous
writers who deliberately attempt to sell to editors stories which are
simply adaptations of more or less well-known stories or plays. A
great deal has been said about editors and their assistants being
familiar with standard literature and current books, plays, and
magazine stories. But no editor is infallible, and once in a while a
stolen story "gets by." We know of two companies, each of which within
the space of six months produced stories that were plainly
recognizable as adaptations of "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder,"
the second story in "The Return of Sherlock Holmes." Another company
released a picture that was simply Maupassant's "The Necklace" so
carelessly re-dressed that we wonder the editor did not recognize it
after reading the first paragraph of the synopsis.

The final test of whether a story really resembles another closely
enough to suggest intentional plagiarism is when the similarity
between the two is recognized immediately by people in many different
parts of the country--yet that is too late to help any one involved!
The short-stories of "O. Henry" have been so widely read that when a
new story appears that closely resembles one of his it is not long
before comparisons are made. Three or four years ago a certain company
made a two-part picture that so closely resembled O. Henry's "The
Reformation of Calliope" that after its release one of the present
writers received letters of inquiry from photoplaywrights in five
different cities commenting upon it, three of the letters being from
young writers who, recognizing the resemblance, asked if it were
"permissible to take the principal plot-idea of a copyrighted story
and, by changing it about slightly, make it into a salable photoplay."
As might be supposed, they were earnestly advised to refrain from
doing so.

A dozen years ago there appeared in the English edition of _The Strand
Magazine_ a story in which a retired Indian officer, at a dinner given
to a party of his friends, displays a remarkably fine diamond. The
jewel is unset, having been taken--as most jewels in stories of this
kind are--from the head of an Indian idol. The stone is passed around
for inspection. The Hindoo servant is clearing some of the things from
the table, and the diamond has just been admired by an old gentleman
in a rather frayed dress-suit, when the attention of everyone present
is drawn away from the table for a moment or two. When they turn
around, the diamond has disappeared. Naturally, the guests are
embarrassed, but they all offer to allow themselves to be searched,
with the exception of the shabby-genteel old gentleman. While he
protests that he knows nothing of how the stone has disappeared, he
stubbornly refuses to allow them to search his clothes. The effect
upon the other guests may easily be imagined. Later, however, one of
the guests having followed him home, it is discovered that the poor
old man has merely filled his pockets with different delicacies from
the table, and has taken them home to his sick grandchild.
Subsequently it is discovered that the Hindoo servant has taken the
jewel, and he is arrested and punished. In the moment that the
attention of the guests was directed elsewhere, after the old
gentleman had laid it on the table, the servant had snatched up the
jewel and dropped it into a half-filled water glass, where it remained
undiscovered while the servant was searched with the others. It is
pretty generally known that an unset pure diamond, if dropped into a
glass of water, becomes invisible.

Some time during 1911, one of the producing companies released a
picture entitled "The Class Reunion." To get the plot of the photoplay
story, simply substitute an impecunious professor for the old
gentleman in the short-story. Instead of the Hindoo servant, have one
of the pupils--if our memory serves--turn out to be the thief, and
have him drop the jewel--which is a ruby, and not a diamond--into a
glass of red wine instead of into a glass of water. In all other
particulars the two stories were identical.

Only a few months later, this plot cropped up again--in fiction
form--in a prominent American magazine. Then, in the release of
another well-known company, of January 13, 1913, it again did service
in the photoplay "The Thirteenth Man," where the inevitable banquet is
the annual reunion of "The Thirteen Club." The theme has now become so
hackneyed that, as the list given in Chapter XVI shows, it is no
longer serviceable for photoplay purposes.

Obviously, these facts are cited not to discredit the companies
referred to, but solely to emphasize the difference between the
genuinely new twist as exemplified in Conan Doyle's "The New
Catacomb," and the dangerously close similarity as exhibited in at
least one of the two photoplays just referred to as following the plot
of the _Strand_ story.

It must not be inferred, however, that all cases in which the themes
of short-stories are developed into photoplays with very little change
are plagiarisms, either conscious or unconscious. Many important
companies are negotiating constantly with the magazines for the right
to photodramatize their most suitable short-stories. Sometimes this is
done with the consent of the author and the plot of the story used
substantially without change, while in other instances the plot is
freely changed, only the germ being used. It is particularly in such
cases that we must be careful not to charge plagiarism.

In this connection it is important to note that the photoplaywright
cannot be too careful in respecting the rights of publishers and
authors in their fictional properties. To many writers it is not clear
precisely what rights an author parts with when he, without any other
stipulation, sells a short-story or a longer piece of fiction outright
to a magazine, so he must be careful in offering moving-picture rights
to a company unless he is _sure_, from a clear _understanding_ with
the magazine publisher, that he is at liberty to do so. If these
points are not altogether in the clear to you, nevertheless it is
certainly wise to be definite in securing your own copyright on
stories, when that is possible, by agreeing with your publisher for
the release to you of all dramatic rights.

To return once more to the subject of originality, in W.W. Jacobs's
story, "The Monkey's Paw," the thrillingly terrible crisis begins when
the father, much against his will, makes use of the second wish
granted to him as the possessor of the fatal paw and wishes his dead
son alive again. In the night he and his wife are aroused by a
familiar knocking on their door. The mother, believing it to be their
son returned to life, rushes to let him in, but while she is trying to
unlock the door, the husband, remembering the terrible condition of
the son's body, he having been crushed to death by some machinery,
utters the third and last wish. The knocking ceases, and when the
woman succeeds in getting the door open, the street lamp flickering
opposite is shining on a quiet and deserted road.

Substantially the same plot is used in a story published in _The Blue
Book_, "The Little Stone God," the principal difference being that,
when those in the house hear the knocking on the door, they refuse, in
utter terror, to answer the summons. The knocking ceases; and the next
morning they learn that a telegraph messenger boy called at the house
with a message on the previous night and, after knocking several times
in vain, went away again.

The foregoing are only a few examples of plots which strongly resemble
one another. How it comes that they resemble one another it is not our
province to discuss any further--the point is that if your story is
inspired by the work of another writer, give it such an absolutely
original treatment that you can conscientiously refer to it as

"Don't waste time in rewriting other people's brain-children, for the
scenario-editor goblins will catch you sure as fate, and once you get
a reputation for plagiarism, not a film-maker will dare to buy any
manuscript from you for fear it is copyrighted."[33]

[Footnote 33: Herbert Case Hoagland, _How to Write a Photoplay_.]

In photoplays as in novels and short-stories nothing is so
disappointing as a story whose title is inviting, and the first few
pages--or scenes, as the case may be--interesting, but which soon
begins to reveal itself as nothing more than a story with which we are
already familiar, though slightly changed in a few particulars in the
hope that it may be welcomed as an original work. We say "slightly
changed," for if the all-important new twist is not given the story
cannot escape detection as being what it is--a mere copy of the

"The formula upon which the plot is built is of venerable antiquity,"
says Frederick Taber Cooper, in _The Bookman_, in reviewing a certain
novel. Then, although he commends the purpose of the story, he
concludes: "But the book is not really an important one, because there
have been scores of books equally well written which have already said
much the same thing. The author has not had any new twist to give to
the old theme--and, worst of all, we know from wearisome past
experience just how the plot will work out, just how inevitable it is
that Kenneth will achieve fame, and his father will be reconciled, and
Jean, convinced of her injustice, will tearfully plead for
forgiveness." Don't lay yourself open to such a criticism.

_3. What Is Originality?_

"Popularly, we call that man original who stands on his own feet, uses
the thoughts of others only to stimulate and supplement his own, and
who does his best to color borrowed thought with the hue of his own
personality. Such a man, if he be not a creator, is at least a
thinker, and a thinker need never be a literary thief. The entrance of
any thought that will set the mind to working should be welcome

[Footnote 34: J. Berg Esenwein, _Writing the Short-Story_.]

Speaking of the way in which a writer may take an old plot and work it
over, Frank E. Woods, the former "Spectator" of the _Dramatic Mirror_,

"That is precisely what every author does in nine cases out of ten. He
utilizes and adapts the ideas he has gained from various sources. It
is when he follows another author's sequence or association of ideas
or arrangement of incidents so closely as to make his work appear to
be an obvious copy or colorable imitation, that he is guilty."

_4. The New Twist Illustrated_

As an example of the way in which an old theme may be given a new
twist, let us compare the plot of Browning's "Pippa Passes"--which,
by the way, was wonderfully well produced in motion-picture form by
the Biograph Company in 1909--and James Oppenheim's photoplay, "Annie
Crawls Upstairs," produced by the Edison Company.

In each, the theme is the spiritual redemption of several different
characters through the influence of the heroine, who in each case
accomplishes this worthy end quite unconsciously. Pippa, the
mill-girl, spends her holiday wandering through the town and over the
countryside, singing her innocent and happy-hearted songs. It is the
effect of those songs upon those who hear them that gives the
poem-story its dramatic moments and makes up the plot. In Mr.
Oppenheim's story, the heroine, Annie, is a tiny, crippled child who,
wandering out of the tenement kitchen where her half-drunken father is
quarreling with his wife, crawls painfully up one flight of stairs
after another, innocently walking into each flat in turn, and in each
doing some good by her mere presence. On one floor a wayward girl is
so affected by meeting with the crippled child that she remains at
home with her mother instead of going out to join a party of friends
of questionable character; on another floor she is instrumental in
preventing an ex-convict from joining his former pals in another
crime; in the flat above, she brings together two lovers who are about
to part in anger; in the next flat she comforts a busy dressmaker who
has lost patience with and scolded her little girl for being in her
way while she is at work, and who realizes on seeing Annie that she
should at least be thankful that her child has health and strength,
and does not, therefore, add the care and worry of sickness to the
burden of poverty. Finally, on the top floor, a young man, heart-sick
and weary of the vain search for work in a strange city, coming out of
his room finds little Annie asleep, her head resting against the frame
of the door. As he carries her down to her own flat, he picks up
courage, banishes the thoughts of suicide which a few moments before
had filled his brain, and resolves to try again. The picture ends with
the mother and father, their quarrel forgotten, bending over the

[Illustration: Preparing to Take Three Scenes at Once in a Daylight

Thus, consciously or unconsciously, Mr. Oppenheim has used the same
theme that Browning used; but he has given it a new twist with the
introduction of each new incident in the story. The little lame child
of the tenements does not seem to speak a word in the picture, and the
scene between the two young lovers parting after their quarrel is
totally unlike the scene between Ottima and Sebald in Browning's poem,
yet we feel that the good influence that changes the heart of the
burglar, as he sits there planning the new crime, is the same as that
which shakes the guilty wife and her lover when Pippa passes beneath
the window of Luca's house, singing:

    _God's in his heaven--
    All's right with the world!_

We have read of a Western script in which the outlaw, wounded and
bleeding, is given shelter by the heroine. When the sheriff arrives,
he sees the basin containing the bloody water and inquires how it
comes there. Even while he is looking at it, the girl cuts her hand
with a knife, and declares that, having cut herself before the
Sheriff's arrival, she has just washed her hand in the basin.

This incident, or situation, is almost identical with one in the
Ambrosio Company's "After Fifty Years," which won the first prize of
twenty-five thousand francs ($5,000) at the Turin Exhibition, and
which showed as one of its many thrilling situations the Italian
heroine gashing her hand with a knife held behind her back, to explain
to the Austrian soldier who is in search of her lover the presence of
blood on her sleeve.

Yet this could not be called a theft, or even a re-arrangement of
another writer's plot. The plot, characters, and setting were entirely
different in each play--it was only that one situation that was made
use of; and it seems likely that it was from the Ambrosio picture, or
the account of it, that the author of the Western story got his
inspiration. Yet who can really tell? Thoughts are marvellous things,
and both writers may have gotten their ideas from some other
original--or even conceived them in their own brains.

After all, as has been pointed out, the trouble with many young
writers is that they are not content with copying a single situation.
They have not been "in the game" long enough to realize either the
risk that they are taking or the wrong that they are doing a fellow
writer, so they not only adapt to their own needs a strong situation
in another's story but precede and follow it with other incidents and
situations which are substantially the same as those surrounding the
big situation in the original story.

But giving an old theme a new twist is a trick of the trade that comes
only with experience, and experience is gained by practice. Experience
and practice soon teach the photoplaywright not to rely too heavily
upon the newspaper for new ideas, for almost every day editors receive
two or more plots which closely resemble each other, simply because
the writers, having all chosen the same theme, have all worked that
theme up in the same way--the _obvious_ way, the _easiest_ way, the
way that involves the least care, and therefore the least ingenuity.

"Where do the good plots come from, anyhow?" asks John Robert Moore.
"We people in universities often amuse ourselves by tracing stories
back to their origins. The trouble is that we often reach the limit of
our knowledge, but rarely find the beginning; for the _plot_ seems to
be as old as the race. What, then, has been changed in a story which
has been raised from a medi�val legend to a modern work of art?

"In such cases, the setting and the moral content are almost
invariably altered. An absurdly comic story about an Irishman and a
monkey, which was current a couple of centuries ago, became 'The
Murders in the Rue Morgue' in the hands of Poe. The central plot
remained much the same, but the whole of the setting and the
intellectual content assumed a new and vastly higher significance.
'The Bottle Imp' harks back to the Middle Ages; but Stevenson made a
world-famous story of it by giving it the flavor of the South Sea
Islands which he knew so well."

So there are both discouragement and cheer for those who accept the
Wise Man's dictum that there is nothing new under the sun. In the one
aspect, there seems little chance for the novice since the primary
plots are really so few; but in the other view, fresh arrangements of
old combinations are always possible for those who see life with open
eyes, alert minds, warm hearts, and the resolve to be as original as
they can.



Adapted from "O. Henry's" Short-Story, "Brickdust Row," by A. Van
Buren Powell, and Produced in Film Form by The Vitagraph Company[35]

[Footnote 35: Used by permission. Copyright, 1918, by the Vitagraph
Company of America. All rights reserved.]

The mere reading of the following photoplay script will not do you any
good. To get any benefit from it you must _study_ it.

The script, which is an adaptation--the short-story of a famous
author, "O. Henry," translated into screen technique--is in the form
in which it was accepted for production. An adaptation rather than the
script of an original idea is chosen for two reasons: the story from
which it was made is accessible in every library, and the translation
into production-form offers certain problems which make it a more
effective lesson in idea-building.

Pretend that you are a staff writer, and that you are to "do" a
certain story by "O. Henry." Get from your library the book of
short-stories by the famous author which contains "Brickdust Row"--the
volume is entitled "The Trimmed Lamp." Read the story--read it until
you are thoroughly familiar with its every word. Read it analytically.
You are to make an adaptation of it. What must that adaptation have
for its fundamental purpose?--the preservation of "O. Henry's" charm
of atmosphere; the utilization of his cleverness with words, wherever
possible in leaders; the emphasizing of his purpose in writing the
story. What was that purpose? Was it not to show how a man's code of
ethics, mistakenly clung to, resulted in his misjudging a perfectly
innocent girl, with resultant tragedy? And, contributory to this, was
it not the aim of the original author to emphasize and excuse the
conduct of the girl--conduct arising naturally from her environment
and station in life?

These things must be conveyed, then, through the medium of
characterization, with the help of little human touches. The girl must
be shown as sweet, clean, without a wrong thought; the man must be
clearly depicted, his reason for being so seemingly churlish and
careless of the duties imposed upon him by his ownership of many
tenements must be handled in such a way that he will not be an
unsympathetic character.

Then we are confronted with certain studio conditions. The story must
be made of feature length--five or more reels. Again, tragedy is not
welcome on the screen. Arguments might be offered to show that the
original story will lose strength through the addition of the "happy
ending." We cannot help that--in fact, we must surmount that obstacle.
We must _make_ the story equally strong and try, if we can, to add to
its lesson. We cannot air our ideals, and write just as we wish; we
must conform to the set rules of our particular studio, as well as to
the general rules covering screencraft.

The change of title is governed by so many factors that it need only
be said that the alternative title was given as possessing a greater
advertising and drawing power.[36]

[Footnote 36: In Mr. Van Buren Powell's new book, _The Photoplay
Synopsis_, published uniform with this volume in "The Writer's
Library," he explains why this title was changed.]

Now we have dissected "O. Henry's" original story. We have decided
what we must do with it. Comes the director for consultation. He feels
that the story is not long enough. It need not be padded, but an
additional character might be introduced to bring out and emphasize
the true character of our leading woman, and at the same time the
required dramatic element and the contrasting of his character with
that of the leading man may be achieved by his presence.

So, agreeing with the director, we write our script.

Throughout, notes will call your attention to certain points that will
help your understanding of the technical purposes of certain material.



Florence is a shop girl, of the quiet, sweet, clean type. She finds it
hard to make ends meet. Her more practical, more worldly-wise friend,
Ella, the shoe-store cashier, suggests that they share her present
quarters in "Brickdust Row"--a decaying tenement block. By this
division of expense they can both save "enough to buy an extra pickle
for lunch once in a while."

When Florence sees "Brickdust Row" she is depressed by its dull
aspect, its dreary environment. But she accepts Ella's proposal, and
the two girls begin their sharing of the tiny room as cheerfully as

Through a terrifying experience with a male flirt Florence comes to
learn that Ella has long been used to accepting attentions and escort
from men outside the home atmosphere. Ella explains that since the
owner of "Brickdust Row" is so avaricious that he allows the parlors
to be rented out, no place is provided where the girls may entertain
men properly, and so the society of the opposite sex must be sought
and enjoyed "here, there and everywhere."

The idea is repugnant to Florence, who is unusually fine in her ideas
of propriety; but she comes to see that Ella's way is the only outlet
for youth and the desire for companionship, brightness, life.

She is very choice in her selection of escorts, and never permits any
young man she meets to discover even where she lives.

The owner of the tenements is a bored, money-spoiled young
man--Alexander Blinker. His lawyer tries to make him take enough
interest in his tenements to change the leases so that the girls can
have a place to meet gentlemen with the shield of propriety. Blinker
is too anxious to get to a golf tournament even to listen.

Florence grows used to her r�le of "Everybody's Girl," and while she
is decidedly decorous, she learns the arts and affectations of the
"street meeting."

Blinker has to come to his lawyer in order to sign some important
documents; they are not prepared. He must stay in the city over
Sunday. The idea fills him with disgust; he longs for the hunting trip
he has planned. In sheer desperation he decides to do that which his
butler considers equivalent to jumping from the window, in view of his
social status--Blinker determines to go to Coney Island.

His experiences may be imagined as he is pushed and jostled by the
rough-and-ready pleasure-seekers. He gets on the boat and is seen by
Florence, who regards him as a prospective escort and so conducts
herself that he is virtually forced into conversation, and with no
experience to guide him in this strange method of introduction, he
manages to bear himself suitably, to the end that the two debark at
the island of pleasure-seeking and set out to enjoy themselves,
Florence being the guide, by virtue of her experience.

At first Blinker feels entirely out of his element, but Florence shows
him the spirit in which to accept the tinsel and the rude fun-making.
He soon comes to like it--and to think very well of the naively
"different" girl beside him.

He is treated like all her other cavaliers at the time and place of
parting--she goes home alone. He returns to his apartment with a new
idea of the city's possibilities.

That same evening Florence finds an intruder unceremoniously invading
her room--a "gang" leader who believes the shot he has just fired at
an adversary has been fatal in its effect. He tells her his story, but
says he did not do the shooting. She believes him, and when the police
come to her door in their search for the culprit, she pretends that
the man opposite her at the table is her brother.

Later she learns that he has told her a falsehood, but she does not
deliver him to justice, and when she finds that the man who was shot
is not fatally injured, she sends the shielded one away in safety; for
which display of her fine sense of loyalty he becomes a veritable
watchdog, never intruding his presence upon her, but being always near
to observe the quality of the companions she still allows herself.

Blinker meets her by appointment the next evening, and the faithful
Watchdog follows them to Coney Island, vigilant, feeling sure than a
man of the evident social status of Blinker can mean no good to a girl
in Florence's station.

On the boat, coming home, Blinker tells Florence that he loves her. So
accustomed is she to this display of sentimentality in her cavaliers
that she merely laughs. He persists, and she indicates a belief that
he is just like the rest. Mention of "the rest" awakes question in
Blinker. He learns that she meets men indiscriminately. He has a
horror of this evidence of what he considers to be moral laxity, and
when Florence sees this she is amazed. _He_ has met her in the same
way, yet he is shocked that she should meet others! In justifying her
course she explains what sort of place "Brickdust Row" is, and how the
girls are driven out.

A fire is discovered on the boat, and in the excitement Blinker and
Florence are separated and the Watchdog is unable to find the girl he
worships. She has jumped into the water as the flames drew too close
to her.

Later she is found at home by the Watchdog, safe though suffering from
shock. He discovers that the shock is less from exposure than from her
discovery that Blinker was serious, and that he refused to condone her
mode of meeting men.

Blinker is visited by his lawyer, and in their conversation, a
reference to "Brickdust Row" gives Blinker the knowledge that he is
the owner of that tenement--that it is his own fault which gives rise
to such unconventional practices as Florence has innocently indulged
in. It is too late, he thinks, now--too late to change things. His
dream of love is rudely dispelled.

However, after a visit from the Watchdog, in which the gangster
loyally champions Florence's character and "lays down the law" to
Blinker, the latter sees Florence again, realizing his own great fault
in being too quick to judge--and the reconciliation is made sweeter by
his willingness to have Florence do her will with the remodeling of
the tenement, while the Watchdog finds comfort in the smiles of Ella.


FLORENCE            A sweet, innocent girl, whose environment
                    shapes her conduct;
                    sympathetic type.

BLINKER             Rich, idle, careless of responsibility,
                    and as much a victim to his
                    own station as is Florence; slightly
                    affected; but must not lose sympathy
                    or create distaste.

ELLA                Snappy, shop-girl type; keen contrast
                    to Florence, and used to build
                    up and emphasize the fine nature of

BILL[38]            A typical slums character--gang
                    leader; generally living by his wits,
                    but possessed of a deep-rooted devotion
                    to anybody who is "square"
                    with him.

FRANK               A typical street-flirt.

LAWYER OLDPORT      A quizzical man of the "old school."

Types of the tenement district. Police, etc.

Typical crowds at Coney Island, and on boat.

[Footnote 37: It will be observed that Mr. Powell uses now and then
slightly different methods of type-arrangement and nomenclature from
those used by Mr. Leeds. These are all unimportant variations.]

[Footnote 38: Bill is the interpolated character, whose purpose will
be seen in script.]




1--Interior small hat-trimming shop.

     The diaphragm opens to show Florence trimming a hat. She is
     a pathetic figure as she looks down at the hat and realizes
     that such finery is beyond her owning. She looks up and
     smiles gratefully as the owner of the place comes from
     paying others in view, and drops an envelope on table before

[Footnote 39: Nothing important happens here, but the scene is devised
to gain sympathy for the girl at once.]



2--Boarding house steps.

     Florence is discovered sitting on step, figuring out her
     accounts with a stubby pencil on back of an old envelope.
     She looks disconsolately at her figures. Then as she glances
     up her eyes brighten and she waves a hand.[40]

[Footnote 40: Continuing atmosphere of sympathy for Florence, and
beginning story in leisurely manner in harmony with its lack of
dramatic opening.]



3--Street near boarding house.

     Ella, whose face is piquant with recognition, waves in a
     snappy, "Oh! Hello, Kid" manner, and goes toward boarding

4--Boarding house steps, as in 2. Close-up of two girls.

     Ella comes on and greets Florence in breezy way; Florence is
     pleased, but her manner of salutation is more quiet, though
     equally sincere. Ella drops on step, looks at figures, and
     grins. Florence indicates her depression, due to the figures
     that will not balance with her meager income. Ella makes a
     proposition, saying:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Florence is impressed, and Ella bids her come along and see
     the place.[41]

[Footnote 41: Ella definitely introduced; relationship of the girls
established. Note characterization in leader.]

5--Wider view of steps.

     As Florence rises, she hesitates, and seems to be averse to
     putting her friend to inconvenience. Ella grins gayly, and

_Cut-in leader--_


     She urges Florence to come along. Two girls leave scene.[42]

[Footnote 42: Note planting of tenement name in leader--bringing
forecast of atmosphere.]

6--A street corner.

     A blind man is selling pencils. Ella and Florence come on.
     Florence pauses, fishes coin from her purse and buys a
     pencil. Then, as Ella keeps right on, turning corner,
     Florence smiles gently and pauses again.

7--Street corner--close-up of hands.

     Florence gently slips the purchased pencil back into hand of
     blind man, allowing her hand to rest commiseratingly on his
     arm an instant.

8--Wider view of street corner.

     Ella turns to see what is keeping Florence, who is hurrying
     away to avoid the man's "Bless you, and the Saints protect

[Footnote 43: Three scenes contain "human touch." Note the "close-up"
as differing from "bust" used later on.]



[Footnote 44: O. Henry's atmosphere.]

9--Long view of street with typical tenements.

     Showing the dreary atmosphere of the place as Florence and
     Ella come along street and pause at a doorway.

10--Closer view doorway.

     Emphasis of atmosphere. Ella unlatching door as Florence
     touches side-rail of low stoop and looks downcast,
     shuddering a bit. They go in.

11--Lower hall of tenement.

     A worn whisk-broom hangs on wall. There is a comedy touch as
     Ella and Florence come in, and the latter notices the

12--Bust view. Wall.

     Showing whisk-broom.

13--Wider view of hall.

     Ella laughs, and says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Florence is dubious about liking the place, but follows Ella
     up the rickety, dust-laden stairway.

14--Ella's tiny but neat room--window on fire-escape.

     Ella brings Florence in. Ella throws out hands in gesture of
     "Here it is--not much, I'll admit." Florence exclaims in
     reassuring affectation of delight and says she will take
     Ella's offer.

     Diaphragm out.



15--Oldport's legal office. Close-up at door.

     Diaphragm in to a close view of Blinker, introducing him in
     a very unpleasing humor, evidently sour about something.[45]

[Footnote 45: We are handling O. Henry's incident now, and must use
his leader-material, so the next situation must be broken into various
"close-up" views to prevent having too long a scene and too irksome a
run of spoken matter in one scene.]

16--Oldport's office--wider view.

     Showing Oldport looking quizzically at the fuming Blinker as
     the latter advances, saying:

_Cut-in leader--_


     He advances and slumps pettishly into a chair by desk.

17--Close-up of Oldport.

     Oldport looks around at Blinker, with an expression showing
     more pity than annoyance.

18--Close-up of Blinker.

     Blinker makes a gesture of impatience and shifts in his

19--Ella's room. A few touches indicating the refining influence of

     Ella is getting ready to go out. Florence questions. Ella
     says, "I got an afternoon date." Then she vents her
     annoyance at the owner of the buildings by saying:


     CAN WE?"

     Florence shakes her head, and refuses an invitation to
     accompany Ella, who goes out.[46]

[Footnote 46: Contrast to Blinker; also forecasts by association of
ideas the coming together of characters; hints at plot.]

20--Oldport's office.

     Blinker signing papers. Finishing, he rises. Oldport lays a
     restraining hand on his arm, taking another paper. Blinker
     shudders in distaste, as Oldport turns and says:

_Cut-in leader--_

     THEM, SO--"

     Blinker shrugs, and rises, protesting, imploring Oldport to
     let him get away. Oldport rises, and follows him to door,
     where he stops him.

21--Close-up door of Oldport office.

     Oldport is serious, almost pleading, as Blinker wheels.
     Oldport says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Blinker turns deprecatingly, and says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     He hurries out. Oldport frowns with annoyance, then shrugs.

     Diaphragm out.

     Diaphragm in:[47]

[Footnote 47: The close of one incident and beginning of another, no
leader being required.]

22--Front of hat-shop where Florence is employed.

     Frank, a typical street-flirt, is lounging, watching some
     girls pass; they laugh and nudge each other; then Florence
     comes out of shop and Frank, lifting cap, falls into step
     beside her. Depict innocence on Florence's part--she does
     not "get his drift."[48]

[Footnote 48: This scene-sequence develops character, with contrast of
the two leads; also registers that Florence's future conduct is
influenced by Ella--not voluntary.]

23--Exterior of golf club.

     Blinker arrives in haste, to find friends and players
     waiting. Emphasize his egotism and self-centeredness as they
     start off for the golf links.

24--Street in tenement district.

     Frank is keeping up with Florence as she comes on. He takes
     her arm. She stops dead still. Sudden fear shows in her
     face. Tearing herself free, she fairly runs from the scene,
     Frank staring in surprise, and indicating "Holy
     Mackerel--stuck up little skirt!"

25--Door in Brickdust Row.

     Florence comes hurrying on, looks over her shoulder to be
     sure she is not followed, and rushes into house.

26--Golf course.

     Blinker tees up and drives. He shows satisfaction as he
     watches the flight of the ball, then sets off, smiling at
     his caddie's muttered "Some drive!"

27--Ella's room.

     Florence is coming in. She is panting. Still shaking with
     fright and mortification, she flings herself across the bed.

28--A street corner.

     Ella is parting from a "gentleman friend" and thanks him for
     a "swell time," then starts for home as he turns, hat
     lifted, and goes.

29--Golf course.

     Show Blinker's egotism as he wins match amid plaudits of his

30--Ella's room.

     Florence still on bed as Ella comes in. "What's up, Kid?"
     Florence explains. Ella laughs, and tells her the lad meant
     no harm, then rising in denunciation of their environment,
     she exclaims:

_Cut-in leader--_


     This is a new idea to Florence, and it impresses her, though
     she is dubious about it. Finally, reconciling herself, she
     agrees, saying:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Ella assures her that it is no harm. Florence is less



31--A park entrance.

     Florence allows a neat chap who has been flirting to take
     her arm, and they go off together.



32--Outside moving picture house. Night.

     Florence is laughing as she comes on with ANOTHER
     nice-looking chap who takes her in to see the show.



33--Park seat near lake. Moon on water for pretty view.

     Florence is allowing a different fellow to sit close and
     hold her hand. (No inclination to get "fresh.")



[Footnote 49: Note the progressive series of leaders to emphasize
Florence's characteristic morality.]

34--Front door, Brickdust Row. Evening.

     Florence comes on, with an impatient swain, but she gives
     absolutely no indication that this is where she lives, and
     they pass off.

35--Street corner.

     Florence and companion come on. She says "good night" and
     refuses to let him go further. When he is gone around the
     corner she retraces her steps toward home.

     Diaphragm slowly out.



36--Oldport's office.

     Blinker comes in, disgusted. Oldport laughs at him somewhat
     sardonically as Blinker says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Oldport grins cheerfully, saying:

_Cut-in leader--_

     DAY AND A HALF--"

     Blinker flings out, disgusted.

37--Ella's room.

     Florence comes in, in her work-day clothes, and prepares to
     get out a quite new summer frock.

38--Blinker's apartment.

     Blinker in, and man taking off coat, etc. Summer garb.
     Blinker disgusted with life. Reads paper. Man
     obsequious--comedy touch with proffer of numbers of
     varieties of cigarettes.

39--Ella's room.

     Florence dressed in summer frock. Wonders what to do with
     herself--plans, counts money--decides and goes out.


     Blinker reads "ad." in paper and suddenly says to his man:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Man bows as if he had said he was going to drown himself.
     Blinker bids man fetch some cool outing flannels--he acts as
     if he were preparing to go to be shot, but must face it.
     Ennui driving him.



41--Dock, gangplank.

     Comedy with Blinker in a mob of "kidders" on the way to a
     Coney Island boat.

42--Deck chair or camp stool, on Coney Island boat.

     Florence is staring out over water. Turns. Sees something.

43--Deck location.

     Blinker coming out of mob--catching hat, effect of tipping

44--Deck, wider view.

     Florence affects to be freezing. Blinker notices her, and is

45--Close-up of Florence.

     Florence freezing, says:

_Cut-in leader--_



46--Close-up of Blinker.

     Blinker stammers:

_Cut-in leader--_

     "I DIDN'T--"

     Then starts, admiring.

47--Close-up of Florence.

     Florence freezing, yet eyes twinkle.

48--Wider-angle view.

     Blinker quickly corrects himself by adding:

_Cut-in leader--_


     She appears mollified. He sits.

49--Closer view, toward water.

     Florence says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Comedy as Blinker rises, then sits as he sees she is joking.
     They begin to "get together."

50--Same scene, different angle.

     He asks Florence:

_Cut-in leader--_


     She comes back at him:

_Cut-in leader--_


     He is abashed, then gets her idea, and says quite

_Cut-in leader--_


     She is surprised, then appraises him and temporizes.



51--Steeplechase Amusement Park.

     A long view to show the "atmosphere."[50] Florence and
     Blinker in the crowd.

[Footnote 50: The boat- and amusement-park scenes can only be
lightly sketched in, as much depends on the director and his
locations, so skeleton action is given.]

52--Closer view.

     Blinker and Florence. "Tough" with girl. "Tough" blows cigar
     smoke in Blinker's face. Florence tactfully prevents a
     "scrap." She can't afford to have cavalier "pinched." Off
     they go.

53--Some open-air amusement, as "The Whip."

     Blinker and Florence on--he is disgusted. She is aflame with
     excitement. He looks disgustedly at the amusement, and she,
     divining--dejectedly--goes off with him.



54--Front of a show.

     Florence in ecstasy. Overcomes chagrin. Goes in with
     disgusted but subdued Blinker--subdued by a battle royal
     with the mob around ticket wicket.

55--Inside the show.

     As Blinker helps Florence into a seat, an Italian woman with
     bunch of candy-sticky kids comes along. In they pile,
     candying Blinker, who disgustedly hops out, with Florence,
     somewhat discomfited and provoked at him, following. He
     backs away, and she after him.

56--Closer view of the two.

     Florence sizing up Blinker--delivers her opinion:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Blinker is subdued, but hard to convince. Then he looks at
     the wistfulness of Florence's eyes, and somehow he decides
     he will try to enter into the spirit of the thing. She sees,
     is starry-eyed--drags him off, ecstasy in her face.

57--The flying horses.

     Blinker about to get on, with Florence pulling him. They get
     on. "They're off!"



58--Flash on horse.

     Florence all ecstasy.

59--Another horse--parallel.

     Blinker watching Florence--sudden change to delight.

60--Horses on track in Steeplechase, running parallel.

     The two horses are going away from the camera, and as
     Blinker turns to smile at Florence, she smiles at him, and--

     The scene interposes into--

61--A rolling open field.

     Taking the place of the Steeplechase horses, we see Florence
     and Blinker riding at a gallop on real horses, typifying
     their imagined visualization. The scene interposes back into--

62--Steeplechase horses.

     Blinker laughs merrily at Florence, and both "work" as hard
     as they can to send the horses faster.[51]

[Footnote 51: The technical "interpose into" and its resultant "back
into" are technical devices to indicate the merging of one scene into
another--and the effect here noted, as well as the following one,
while very significant if well done, must not be taken as models--they
were specially planned with the knowledge that a director could and
would secure them adequately. See definition of "Interpose," Chapter



63--Front of tawdry amusement place.

     Blinker is with Florence. As they come up and listen to the
     "ballyhoo" man--

     The scene interposes into--

64--Front of fairy castle.

     Florence and Blinker as Prince and Princess.

     The scene interposes back into--

65--Front of amusement place.

     Blinker and Florence rush in with crowd, all gay and



66--A show (Slide).

     Good comedy to get some people coming down a slide, with
     Blinker and Florence among them.

67--Bottom of slide.

     Blinker and Florence get out, gay as can be--and as they
     stroll off, there is a touch of sentiment.



68--Park entrance. Night.

     Blinker and Florence. She stops him. He wants to go on with
     her, but she says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     He tries to persuade her. She is firm. Another "date" for
     tomorrow. Off she goes. He the other way.


     Florence in--lights up. Sits to dream of happy day.

70--Blinker's apartment. Lit up.

     Blinker in to find Simonds waiting. Dismisses man, who might
     interrupt dream of happy day by proffer of something--comedy
     chase out, then Blinker back to smoke and smile.

71--Florence's room. Gas-lit.

     Florence rises to remove dress, pauses to look at herself in
     mirror--girlish vanity.



72--Front of "Brickdust Row." Night.

     Bill sauntering. Pauses to light cigarette. A rival
     gang-leader comes on. Flash--pistols--bang--other man fires
     first. Bill wings him and turns.

73--Corner. Night.

     "Cop" hears shooting. Listens to locate it.

74--Front of "Row." Night.

     Bill hides gun in coat. Dodges into door.[52]

[Footnote 52: Here Bill is not introduced by leader, but is allowed to
characterize himself in action.]

75--Corner. Night.

     "Cop" looking around--sees--

76--Front of "Row." Night.

     Man lying still.

77--Corner. Night.

     "Cop" blows whistle and runs off.

78--Hall. Gas-lit.

     Bill listening. Up the stairs! He may get away!

79--Front row. Night.

     "Cop" and others gather about man. Several "cops" on at a

80--Ella's room. Gas-lit.

     Bill looks in doorway. Florence at mirror, about to loosen
     dress. Turns. Bill comes in. He says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     He is so pathetic in his fright that she is torn with

81--"Cops" before "Brickdust Row." Night.

     "Cops" decide to look in house--go in.

82--Ella's room. Gas-lit.

     Florence moves close to Bill and finds gun. He nods--says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     She nods. Both start, as at a sound.

[Footnote 53: It is, of course, clear to the spectators that he is not
telling the truth, though not so to Florence.]

83--Hall. Gas-lit.

     "Cop" bounding up the stairs.

84--Ella's room. Gas-lit.

     Bill in terror. Florence sees the abject fear in his eyes,
     and the tenderness and protective sympathy of her nature are
     instantly roused. Dropping the gun in a table drawer, and
     sitting down, she motions Bill to sit opposite, and command
     himself. She picks up needlework, and proceeds to chat with
     Bill as unconcernedly as if he were a constant visitor at
     the place.

85--Outside the door of Ella's room. Gas light in room; dimmer light
in hall.

     The "cop" comes softly to door, listens, and then pushes
     door quietly inward.

86--Ella's room. Gas-lit.

     As the police officer opens the door and looks in, Florence
     is quietly sewing, and Bill is leaning back, at his ease,
     though it is an effort for him to be unconcerned. He is
     smoking. The officer hesitates. Hold suspense of situation.

87--Front of "Row." Night.

     Ambulance attendants busy over man. Street crowd being
     driven away by several policemen.

88--Ella's room. Gas-lit.

     The officer moves forward, his eyes on Bill. Florence does
     not betray the slightest sign of dismay. She looks at the
     intruder as much in reproof as in surprise. Her steady look
     disconcerts the policeman; he shuffles, clears his throat,
     and explains his search, glancing toward Bill. Florence

_Cut-in leader--_


     Bill takes up the lead she gives by pretending eagerness as
     to what happened, but the officer, after a hasty look out
     over the fire escape, turns and hurries from the room. Bill
     sighs relievedly, and looks at Florence with the same sort
     of light in his eyes that one sees in those of a faithful
     dog. This dog-like devotion is to be the developing keynote
     of Bill's character.

89--Roof of house. Night.

     Policeman comes up on roof, looking around.

90--Ella's room. Gas-lit.

     Bill is thanking Florence. She tells him that she will go
     down and see whether the coast is clear, and he sits down
     with a grateful look as she goes quietly out.[54]

[Footnote 54: Compare the present scene and the one following, in
respect to varying treatment of conveyed information. Here the girl
merely indicates what she intends to do, and her statement of the fact
is not given as dialogue-in-scene, since the next scene will make
clear her unregistered words; but see how dialogue-in-scene is
employed in the scene that comes next, emphasizing in the briefest way
just what the player feels by what she thinks and unconsciously forms
with her lips.]

91--Front of "Row." Night. From the tenement doorway.

     The injured man is being made to stand. Florence comes into
     the scene, pausing on stoop of the "Row" and watches as the
     injured party feigns great pain, and gasps:

_Cut-in leader--_


     The ambulance men laugh and tell him to be on his way; he is
     more scared than hurt. Florence's face becomes tense. Her
     lips form the thought that flashes into her mind. "He
     lied--to me!" She turns and goes into house.

92--Ella's room. Gas-lit.

     Bill looks up eagerly as Florence comes in. Then he stares
     as she goes swiftly toward the table drawer. He is quick,
     but not swift enough, in his rush to forestall her as she
     gets his revolver and "breaks" it, so that the empty
     cartridge and five loaded ones drop into her hand.

93--Bust of hand holding discharged cartridge.

     Register the fact that it has been fired.

94--Back to 92.

     Florence looks up slowly. Bill figures that she will give
     him up now, and gives a quick, hunted look around as
     Florence closes the weapon and lays it on the table, fully
     convinced that she has been lied to. She stands looking down
     at the weapon, her face brooding. Suspense. What will she do
     about it?

95--Roof of house. Night.

     "Cop," with another. No use looking further. Separate, one
     going down into tenement again, other across roof toward
     another descent.

96--Ella's room--looking toward door. Gas-lit.

     Bill in an agony of terror as he hears policeman tramping
     toward door. Florence looks up, and moves toward Bill, who
     cowers. The door starts to open. Florence pities Bill now.

97--Ella's room--from hall, through opening door. Gas-lit.

     The policeman is going to be crafty; he opens door, very
     softly, and as he peers in, he sees--Florence slipping her
     arms about Bill's neck, giving him a sisterly kiss as she

_Cut-in leader--_


     Convinced, the officer draws away and goes from scene. Bill
     can be seen touching cheek Florence kissed, looking at
     finger as if expecting it to show the mark of contact.

98--Close-up in room, from another angle, to get Florence in profile.

     Bill slowly and reverently takes Florence's hand, and with
     devotion in every line, says fervently:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Saying nothing more, but looking at her with devoted eyes,
     as she stands smiling her gentle smile, he goes to fire
     escape, and as he descends--Fade slowly out.



     Diaphragm in:

99--Park entrance.

     Florence waiting. Bill is coming down path. He sees her and
     advances--but she meets Blinker, who is gay and delighted.
     They go.

100--Close-up of Bill.

     No jealousy--but suspicion. Bill thinks such a man can mean
     no good. He starts off.

101--Wider view.

     Bill seen to be shadowing Blinker and Florence.



102--Steeplechase Pier.

     Crowd coming off boat. Florence and Blinker. After them,
     shadowing, comes Bill.



103--Any different amusement device.

     Blinker with Florence--having a grand time. Show Bill aloof
     but watchful, evading discovery carefully.



104--By walking beam.

     Wide enough to show several couples--Florence and Blinker
     among them; narrows down to those two, after Bill is
     established in background, watchful but not interfering.

105--Close-up of Blinker.

     Blinker, in spell of love, says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Waits, breathless.

106--Close-up of Florence.

     She laughs a little tremulously but recklessly and says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     She begins to hum.

107--Close-up of Blinker.

     He is a little impatient, and says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     He is interrupted.[55]

[Footnote 55: Sketchy, because in this case, "O. Henry" leaders are
the important thing--and they give sufficient clue to the action

108--Close-up of Florence.

     She laughs a little, and says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     She is playing with him, and yet telling truth.

109--Close-up of Blinker.

     He is impatient at this repetition. Says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     He is annoyed. She is not taking him seriously.

110--Close-up of Florence.

     She looks at him--wonders--says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     He is puzzled.

111--Close-up of Blinker.


_Cut-in leader--_

     "WHO ARE--'THEY'?"

     Jealous and anxious.

112--Close-up of Florence.

     Surprised--innocent. Says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     What is he driving at?

113--Both--in wider view.

     Florence wondering. He changes expression. Growing tension.
     Asks her:

_Cut-in leader--_


     She looks wide-eyed--surprised--answers:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Blinker aghast. Asks:

_Cut-in leader--_


     She allows herself a laugh--says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     He turns away.

114--Close-up of Blinker.

     Growing tension--it is sinking in, and finally his
     expression grows harder.

115--Close-up of Florence.

     She wonders--finally asks:

_Cut-in leader--_

     "WHAT'S WRONG?"

     Her lips part in amazed terror.

116--New angle. Close-up of Blinker.

     Swings upon her and cries:

_Cut-in leader--_


     He is growing furious. So that is the sort she is!

117--Profile close-up of Florence.

     She laughs. Her voice is brassy-hard, saying:

_Cut-in leader--_



118--Wider-angle view, with Blinker nearest camera.

     Tension. Big scene as he gets over his horror and disgust
     and she realizes it, and rising, disillusioned--exactly as
     he feels that _he_ is disillusioned about _her_--Sudden pause--

119--Deck, _ad lib._

     Fire! Excitement. "Where?"--"What'll we do?"[56]

[Footnote 56: Sketchy, as this sort of material has to depend on boat,
crowd, director, etc. Continuity only required.]

120--Deck, another part.

     Panic. Woman screams.

121--Walking beam.

     Excited scattering of crowd. Florence turning away--Bill
     coming forward--Blinker listening. He grabs Florence by arm.
     She draws away. He compels her to go.


     Tension. Wild scene.

123--Walking beam.

     Bill follows, crowd intervening, as Blinker takes Florence
     off. Bill gets after them.

124--Boat davits.

     Wild scene. Officer. Sailors. Fire and smoke. Blinker with
     Florence. Takes her away--another boat!

125--Another boat.

     Crowd more orderly. Women being helped into boat. Blinker
     on with Florence. Takes her to boat.

126--Boat davits.

     Sailors shot at by officer. Surge away and off.

127--Fire blazing. Sailors lose heads--dash back from fire and

128--Other boat.

     Fire coming. Florence by boat. Sailors rush on and fight.
     Get officer's gun. Surround Florence and Blinker.

129--Different angle.

     Blinker fighting to save Florence.

130--Different view.

     Fire coming on. Bill fighting way toward Blinker and

131--Other boat.

     Blinker fighting. Florence separated from him. Bill fights
     way to his side. They notice one another as men with same
     idea--join back to back. Florence forced away. They try to
     get to her. Surge of sailors over-runs them.[57]

[Footnote 57: Necessary departure from O. Henry, to build up Blinker's
good qualities, and achieve a preparation for new finish.]

132--Deck rail.

     Florence staggers on. Flames coming. Great God! What shall
     she do? Off she races.

133--Boat davits.

     Flames leaping. Florence just in time to see boat lowered
     away. Too late. Driven back.

134--Other boat.

     Bill and Blinker together. Several sailors done for, others
     lower boat and go. Men peer about, but smoke too thick for
     them to see.


     Florence in terror. Sudden blast of flame. On rail. Leaps.

     Diaphragm out.[58]

     Diaphragm in:

[Footnote 58: Purposely uncompleted to give suspense strength to hold
over into next--slowing--episode.]

136--Blinker's apartment.

     Man caring for Blinker, somewhat burned. Sad and downcast.
     Man admits Oldport. Lawyer listens to story.

137--Hospital entry.

     Bill comes out, discharged--head bandaged. He takes a card
     out of pocket--looks and puts back. He does not know what to
     do, then decides, and goes off.[59]

[Footnote 59: Observe how girl's fate is withheld till disposition of
less important characters is shown.]

138--Ella's room.

     Florence in bed. Ella attending. Bill knocks, is admitted.

139--Blinker's apartment.

     Oldport sees Blinker is able to talk business. He assumes
     quizzical air, says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Blinker wearily assents. Oldport begins:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Blinker gives start of surprise--query--agony--cries out:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Oldport smiles:

_Cut-in leader--_

     SHALL I DO?"

     Horrible! Blinker in spasm of anguish:

_Cut-in leader--_


     He flings away.

140--Ella's room.

     Bill chatting with Ella. Seems to have good feeling for
     her--devouring hot-cake she has made as he talks with
     Florence, who is sitting up. He takes out card, says:

_Cut-in leader--_

     CALL ON HIM--"

     Florence suddenly recalls all that has happened. She turns
     her face away, unable to control tears of despondency.

141--Blinker's apartment.

     Oldport goes. Blinker "chases" his man, sits in bad mood,
     sour and lovelorn by turns.

142--Ella's room.

     Bill dismayed--demands what he has said. Florence sits
     up--controls herself. Says, gently:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Bill is all anger--"Why?" She tells him:

_Cut-in leader--_


     She breaks down.

143--Close-up of Bill.

     "The son of a brat!"--so he has chucked "Little Sis" has he,
     the rich piker? Well, Bill can see about that! Of course he
     thinks the worst of Blinker.

144--Wider-angle view.

     Bill rises and tiptoes out. Florence weeping softly with
     Ella comforting--rough yet tender.

145--Blinker's apartment.

     Man admits Bill and is dismissed. Blinker hearty--then sees
     Bill's anger. Rises. Big scene where Bill denounces him,

_Cut-in leader--_


     Blinker misunderstands. Bill comes near to throttling him,
     before Blinker can gasp:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Bill waits to find out. Blinker hesitates, then, seeing
     threat, begins to explain.

146--Ella's room.

     Florence seems to be asleep, and Ella sneaks off for some
     milk or something. Florence gets up, sad and despondent.
     Slowly begins to dress.

147--Blinker's apartment.

     Bill amazed at Blinker, who ends up:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Bill glowers and snaps:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Blinker begins to consider.

148--Ella's room.

     Florence dressing (suspense: Does she recall that revolver
     and want to add her tragedy to the dreary ones of "Brickdust

149--Blinker's apartment.

     Big realization--"All my fault." Blinker goes off with Bill.

150--Ella's room.

     Ella soothing Florence. Latter does not wish to live. All
     life is black before her.

151--Hall outside door.

     Comedy relief as Bill and Blinker come on and latter draws
     back in a natural suspense as to his reception and Bill
     tells him to "beat it on in!" Blinker knocks, and goes in.
     Bill pauses.

152--Ella's room.

     Florence looks up. Ella surprised. Blinker pauses. Ella
     seems to be attracted by something.

153--Crack of open door.

     Bill is making violent gestures to get Ella out.

154--Ella's room.

     Ella catches Bill's idea, and moves unostentatiously out.
     Then Blinker strides to Florence. He says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Florence is reserved, chilly, as she says:

_Cut-in leader--_


     Blinker is beside her, and catching her hands he cries:

_Cut-in leader--_

     "I MEAN--ABOUT _YOU_!--AND _ME_!"

     In spite of herself, Florence is forced to lift her eyes,
     and as she reads the look in his own she is compelled to
     realize that the air is cleared at last and that the
     happiness that seemed dead is again alive--palpitant
     happiness that draws her into his ready arms.

155--Hall outside Ella's room.

     Bill "fixes it up" with Ella to "travel double." She wants
     to rush in and tell her chum, but Bill stays her: "Nix--let
     'em do some clinchin' first!"

156--Ella's room.

     Florence and Blinker embracing.

     Circle diaphragm closes to blackness.[60]

[Footnote 60: This is the script before it reached production. If you
see the picture you will no doubt observe directorial alterations that
came up during production. In that case you will have valuable
experience in seeing the difference between the original--the
script-writer's conception--and the directorial interpretation.]



Writing the photoplay is essentially an art; marketing the photoplay
script is a business; and the sooner the writer adopts intelligent,
up-to-date business methods in offering his stories, the sooner he is
likely to find the checks coming in. It is not enough merely to send
out your script; it must be sent to that editor who is in the market
for the kind of script you have written. As one editor has said,
"Don't send a Biblical photoplay to a firm that makes a specialty of
Indian and cowboy subjects."

Your first care, then, should be to have as complete a knowledge as
possible of what every company is doing, what kinds of stories they
need at the time, where their field-companies are working, and, above
all, what kinds of scripts certain companies positively do _not_ want
at _any_ time. For of course, there are companies with definitely
fixed policies, besides concerns that announce from time to time that
they are unable to use stories of this or that sort.

The most important aids to a thorough knowledge of the photoplay
market are the different moving-picture trade-journals and the
magazines published exclusively for writers.[61] By studying them you
will equip yourself with a first-hand knowledge of what the different
studio editors need, and so be on the right road. Don't take a
gambler's chance by sending out your scripts without knowing precisely
what is a good prospect.

[Footnote 61: See Chapter XIV.]

In almost every one of the foregoing chapters we have raised points
that bear upon the selling of your story as well as affect the
particular part of the script then being discussed. To repeat one
instance, you were advised not only to satisfy yourself that a company
is in the market for society stories, but to look into the nature of
the stock-company producing their plays. If the company you select is
one that features a woman in most of its picture-stories, and yours is
a photoplay with a strong male lead, you would be unwise to submit it
there. True, it might be accepted and one of the studio writers
commissioned to rewrite it in order to give the "fat" part to the
leading woman, but your check would be proportionately smaller to
compensate for the rewriting--you would, in fact, be paid little more
than if you had sold the bare idea.

In submitting your script to a given company, do not address it to
individuals, unless there is a very good reason for so doing--and
there seldom is. Address your letter either to the "Editor, Blank Film
Company," or to the "Manuscript Department." Most useless of all is
the practice of sending to some person who is known to be associated
with a certain company, without knowing just what his position is.

Once the photoplaywright has begun to sell his scripts, he will
usually prefer to do his own marketing. If, he argues, he is able to
write salable photoplays, why should he share his checks with authors'
agents or photoplay clearing houses? Yet many writers find an agency
to be advantageous. But you had better take the advice of an
experienced friend before committing your work to an intermediary--not
all are capable and not all are honest.

One thing the writer should remember: _Send a script to only one firm
at a time._ There is one company at least, and there may be more,
which announces that no carbon copies of scripts will be considered.
The implication, of course, is that they are afraid to pass on carbon
copies for fear that at the time they are looking over a script it may
have been already purchased by some other company. If you _do_ send
out a carbon copy of your script, make it plain to the editor in your
accompanying letter that the original script has gone astray or been
destroyed, and you are sending the carbon in its place for that
reason. But why send a carbon script at all? If you think enough of
your work to want to see it well-dressed, make a clean, fresh copy and
take no risks.

It is literally true that many an author has spoiled his chances of
ever selling to certain companies because he sold a story to a second
company before making certain that it had been rejected by the first
to which it was sent. Imagine the complication of receiving a check
from B shortly after the author has had word that A has purchased the
same story!

A manuscript should _never_ be rolled--it irritates a busy editor to
have to straighten out a persistently curling package of manuscript.

The sheets should not be permanently fastened together. It is simple
diplomacy to make the reading of your script an agreeable task instead
of an annoyance.

Do not fold an 8-1/2 x 11-inch sheet of paper more than twice. Fold it
but once, or else make two even folds and the script will be in proper
form to fit the legal-sized envelope. Heavy manilla envelopes are the
strongest, but we have never had cause to complain of the white,
stamped envelopes to be had at any post-office. If you choose to use
these, ask for sizes 8 and 9. Your script, folded twice, will fit
snugly into the size 8, which is to be the self-addressed return
envelope. Do _not_ put your MS. in the return envelope. In enclosing
the smaller envelope, turn it with the open side down, so as to avoid
having the flap cut when the outer envelope is opened with a paper

Attach the full amount of postage to _both_ envelopes; never enclose
loose stamps--and _never_ forget to stamp the inner envelope if you
wish to get your manuscript back in case of rejection. At this writing
(February, 1919), a three-cent stamp will bring it back to you, but
you will have to pay whatever else is due before receiving the letter;
and if the story sells, and you receive nothing but the check, you
will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have not been stingily
economical in sending it out.

See that your name and address are on the upper left-hand corner of
the going envelope; be sure, too, that the return envelope is properly

We should not advise the young writer to put the price demanded for
his script in the upper right-hand corner of the first sheet, though
this is where it should go if he does wish to stipulate the amount for
which he will sell it. It is very much better simply to write:
"Submitted at usual rates." Even after you have sold to a given
company, it is better, as a rule, to leave the matter of payment to
the editor. You may be sure that he will pay you just as much as your
story is worth, being governed only by the price-limit fixed by the
manufacturer. Today, almost every manufacturer realizes that the day
of getting "something for nothing" is past. In other words, he
realizes that the script--the story--is the very keystone of the
photoplay arch, and if the story is purchased from a free-lance
writer, he must be prepared to pay a fair price for it.

It is impossible, in a work of this kind, to say what certain
companies are in the habit of paying, but it may roughly be said that
the minimum price _per reel_ today is $50. Most of the larger
producing companies are glad to pay a minimum of $100 per reel for
satisfactory material, and $1,000 for a five-reel script--or even for
a five-reel story in synopsis form, if that is the company's
policy--is regularly paid by those who are entitled to be called "the
leading producers." Most companies have a fixed, uniform price-scale;
and it would be silly for any one to say that you will be paid a
certain amount for your story "if it suits them." We have in mind a
certain large company that is in the habit of paying $1,000 for all
the five-reel synopses it purchases. If your story is not what this
company wants, of course it will not be purchased at all. If your
story does suit them, you may be certain of receiving a check for
$1,000 at least--and we say "at least" because they have been known to
pay still higher prices if the story is really unusual and hence
especially valuable to them. This same company--as do nearly all
concerns--frequently pays a price greatly exceeding $1,000 for the
work of authors with "big names," because, of course, the value of the
big name is not to be denied.

Experience alone will teach you which companies pay the best prices;
after you have sold several scripts, and have become acquainted with
the price-scale of different studios, you will, if the play suits that
particular market, naturally offer your material first to the company
that has paid you best. But just as soon as a script comes back from
one company--so long as you feel certain that it is not in your power
to improve it before letting it go out again--send it out to another,
and then to another, until it is either accepted or so worn or soiled
that it is politic to recopy it. And don't wait too long to do this
simple act of justice to your brain-child. Whatever you do, don't stop
with three or four rejections--keep at it until you are _sure_ the
market is exhausted. But be certain to review your script for possible
improvements each time it comes back to you.

Keep up your output. Do not write one story, send it out, and then
wait patiently for its return, or for the editor's check. Plan a new
story, write it, and send it out. Then plan another and follow the
same course. Photoplay marketing is a business, and a business man is
usually "on the job" six days a week.

It is best not to write a letter to the editor, to accompany your
script, unless there is a very special reason for so doing. Nor should
the writer rush a letter of inquiry off in case he does not hear from
the editor within a week or two after submitting his story. Delay may
be a hopeful sign. If you hear nothing in two months it is time enough
to write--briefly and courteously. Nearly all companies, however, will
report well within that period.

It is utterly impossible in a work of this nature to include a list of
the requirements of every photoplay editor. The policy of the
manufacturers is always subject to change. Their requirements are
governed by the number of scripts of each kind they have on hand, the
disposal of their field-companies, the season of the year, the ability
of their directors to turn out the various kinds of pictures, and also
by individual preferences.

The way to keep posted on the current needs of the various companies
is to study on the screen the pictures of the different producing
firms; to read in the trade-journals the synopses of all the releases
that you do not have the opportunity of witnessing; and to keep in
touch with the announcements made by the manufacturers themselves in
the weekly and monthly journals mentioned in Chapter XIV.

"Where and How to Sell Manuscripts," by William B. McCourtie, issued
by the publishers of this book ($2.50), contains a frequently revised
list of over 5,000 markets for literary material of all sorts,
including photoplays.

Keep a record of every script you send out. Here is one simple form
for a manuscript book or card index:

Title | Sent to | Returned from | Date | Sold to | Date | Price
      |         |               |      |         |      |
      |         |               |      |         |      |
      |         |               |      |         |      |

Do not let the printed rejection slip humiliate you. Really great
writers get them, constantly. This statement is equally true of both
fiction and photoplay writing. It would take too much time and money
for an editorial staff to write personal letters to all who offer
unsolicited manuscript.

Never write petulant or sarcastic letters when your offerings are
rejected. You may need the good-will of that editor some day. Although
personal pique seldom actuates him, he may be frail enough to be
annoyed when his well-meant efforts are assailed.

In conclusion, we urge the writer to remember the words of Dr.

"All the performances of human art at which we look with praise or
wonder are instances of the resistless force of perseverance; it is by
this that the quarry becomes a pyramid, and that distant countries are
united with canals."




1. MOULTON, RICHARD G.; _Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist_, Oxford
Press, New York, 1885.

2. PRICE, WILLIAM T.; _Technique of the Drama_, Brentano, New York,

3. BARRETT, CHARLES RAYMOND; _Short Story Writing_, Baker & Taylor,
New York, 1900.

4. PERRY, BLISS; _A Study of Prose Fiction_, Houghton, Mifflin,
Boston, 1902.

5. ALBRIGHT, EVELYN MAY; _The Short-Story_, Macmillan, New York, 1907.

6. HAMILTON, CLAYTON; _Materials and Methods of Fiction_, Baker &
Taylor, New York, 1908.

7. ESENWEIN, J. BERG; _Writing the Short-Story_, Home Correspondence
School, Springfield, Mass., 1909 and 1918.

8. PHILLIPS, HENRY ALBERT; _The Plot of the Short-Story_. Out of
print. See any large library.

9. PITKIN, WALTER B.; _The Art and the Business of Story Writing_,
Macmillan, 1912.

10. ESENWEIN, J. BERG, and CHAMBERS, MARY B.; _The Art of Story
Writing_, Home Correspondence School, 1913.

11. WELLS, CAROLYN; _The Technique of the Mystery Story_, Home
Correspondence School, 1913.

12. NEAL, ROBERT WILSON; _Short Stories in the Making_, Oxford
University Press, New York, 1914.

Short-Story_, Barnes, New York, 1914.

14. PHILLIPS, HENRY ALBERT; _Universal Plot Catalogue_,
Stanhope-Dodge, 1915.

15. PAIN, BARRY; _The Short Story_, Doran, New York, 1916.

16. BAKER, HARRY T.; _The Contemporary Short Story_, Heath, Boston,

17. WILLIAMS, BLANCHE COLTON; _A Handbook on Story Writing_, Dodd,
Mead, New York, 1917.



1. SARGENT, EPES WINTHROP; _The Technique of the Photoplay_, Moving
Picture World, New York, 1913. Third edition, 1917.

2. PHILLIPS, HENRY ALBERT; _The Photodrama_, Stanhope-Dodge Co.,
Larchmont, N.Y., 1914.

3. POWELL, A. VAN BUREN; _The Photoplay Synopsis_, Home Correspondence
School, Springfield, Mass., 1919.


Names of authors and companies are printed in capitals; titles, and
names of magazines, are printed in italics; and other topics are set
in plain, or "Roman" type.


Action, 3, 4, 30, 134-141, 313, 314.

_Adrift_, 294.

_Adventure_, 305.

_After Fifty Years_, 360.



AMERICAN COMPANY, 92, 268, 290.

Animals, 278, 279.

_Annie Crawls Upstairs_, 358-360.



Backgrounds, 201.

BALZAC, 348.


_Bells, The_, 317-320.

BIOGRAPH, 153, 155, 156, 201.

_Blue Book, The_, 355.

_Bookman, The_, 356.

_Bottle Imp, The_, 361.

BREWSTER, EUGENE V., 264, 265.

_Brickdust Row_, 363, 365.

_Bringing Up Father_, 343.


Burlesque, 325, 326.

BUSH, W. STEPHEN, 282, 283.

Bust, The, 17, 18, 163-166.




Camera, 18.

Cameraman, 18.

Camera tricks, 181-185.

_Cask of Amontillado, The_, 348-350.

Cast, 18, 31, 32, 37, 109-130, 370.

Censorship, 282-289, 341.

Center of interest, 141-143.

Changes of scene, 144-161.

Characters, 18, 109-130, 140, 142, 315, 316, 337, 338.

Child actors, 279, 288.

_Class Reunion, The_, 353.

_Cleopatsy_, 342.

Climax, 26, 194.

Close-up, 18, 166-176.




Comedy Photoplays, 2, 83, 84, 324-346.

_Coming Nation, The_, 292, 293.

Complication, 89.

Conciseness, 198, 199.

Continuity: See "Scenario."


Cooper-Hewitt lights, 247.

_Cord of Life, The_, 155, 156.

Costume plays, 280.

_Count of Monte Cristo, The_, 189, 190.

COWELL, HARRY, 75, 77.

Crime in photoplays, 284, 285.

Cut-back, 19, 152-157.

Cut-in, 19, 158-161, 233-237.

Cutting, 19.


_Daphne and the Pirates_, 253.

Denouement, 89.

_Devil Stone, The_, 236, 237, 321.

Dialogue, 3, 200, 201.

Diaphragm, 19, 20.

Diaphragming-in and -out: See "Fade-in," and "Fade-out."


Director, 20, 115, 116, 212-214.

Doing a picture, 20.

Double exposure, 20, 185-188.

DOYLE, A. CONAN, 348-351, 354.

_Dramatic Mirror, The_, 140, 263, 357.

Dramatic photoplay, The, 2.

Dreams, 176-181.

DREW, JOHN, 333.

DREW, MR. AND MRS. SIDNEY, 329, 333-335.

Dual-character films, 185-188.

_Duchess at Prayer, The_, 348.



_Eagle's Eye, The_, 181-183, 196, 274.

EDISON, 3, 78, 111, 172, 275, 297, 358-360.

_Editing a Motion Picture_, 227.

Editor, 20, 84, 85.

Educational films, 2, 3.


_Eight Bells_, 326.

Episode, 194.


_Everybody's Girl_, 363-407.

Expense of production, 268-281.

Exteriors, 20, 248, 249.

Extras, 21.

Extravaganza, 326.


Fade in, 21.

Fade out, 21.


"Faked" scenes, 269-272.


Farce, 2, 324, 325.


Feature photoplays, 24, 188-193.

_Fiction Factory, The_, 82.

Fiction writing an aid to photoplay writing, 5-16.

_Figaro, Paris_, 308, 309.

FILDEW, WILLIAM E., 252, 253.

Film, 21, 22.


FISHER, "BUD," 343.

Footage, 22.

Fox, 186-188.

Frame, 22.




_Grande Bret�che, La_, 348.


GRIFFITH, D.W., 153, 157, 167, 226, 336.


Hackneyed themes, 296-300.


_Hamlet_, 325, 326.




Heart-interest, 293, 305.

_Hearts of the World_, 157.

"HENRY, O.," 201, 351, 352, 363.

HOADLEY, C.B., 132, 149.

HOAGLAND, HERBERT CASE, 134, 138, 301, 322, 356.

HOFFMAN, ARTHUR S., 305, 306.

_How to Write a Photoplay_, 134, 301, 356.

Human interest, 305, 306.

Humor: See "Comedy."


Idea, 22.

_In the Country God Forgot_, 82.

_Incendiary Foreman, The_, 273.

Insert, 22, 157-161, 218-244.

Interest centralized, 141-143.

Interpose, 22, 387.

_Intolerance_, 167, 168.


IRWIN, MAY, 325.


JACOBS, W.W., 355.



_Kaiser, The_, 127.

KALEM, 132.





LANG, PHIL, 132, 133.

Leaders, 4, 22, 157-161, 218-244.

_Leavenworth Case, The_, 138.

Letters, 237-242.

Lighting, 247-249, 280, 281.

_Little Stone God, The_, 355.

Location, 22, 23, 166.

LUBIN, 78.


_Macbeth_, 282, 318.



_Magazine Maker, The_, 75, 77.

Manuscript record, 415.

Marketing the photoplay, 408-415.

Mask, 161-163.



Memories, 176-181.

MERWIN, BANNISTER, 172-175, 192, 197, 297.

METRO, 333.

_Monkey's Paw, The_, 355.


_Mortmain_, 184, 185.

_Motion Picture Classic_, 263.

_Motion Picture Magazine_, 263, 264.

_Motion Picture News_, 263, 336.

_Motion Picture Story, The_, 242.

Motivation, 88.

_Motography_, 263.

_Moving Picture Stories_, 15, 264.

_Moving Picture World, The_, 29, 91, 103, 120-122, 132, 133, 174,
227, 231, 252, 253, 263, 282, 283, 286, 293, 332, 334, 335.

Multiple reel, 23, 24.

_Murders in the Rue Morgue, The_, 361.

_Mutt and Jeff_, 343.


Names, 120-126.

_Necklace, The_, 351.

Negative, 23.

NEHLS, R.R., 92, 268, 270, 290, 291.


_New Catacomb, The_, 348-350, 354.


Objectionable subjects, 282-303.

_Old Musician, The_, 129.


Originality, 260-262, 347-362.

Outdoor scenes, 20, 248, 249.

Over-condensation, 199, 223-225.


Padding, 189.

"Panorams," 168, 235.

PARAMOUNT, 127, 236, 321.

Part, 24.

PATH�, 273, 319, 322, 342.


Photographing, 208-210.

  construction of, defined, 1-4;
  kinds of, 2;
  terms, 17-28.

_Photoplay Author, The_: See _The Writer's Monthly_.

_Photoplay Magazine_, 286, 288.


_Picture-Play Magazine_, 263.

_Pierre of the North_, 129.

_Pippa Passes_, 358-360.

Plagiarism, 350-357.

Plot, 7, 8, 16, 23, 30, 87-95, 136, 255-266.

_Plot of the Short Story, The_, 23, 87.

POE, EDGAR ALLAN, 348-350, 361, 362.

Positive, 23.

POWELL, A. VAN BUREN, 363-407.


PRIBYL, JOHN F., 283-285.

Print, 23.


Red Cross, 3, 300.

Reel, 24.


_Reformation of Calliope, The_, 352.

Register, 24, 25.

Rehearsals, 249, 250.

Release, 25.


SARGENT, EPES WINTHROP, 29, 77, 103, 107, 120-122, 156, 157, 165,
172, 175, 228, 242, 250, 290, 305, 332.

Scenario, 19, 25, 29, 32, 37-54, 131-203, 371-407.

Scene, 25, 144-161, 204-217, 231.

Scene-plot, 25, 32, 33, 204-217.

Script, 25, 26;
  its component parts, 29-33;
  mechanical preparation of, 55-71.


SELIG, 2, 78, 129, 189, 190, 283-285.

Sequence in the action, 135-137.

Serials, 26, 193.

Set, 26, 204-217.

Setting, 26, 166, 204-217.

_Short Story, The_, 74, 87, 90.

_Short-Story Writing_, 28.

Situation, 26, 27.

Split reel: See "Reel."

Stage, 27, 245-254.

Stock people, 27.

Stop-camera work, 176-181.

STORY, WALTER, 283-285.

_Strand Magazine_, 352, 354.


Struggle, 89.

Studio, 27.

Subject, 28.

Sub-title: See "Leader."


_Sun, New York_, 304.

_Sun, Sand and Solitude_, 82.

_Superba_, 326.

Super-imposure: See "Double exposure."

Suspense, 137-140, 157, 195.

_Swell Miss Fitzwell, The_, 325.

Synopsis, 31, 35-37, 87-109, 365-370.


_Tale of Two Cities, A_, 185-187.

_Technique of the Photoplay, The_, 165, 242.


Themes, desirable, 304-323;
  undesirable, 282-303.

_Thirteenth Man, The_, 353.

THOMAS, A.W., 288.

_Three Friends_, 153, 201.

Tinting, 28.

Title, 28, 72-86.

TREMAYNE, W.A., 129.

TRIANGLE, 79, 127.

Trite themes, 296-300.

Typewriting, 59-70.


UNIVERSAL, 34, 127, 297.



Visions, 28, 176-181.

Visualization, 132, 133.

VITAGRAPH, 106, 107, 129, 171, 172, 184, 185, 277, 278, 297, 302,
350, 363.


_Wasted Sacrifice, A_, 106, 107, 277, 278, 302.



WHARTON, 181-183, 196, 274.


_Without Reward_, 34-54, 208-212.

WOODS, FRANK E., 226, 227, 357.


Writers of photoplays,
  Previous training of, 5-16.

_Writer's Monthly, The_, 98, 107, 132, 149, 264.

_Writing for the Magazines_, 338-341.

_Writing the Short-Story_, 23, 77, 87, 357.


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