One more question re: phone conversations

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LindsayP

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Ok, thanks to everyone's great advice, I've decided to use (VO) for a telephone conversation.

Under the character's name I've put (through phone), my question is, do I have to keep writing (through phone) each time that character is speaking or is it already implied?

Thanks again!!!
Lindsay
 

dpaterso

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If there's no one else present, and nothing happens to interrupt the dialogue, then technically there's no need to keep using (into phone) which is another industry standard or V.O. over and over.

Fun begins when there is someone else present, say a third character, and they start talking, so you have to use (into phone) again to establish who's saying what to whom, e.g. and just for fun's sake (watch the extensions):

INT. BEDROOM - DAY

Mike lies on the bed dozing. Phone RINGS, Mike picks up.

MIKE (into phone)
Hello?

LOU (V.O.)
Hey Mikey, old pal, old chum.
Surprise! Guess who?

Mike sits up fast -- this is the last guy on the planet he wants to hear from.

MIKE
What the hell do you want?

LOU
Don't play innocent, Mikey.
You don't bring the money to
the club at ten tonight,
something real bad is gonna
happen. Don't make me have
to spell it out. You know I
got problems with my spelling.

Maggie enters, checks out her dress in the mirror.

MAGGIE
Who is it, honey?

MIKE
It's, eh, Fred. Asking if
I want to play golf on Saturday
morning.

MAGGIE
Well sure. I'm having my hair
done anyway.

LOU (V.O.)
That sounds real nice. You and
me tee off at ten o'clock tonight.
Be there.

MIKE (into phone)
Now listen, you can't just--

CLICK. Dead line.

MAGGIE
Tell Fred I'm asking for him
and Dolores.

MIKE (into phone)
Maggie's asking for you both.
(to Maggie)
Right back at you.

MAGGIE
How's my new dress look?

MIKE
Good enough to eat.

Maggie grins and exits. Mike slams the receiver down.

MIKE
New dress?!

...all of which is pretty much common sense, all you're doing is instructing the actor when to pretend to talk into an instrument.

Above, I could have put (into phone) beneath MIKE, e.g.

MIKE
(into phone)
Hello?

but I prefer to use MIKE (into phone) -- saves me a line every time.

As has been intimated, there are alternatives to V.O. -- the incoming voice on the other end of the phone.

INTERCUT cuts from person to person in both their locations. Slightly more interesting than one person and V.O. especially if it's a long(er) conversation.

SPLIT SCREEN puts two (or more) people on the screen at the same time. Ideal for romcoms where the leads are having a late night bedroom Doris Day/Rock Hudson type conversation, because we can see both their expressions and reactions.

From all that's been said, here and in the other thread, you are now empowered to figure anything else related to phone dialogue out for yourself. :)

Read more scripts, secret of the universe.

-Derek
-> * <- Click on this magic star to be transported to my website. Ruby slippers optional.
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The practice of art isn't to make a living. It's to make your soul grow. ~The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing (Kurt Vonnegut)
 

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Just one silly question: why is that VO and not OS?

It's not a silly question, it's an indication that I haven't explained myself well enough. :) The actor playing Lou isn't on location, out of shot, reading from the script. His lines are likely to be recorded in a sound booth, then dubbed onto the soundtrack with suitable filtering (to make it seem as if he's talking on the other end of the phone line).

If Lou were hiding in the garden and talking to Mike through the open window, he'd be O.S. -- physically present but out of shot.

O.S. - the actor is there but off camera.
V.O. - the actor isn't there, his voice is added to the soundtrack.

That's a rough rule of thumb, I don't doubt technical variations are possible, especially when ultra low budget is an issue, e.g. and just for fun's sake, the actor is on location (but O.S.) and talks into a microphone during live shooting.

-Derek
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dpaterso

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I have a scene where one of the characters is speaking over a loudspeaker, off screen. So this would be VO?

Aha, a technical complication just to screw things up. :)

If the character is present in the location (O.S. not V.O.), and we're hearing him "live" over the loudspeaker (which can be recorded on set instead of being recorded elsewhere and dubbed onto the soundtrack later?), then maybe I'd write something like,

MAN (O.S.)
(over loudspeaker)
YOU THERE! WHAT THE HECK
ARE YOU DOING?

Mind, these "rules" are as flexible as you want them to be, I'm not claiming anything's set in concrete. V.O. and O.S. are industry standards, that's all, so using them as they're intended to be used probably makes sense. Anything that falls outwith the definitions, like your loudspeaker example, can be tweaked any way you like, all that matters is clarity for the reader's sake.

Nor am I claiming to be the fount of all knowledge, if anyone has any different opinions, feel free to chime in. I'm only channeling what I've read in books and on the 'net, and what I've found in produced screenplays.

-Derek
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scripter1

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Something else to think about.

VO indicates the person is NOT present, nor are they likely to pop up.

OS means the person is in the area but not in the frame of the camera.
There is a strong likely hood that that person could suddenly come into frame or be focused on. Or that they were in frame and then left.

This is where reading scripts come into play.
It would perhaps be interesting to note how often an OS character enters the frame after delivering the lines.

I've never thought of this distinction before and so I haven't really noticed if this actually occurs in the scripts I've read.
I'll have to actually look for it next time I read.

There must be some reason why the person is OS.
 

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There must be some reason why the person is OS.

I'm reminded of the bar scene in HOT SHOTS! PART DEUX where Topper meets Ramada. A waitress carrying a tray of drinks walks past them and out of shot, Ramada carelessly swings her purse over her shoulder, cue CRASH! of shattered glasses, and--

WAITRESS (O.S.)
My eyes!

We don't see the ghastly injury. It's the fact Topper and Ramada don't notice a thing and only have dumb eyes for each other that makes it funny.

-Derek
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Boo_Radley

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This is a bit more tricky than it first seems. I've seen many examples of phone conversations where it's written like this...

Phone RINGS. Mike answers.

MIKE
What's up?

BOB (O.S., filtered)
My blood pressure.

...wherein "filtered" gives the reader the idean that the voice is being heard through the phone.

I've also read produced screenplays where it's written like this:


Phone RINGS. Mike answers.

INTERCUT TELEPHONE CONVERSATION - MIKE AND BOB

MIKE
Moshi moshi?

BOB
Konichi wa!

...wherein the all-caps note implies that both characters are on the phone, and are shown on camera during their individual dialogue.

Now, I don't know if it's acceptable or not but if I'm writing a phone conversation where the camera stays on just one person, I'll add a note, such as...

Phone RINGS. Mike answers.

(NOTE - BOB'S VOICE IS HEARD ON THE PHONE DURING THE CONVERSATION)

MIKE
Hola, soy Miguel?

BOB
Hijo de puta!


Again, I've no idea if this is acceptable but it's my way of simplifying a phone conversation and saves me from having to write "BOB (O.S., filtered) or BOB (O.S., on the phone) over and over.

And, pardon the lame humor, if you will. Gotta entertain myself, if no one else.
 
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