My blog has moved!

You will be automatically redirected to the new address. If that does not occur, visit
http://www.justeffing.com
and update your bookmarks.

Monday, July 9, 2007

(V.O.) and (O.S.) in Dialogue

(O.S.) indicates that the dialogue of that particular character is heard while the character is nearby but not on camera. In a different room, behind the door, in the closet –whatever. So that you might have:

*****

FRANCIS (28), thinning hair and a potbelly, sits at the chipped kitchen table eating a plateful of something burnt. The radio plays Vince Gil in the background.

Francis: Damn, burnt pork-n-beans again!

Sue-Ellen (O.S.) I heard that!

SUE-ELLEN (32) corpulent and angry enters the kitchen with the remote in hand.

Sue-Ellen: Maybe if you didn’t work at the Dairy Queen we could afford better!

Dad (O.S.) Told you to keep your mouth shut, son!

Sue-Ellen: And I’m so tired of your dad living here! You said it would be one week! That was six years ago!

Dad (O.S.) Bring me a beer when you come back, Sue-Ellen.

Sue-Ellen looks over her shoulder toward the living room.

Sue-Ellen: So help me god I’m gonna kill him one day. When you’re done listening to your radio, go to the cellar and bring me up some dessert.

*****

Or you might do something like:

*****

Francis peers into a dark corner of the cellar when –

Man (O.S.) I’ve been waiting for you.

Francis whirls around and there he is – the Creamsicle Killer!

In that last example, the man was in the same room – but he wasn’t on camera. Using (O.S.) is fun; it can be used in a moment like the one above to scare or surprise the character and it can be used for comic effect as well. But do remember that technically it simply means the character can be heard but not seen. But they are in the vicinity.

(V.O.)

(V.O.) literally means “voice-over” which indicates that the voice of a character is heard and the character is not only not on camera, they are not anywhere around. Well, they might be on camera, silently doing something and you might hear their own voice-over ….Let’s clarify with a few examples:

*****

Francis climbs down the cellar stairs slowly.

Francis (V.O.) In retrospect, I shouldn’t have gone down those stairs. For it was there in the cellar, that I was to meet my greatest fear. I mean - aside from Sue-Ellen.

Francis peers into a dark corner of the cellar when –

Man (O.S.) I’ve been waiting for you.

Francis turns chalk-white and stumbles backward a step -

Francis (V.O.) Suddenly, I no longer cared about Sue-Ellen, or my job at Dairy Queen or anything at all. For I knew that I had a bonafide killer right before my eyes. All I hadda do was talk him into leaving me alone and going upstairs. Then all my problems would be over.

Francis: I got beer up in the kitchen? You want one?

*****

Now, there are those who get all pink-faced and hysterical when it comes to discussing using that kind of voice-over. Spittle flies and they shake all over. Don’t do it! It’s expositional! It’s one of the first things a reader or exec will PASS! Rouge Wavers, in my experience, having read hundreds of scripts both by complete novices and much more experienced writers, I have yet to see a gross violation of expositional voice-over. Obviously avoid telling your whole story that way. Use voice-over judiciously, use it to achieve an effect but don’t get all hysterically pedantic about not using it either. It is the opinion of the Wave-inatrix that those aspiring screenwriters with major don’t-use-voice-over issues need to find a hobby like knitting or perhaps scuba diving.

But. (V.O.) is used in many other instances. Again, remember (O.S.) means the character is unseen but nearby. (V.O.) unless we’re using the example above, means the character is nowhere around but we can hear their voice. So we might have:

*****

Bob drives down a long, dark country road. He turns up the radio.

RADIO ANNOUNCER (V.O.) Yep, that’s right folks, the Creamsicle Killer was spotted at the Dairy Queen just yesterday so watch your tootsies.

Click. Bob turns off the radio and grins.

Bob: (to himself) And that was a damn fine burger, too.

*****

Oh – got a wrylie in there, or more properly, a parenthetical – but we’ve covered that.

All right, so the radio announcer was a (V.O.) because we’re hearing him but not seeing him. What if we see him too? Well, then he’s not (V.O.) anymore, is he?

*****

Bob drives down a long, dark country road. He turns up the radio.

RADIO ANNOUNCER (V.O.) Yep, that’s right folks, the Creamsicle Killer was spotted at the Dairy Queen just yesterday so watch your tootsies.

Click. Bob turns off the radio and grins.

Bob: (to himself) And that was a damn fine burger, too.

INT. RADIO STATION – SIMULTANEOUS

The RADIO ANNOUNCER takes off his headphones and rubs his forehead.

Radio Announcer: Hope to god they catch that monster.

The phone rings. He picks up.

Radio Announcer: KFRK. What can I do you for?

Man (V.O.) It is I. The Creamsicle Killer.


*****

See? The caller is (V.O.) because – why? – Right, because we can hear him but he’s not on camera.

Now, some fancy pants screenwriters like to use (FILTERED) rather than (V.O.) in these particular instances of phone calls. (FILTERED) sort of emulates or indicates the way a person sounds on the phone – sort of distant and – well, filtered, I guess. Does this work? Is it acceptable? Yes, perfectly. But only for phone calls. And do not combine it with (V.O.) because to indicate both is redundant.

Another (V.O.) instance might be something like:

*****

Bob parks his Oldsmobile and creeps through a cellar window. Safety at last. He finds a dark corner. Ah - a freezer. He opens it. And it's full of Creamsicles.

Radio Announcer (V.O.) So I recommend that folks lock their cellar windows and put away their Creamsicles tonight.

UPSTAIRS

Francis clicks off the radio and turns toward the living room.

Francis: Anyone else feel like a creamsicle?

Sue-Ellen: (O.S.) I told you to get those at the beginning of this blog you idiot! America’s Funniest Home Video’s is comin’ on so hurry!

Francis scoots his chair back and heads for the cellar.

*****

If you enjoyed this post, follow me on Twitter or subscribe via RSS.

1 comment:

Geena said...

I trust you won't throw me in the trash for voice over. In the message board, paid coverage,
seminar world there are folks who say without perfect execution they will throw you in the
trash for it. All this conflicting advice drives me batty. My instincts are getting better to
where I can tell who knows what they're talking about and who thinks they know what they're talking about.
Wow you write great examples.

By the way on knitting and scuba diving, you would need voice over for a scuba scene.
How can you have a conversation underwater?

Off subject, a friend gave me for free their broken Hi8 Sony camcorder including a carrying case.
Hopefully it's a cheap repair and I will be on my way to my first amateur production. Writing a good
5 minute script is no easier than 90 minutes.