On the meaning of "off" on the page.
July 23, 2008 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Please explain a few bits of television script convention to me.

In television scripts I've read I've noticed the following usage of the word "off"

BOOKHOUSE: I swear, I don't have any crack.

Off Omar: This guy is lying.

The way I read it is, the line above is played off of Omar, whose reaction to the line is shown. Is that correct? Are there some finer points to it?

Also, what does it mean when an action is underlined?
posted by Bookhouse to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I could be wrong, but I understand it to mean "offscreen"
posted by briank at 9:22 AM on July 23, 2008


Seconding briank.
posted by tiny crocodile at 9:46 AM on July 23, 2008


Maybe I used a bad example, but I'm certain that it doesn't mean "offscreen." For one thing, there's already notation for that, as in

BOOKHOUSE (O.S): Maybe I used a bad example.

Here's an example taken from a Final Draft template:

CLAUDETTE enters and ambles over to them.
CLAUDETTE
(re: Dutch)
Dialogue here.
She steps away from Vic and Lemonhead, approaches Danny and Dutch. Off Vic and Lem turning away to do some policing --
posted by Bookhouse at 9:52 AM on July 23, 2008


"Off" does not mean off-screen. That's abbreviated as (O.S.)--or (O.C.) for off-camera.

This example would mean to me that we see Omar on camera while Bookhouse says "This guy is lying."

I don't think there is a universal meaning to underlined action.
posted by bcwinters at 9:55 AM on July 23, 2008


It means "in reaction to". In the example you give, Bookhouse says "I swear, I don't have any crack"; we see Omar react, presumably skeptically; and Bookhouse continues with "This guy is lying." In screenplay format you'd expect to see something like
                          BOOKHOUSE             I swear, I don't have any crack.                 (off Omar)             This guy is lying.
Bookhouse might be on or off camera for the second part of his line - that normally wouldn't be in the screenplay but would be up to the director or editor.
posted by nicwolff at 10:06 AM on July 23, 2008


OFF and ON are used as direction notes- take the camera OFF whatever you're shooting at this particular moment, or ON this point (do whatever)
She steps away from Vic and Lemonhead, approaches Danny and Dutch. Off Vic and Lem turning away to do some policing --
Your example means, our camera is focused on Vic and Lemonhead while Claudette walks away. Then, move the camera to focus on (probably in this case) Danny and Dutch, allowing Vic and Lemonhead to walk away in our peripheral vision as the camera turns.

You usually only see OFF and ON in shooting scripts, because they're director and cinematographer notes, not screen notes. Generally, you only see it in a spec script if something important is supposed to happen at an exact moment. Like:
FRANKENSTEIN
It's Frau Blucher!

On "Frau Blucher," cue HORSE WHINNY.
posted by headspace at 10:11 AM on July 23, 2008


You usually only see OFF and ON in shooting scripts, because they're director and cinematographer notes, not screen notes.

And this is the most salient point for my purposes. Thanks, all.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:15 AM on July 23, 2008


You can end a scene in a screenplay or teleplay with a line of action being "Off Fran's reaction" or some such, which means the scene ends on Fran's face, as opposed to a wide shot or a shot of something/someone else. That format's not limited to shooting scripts by any means.

For example:

JOE:
That's it! We're done,
it's all over. ...Goodbye Fran.

Joe leaves the room, slamming the door behind him.

Off Fran, tears running down her face.

CUT TO: (next scene)
posted by np312 at 10:48 AM on July 23, 2008


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