GLOSSARY OF TERMS
"A" story is the main story/theme.
"B" story refers to the background story.
The scene description, character movement, and
sounds as described in a screenplay.
AKA "S.M.P.T.E. leader." The countdown
leader used at the beginning of a film, which allows the lab to line
up the sound.
The coveted annual award, the "Oscar,"
which is presented to the best of the best.
A UK-based organization whose aims are to promote
and encourage the science, technology and creative application of all
aspects of motion picture sound recording and reproduction, and to promote
and enhance the status and recognition of the contribution of those
"Action" is called during filming
to indicate the start of the current take.
The "talent" who plays the role of
Rewriting of fact or fiction for film presentation,
usually in the form of a completed screenplay, or a proposal treatment.
Printing of a book completed before the book's
official release date.
Gathering in which, a potential client of an
agency meets with the agents to discuss the agents' plan and goals for
creating a career for the potential client.
Manager responsible for the professional business
dealings of an actor, director, screenwriter, or other artist. An agent
typically negotiates the contracts and often has some part in selecting
or recommending roles for their client.
Union guild for film/video editors; also known
Organization dedicated to advancing the art
Villain of the film or script who is in conflict
with the protagonist.
Anything that happens in the final few moments
of a film that dulls down the story crescendo and leaves the audience
feeling let down and unsatisfied.
Protagonist who has pronounced personality or
character defects or eccentricities, which are not usually associated
with the hero archetype.
Part of book that follows a chapter (end-of-chapter
appendix) or, more commonly, that comes after all the chapters (end-of-book
appendix). An appendix contains supplemental material, such as tables
or source material, which does not conveniently fit into a chapter.
Crew concerned with visual artistry of a production.
Members of art dept. include: Art director, assistant art director,
draftsman, leadman, production designer, production buyer, property
master, set dresser, special effects supervisor, among others.
Individual who oversees the artists and crafts
people who build sets.
Sensitivity to light, which measures the film's
speed. (Example: ASA 400.) "ASA" stands for American Standards
Duties include tracking the progress of filming
versus the production schedule.
Editing room crew member responsible for providing
logistical assistance to the editor.
Experimental or highly independent film that
is often the forerunner of a new artistic genre.
Used to describe anything occurring
in a rear plane of action. Always use this term in lower case initials
or written in full ("background"). Example: two people talk
as Bill and Ted fight in the b.g.
Sales made at a book table or
booth that is set up at an event. Often when an author is speaking or
participating in a conference or panel discussion, that author's books
are on sale, usually at a table at the back of the auditorium or in
the hallway.Many scripts will use the parenthetical
"(beat)" to interrupt a line of dialog. A "beat"
is an exchange of behavior in action/reaction.
The off-camera goings on associated with film/video making.
Chief assistant, usually of the gaffer. More often lately used as a
general term for the second in command of a group.
Comedy in which the humor is derived from subjects which are typically
considered "serious", or for which humor is usually considered
as unsuitable: death, war, misery.
1) Experienced copyeditor who provides a deep structural edit for a
book manuscript. 2) The procedure of improving and reorganizing structure,
content and order of a book manuscript. Compare to Developmental Editor.
Silver or white card that is used to bounce light onto a subject.
Form signed by the author of a screenplay or
other written work that warrants the author's work is original, does
not libel another party, does not invade anyone's privacy, and will
not cause the buyer of the work to be sued for any legal action.
In a screenplay, the name appears in all caps
the first time a character is introduced in the "Action."
The character's name can then be written normally, in the action, the
rest of the script.
Actor who specializes in playing a particular
style of character, often stereotypical, offbeat, or humorous.
Formulaic inferred curved line which traces
the development, growth, and transformation of a character over the
course of the screenplay.
Color portion of a video signal.
Small board which holds information identifying
a shot: working title of the movie, names of director and DP, scene
and take numbers, date, and time. Used at the beginning of a take, the
clapboard has a hinged stick, which is "clapped" to provide
Edge numbers that are inked onto a work print
and mag track after syncing.
Standard video test pattern, which includes
samples of primary and secondary colors.
Technical advisor with expertise in film stock
and film developing, who provides advice for cinematographers and color
Method for measuring the overall color of a
light source, measured in degrees Kelvin (deg.K). Daylight is approximately
5500 degree. K. Fluorescent Lights are approx. 4100 degree. K. Indoor
incandescent lights are 2800 degree .K and professional Movie Lights
are 3200 Degree. K
Form of compensation received by a writer, after
the writing services have been completed, if he is awarded writing credit
for the project. The contingent compensation may include a production
bonus, net profits, reserved rights, and/or additional payments in the
event of a film or television sequel, remake, or spin-off.
Sometimes instead of DAY or NIGHT at the end
of a SLUGLINE/Location Description, you'll see CONTINUOUS. Basically,
continuous refers to action that moves from one location to another
without any interruptions in time. For example, in an action movie,
the hero may run from the airport terminal into a parking garage. The
sequence may include cuts, but the audience would perceive the action
as a continuous sequence of events from the terminal to the lobby to
the street to the garage to the second floor to a car etc. CONTINUOUS
is generally optional in writing and can be dropped altogether.
Person who edits or redacts copy (manuscript material) submitted by
an author. Such editing has the goal of correcting grammar irregularities
and inconsistencies and of correcting punctuation, spelling, usage and
Ownership of intellectual property such as printed
matter, protected by law. The right to copy, repurchase or publish content
of the copyrighted medium.
Advertising whose cost is shared between or
among different companies. Such advertising is especially advantageous
to smaller companies with limited budgets. Such ads are also called
cooperative advertising. In some co-op advertising, a publisher or manufacturer
offers incentives or discounts to retailers who promote particular books
Performed by a reader, this process involves
a script synopsized, reviewed, and evaluated with respect to the story,
character development, plot development and so forth, and then rated,
with the intention of informing others as to whether or not the script
is worthy of further consideration.
The authorship given to a written work in the
entertainment industry. For film: "Story by," "Screenplay
by," and "Written by." For TV: "Created by,"
Story by," and "Teleplay by."
Process run by the Writers Guild of America
in which disputes concerning the award of credit (as in "Story
by, "Screenplay by," "Teleplay by," and "Written
by") are decided. The method in which these decisions take place
has the WGA sending all drafts of the disputed work to three separate
individuals; separately and without knowledge of each other, they decide
which writer deserves the award of credit. When two of the three individuals
agree on the award of credit, the decision is considered final.
Process in which a script is altered, changed,
modified, etc., by a series of collaborative meetings between the writer
and/or production executive, studio executive, director, or other individuals
who may be attached to the project.
Person who deals with the overall organization of a book's manuscript
rather than with changes such as wording of sentences within paragraphs.
A developmental editor also addresses reordering entire blocks of text
and such an edit may extend to reordering entire chapters. The edit
may also address tone, voice, addition or deletion of material, complexity
of material and transitions among paragraphs and sections of the book.
Compare to Book Doctor.
Type of SMPTE time code designed to exactly
match the real time of common clocks. Two frames of time code are dropped
every minute, on the minute, except every tenth minute. This corrects
for the fact that video frames occur at a rate of 29.97 per second,
rather than an exact 30 frames per second.
Meaningful change of the intensity/level of
dramatic situation of a character over the duration of an entire scene
or sequence of scenes.
Electronic file format to which books may be published. Although dedicated
devices may be used to read eBooks, they may be read on other platforms
such as PDA's and personal computers as well.
Complete list of time code numbers for each
shot and sound used in the off-line edit master. These time code numbers
are used to create the final on-line edit master.
Promotional statement by someone recommending a book, often found on
the dust cover or near the front of the book.
A shot, usually from a distance, that shows
us where we are. It is a shot that suggests location. Often used at
the beginning of a film to suggest where the story takes place. For
example, if our story takes place in New York, we might use a shot of
the Manhattan skyline as an establishing shot.
Wide shot showing much of the location.
Producer who is not involved in any technical
aspects of the filmmaking process, but who is still responsible for
the overall production usually handling business and legal issues.
Exterior. This scene takes place out of doors.
This is mostly for producers to figure out the probable cost of a film
In the olden days of cinema, people watched
a series of short films. Then, as films became longer, they would watch
some short films and one long film. The long film became the main attraction,
hence the term feature film. Today, feature films are generally defined
as any film at least one hour long that people pay to see.As set forth in the Writers Guild
of America Minimum Basic Agreement, a first complete draft of any script
in continuity form, including dialogue.
As in all writing, this refers to the
writers last rewrite of a script. Often the script will be changed or
rearranged again by the director.Very rarely, a script will appear
as a Final Draft document. This means only people with a screenplay
formatting word processor known as Final Draft or the appropriate Final
Draft viewer can view the document appropriately. The Final Draft Viewer
is available as a free download. For those of you interested in screenwriting,
Final Draft is one of many excellent professional screenwriting tools
and can be obtained in many software stores or from Amazon.com
Movies are created by taking a rapid
sequence of pictures (frames) of action and by displaying these frames
at the same rate at which they were recorded, the illusion of motion
can be created. Film=24 frames per second and Video=30fps (in Europe
using P.A.L.=25 fps).
A "look-see" type of meeting in which
a writer meets with a producer, production executive, studio executive,
and so forth, as a form of introduction. Generally, in this meeting
the producer, production executive, studio executive, and so forth,
does not have a specific project in mind for which the writer will be
Broad category or kind of book, generally denoted by the book's subject
matter. Some examples of book genres include romance, sci-fi, self-help
and true crime.
Person contracted by an author or publisher to write or co-write a book.
A ghostwriter's work often goes un-credited upon publication.
Book that has cloth material glued to a type of pasteboard material,
forming a durable cover and spine. Reference books and lending library
books are often bound in this way.
Video format technically similar to SVHS, which
uses smaller cassettes
Phrase connected with scripts, which have a
premise or storyline which is easily reduced to a simple and appealing
Agent/agency's practice in which an individual(s)
is represented by the agent/agency on a single project only, with no
agreement that the agency or agent will continue to represent the individual
once the project or interest in the project has ended.
Movie not produced by a major studio.
The audience can only see so much through
the window of a movie screen. Use this term to suggest something or
someone comes into the picture while the camera pulls back (pans, etc)
to reveal more of the scene.
Technique of shrinking the image just enough
so that its entire width appears on TV screen, with black areas above
and below the image
Producer who is responsible for managing every
person and issue during the making of a film.
Person who performs an edit that is heavier than a typical copyedit
and who considers a book's voice, tone and phrasing. Fiction line editing
considers the story's pacing, character development, handling of details
and vocabulary of the period and place where the novel is set and the
naturalness and effectiveness of dialogue. A line editor also focuses
on correcting errors in grammar, punctuation and writing style.
Person who functions as intermediary for an author in transactions with
Copy of the shooting script which is prepared
by the script supervisor during production to indicate, via notations
and vertical lines drawn directly onto the script pages, exactly what
coverage has been shot.
Individual hired by a writer to promote his
career, offer advice on the best steps to take to achieve the desired
goal, and give guidance on the best people to hire to aid the writer
in maximizing his potential.
Term used by Alfred Hitchcock to refer to an
item, event, or piece of knowledge that the characters in a film consider
extremely important, but which the audience either doesn't know of or
doesn't care about.
Complete version of a book (often as an electronic text file) as prepared
by the author. The term manuscript refers to both textual and graphic
elements of the book. Editors and authors make pre-production book alterations
to the manuscript. The finalized manuscript is used to produce a set
of book pages.
Smaller, less expensive version of a book that is usually printed well
after the hardcover and trade paperback versions have been made available.
Mass-market paperbacks are often sold in grocery stores and airports.
Compare Trade Paperback.
Contract for representation by an agency with
regard to the sale of a work that the writer has created on his own,
in a situation where the writer was not hired to create the work.
Individual who creates artwork (usually for
the background of a shot) which is included in the movie either via
a matte shot or optical printing.
Photographic technique whereby artwork - usually
on glass - from a matte artist is combined with live action.
In film it is a series of images showing a theme,
a contradiction, or the passage of time. This film style became common
in Russia in the early years of cinema. Russians were the first to truly
use editing to tell a story. Some early examples of montage include
City Symphony's and Man With a Movie Camera. Modern day examples of
montages can be seen in Kramer vs. Kramer and Bugsy.
Association that serves as the voice and advocate
of the American motion picture, home video and television industries,
domestically through the MPAA and internationally through the MPA.
Professional organization for editors.
A certificate issued by the MPAA indicating
that no person aged 17 or under will be allowed to attend a screening
of the movie. This category was formerly called "X", but many
people's mistaken association of "X" films with XXX films
caused the MPAA to change this on September 27, 1990.
Legal agreement in which the publisher does not exercise exclusive rights
over the materials published in the author's book.
Created the first international television system
for use in the U.S. and other countries, which produces pictures by
creating 525 alternating lines across the TV screen for each frame of
Mention made of a book in the media outside the context of a book review,
for instance, a celebrity plugging a book on a talk show.
Off-screen or Off-camera. This is the abbreviation
sometimes seen next to the CHARACTER'S name before certain bits of dialog.
Basically, it means the writer specifically wants the voice to come
from somewhere unseen.
If an actor should deliver his or her
lines in a particular way, a screenplay will contain a description in
parentheses to illustrate the point. Parenthetical should be used only
in cases where a line of dialog should be read in some way contrary
to logic. If used too often, an actor's and a director's egos get hurt,
and things get messy.
1) Agreement from a copyright holder that permits the reproduction or
publication of copyrighted material. 2) Process of securing agreements
from copyright holder.
Meeting in which one party will attempt to interest another party in
a particular work or in a version of a particular work by presenting
the story of the work in such an exciting manner that the buying party
will find great interest in the work and will either buy the work or
pay the "pitching" party to write the work.
Story's narrative style. A style in which the author is first-person
(tells the story as a character using "I"), third-person (portrays
the feelings, thoughts and ideas of one character, but is not actually
involved in the story) or omniscient (an uninvolved third-person perspective
that knows everything about the characters involved and can share all
things with the reader).
TV)Point of View. The camera replaces the
eyes (sometimes the ears) of a character, monster, machine, surveillance
camera, etc. As a result, we get to see the world through the sensory
devices of some creature. This can be used to bring out the personal
aspects of a scene, or it can be used to build horror and suspense.
An example of horror and suspense in POV can be scene in the opening
shot of Halloween.
The basic idea for a story often taking the
form of a question or a problem.
The filming of major or significant components
of a movie, which involve lead actors.
Publishing arrangement in which books are printed only as orders are
The chief of a movie production in all matters
save the creative efforts of the director; raising funding, hiring key
personnel, and arranging for distributors.
Usually a current or former writer who has successfully
written for a number of years as a staff member on a show and is now
responsible for the creative aspects of the show.
Individual responsible for various odd jobs,
such as stopping traffic, acting as couriers, fetching items from craft
Artist responsible for designing the overall
visual appearance of a movie.
Individual responsible for drawing the storyboards
and anything else that needs to be drawn during the production of the
Individual responsible for the practical matters
such as ordering equipment, getting near-location accommodations for
the cast and crew, etc.
Detailed plan of the timing of activities associated
with the making of a movie, of particular interest to production managers.
Read through of typeset material to ensure that content matches the
book's manuscript. Incorrect grammar, punctuation, spelling or usage,
is queried to the editor.
The state in which the creator of a work loses
the copyright on it through the passage of the copyright period, failure
to renew the work, or problems with the original registration of the
work with the copyright office.
Professional who promotes a book, often by generating free advertising.
A press agent.
Individual who reads scripts and writes down
synopsis of the plotlines, offering positive or negative comments (the
process is called "providing coverage"), which assist studio
execs or interested parties if script is worthwhile.
Period after a writer has been hired to write
an assignment that a hiring body will review. This body will give suggestions
and decide whether to pick up the option to have the writer produce
Gross funds from a film that are required to
pay off negative costs, overhead, ongoing distribution fees, interest,
financing and distribution costs, and, in appropriate cases, payment
of gross participations.
Statement signed by an individual that generally
frees the creator of the document from any kind of liability.
Print made after the "answer print"
has been agreed upon. This is the copy of the film that is distributed
to theatrical houses for public presentation.
More than a polish, this is considered the writing
of significant changes in plot, story line, or interrelationship of
characters in a screenplay.
Script a writer has created on his own initiative
and used to attain meetings for the writer in order to expose him to
the entertainment industry.
An event that takes place entirely in one location
or time. If we go outside from inside, it's a new scene. If we cut to
five minutes later, it's a new scene. If both, it's a new scene. Scenes
can range from one shot to infinity and are distinguished by slug lines.
Credit given to a writer who has written a screenplay
based on another writer's work but has used the other writer's work
only as a springboard, a characterization, an incident, or some equally
limited contribution, creating a story that is substantially new and
different from the other writer's work.
Small, subordinate crew responsible for filming
shots of less importance, such as inserts, crowds, scenery, etc.
System of book production in which the author generally assumes the
financial risk of publication. The self-publishing model circumvents
the need for an author to contract with a publishing house to ensure
publication of the book. A self-published book is also usually distributed
and marketed by its author. See also Subsidy Publishing; Supported Self-Publishing.
Concise, one-page document (resembling a flyer or brochure more than
a press release) that provides details about a book.
Ratio of the film shot compared to the actual
running time. (Example: Ten hours of footage for a 1 hour film would
have a 10:1 shooting ratio).
Production schedule for shooting a film with
the scenes from a script grouped together and ordered with production
considerations in mind.
Script from which a movie is made which contains
that includes scene numbers, camera angles, inserts, and certain directors/cinematographers
Movie that is shorter than 60 minutes.
One image. If there's a cut, you've changed
shots. Shots can range from split seconds to several minutes. Shots
are generally chosen by the director. Continuous block of unedited footage
from a single point of view. When a writer absolutely must have a certain
shot at a certain moment in a film, he has a few options each described
in detail elsewhere in this list: INSERT, ANGLE ON, and CLOSE ON.
Arrangement of key elements within the frame.
Highly directional microphone that may be hand-held
or mounted on a boom.
Comedy in which humor is derived from people
being placed in uncomfortable, embarrassing, or unfamiliar situations.
Comedy in which the humor is derived from physical
interactions, often involving exaggerated but ultimately harmless violence
directed towards individuals.
Small blackboard (chalkboard) used to record
the scene number of a specific shoot. Usually has a clapstick attached
at the top, which is "clapped" to create a sync mark.
Shot, which in which time appears to move more
slowly than normal.
A header appearing in a script before each scene
or shot detailing the location, date, and time that the following action
is intended to occur in.
Process of re-recording multiple reels of track
to produce one final soundtrack, which includes all dialogue, "looped"
dialogue (ADR), music, sound effects and foley, and narration (if any),
for each reel of picture.
You won't see this term anywhere else on this
site. If a writer finishes his own screenplay outside the studio system
(it isn't an assignment) then sends it to the studios for consideration,
it is a spec script.
Script written before any agreement has been
entered into ("on spec" or speculation), in hopes of selling
the script to the highest bidder once it has been completed.
Sequence of pictures created by a production
illustrator to communicate the desired general visual appearance on
camera of a scene or movie.
Ideally every scene is a Story Event. It is
expressed and experienced by a character in terms of a value and achieved
Universal qualities of human experience that
may shift from positive to negative, or negative to positive, from one
moment to the next.
Document prepared during a copyedit, which enforces the standards and
consistency of how numbers, abbreviations, word usage and punctuation
are to be handled.
Rights acquired by a publisher for resale, translation into foreign
languages and other reuse of a book's content.
A subsidy publisher shares publishing costs with the author. The publisher
typically markets the book through retailers. An author must bear at
least some of the cost of copyediting, typesetting, proofreading, indexing
and printing the book. Some subsidy publishers require an author to
purchase a large number of copies of the book to cover the costs of
its initial publication. Compare Self-Publishing; Supported Self-Publishing.
Method of self-publishing espoused by iUniverse, through which an author
has access to many of the services found in a traditional publishing
house (e.g., editorial services, marketing copywriters, Internet sales)
provided through an upfront cost or available à la carte. Compare
Self-Publishing; Subsidy Publishing.
The degree in which a picture and accompanying
sound are lined up together.
The sound (usually dialogue) that is actually
recorded via a crystal or cable sync during filming. Not to be confused
with room tone, sound effects, or other non-diagetic sound.
Process of which the film and sound are lined up before editing them
Summary of a story told in present tense.
Writer who either adapts an existing work for
production on television, or creates a new teleplay.
Traditional storytelling sequence, which includes
(1) the set-up, (2) the complication, and (3) the resolution.
Subdivision of Lucasfilm, Ltd. that is dedicated
to improving picture and sound for the cinema and the home.
System of numbering each frame of video with
a unique address divided into hours, minutes, seconds and frames.
Form of animation in which numerous single frames
are filmed spaced at a given interval to show a process that would take
a very long time to occur.
Process in, which a lab renders the proper exposure
and color when creating a print. The brightness of the timing lights
(or lamps) can be controlled and have a range from (1) the darkest to
(50) the brightest.
Report produced by the lab, which lists the
timing lights (or printing lights) that was used in processing a print.
A trade paperback is bound with a paper or heavy stock cover, usually
with a larger trim size than that of a mass-market paperback. Compare
Traditional way of publishing a book in, which an author must find a
literary agent or a publisher willing to review the manuscript.
Newspapers that report the daily or weekly entertainment
news of the entertainment industry; The Hollywood Reporter, Daily Variety,
and Weekly Variety.
In the olden days of cinema, the advertisements
for upcoming attractions were usually played after the end of the movie.
Hence, they became known as trailers. But, as credits reels have grown
in size over the years, audiences would often leave before watching
these advertisements and "trailers" became "previews."
But the name is still in common use. A trailer is a theatrical advertisement
for an upcoming film attraction.
A movie in prose form, anywhere from 15-60pp,
which details a blow-by-blow summary of the story (important details
of each scene, action, and character) told in present tense and generally
with no dialogue.
Final physical dimensions of a book page after the book is bound and
Formatting a book on a computer so as to result in the desired layout,
font and appearance on a printed page.
Manuscript sent to a publisher who did not request it.
An oscilloscope designed to monitor and tweak
the color portion of the video signal.
Indicates the vertical blanking period between
each video field, which contains additional scan lines above the active
picture area into which non-picture information (captioning, copy protection
and other control signals) may be embedded.
Advertisement strategy centered on publicizing a book on the Internet,
including ads on Web sites that the target audience frequents and book
Voice Over. This is the abbreviation sometimes
seen next to the CHARACTER'S name before certain bits of dialog. This
means the character voices that dialog but his or her moving lips are
not present in the scene. Voice over is generally used for narration,
such as in the beginning of The Mummy. Or, as Austin Powers would say,
a character's inner monolog. The inner thought processes of the character
said out loud such that only the audience will hear it. An general example
of Voice Over can be seen (heard, actually) in Election or in the Sixth
Season Finale of The X-Files.
Indicates that dialog will be heard on a movie's
soundtrack, but the speaker will not be shown. The abbreviation is often
used as an annotation in a script.
Collection of associated Web sites with similar themes, which may be
accessed through hypertext links, from one site to the next.
Company, group or individual who purchases high volumes of books from
a publisher at deep discounts and sells them to retailers at midlevel
Movie which has an aspect ratio which is greater
than academy ratio when projected.
Free advertising for a book after its release through satisfied readers
who recommend the book to others. The consumer base creates a buzz that
in turn creates publicity.
Association that representatives the writers
in the motion picture, broadcast, cable, interactive and new media industries.
The time during which a writer is to complete
his work. During this time the writer's services are generally exclusive
to the production that has hired him.
The credit given when one or several writers
have created both the story and the screenplay, and there is no source
material. The credit is also given in television if the writer has created
both the story and the teleplay.
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