Montages can be an incredibly useful filmmaking tool if utilized correctly. They can condense time, intertwine storylines, and be used for comedic or dramatic effect. Some montages are completely visual with no dialogue. Others may utilize voiceover from a narrator or dialogue for the film’s narrative. If your montage is the latter, stick around to find out how to write in screenplay format voice-over montages that will elevate your script.
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Screenplay format voice over montage
Formatting a voice over montage
To write in screenplay format voice over montages, you must first understand how to write a montage in a script. This can be done a few ways based on what your scene calls for. Check out our article on how to format a montage in a script if you haven’t already. Once you understand how to write montage in a screenplay, you’re ready to incorporate your voice over.
To learn how to write a voice over script, be sure to use the free StudioBinder screenwriting software. In various articles, we’ll be teaching you how to write a voice over script as well as how to write a montage in a script through the StudioBinder screenwriting app. First select the character icon and utilize normal dialogue blocks for the lines of V.O.
Next, select the “Parenthetical” icon and write“(V.O)” next to the character name. If you are not using the StudioBinder screenwriting app, it is still important to understand how to indicate voice over in a script. Simply use parentheses next to the character name and write “(V.O.)”.
Then, interject these dialogue blocks after the description of the visuals it will play over. Take a look at this montage screenplay example from screenwriters Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won in their screenplay of the film Parasite.
In this scene, a montage screenplay is the most efficient way to condense the planning and execution of the character’s plans at the same time.
Notice in the montage screenplay, how each dialogue block is placed where it would fall during the visual sequence of the montage. Although this is not always how V.O. is formatted in a montage screenplay format nor is it always necessary, it does allow for a precise read of the montage as well as a clear direction for the editor. Now compare this to the actual scene.
The voice over is placed precisely throughout the montage helping create an engaging pace. Also note how director Bong Joon-ho utilizes juxtaposition to match specific shots with each line of voice over.
Being intentional with the placement of voice over can create suspense and have an audience leaning forward, wondering what will happen next.
Screenplay format voice over montage
Benefits of a montage with voice over
A screenplay format voice over montage can make a scene’s narrative more engaging and efficient. In the Parasite montage screenplay example we analyzed above, the montage and voice over screenplay are executed at a very precise pace that keeps the scene efficient and engaging fully through.
Nerdwriter1 provides an insightful analysis of this montage screenplay example and its impact on the film in this video essay.
Another reason to include a voice over montage in a script would be to utilize a story’s narrator. A narrator can provide context, insight, and other information to the audience that will narratively enhance the montage. A perfect example of a screenplay format voice over montage can be found in Goodfellas.
We brought the Goodfellas screenplay into StudioBinder to take a look at how to write voice over in a screenplay through the work of Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi. By utilizing a montage screenplay in this scene, Scorsese and Pileggi were able to show the results of Jimmy Conway’s actions while providing insight from Henry.
Screenplay format voice over montages are a common tool used in Scorsese’s directing style because of their efficiency and effectiveness.
In the film, Jimmy Conway is being tailed by federal agents and is becoming increasingly paranoid that he can be linked back to a big time heist. We then see the actions he takes to ensure his innocence while a VO screenplay from Henry Hill plays over the shots.
This voice over script example demonstrates how the use of Henry’s voice over gives the audience insight to the visual montage they are seeing. Utilizing Henry's VO with this montage of death scenes effectively builds up suspense that he might be next.
If the montage had no voice over, the audience could still put together what was happening, but it would not have the same suspenseful effect without the personal insight and narration from Henry.
Although a voice over montage can enhance a scene’s narrative, there is a time and place for it. Plenty of montage’s exist without voice over, telling the film’s story visually. Be sure that the voice over for your montage is enhancing it rather than being redundant. The voice over should provide information that the picture doesn’t already tell the audience.
How to write a montage in a script
Montages can be a great way to introduce various narrative elements in your screenplay. If you want to include voice over in your montage, be sure to check out our next article where you’ll learn how to write a montage in a script. This will help you use a montage in proper format for voice over scripts.