Q/A: Using INSERT in Your Screenplay

Q: What is your opinion on the use of INSERT? Is there ever a time when using INSERT is absolutely necessary? Dave Trottier says to use it sparingly. I find myself not using it at all. I prefer to use quotations for signs, posters, short letters, etc. and keep them in the narrative. Is that wrong? – Billy Noon

Thanks for your question, Billy.

INSERT is a shot heading that gives camera direction – indicating a close-up shot of a specific prop.

For example:

JANE

opens the gift box and removes a book

INSERT – BOOK

the cover reads “How to Lose 100 Pounds in 5 weeks”

BACK TO SCENE

Jane throws the book across the room.

It’s always best to avoid camera direction in a spec script.

It’s okay to call attention to the item in the narrative, which is a subtle form of camera direction – a way to lead the reader to see what you want him to notice.