Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

3 Ways to Write a Phone Conversation in a Traditional Screenplay, According to Screenwriter Doug Richardson

When is a phone call not just a phone call? When you have to show it, not tell it. There are at least three different scenarios to consider when you want to insert a telephone conversation in your screenplay. We asked Screenwriter Doug Richardson (“Bad Boys,” “Hostage,” “Die Hard 2”) how he approaches telephone conversations in his screenplays, and he said there are three things to consider:

Hold your place in line, screenwriter! We’re getting closer to launching SoCreate Screenwriting Software to a limited number of beta testers. , without leaving this page.

  • Are we seeing and hearing only one character?

  • Are we seeing only one character, but hearing at least two?

  • Are we seeing and hearing both characters?

Give this some thought: It may be important to see both characters, perhaps because they’re doing something that matters to the story.

“Are you seeing both sides of the conversation? Is Phil talking from his kitchen, and Dave, who he’s talking to, is talking from his car? Are you going to be intercutting between the two? Then you need to write a scene for Dave in his car, as well as Phil in his kitchen,” Richardson told us.

Or maybe, we only need to see and hear one character, and their action in the scene speaks volumes on its own. Determine what type of phone call scenario will be strongest in your story.

“Let’s say we’re listening to Phil talk on the phone call in the kitchen, but we don’t need to see Dave in the car,” Richardson said. Perhaps, we don’t need to know where Dave is calling from at all. “All we need to do is hear his voice. Then, you would just stay in the kitchen with Phil speaking on the phone with Dave. And every time Dave was speaking, you would have a parenthetical that would be next to the character’s name that would say (over phone).”

Once you’ve settled on how to show the phone call, learn how to write that scene in a traditional script. And guess what? We’ve got blogs for that! Here are three tutorials depending on your story’s scenario:

Don’t phone it in,

You may also be interested in...

Screenwriter Doug Richardson Tells You How to Sell Your Screenplay

Want to Sell Your Screenplay? Screenwriter Doug Richardson Tells You How

Take it from someone who’s had incredible success in Hollywood: your screenplay had better be great if you’re trying to sell it! Screenwriter Doug Richardson (Die Hard 2, Mooseport, Bad Boys, Hostage) expanded upon that advice during a sit-down with SoCreate at the Central Coast Writer’s Conference. Watch the video or read the transcript below to hear his take on the question he’s asked most often – now that my screenplay is done, how do I sell it? “How do you sell your screenplay? That’s one of the most common questions I’m asked. If you’re selling a screenplay, I think that...

Acts, Scenes, and Sequences - How Long Should Each Be in a Traditional Screenplay?

If I had to name my favorite adage, it’s that rules are for breaking (most of them - speed limits are exempt!), but you must know the rules before you can break them. So, keep that in mind as you read through what I’d call “guidelines” to the timing of acts, scenes, and sequences in a screenplay. There’s a good reason for these guidelines, though (just like speed limits 😊) so don’t stray too far off the mark or you might pay for it later. Let’s start from the top. A 90-110-page screenplay is standard and produces an hour and a half to two-hour long film. TV networks may prefer an hour and a half because they can...

How to Write Foreign Language in a Traditional Screenplay

Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood … in the 21st century, movies are made everywhere. And while the film industry expands, so does our desire to hear from more diverse voices, including languages we may not understand. But with strict screenplay formatting, how do you utilize foreign language to enhance the authenticity of your story, and at the same time make it legible and not confusing? Never fear, there are a few simple ways to add foreign language dialogue to your screenplay, no translations needed. Option 1: When it Doesn’t Matter if the Audience Understands the Foreign Language...