Script Coverage Chronicles – July 2017: “Commuter Exposition” And Other Things Your Script Doesn’t Need

Writers often ask me how they can possibly manage to shorten their scripts when everything they’ve written seems absolutely necessary.  Having read thousands of screenplays, I can assure you, there are always elements in your script you don’t need.  I’ve offered some thoughts on this in the past.  Here are a few more:


There have been many articles on how to handle exposition well, but not enough of them talk about determining whether a piece of exposition should be included in your script in the first place.  If you don’t need it, why are you working so hard to get it into your scenes?  More importantly, why are you letting it take up space?

One example of unneeded exposition is what I call “commuter exposition”.  This is one character telling another character how he or she got to the current location. 

“Yeah I took a flight out yesterday, then hopped on a bus.” 

I see this a lot actually. Sure, it’s natural enough.  People do often state how they got places.  They mention whether they hit traffic, etc.  But what story purpose does it serve? 

If you’re not sure you need a piece of exposition, ask yourself some questions.  Do you need it for the plot to make sense?  Does it reveal something relevant or moving about your character?  If not, is it funny enough to exist for humor alone? 

When it comes to commuter exposition, the answer to these questions is almost always no. 


Montages often work in movies.  They convey the passage of time.  They typically include engaging music.  And on screen, they tend to move quickly enough. 

As a reader, however, when I see a long montage, I die a little inside.  On the page, montages are usually long and painful.

So am I saying you should take out all your montages? 


I’m saying that they don’t need to be so detailed on the page.  If you’re trying to shorten your page count, shortening a montage is a great way to do it, and it will improve the overall pace at the same time.  You don’t need to include every visual detail in your montage.  Just indicate it’s a montage and convey the basic idea of what’s going on. 

You can be a bit vague.  It’s okay.  I never heard anyone pan a script due to a vague montage.


When I was a young attorney, a senior litigator said to me, once you’ve made your point in a memo, stop writing. Don’t summarize everything you just said.  Don’t point to future issues.  Just end the memo.

The same thing is largely true for screenplays.  Once the big moment has happened, it’s pretty much time to end the script.  Yeah, you want a moment or two showing your leads in their new reality.  But once you’ve wrapped up the plot and major subplots, the screenplay should be over.  Don’t show where every character is headed.  Don’t spend several pages hinting at a sequel.  Just end the thing.  You’ve presented your climax.  You don’t want to be anti-climactic. 

Chopping out the three or four “extra endings” in a screenplay can really lean out the page count in one swoop and improve the overall structure of a script.