Writing the Photoplay
by J. Berg Esenwein and Arthur Leeds
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J. BERG ESENWEIN Editor of "The Writer's Monthly"


ARTHUR LEEDS Late Editor of Scripts, Edison Studio

The Writer's Library Edited by J. Berg Esenwein

Revised Edition

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

Table of Contents


























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 Company

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

Arrangement of Electric Lights in a Photoplay Studio

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 machine.

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 play.

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.

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 drama.

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 object.

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 photoplay.

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 film.

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 role," 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 capacities.

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 "location."


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 plate.

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 continuity."

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 Scene-Plot.

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."


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 comprehended.

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 all.



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 interested.

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 VIII.]



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 ranch.

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 earnestly.



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 before.

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 averted.



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 picture.

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 negligence.

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.

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 aesthetic your taste may be, never use the shades of cherry, opaline, canary, or Nile green, in which certain grades of paper are made.

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