Being economical in screenwriting is key. You want your script to read easy and speedy. Have you ever been writing and thought to yourself, “there has to be an easier way to format this?” Well, allow me to introduce a handy device known as the intercut!
Intercut Definition: Intercutting in film or an intercut in a screenplay is when you alternate locations or shots to make one complete scene.
Intercuts can be used to play two scenes out parallel without all the slug-lines. It’s saving you space and time, allowing you to skip writing a new scene heading when you’re bouncing back and forth between locations.
An intercut could be used to cut between any two scenes that are happening; it’s most commonly seen when cutting between locations in a phone conversation.
Intercutting Setup in a Screenplay:
Establish the locations
Intercuts Location A/ Location B
Here’s an intercut example that’s a made-up scene from Riverdale. Why Riverdale? Well, I’ve been binge-watching it recently, and it’s just what came to mind!
Int. Jones' Living Room - Night
Jughead sits on the couch, phone glued to his ear.
Betty, no, you can't go by yourself! There's a serial killer running around! Just wait for me and I'll-
Int. Betty Cooper's Bedroom
Betty shoves a flashlight and a taser into a backpack.
Juggie, there's no time.
There's no time because you won't make any!
That's not true! You know I want you to come.
So wait for me.
People are in danger. I can't.
You're right. I won't let anyone else get hurt because of what's going on with us.
Betty hangs up. She shoves her phone in her bag and rushes out.
Int. Another Scene Somewhere Else
See, this intercut example makes for a quicker read than the alternative of writing a million scene headings for each location change. It also kind of makes you want to watch Riverdale, right? Anyway …
While using intercuts in instances besides phone conversations is less common, it’s possible to get creative with your usage of them. You could use intercuts to cut between action happening in two different places, or use them to build suspense in a cat and mouse way between two characters. These are a little trickier, and you’ll have to use your best judgment on whether or not using an intercut will be clear enough for the reader. If more than two characters are involved, I will caution you to reconsider if using an intercut is wise; it’s likely to get too confusing.
(Full disclosure, I have played it safe so far in my writing, and only used intercuts for phone convos, and once for two people emailing each other.)
Intercuts are one of those screenwriting tricks that once you discover it, you’re like “Oh, that makes so much formatting sense!” I know I was happy when I first learned about it!
I hope my talking about this technique helps! Happy writing, may your scripts be easy to read and well-formatted.