Screenwriting: How To Write the Header

In screenwriting, screenwriters always need to write headers when introducing a new scene. Yet, unlike novels and manuscripts, screenwriters do not need to give in-depth descriptions. They simply need to introduce the scene. It's up to the director to fill in the missing parts.

Step 1: Defining a Scene Heading

Scene headings set up new scenes. Basically, every time a character moves to a different scene, a different scene heading has to be created. Scene headings are not wordy affairs. In fact, they are very short and are usually only one line long.

The scene heading will set up the time of day, location and whether or not the scene takes place inside or outside. These headings do not need to be indented in any special way. It simply needs to be typed from the left to right margin.

Step 2: How to Write Scene Headings

For an example of a scene heading, see below:

EXT. CITY PARK - EARLY AFTERNOON

Now, the above scene heading sets up an exterior scene. Exterior is abbreviated EXT. while an interior scene would start with the abbreviation INT. The exterior and interior abbreviations are always listed first.

The next part of the heading is the location. In this case, it's a park somewhere in the city. The actual setting does not have to be too descriptive. It is not the screenwriter's job to interpret what the park should look like; they only need to say that the scene happens in a park.

Finally, the time of day needs to be set. For this example, it indicates early afternoon. The time of day always needs to follow the location, and a dash is necessary to separate the two.

Step 3: Adding the Scene Heading into a Scene

After the heading is written, screenwriters will then give a brief description about what should be going on in the scene. To continue with the park example, a description of what's going on could be the following:

The park is dirty and has trash flying all around.

Two people walk along a broken walkway, and they are holding hands.

KELLY watches the scene from behind a tree.

When a character is first introduced in a description, their name is always capitalized, and the name of character is always capitalized over their dialogue. For example, see below:

KELLY
(sighing)
Do you think that someone could pick up the trash?

Step 4: Putting Everything Together

Now, the screenwriter is ready to put the whole scene together with the heading, description and dialogue.

EXT. CITY PARK - EARLY AFTERNOON

The park is dirty and has trash flying all around.

Two people walk along a broken walkway, and they are holding hands.

KELLY watches the scene from behind a tree.

KELLY
(sighing)
Do you think that someone could pick up the trash?

This process will be done for every new scene. Scene headings are always necessary when the scene changes.