Screenwriting: How To Write Extension

Screenwriting is one of the most important crafts in the film industry. In fact, many people will agree that a great screenplay is the most important ingredient for making a great film. If the script isn't good then it will be impossible for even the best directors and actors to turn it into a great movie that audiences will love. 

Study Screenplays

Screenwriting is a difficult craft to master, but anyone can try their hand in it. All you need to invest is time. Watch great movies and study how the story unfolds. Then go online and look for the screenplays. You can find a lot of free screenplays to read over the internet. Immerse yourself in screenwriting. Once you get the hang of it start writing your own work.

Give Your Script the Proper Formatting 

Screenwriting is a lot different then other forms of writing. The most noticeable difference is the amount of white space that exists on a screenplay's page. There is a universal industry format that screenplays must adhere to. As a screenwriter you need to adhere to these rules. The market is over saturated with screenplays because anyone with a word processor can read them. You could have written the most brilliant screenplay ever but if it's not properly format then the guy with ten scripts to read isn't even going to look at yours because to him it screams amateur. So follow the proper format.

Writing Extensions

Extensions are part of a screenplays format. There are instructions that appear one space next to the characters name that tell the reader if a character is speaking in Voice Over (V.O.) or Off Screen (O.S.). Sometimes Off Camera (O.C.) is used instead of Off Screen but it means the same thing.

Example:

INT. OFFICE- NIGHT

The lights are off. MARY, 30, is going through a filing cabinet.

JIM (O.S.)

What are you doing here?

Mary turns around to see JIM pointing a gun at her.

Voice Over

Voice over is a technique that allows a narrator to speak to the audience while some action is appearing on screen. When used properly it can connect the audience with a character on a very intimate level as it allows them to hear his thoughts. It's a very powerful tool but a lot of beginning writers tend to use it as a crutch to give exposition to the audience. Instead of a dynamic connection the audience becomes bored.

Most screenwriting gurus claim that you should never use voice over, even though there are tons of great movies that use it. Instead, voice over should be added to the script in a rewrite when the story is solid and the characters are developed. It should be used to add something to the story rather than supporting it. 

Off Screen

Off screen is a great tool because it helps you as the writer direct the reader's attention. You can get more dramatic impact when a one characters startles another by surprising them with off screen dialogue. This also helps keep the reader involved with the story. But you should also use these sparingly. Too much off screen dialogue can get a little annoying, especially in a visual medium.