How should sluglines be formatted in a script?
The basic slugline is INT/EXT. PLACE – DAY/NIGHT. Seems simple, but sluglines are often overwritten and unnecessarily complicated. Here are Writesofluid’s tips for good, concise sluglines…
It’s usually best to stick with a simple DAY or NIGHT, because distinctions such as SUNRISE, MORNING, NOON, AFTERNOON, EVENING, SUNSET and MIDNIGHT can come across as too restrictive
This is because the decisions about ‘when’ the scene takes place and what it looks like won’t be finalised until the ‘shooting script’. A simple DAY and NIGHT should suffice, especially as the scene descriptions will likely contain clues as to what time of day it is.
For example, INT. BEDROOM – DAY followed by a description of someone waking up will make it fairly obvious it is morning. If the character does night shifts and therefore sleeps in the afternoon (which is still ‘day’), clues in the descriptions can clarify the situation, such as the sound of kids playing outside.
Having specific times detailed in the slugline; particularly ones that rely on the position of the sun, make things difficult for filming (morning, afternoon and evening are a shorter period of time than ‘day’ and ‘night’. Further still – sunrise, noon, sunset and midnight are even shorter.
Therefore, distinctions such as these should only ever be made if the specific time of day is crucial to the scene. For example, a romantic scene where a guy proposes to his boyfriend as the sun goes down is pretty important for that scene, so you’d be justified in putting ‘SUNSET’ in the slugline.
Want to learn more about formatting> Check out our ‘learn formatting’ section!