1. andrewdj
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    andrewdj Member

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    Screenplay writing, including on-screen translation/real meaning of dialogue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by andrewdj, Jan 30, 2012.

    This may be in wrong section, but I don't seem to have permission to post in Scripts, and couldn't find any information on how to gain access.

    I'm working on a screenplay in which there is a short phone sequence. The person who answers talks in code because someone may be eavesdropping on the call, while the translation/real meaning of what they're saying is shown as a caption.

    I'm trying to work out how best to format this in the screenplay, without it appearing messy. I thought maybe two columns of dialogue, with the person's name in the first column and the word SUBTITLES in place of the character name in the second. Does this sound right?
     
  2. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    You never want more than one column in a screenplay. If this is a piece you want someone else to take seriously, don't break formatting rules. When a character is speaking in a foreign language you simply place a parenthetical of the language above what the character would be saying in English. For example:

    CARLOS
    (in Spanish)
    Hows it hangin, man?

    You have two options: write out the dialogue in the coded language to leave your audience in the dark on some conversations, or write out the dialogue in English and indicate that the characters are speaking code with a parenthetical. Never state where subtitles should be in your screenplay, that should be up to the discretion of the director.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first of all, there are times when there would be two columns in a script... such as when two people are talking over each other, at the same time... or when two people are saying the same thing in unison... or, in the situation the op is concerned about... so the 'never' above is not valid advice, sorry to say, as it is not breaking any format rules at all...

    and in the op's case, the language being spoken is not a known foreign one, but a personal code, so the wrylie wouldn't be used as shown in the example given...

    the other 'never' is also not valid, since subtitles are often specified in a script by the screenwriter where they're necessary... the director may choose to do it differently later on, but it's perfectly ok to include subtitles in a spec script... and that includes in this instance...

    so, to get back to the op's problem, the coded dialog must be written, if it's to be spoken... and in order for the audience to know what it means, the decoded translation must also be included in the script... 2 columns is one way to do it... it can be done easily enough and effectively, in another way that i can suggest, as well... here's how it could be done:

    with subtitles superimposed:

    or
    with the double column [can't show it here, so picture subtitles in column at the right]:

     
  4. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    I apologize for the misinformation - should not have used absolutes. I'm used to my professors' vehement disapproval of dual column dialogue, but after some research mammamaia is quite correct. Please ignore my advice.
     
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  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sadly, all teachers are not good teachers, berber... where did you study the craft of screenwriting?
     
  6. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    Studied Film at a University for two years before I switched to Creative Writing. Unfortunately the three "writing intensive" courses I took (Continuity Writing, Dramatic Writing for Visual Media, and Episodic Writing for Television) were more theory based than actual practical writing courses - a lot of how to break into the industry and what both viewers and producers are looking for. The little formatting and writing we did was based on a 65-year-old man's perspective of "proper."

    At any rate, I've gotten most of my experience since through writing of my own, mostly freelance work for local indie productions and my University's film program. I still have much to learn.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...which one?...

    ...well, i'm 73 and have only been writing feature film screenplays/tv scripts and mentoring aspiring screenwriters for a bit short of 30 years, but i do keep up on what's currently 'proper' in the film and tv industry... he doesn't seem to have done so, sad to say...

    ...what kind of scripts?... for feature films, shorts, or tv?...

    ...good news is you're young enough to have plenty of time to do it... if you need any help or more valid advice than you've gotten thus far, along the way, i'm only a mouseclick away and always have time for another mentee...

    love and hugs, maia
     

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