My Journey Home Armando Pena Andrew Lam Faith Adiele
Your Journey HomeFor TeachersAbout the film
For Teachers
Media Literacy Workshop
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Definition of Script
A script is the text of a play, broadcast or movie.

The Script Elements
  • Act Number - indicates what act you're in.
  • Scene Number - indicates what scene you're in.
  • Cast List - used in scripts to indicate which characters are speaking and appearing in the scene.
  • Action - what we see on the screen or stage.
  • Scene Heading - tells where the scene takes place.
  • Character Name - indicates who's speaking.
  • Dialogue - what the character is saying.
  • Dual-Column Dialogue - used when two characters speak simultaneously.
  • Parenthetical - tells how the actor reads the dialogue.
  • Extension - indicates whether a character is doing voice-over or is off-screen.
  • Shot - tells you where to focus your attention
  • Transition - tells how to move to the next scene
Definition of Action
Action means the state or process of acting or doing. Action is also called "business" or "description." It's what we see on the screen or stage. It describes, in the most visual way it can, what happens.

Activity
Let's examine a script element — action — to see how it works.

Here's a sample:

It was a damp, cold night. Kevin was outside the greenhouse in the cottage garden. He heard a sound. He scratched his head as he got closer to the greenhouse. He continued forward with a curious expression on his face.

Now read this:

It was a damp, cold late autumn night. Kevin walked quietly and cautiously through the cottage garden. As the crisp, cool pre-winter wind crept through his light jacket, his chill grew, and the brittle fall leaves cracked underfoot. As he approached the greenhouse, he heard a strange, indiscernible noise inside. He crept around the corner and thought, "Wonder what that could be?"

What is the difference? The first sample shows action, the second one tells about it. We can't see a character thinking. But we know that characters who are thinking will behave in a certain way. A scriptwriter must describe the behavior, not the internal process of what the character is thinking.

Using action, you have more room to make your writing creative than you do with the other elements.

Activity
Now have students try writing a sample action element and critique each others' writing.

The Technical Elements
These support the story elements.

  • A character's physical appearance (costumes and make-up).
  • The setting - could this story take place somewhere else?
  • What is the theme? How do you know? (dialogue/script)
  • Are any special devices used to further the plot, e.g., props?
  • The pace. What is used to achieve the pace?
Activity
As a conclusion to this workshop, lead a discussion that helps students explore elements of a story they may not have noticed immediately such as how the story develops, what’s missing, the use of language, how words and pictures work together, and what the story means to them.

Watch part of a movie, television drama, situation comedy, television commercial, or even a music video. After viewing it, have students discuss the following:

  1. Identify and discuss each story element.
  2. If this same story were presented in a print medium, e.g., essay, book or magazine — how would you get the same story across?
  3. Read the credits to find out who put the movie or TV story together. Remember that everything in the show is there because of someone’s decision. Each of those elements has a particular effect on the viewer or contributes to how we perceive the story.
  4. Discuss what you think each person is responsible for. For example, what might the producer do?

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