The Lesser Known Leap Frog of Interior and Exterior

October 13, 2021
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Okay, following on from the advice given in the post (before last) about structuring and checking your work for mistakes, we begin today with my  ‘101 Basics’ on the use of INT/EXT in your setting directions – if you haven’t read it you can find that post by clicking here.

Early on in our screenwriting, we learn that before we start any scene, it must be identified as being either INTERIOR or EXTERIOR.

This is denoted on the scene line as ‘INT’ (INTERIOR) or ‘EXT’ (EXTERIOR) and occasionally  ‘I/E’ where the scene occurs in a setting or place that may at times be both INSIDE and OUTSIDE. Possibly a discussion  between two people with one stood on the doorstep and the other in the HALLWAY talking through an open (or even closed) door.

Often, such scenes are denoted as something along the lines of I/E. ENTRANCE. JOHN’S HOUSE – DAY

However,  reading a number of scripts as part of a lab at a festival just recently, I was amazed to find that half the scripts had been plotted such that each INTERIOR SCENE followed another INTERIOR SCENE for six scenes. Feeding back to the writer, I explained that what he’d written was more akin to a theatre production than a screenplay? Why?

Because it was not cinematic. All of it was set indoors and could have been filmed on a stage set or performed in a theatre to a live audience. Moreover, there was no exterior scene to help the viewer to get a sense of place and context for the scenes such as:

EXT. SQUARE – NIGHT

Bob races across the road and through the door into:

INT. PUB – NIGHT

…where friend Charles spins around with a pint in his hand.

Now, while I’m not advocating that at the end of our script we should have the same number of INT and EXT scenes, I will say that if you have one interior scene running into another ad nauseam  (and it’s not a story of miners trapped underground) then something is wrong in your planning. (Actually, trapped miners would still have rescuers above them and the chance for EXT scenes to stop it being too claustrophobic a piece.)

Not only do INTERIOR and EXTERIOR scenes aid the reader/viewer as to place and context, they assist in helping them to realise the passage of time between one scene and the next. They also make it CINEMATIC!!!!

Okay, enough. Make sure INTERIOR and EXTERIOR SCENES are well thought out. All the best!

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