Dissociative Identity Disorder Noun, psychiatry
- A psychiatric disorder in which two or more distinct personalities exist in the same person, each of which prevails at a particular time.
- multiple personality disorder.
Don’t stress out, I haven’t written a story with MID as the plot driver—I have written however a story with split-screen scene. Which begs the question:
How do you write split-screen in the screenplay format?
Answer: I have no idea. So let’s find out.
When searching for answers online it became pretty clear that there is no widely accepted ways of doing this, however, many people point two the Expectations/Reality scene—which has subsequently graduated into an internet meme—from (500) Days of Summer.
EXT. SUMMER'S APARTMENT BUILDING - DUSK The song continues to play. Gift in hand, Tom stands at the foot of a four-story walk-up building, looking up at the roof, which is wrapped by a halo of white Xmas lights. It's already bustling with activity. He's going up. As he does, the screen splits. On the left, we see Tom going upstairs. This side is labeled "Reality". On the right, we also see Tom going upstairs. This side labelled "Expectations". There the same image for a beat. INT. SUMMER'S APARTMENT - SAME But then "Expectations" arrives first. Summer invites Tom inside. She gives him a huge embrace. She kisses him, right where the lips meet the cheek. Very close to a full-frontal lip kiss. (ECU the point of kiss contact). "Reality" arrives soon after. She comes over and gives him a huge embrace. She kisses him, but her kiss lands firmly in the cheekville. (ECU the point of kiss contact). Both Toms give both Summers the book as a gift. It's "Architecture of Happiness". Both Summers accept it eagerly.
This style continues describing each side of the split screen by prefixing the line of action with “On the right” or “On the left”. It should also be noted in the formatted script these prefixes are underlined. And the “Reality” and “Expectations” are boldface.
EXT. ROOF - SAME On the right, Summer introduces "Expectations" to three or four guests. The whole party is maybe six people total and Summer takes "Expectations" Tom to the side so they can be alone. On the left, Summer introduces "Reality" to a circle of seven or eight people. (NOTE: This is the scene we saw on p. 51 52). The party is actually quite large, with 30 or 40 people Tom has never seen before in his life. Summer's friends, without him.
The split screen ends with as many words—all caps, underline—and continues into traditional screenplay.
INT. SUMMER'S APARTMENT - SAME Summer pulls "Expectations" into her apartment and shuts the door. They fall onto the bed. END SPLITSCREEN. INT. STAIRWELL - SAME "Reality" Tom comes running down the stairs and exits the building.
Some other examples have the split-screen presented like dual dialogue would, with each side of the split screen being dialogue on the respective side. While this is probably the best way to visually represent the idea of split-screen in reality it not the easiest way to write (especially if you are using Final Draft). It’s also contrary to meaning of side-by-side dialogue, which indicates both sides should be speaking simultaneously. For the most part the split-screen scenes will have focus change between each side and not simultaneous (main) action or dialogue. So to format it corrected you would have to leave vertical white space in the dual dialogue—which is only half size—at which point you may as well revert back to normal dialogue for space reasons.
In Kill Bill Quentin Tarantino writes dual dialogue style for the action elements of split screen.
SCREEN GOES TO SPLIT SCREEN LEFT SIDE RIGHT SIDE The BRIDE listening to them Orderly's Reeboks walking getting closer. WE HEAR the down the hospital STEP...STEP...STEP...in time corridor. with Orderly's sneakers. CAMERA MOVES UP TO Orderly's face, leading two TRUCKDRIVERS. The Bride HEARS BILL'S VOICE SPEAK FOR THE ORDERLY; BILL'S VOICE ORDERLY (in time) (in time) She's right in here. She's right in here. SPLIT SCREEN FINISHES STAY WITH The BRIDE'S SCREEN
This is the only instance of split-screen where there is dialogue in Kill Bill the dialogue is formatted dual style aligned with the action of the scene.
For my purposes I chose do go with the (500) Days of Summer approach, I think it hits the right balance between ease-of-writing and how well it conveys the writers intent.
This is how I enter the split-screen.
KATE I'm not like you. BRYN Stop saying that. KATE It's for you not me. BRYN Well I don't want to be here so it's really for you. From the left hand side of the screen, the following scene slides in as we start a SPLIT-SCREEN. On the right, we continue to follow Bryn and Kate. The audio mix changes to-- INT. AA ROOM - CONTINUOUS --which is on the left. Inside the dingy community centre room, we have MARCEL and WILSON setting up chairs in a circle. WILSON, 23 year old, Asian male. Conspiracy theory nut, a little on edge and constantly looking over his shoulder. MARCEL So we have a new member joining us today? WILSON Oh yeah? MARCEL A girl.
And how we exit.
ROBO-MAN grabs BRYN's hand... ROBO-MAN C'mon, lets go. As BRYN and ROBO-MAN walk away, we pan around to KATE who stands motionless as the waiting room comes to a rest. KATE (mouths) Good-luck. We follow them through the door. INT. AA ROOM - CONTINUOUS On the left, we pan around to the same vantage point as the right, the divider starts to fade as both sides frame the same image and we end SPLIT-SCREEN. The rest of the act continues in one continuous shot. ALL (muffled talk)
There’s no right or wrong way, as long as what you see in your head is written down in some vaguely comprehensible way I think we can call it a success.