Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Victoria Lucia

What is an Intercut and How Do You Use It in a Traditional Screenplay?

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!

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What is an Intercut and How Do You Use It in a Traditional Screenplay?

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.

The set up is this:

  • Establish the locations

  • Intercuts Location A/ Location B

  • Dialogue

Here’s an 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!

Script Snippet

Int. Jones' Living Room - Night

Jughead sits on the couch, phone glued to his ear.

Jughead

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.

Betty

Juggie, there's no time.

Intercut Jughead/Betty
Jughead

There's no time because you won't make any!

Betty

That's not true! You know I want you to come.

Jughead

So wait for me.

Betty

People are in danger. I can't.

Jughead

You won't.

Betty

You're right. I won't let anyone else get hurt because of what's going on with us.

Jughead

Betty wait-

Betty hangs up. She shoves her phone in her bag and rushes out.

CUT TO:

Int. Another Scene Somewhere Else

See, it 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.

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