There are many marks of a novice screenwriter. While some deal with dialogue and narrative descriptions, others deal with how the story progresses. If you’ve ever read a screenplay or worked with a screenwriting software then you’ve noticed transitions. These cues are used to mark various emotional and physical changes within the script. They are powerful and have the ability to alter the speed and progress of the film. Therefore, its use must be wisely done. To the surprise of many aspiring screenwriters, transitions are not appropriate for every scene.
The use of a transition helps link scenes that would otherwise not make any sense. Its use may add drama or comedy, yet, its misuse detracts from the story.
The Purpose and Use of Scene Transitions:
In the scope of this article, the term transition refers to the cue a screenwriter makes at the end of a scene. Some of these cues include: FADE OUT, DISSOLVE TO, DISSOLVE TO WHITE, DISSOLVE TO BLACK.
While there are many variations to the transition cue’s used, the aforementioned are the most popular and most commonly subscribed to by industry professionals. As you can see, each of these transitions provide a visual cue. This visual cue can dramatically enhance the emotional impact of a scene.
For example, a father and mother are in the middle of a huge argument. The mother snaps and slaps the father across the face. Suddenly, we see the angelic face of their five-year old son watching form around the refrigerator. All parties freeze as tears and confusion fill the face of the child. The screen then DISSOLVES TO BLACK. The next scene is the child in the car with his mother as they are on their way to church.
As the picture fades into darkness, the audience is left with the subtext delivered by the actors simply staring at the child and the child staring deep into the eyes of his parents. By ending the scene with a transition it magnifies the importance of the previous moments and offers an interesting segway into the following scene.
On a foundational level, scene transitions solidify story moments you wish to amplify by not drawing the scene out. Sure, you could have continued the scene but the emotional impact of silence and a slow transition is far more powerful than using dialogue and prolonging the scene.