Thursday, 11 September 2014

Screenwriting White Space: What Is It Good For?

Article written by Bulent Ozdemir
(DisclaimerThis article contains words and phrases that some people may find offensive. Please do not continue if easily offended)

People are always banging on about 'white space' when it comes to screenwriting. You see it in nearly every piece of writing advice:

"Script readers won't read your script unless they see plenty of white space..."

"You gotta make sure there's a lot of white space in your script to make it breath..." 

"White space, white space, white spaaaccceee!"

Trouble is, they never really tell you why. Yes, the obvious is that it's easier on the eyes, less is more, better impact per word/sentence/paragraph etc etc. But I'm sure most of you writing folks already know that (or anyone who's ever read anything for that matter, instinctually knows this).

Let's take the universally discussed topic that a screenplay is the blue print of a movie. Whatever your mind has ejaculated onto paper over the days, months and years is what you hope will end up on screen, right? 

Now let me ask you a few questions: When writing your story, do you play out the scenes in your head? (I know I do). When playing out those scenes in your head, do your characters interact with each other and their environment? (I know mine do). Unless you're a long take master, I'm pretty sure you see how those interactions 'CUT' together in your mind in order to bring the sequence to life. And THAT'S where the white space comes in. 

When writing a screenplay, aside from the obvious stated above, the WHITE SPACE are your CUTTING POINTS. You are telling the reader, director, producer when to cut as well as dictating pace. It's not just to make for an easier read, it's a fundamental tool.

Try it out on the following script extract. For every white space you see after INT. make an imaginary cut:

Samantha Heller written by Bulent Ozdemir

As a reader/screenwriter, I will take thick blocks of writing as long takes. If your script is riddled with these  and your story's about an earthworm in your back garden, you're fucked. Unless off course the earthworm's in orbit around the earth and Sandra Bullock's pissing about on a shuttle behind it. 

This isn't screenwriting 101. There's a lot of assumptions made with regards to people's writing levels, but I genuinely hope whoever reads this finds it useful. Should you have anything further to add/share/discuss, please use the comments section below. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time, folks.

You might also like:
What A (Good) Story Means To Me
5 Things To Consider Before Quitting Your Day Job


Bulent Ozdemir Director Filmmaker
Bulent Ozdemir is a self taught Writer, Director and Filmmaker who left his day job as an insurance broker back in 2010 to pursue a career in film.


e: bulentfilms[at]

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