How to Make a Montage

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Montages consist of a set of scenes that show the passage of time, a progression of events, or an emotional transition. Dialogue is usually replaced by a song or a composed score. Whether you are an aspiring professional or a seasoned filmmaker, there are a number of rules for successful montage-making.

Things You'll Need

  • Screenwriting program
  • Storyboard paper
  • Music
  • Locations
  • Film equipment and personnel
  • Props
  • Costumes
  • Scenery
  • Editing software

Pre-Production

  • Plan the most effective way to film the scenes in your montage. Consider the resources that you have available to you (e.g. locations, on-screen talent), and what you want your montage to communicate. If your montage is designed to illustrate a plot of some kind, be sure that the information is presented to in a fast-paced but easily understood way. Or, if the goal of your montage is to establish a tone or an emotional development, think through how to be consistent in things like lighting, props and scenery since consistency will help convey your message.

  • Type up the individual scenes or sequences of your montage into a computer-based screenwriting program. If you are writing the montage for another director, avoid unnecessary direction, such as details about camera work or angles. Begin by typing the word "MONTAGE," using all caps in the top-left side of the screen. If you decide to title your montage, place a hyphen after the word "MONTAGE," and then type your title in all caps. For example, a montage named "A Day at the Factory" would appear on the page this way: "MONTAGE - A DAY AT THE FACTORY."

  • Decide which of the montage formatting techniques you want to use. Typically, montages are formatted similarly to the "Series of Shots" method, which describes a list of shots that occur in the same location. For example, after typing the scene heading, order each shot with either a number, a letter or two hyphens, before describing each shot. This is how the list of shots might appear on the page:

    INT. -- WAREHOUSE -- DAY

    1) The group looks around at the trashed Warehouse and rolls up their sleeves.

    or

    A) The group looks around at the trashed Warehouse and rolls up their sleeves.

    or

    -- The group looks around at the trashed Warehouse and rolls up their sleeves.

    List the rest of the montage shots in your preferred format.

  • Familiarize yourself with screenplay formatting rules for montages taking place in several locations. You can signify and/or title the montage as described in Step 3 and proceed with the Series of Shots formatting, typing a new location in all caps before the description of the shot. For example:

    -- PRINCIPAL`S OFFICE. Cheryl distracts Mr. Fussbudget.

    -- HALLWAY Damien and Carol sneak by undetected, the rival mascot tucked away in a duffel bag.

    If the multiple-location montage is relatively short, or has only two or three locations, you can simply leave the sequence in traditional formatting with new subheads. For example:

    INT. PRINCIPAL`S OFFICE -- DAY

    -- Cheryl distracts Mr. Fussbudget.

    INT. HALLWAY -- DAY

    -- Damien and Carol sneak by undetected, the rival mascot tucked away in a duffel bag.

    If the montage is taking place in different areas of one location, describe the action in paragraph form. For example:

    INT. DANCE HALL -- NIGHT
    Focus on Marty and Sheryl dancing romantically at the center of the dance floor. Chip and his Goons stand nearby sneering until Chip walks away, past Seth and Miranda sharing an awkward silence at the punch bowl. Seth does a little dance move and Miranda laughs, extending her hand. Seth takes her hand and they move to the dance floor.

  • Write the script once you are comfortable with the formatting techniques. List the shots in the order that they will be seen during the final cut of the film. Write a description of the shots in straightforward, succinct language. Use present tense, action words and proper punctuation. Signal that your montage is over by typing, "END OF MONTAGE" or "RETURN TO SCENE" in all capital letters.

  • Create a storyboard, or a drawn visual representation of each shot, for your montage. The storyboard should roughly match what the final filmed montage will look like. Make adjustments if the storyboard brings to your attention logistical gaps to your script.

  • Plan the shoot using the storyboard and script. Make a list of shots by location, and note what actors, props, costumes, lighting and scenery will be needed at each venue.

Production and Post-Production

  • Film scenes that take place at one location all at once, and then move on to the next location. It's ideal to have a script supervisor on set to track continuity, which can be particularly important in a passage-of-time montage.

  • Begin editing by opening your computer-based editing software and retrieving the footage from your camera. Order the footage in the five-track "timeline" of your editing program, which can usually be found at the bottom of the screen. Video footage is typically loaded into the first track of the timeline.

  • Make adjustments to the video track to ensure that the duration of each shot is similar to what you planned during the storyboarding stage. Using the editing program's tool bars, add any desired effects (for example, fading in or out of scenes, dissolving from one shot to the next), or transitions (for example, wipes, split screens or overlapping images).

  • Import music into the editing program. Align the video footage (typically, the first track in the timeline) with the audio (typically, the second track). Play the video and audio footage simultaneously to ensure that they match up. You will likely need to adjust the video footage slightly and manually fade out the audio at the end of the montage.

  • Play your montage to make sure that the video and audio are in sync, that the effects and transitions work correctly, and that the montage conveys the sequence, tone or emotional growth that you had envisioned. Finalize the montage by saving it, locating the editing program`s "Burn DVD" icon, and making copies of your masterpiece.

Tips & Warnings

  • Film more "coverage," or footage, than you think you need. This will provide you with more options when you are editing the montage. If music or dance sequences are part of your montage, bring music recordings to the set to create the proper mood and to serve as a guide for your performers.

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