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Messages posted since 08/31/2014

Topic: another format question

Author: Irin Evers Posted: 03/17/10 03:53 PM

The person on the other end of a phone call (or a message on an answering machine) - is it V.O. or O.S.?

It seems everyone has a different opinion on this because every time I change it and give it to someone to read, they tell me it's the other one. Even a search online turned up opinions on both. To be honest, neither really fits.

Author: Bobbette Findley Posted: 03/17/10 04:04 PM

Dave Trottier says: V.O.

I sometimes put (filtered, over phone) in eliipses with the V.O.

Author: James Schannep Posted: 03/17/10 04:16 PM

The Hollywood Standard says V.O. as well.

I think of it this way: If there is an actor physically speaking in the scene, it's O.S. since they're there, but just can't be seen. If it is a voice track that would be added later in editing (i.e. a voice on the phone), it's V.O.

So, the "is the character physically present?" test works for me.

Author: Irin Evers Posted: 03/17/10 09:38 PM


Author: Heather Hughes Posted: 03/18/10 12:50 AM

I disagree. VO is for a commentator only. Either a character who is talking over a montage or credits or a narrator.

OS is when someone is "in" the scene, but is not shown. Not shown can either be "not in the room" or "in another location".

Author: Martin Burke Posted: 03/18/10 01:35 AM

Heather's right, VO does not apply here. I prefer (filtered) but I've seen recently produced scripts with (OS) as well.

Author: Andrew Duncan Posted: 03/18/10 03:34 AM

Voice Over is specifically for narration or for expressing audio editing (i.e. a couple having a conversation about their first date while we watch the first date). O.S. means Off Screen. Thus anything involving a character speaking in a practical manner but not in the room is O.S. . Which would include a phone conversation, answering machine, etc. Such is how it's been explained to me an how I write.

Author: Bobbette Findley Posted: 03/18/10 12:10 PM

Well, I use what's in The Screenwriter's Bible and The Idiot's Guide to Screenwriting and they both say V.O. I've never had anyone say it was wrong.

Author: Martin Burke Posted: 03/18/10 02:00 PM

Just goes to show that you can't believe what's in that bible either.

Author: James McLain Posted: 03/18/10 02:57 PM

I pretty much agree with Andrew. Anyhow, that's how I use them.

Author: James Schannep Posted: 03/18/10 04:38 PM

Crazy that there is such a disparity here. I thought this was pretty simple, as everything I've ever read on the subject says to use V.O.

And, just personal opinion here, O.S. doesn't make sense to me since the person on the other end of the phone call wouldn't even need to be around for filming, let alone that their character could be halfway around the world during the scene.

I've always written voices on the phone as V.O. Same goes for radios, etc. I've had many coverage reports and never has this been brought to my attention as being incorrect.

This would lead me to believe the bottom line (as is for anything in screenwriting) is if your intent is clearly and concisely expressed, then no one really cares.

Author: Irin Evers Posted: 03/18/10 04:43 PM

Lol. See what I mean? Both are wrong for various reasons. Thanks.

Author: Bobbette Findley Posted: 03/18/10 05:18 PM


I think you should go with V.O. and this is why. When i first decided to learn the art of screenwriting, I bought The screenwriter's Biblle and The Idiot's Guide to Screenwriting. They both say V.O. There's also this site, and it says V.O. I have NEVER seen one book or site that says O.S. is the correct from these two. Dave's says that O.S. is not correct because the person is not anywehre at the scene/ loaction, so they are more than just off screen. I mean, they can't just walk into the room.

If anyone knows a screenwriting book where it says O.S. is what you use, please let me know.

If you don't want to go with V.O., you can used the (one phone) or (amplified).

The Screenwriter's Bible actually gives you 4 ways to handle telephone conversations. If you want, drop me an email (my address is in my profile) and I'll scan the pages and send them to you.

Author: Irin Evers Posted: 03/18/10 07:31 PM

I agree and I've made them V.O.

Thanks Bobette.

Author: Irin Evers Posted: 03/18/10 07:32 PM

Oops - left off a "b" - Bobbette.

Author: Steven Lee Posted: 03/18/10 10:06 PM


I've used V.O. myself in the past number of years.

Author: A.L. Jeniins Posted: 03/22/10 08:35 AM


Throw in an INTERCUT and let the Director decide what to do.

Author: Bobbette Findley Posted: 03/23/10 05:27 PM


I always got dinged by readers when I used INTERCUT, INSERT, POV, MOS and the lilkes. I kept thinking to myself: If a screenwriter isn't suposed to use these things, because it's directing, why include them in screenwriting books? Now, I don't use them unless absolutely necessary.

Author: Michael Scott Posted: 03/23/10 06:51 PM

Okay, so how about using things such as CLOSE ON, and WE SEE? Is it "Taboo" to use those?

Author: Paula Smith Posted: 03/23/10 07:39 PM

"Intercut" isn't really directing. It's a way to avoid using a slug line constantly when you are switching between two people on the phone who are in two different locations. Otherwise you would have to do" INT. BOB'S HOUSE - DAY" and 'INT. JOE'S HOUSE - DAY" each time you switched from one person's dialogue to the other.

Author: Michael Scott Posted: 03/23/10 07:46 PM

Thanks, Paula. Here's another. What if I'm asking for a - traveling aeriel view? Is that another NO-NO?

Author: Paula Smith Posted: 03/23/10 10:40 PM

I remember being told that if you picture something that you really want shown a particular way you need to write so that the director can only film it one way.

Example, if you want a close up, describe something like "his eyelid twitches."

Here's your city, off the top of my head. EXT. NEW YORK - DAY The rising sun glistens on the glass of several buildings. The Empire State building is outlined by the sun..... Ships look like ants bobbing in the bay.

This is rough, but you get the idea.

Author: Andrew Duncan Posted: 03/24/10 01:52 AM

Don't use intercut, pov, mos, or any of that other stuff. It's primarily outdated or used for shooting scripts and really you don't need it.

Write only what needs to be seen. If it's essential information (ex. a clock ticking down on a bomb or the protagonist spots a tattoo on someone that gives them away) it goes without saying they're going to cut to it in some way.

You can also utilize how you space, group information, and how you contract or expand descriptions to subconsciously hint at how it needs to be shot and the pace of the editing.

It's your job to make people see the movie as they read. I highly recommend reading scripts by people like David Koepp. You can on the first page why he makes so much money. A particularly good example of what I'm talking about is his spec draft of Panic Room.

Regardless, I've noticed new writers almost fetishisticly obsess over formatting as though cracking some particular code is the difference between a sale or representation. Or stranger yet, as though someone might be reading a good screenplay and decide to throw it in the trash because they chose to use "we see" or incorrectly (according to some random guy's book) labeled their flashback "wrong."

As a reader, I can assure you almost everyone writes scripts slightly different from everyone else. As long as you've got 95% of your formatting more or less industry standard and you're consistent NOBODY CARES.

At that point, all any one cares about is if it's any good. Almost any reader or development exec will tell you they can tell if a script is going to be any good in ten pages. i agree whole heartedly (in most cases in one page) and it has nothing to do with formatting.

Author: Irin Evers Posted: 03/24/10 11:48 AM

I second that Andrew and have said this before. When I was a reader, was I really going to Pass on Casablanca because of a formatting mistake? But - you should absolutely do your best to get the typos out and keep the format correct because it pisses off a reader when you look amateur like that, so why piss them off? It's like handing in a resume with a coffee stain on it. Bill Gate will still get the job with the coffee stain, but you won't.