Screenwriting: How To Write Intercuts

In screenwriting, an intercut is a way to simplify the writing while maintaining the flow of the story. It works by removing screen descriptions and sluglines from two interacting scenes, instead showing the action cutting between the two scenes, the way it would be seen on screen. Though never absolutely required, it does make a script easier to read.

Here is an example:

A Scene without Using an Intercut

INT. NIGHTCLUB - NIGHT

A seedy nightclub, this is the place where people go looking for trouble.

VINNIE (40) is trouble personified.  He speaks into his cell phone.

                                                VINNIE

                        Sosa, what were you thinking?

EXT. COLUMBIAN ESTATE - NIGHT

Pools, villas, girls, Mercedes Benzes, and armed guards lie tucked away in a jungle.  Smoking a cigar and wearing sunglasses at night is SOSA (50).  Nobody messes with Sosa and gets away with it.

                                                SOSA

                        Vinnie, my friend, this is a good deal for both of us.

INT. NIGHTCLUB - NIGHT

Vinnie in the nightclub.

                                                VINNIE

                        This isn't the deal we agreed on.

EXT. COLUMBIAN ESTATE - NIGHT

Sosa with his cigar by the pool.

                                                SOSA

                        You're right.  It's better.

The Same Scene, Using an Intercut

INT. NIGHTCLUB - NIGHT

A seedy nightclub, this is the place where people go looking for trouble.

VINNIE (40) is trouble personified.  He speaks into his cell phone.

                                                VINNIE

                        Sosa, what were you thinking?

EXT. COLUMBIAN ESTATE - NIGHT

Pools, girls, Mercedes Benzes, and armed guards lie tucked away in a jungle.  Smoking a cigar and wearing sunglasses at night is SOSA (50).  Nobody messes with Sosa and gets away with it.

                                                SOSA

                        Vinnie, my friend, this is a good deal for both of us.

INTERCUT VINNIE AND SOSA

                                                VINNIE

                        This isn't the deal we agreed on.

                                                SOSA

                        You're right.  It's better.

As you can see, two INT/EXT sluglines have been eliminated, but the reader still understands the scene. For longer conversations, the additional sluglines and descriptions become cumbersome, so using an intercut is highly recommended.

How to Use an Intercut

First, both scenes must be described. In the example above, both the nightclub and the estate have sluglines and descriptions.

Second, on a new line, write INTERCUT in all caps, followed by an indicator of the two scenes. The whole line is capitalized. The usual method is to write INTERCUT VINNIE AND SOSA, or INTERCUT NIGHTCLUB AND ESTATE, or INTERCUT CONVERSATION. Pick the one that makes the most sense for the scene.

When to Use an Intercut

Intercuts are most commonly used when two characters in different locations are talking on the phone. Two characters chatting over the Internet would also be a good time to use it. If one character is stalking or watching the other, an intercut can help keep the tension of the scene.

However, if there are more than two characters involved, it may become confusing as to where each character is located. Screenwriters should use their best judgment in these cases, or err on the safe side and not use an intercut.