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

[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.)

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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