How to write a split screen scene: the 500 Days of Summer Example

500 days of summer[This extract of a full length script is used to illustrate an educational point. Please don’t sue me, I can take it out if it prevents anyone from making millions.]

It’s rare to find split screen scenes in a script, and often it means the script is high on visual tricks to tell the story. It is the case for (500)… of course, but I was very impressed of how smooth the read was in general, and the split screen scene in particular.

I put the entire scene because I think it’s interesting to see how it opens and closes, and how locations change. (As you’ll notice, in the movie the split screens are switched. Expectations is on the left and Reality on the right, putting more focus on Expectations.)

(500) days of summer - 1(500) days of summer - 2(500) days of summer - 3(500) days of summer - 4

What I noticed so far with split screen scenes is that:

a) Often there’s few or no dialogs, unless it is, let’s say, a phone conversation and it’s clear that dialogs are bouncing back from one side to the other.

b) Split screens are showing either two sides of the same coin, like in (500)…, which makes it even more explicit with the titles on screen. Or one side shows the ‘big picture’, and the other details of it. Like, for example,  127 hours, or Requiem for a dream. In those two scripts, the split screen was a directorial decision made afterwards.

I’m looking to read more split screen scenes, with a different take with the one in (500)… (or not). If you have any recommendations or if you have ‘Timecode‘ (the ultimate split screen movie), put a comment or shoot an email!

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  2. I’ve come across some different ways of writing the split screen. This one, (500 days of summer) sets it up nicely and flows easily. I, myself am trying to write a split-screen scene in a student screenplay, something like in Run Lola Run. I think I will use something like this. Thanks for the post.

    • Hey Baxter,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I want to find more examples, but I often found out that the split screen scenes were not written as such. The advantage of (500)… scene is that it’s only made of actions. The difficulty comes when there’s dialogs I think.
      Would love to read your scene once ready!


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  4. Hey,

    First off thank you for this post , I myself am writing a split screen, but am running into some confusion. Unlike (500) Days, my splits screens are in different locations and I feel like the scene is off a little bit. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Namar,

      unfortunately I haven’t come across other scripts using split screens since this article. I checked scripts from movies that had split screens scenes and ended up realizing that the script was written in a classic way and the split screen was added during shooting and post I guess.

      My suggestion would be to try finding movies with split screen scenes and find back the scripts to see how it’s written. I am keeping an eye open, and if you find an example, let me know, I’d love to read another scene!

      I’ll make sure to let you know if I find one myself.

      Also, I did a quick search, and john august talks about his experience about writing split screen and confirms that unless essential, it’s often better to write the scene in a classic way:


  5. Hi,

    I too am using a split screen for a student screenplay and found this very helpful so thanks.
    One thing I did notice is that even though it’s not scripted here the actual film did have some dialogue in the split screens. In the bit where Summer opens the door there is actually dialogue in both sections and they talk over each other. I can see why they didn’t script it though because it’s not overly important and would be pretty confusing looking on a script

    • Hi Colm, thanks for your feedback.
      I have yet to find another script that a) clearly has an ambitious split-screen scene and b) has dialogs inside (in the script).

      Good luck in writing your own scene, if you want to share it here when you’re done, feel free!


  6. The first thing that came to mind when I saw this movie was the Godfather where Al Pacino is praying in a church and doing his religious obligations while on the other half of the screen at the same time it was happening, his minions are out to kill people and commit the crimes their mafia bosses make them do.

    • If I’m not mistaken this scene was written and shot as a cross cutting scene, when two or more actions are simultaneously happening at different places. It’s slightly different from a split screen where the screen is actually divided and the viewer sees all the information at once.

      • That particular cross-cut was created in the editing room, according to Robert Evans “The Kid Stays in the Picture.”

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  8. Thank you so much Mentorless! I also appreciated the link to the crosscutting scene in Godfather, so I could understand the difference.