Screenwriting II — Week 8 — Spring 2014

Hello everyone,

As you’re working on your assignment — ACT I / Step Outline (aka Beat Sheet) — here are some of the points we went over in class.

Step Outline / Beat Sheet

Step Or Scene?

Movie Outline uses “Steps” instead of “Scenes” which may confuse some screenwriters who are used to
using scenes in relation to film timing and screenplay layout, but the difference is actually quite simple to

A “Step” in Movie Outline really means an “Event” in the progression of your story, and this means that
each step can consist of more than one “Scene”. A Montage sequence is one good example or:
Joe leaves his apartment, gets in his car, drives to the bank.

Although in a screenplay this totals three scenes, in a step-outline it is only one step since the nature of
creating a step-outline dictates that you focus on the main story event and do not get into too much detail.
Unless something big happens to Joe while he is getting into his car, the scene can be described within the
overall event. What then happens when Joe enters the bank is another step, and so on.

Another example could be a car chase. In a screenplay, each location that the cars involved in the chase
pass through is technically a scene, but since we’re dealing with the same story event, the entire chase and
collection of scenes is referred to as a step.

Or suppose your screenplay has your Hero bravely dashing into a burning building to save a child while
other fire-fighters frantically do their best to put out the blaze. Technically, each room your Hero searches
in constitutes a scene, and every time we cut back to the other fire-fighters, they are separate scenes too, but
when planning your story, it is much easier to think of this as one single event and as such, a single step.

Clear now?

Here’s an example  BEAT SHEET-ThelmaandLouise.pdf

Indicate the act and sequence number


Sequence I

1.  Mary enters her office, takes off her shoes, drops down on the couch and begins to weep.

Some people prefer to use sluglines for each beat / scene. And that’s fine too.


Mary enters, takes off her shoes, drops down on the couch and begins to weep.

Here’s another example:

MehdiTime-Beat Sheet .pdf

When you introduce a new character, CAPITALIZE her name. Note that you don’t need to describe the character’s physical appearance, personality, etc. You’ve already done that in your synopsis. You know your characters by now and so do we.

How to Contstruct a Scene:

This is from John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story:


We didn’t get a chance to discuss Avatar. We will do it on Monday.

Happ writing.



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