What is a scene?

One of my script consulting teachers, Don Bohlinger, professor at the USC film department, taught me this:

“Each scene is either a chase or an escape.”

It is not only true for scenes with actual chases in action movies, but for basically every scene with more than one characters in it, and it is even true for scenes with a single character who has an inner conflict.

Today I found this quote by screenwriter and director Mike Nichols:

“Every scene is either a fight, a seduction, or a negotiation.” (source)

This also seems to be a good way to look at the scenes you write or analyze, especially if you check your draft before doing a major rewrite or prepare notes for a script meeting.

Questions you might want to ask:

  • Does each scene have a conflict?
  • What is this conflict about?
  • If it is more than one person: Who has a high status, who has the low status?
  • Who is chasing/seducing/fighting whom and why?
  • Who is trying to escape and why?
  • And do the characters switch status during the scene( which I personally always find interesting)?


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