People argue about this script convention all the time. What do you think?
A little kerfuffle broke out on Twitter, as is usual when the Mare from Easttown The pilot script was made available online for reading. Someone made a joke about how it was used “We see” in the description of the scene and was therefore unprofessional what became a debate whether or not this rule should be followed.
It is not the first time this debate has taken place and it will not be the last. So let’s unzip why this rule exists and whether or not it is necessary. It’s just two little words! It shouldn’t cause as much passion, but here we are.
Personally, when I read “we see” in a script, I flinch. For me, it’s as cheesy and clichéd as going to a microphone and saying “Test 1, 2, 3” or pretending to be holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa in a photo.
“This writer indeed Want to direct, ”I think. But that’s not because I’m some kind of descriptive language purist or film nob. (At least not quite.) That’s because scriptwriters and competition rules hammered it into me. This is a bias that has been taught to me and many other film students.
And yet! Almost every script rule you’ve ever been taught has been broken by a professional writer in a script you love.
Why you should never use “we see”
Short is your friend. You don’t need “We see a hammock hanging between two trees in the distance” if you could say, “A hammock is hanging between two trees in the distance”.
The same goes for “we hear”. There is no reason to write “we hear a bell ringing” instead of “a bell is ringing” – or even better: “THING!”.
Don’t tell the person reading your script what they see. show you what you see. The language you use should be as active and present as possible.
Screenwriters are taught not to “judge” their films as they write. If it looks like you’re trying to pick the shots yourself, it could put a potential director off. And hey! Maybe that means the director is an egomaniac and you don’t want to work with him anyway. But in terms of collaboration, this is an easy way to avoid micromanaging from the side.
It is important to note that many of the scripts that are made available to the public for study are scripts, not specification scripts – and scripts are much more likely to describe what the camera is doing in the scene description.
As you read, be sure to make sure you write down scripts from writers / directors and how they describe scenes they plan to shoot.
Why you should definitely use “we see”
When the audience sees something the characters can’t.
If writing “Behind Francesca, we see Courtney in the hammock” is more effective for you than “Courtney is in the hammock, unnoticed by Francesa”, then you’re good to go.
If you think such rules are pedantic, it is not untrue, you can go too. Ultimately, the story you tell is more important than anything else. The tips and tricks we get from screenwriters are just that.
you will be Also, tell them never to put song titles aside because it will limit your budget, but that always seemed like a stupid rule to me. As long as I don’t ask for needle pricks all five pages and the song is an integral part of the story I’m telling, why should I let that stop me?
Is “just telling a good story” vague and frustrating advice? Naturally! Where is the line? Are any rules important? Why don’t I just send a logline and a few index cards to Netflix by courier? Why write at all?
It’s especially frustrating when the kind of writer who decides the rules don’t apply to them also happens to be the kind of overprivileged or authorized people who find other rules, like standing in line or turning off the phone on the plane, also apply not for you.
Rules like this are rules for a reason, even if that reason feels arbitrary. For the most part, readers and professors notice a pattern and want to get rid of the bad habits before amateur writers use them as a crutch.
Here’s a compromise. Challenge yourself to use active language and show what we see instead of telling us what we see first, and when you get better at it, you can begin to weave the royal “we” back in at the appropriate moment .
And maybe if you’re too careful to impress and captivate a reader, don’t use it on the first page – not all of us are writing the next Mare from Easttown.