How to Write a Montage in a Script: The Ultimate Guide

a film reel representing a montage in a movie script

Key Takeaways for Writing a Montage:

  1. Start Clearly: Begin with “MONTAGE”, “BEGIN MONTAGE”, or “SERIES OF SHOTS” to clearly indicate the start of the montage.
  2. Describe Each Scene: List out brief scene descriptions for each visual or moment in the montage.
  3. Use Varied Content: Ensure the shots are varied in content and style to keep the montage engaging.
  4. Maintain Flow: Edit the shots together to create a natural flow, ensuring each shot leads seamlessly into the next.
  5. End Clearly: Conclude the montage with “END MONTAGE” to signal its completion.
  6. Consider Music: The right music can enhance the mood and emotion of the montage.

Click here to go directly to my favorite examples of great montages in movies.

Do you want to write a montage in a script or screenplay but aren’t sure how to write a good one?

A montage is a vital storytelling device that can be used to show the passage of time, progress on a project or key event, multiple narratives in multiple places occurring simultaneously, or the development of a character.

But how do you write a film montage that’s effective and cinematic?

That question plays in my head each time the story demands it in one of my scripts. When I wrote Spin the Wheel and Christmas Cupcakes, for example, each film required an effective montage to meet the needs of the story, the characters in the scenes, the genre, and audience expectations as well.

In Spin the Wheelan apocalyptic thriller – the montage is tense, evoking feelings of hopelessness and impending doom as the characters sink further into despair. However, in Christmas Cupcakes – a family holiday film – the montage is celebratory to make the audience feel good and happy as the characters come together as a family.

In this article, you’ll learn how to write a montage to make your script stand out. We’ll provide tips and examples to help you create a powerful montage that will leave a lasting impression on your audience.

Read on to learn more about writing montages in a screenplay!

What Is a Montage?

infographic defining a montage in a screenplay

In film and television, a montage is a sequence of shots edited together to compress time or illustrate a concept. Montages can be used to show the passage of time, to condense a long series of events over multiple locations into a brief sequence, or to provide an emotional impact that cannot be conveyed through dialogue or action alone.

While montages are often associated with fast-paced action movies or sports films, they can also be used in more subdued genres to create an atmosphere of nostalgia, longing, increased tension, or abstract ideas. Whatever their purpose, montages are an essential tool for filmmakers and TV writers alike.

How to Write a Montage in a Script

infographic on how to write a montage

Writing a montage for your screenplay can be a great way to show the passage of time or to highlight important events. However, using montages sparingly is crucial, as they can quickly become overused and lose their impact.

When used correctly, montages can be a powerful tool for helping your story move forward. Here are a few tips for writing effective montages:

  1. Keep it focused. A montage should have a specific purpose and should not try to cover too much ground.
  1. Use visual elements to tell the story. A good montage should be more than just a series of shots; it should also use visuals like color, lighting, and movement to create an emotional impact.
  1. Make sure the footage aligns with the story. The shots in a montage should be carefully chosen to support the narrative or theme of your script.
  1. Use music to set the tone. The right music piece can help elevate a montage and make it more memorable.
  1. Edit carefully. A well-edited montage is critical for maintaining momentum.

Why Use a Montage in a Script?

infographic giving reasons for why to use a montage

Show the Passage of Time

In a movie or TV script, a montage is a scene in which a series of short shots can be edited together to demonstrate the passage of time.

For example, a montage might be used to show the main character training for a big race, preparing for a date, or cleaning up their apartment.

By condensing hours, days, or weeks into a few minutes or less, montages can help move the story along without showing every single event in detail.

In addition, montages can be used to highlight changes in the character‘s appearance or demeanor, providing a visual representation of their growth over time. As such, a montage sequence can effectively show the passage of time in a script.

man in black crew neck t-shirt standing near green trees during daytime

Condense a Series of Events

A montage is a technique in film whereby a series of short shots are cut together to condense a larger span of time.

This can be used to great effect to show the passage of time or to highlight the events of a particular day/week/month, etc.

In a film, a montage might be used to show the main character’s daily routine, depict the changing seasons, or even show simultaneous events happening simultaneously in more than one location.

Montages can be used to show the events of an entire day, weeks, months, or even years.

They are often used to move the story forward quickly or to fill in gaps in the narrative. When used effectively, montage scenes can be a powerful tool for film and TV writers.

Show Growth in a Character Over Time

A montage scene can show growth in a character over time by depicting different events in the character’s life.

This can be done chronologically or by showing events significant to the character’s development. By seeing the character in different situations, the audience can understand how the character has changed over time.

This can effectively show character growth, particularly in a coming-of-age story or where the character must gain new skills or knowledge.

On the flip side, a montage can be used to suggest that a character is stuck in a rut if all the events shown are similar and there is no change over time.

Either way, a montage can be a powerful tool for showing growth or lack thereof in a character.

The Elements of a Successful Montage

A montage is a technique often used in films to condense a significant amount of time or information into a short scene. Typically, an effective montage is a series of shots that are each brief and focus on a single action or image.

To create a successful montage, filmmakers must carefully select the individual shots and edit them together aesthetically pleasingly.

One key element of a successful montage sequence is shot selection. Each shot in the montage should contribute to the overall story or theme, and no unnecessary shots should be included.

The shots should also be varied in content and style, keeping the montage exciting and preventing it from feeling repetitive.

Another important element is pacing. The shots should be edited together to create a natural flow, with each shot leading seamlessly into the next.

Finally, the use of music can also be critical in setting the tone and mood of the montage. A well-chosen track can add emotion and energy to the scene, making it more powerful.

By considering these elements, filmmakers can create montages that are truly effective in conveying information or conveying a particular mood or feeling.

movie montage

When to Add a Montage to Your Screenplay

When deciding whether or not to use a montage in your screenplay, ask yourself whether the events you are trying to depict would be better served by showing them in real time or by condensing them into a shorter sequence.

If you want to show skill development over a lengthy period of time, for example, writing a montage might be the best way to do so.

On the other hand, if you are trying to convey the emotional journey of your characters, then showing the events in real-time might be more effective.

Generally, montage scenes should be used sparingly and only when they serve a specific purpose. When in doubt, it is better to err on the side of brevity!

Ultimately, it is up to you as the screenwriter to decide what will work best for your story!

How to Format a Montage in a Script

There are a few things to remember when looking at montage formatting.

  • First, make sure to clearly identify the montage as its own element – you start it by writing in all-caps “MONTAGE”, “BEGIN MONTAGE” or “SERIES OF SHOTS” as if it were a Subheader.
  • Then below that, list out simple lines of scene description for each visual or moment in the montage. Each scene in the montage should be brief and to the point, with only the necessary dialogue and action included.
  • Third, you’ll want to use shots that contrast with each other, so that the montage has a sense of movement and momentum.

There’s no one way to write out montages, with some writers listing individual lines for each visual, while other writers will write out Scene Headings for each visual of the montage.

I’d recommend doing the latter if your montage takes place in multiple locations, as each location will require a different setup and different production concerns. If it’s contained to one location, then a series of descriptive action lines should suffice.

Once the montage is over, write “END MONTAGE” as a Subheader underneath it to signal that it is over.

Let’s look at the following montage formats:

To write a montage, simply list out the individual scenes in order, separated by short paragraphs. For example:

MONTAGE

INT. APARTMENT – NIGHT

We see a series of shots: Maria unpacking her boxes, Maria putting up pictures, Maria making dinner, Maria watching TV.

END MONTAGE

You can also use montages to show the passage of time by listing out key events that occur during the time period in question. For example:

BEGIN MONTAGE

EXT. CITY STREETS – DAY

We see a montage of shots showing the hustle and bustle of the city: people walking on the sidewalks, cars honking in traffic, etc.

END MONTAGE

Using screenplay-writing software is an easy way to make sure that your montage is formatted correctly. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to format a montage that will effectively convey your story to readers.

How To Write a Voice-over Montage

The purpose of voice-over is to provide exposition or information we aren’t seeing on screen. Therefore, writing a voice-over montage can be challenging, but it is also an opportunity to be creative! A montage is a series of short clips that tell a story or convey a mood, often with very little (or no) dialogue. To write an effective voice-over montage, you’ll need to carefully select the clips you use and write a script that ties them all together.

The key is finding a common thread that runs through the footage. It could be a central character, a theme, or a specific location. Once you’ve found your thread, you can start writing your script. Begin by introducing the story or mood you’re trying to convey. Then, selecting your clips in order, describe what each one is showing and how it contributes to the overall montage.

An effective use of voice-over is in this example from Hot Fuzz (2007), which marries exposition and quick shots to convey information quickly and entertainingly.

Use strong verbs and descriptive language to bring the montage to life. With careful planning and a bit of creativity, you can write an effective voice-over montage that will leave your audience moved and inspired.

Examples of Movie Montages

Here are some montage examples from popular films:

Rocky (1976)

One of the most famous montages is the iconic training sequence from Rocky (1976), which is set to the song “Gonna Fly Now” and shows Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) preparing for his fight against Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).

The montage includes multiple locations, such as Rocky running up the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, punching meat in a butcher’s shop, and training hard in the gym.

The purpose of the montage is to show Rocky’s dedication to becoming a better boxer and to build up suspense for the big fight. It’s probably the most well-known and duplicated sports montage ever.

Lord of War (2005)

Another great montage is from Lord of War (2005). This gritty crime drama follows the rise and fall of an international arms dealer not bound by laws or morality.

The montage focuses on the life of a bullet rather than on the film’s main characters. In doing so, we get a small glimpse of the result of the international arms trade and its devastating consequences before the story even begins.

This multi-location montage is a great example of how an inanimate object can be used to show a change in time and place while setting the stage for the themes and underlying message of the film as a whole.

Pretty Woman (1990)

An excellent example of an effective montage that covers different locations in a small amount of screen time and still manages to convey character development excitingly and entertainingly is this scene from Pretty Woman (1990).

Vivian (Julia Roberts) has had trouble adjusting to the wealthy lifestyle afforded by her client, Edward (Richard Gere), and in just a few short scenes strung together by a great soundtrack, we see her transformation occur both inside and out.

Up (2009)

One of the best narrative montages, this opening series of scenes from Up (2009) shows the key moments of married life between Carl and Ellie, starting with their wedding and ending with Ellie’s passing.

It spans decades and multiple locations but is always centered on the two characters and their relationship.

It’s at once heartwarming and heartbreaking and immediately drives home the reason why Carl is so alone and broken before our adventure begins.

Final Thoughts

Montages are a great way to show the passage of time or to move the story along quickly.

I hope this guide has given you some ideas for how to use a montage in your own story. Don’t overdo it with the montages and you should be golden! Feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments below, I’d be happy to help!

Common Questions (FAQs)

How do you write a montage in a script?

A montage is a series of brief shots edited together to create a single sequence. In a script, a montage can show the passage of time, the progression of a character’s development, or the change in a situation. When writing a montage in a script, you will need to identify the purpose of the montage and determine what scenes or images will best convey that purpose. Once you have done this, you will need to write a brief description of each scene or image in the montage. When editing the montage together, be sure to use transitions that help to create a smooth and cohesive flow.

How do you write a quick montage in a screenplay?

A quick screenplay montage is often used in comedies, sports, and superhero movies to show the passage of time or a character’s training. To write a quick montage, brainstorm a series of short scenes you want to include. Then, write a brief description of each scene, using as few words as possible. Finally, put all the scenes together chronologically and add transitional phrases to help connect them.

How to write a montage in a script

Love learning about screenwriting? Check out these other helpful articles:

How to Introduce Characters in a Screenplay: 5 Tips for Character Introductions

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