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How To Write Jump Cuts In A Screenplay

Adam Scott

Want to write a jump cut into your movie? This article will teach you how to do it and also explain how you can create a jump cut screenplay that’s easy for the viewer to follow.

If you want to read this article as a movie and jump cuts are common in films, we’ve written an example. And as an example, we’ve also created a cool piece of editing software which allows you to put your jump cuts together and select which cut you want.

We’ll also be looking at the different kinds of cuts and how they can affect the pacing of your movie.

What is a jump cut?Small barber shop in Airlie Beach, Australia

Jump cuts are a fast and sometimes sudden change in direction. For example, if someone were to take a series of photographs of two items at different points in time and then edit these two images into a montage, a jump cut would be a small pause of time between the photographs.

A jump cut only takes place when the photographer, usually the director, cuts from one instant to the next in a certain time frame, sometimes as short as 1 second. The actor in the film isn’t actually moving and will never move the same way twice.

The slight changes in their position and their gaze gives the sense of time - a slight pause in the action of the film or video.

A jump cut is an important tool for developing suspense. While watching a film, or the same visual on your computer screen, when something happens, the viewer must pay close attention to what they are watching.

And if something happens, you have to imagine how the action is going to continue. A jump cut would break up the scene and give the viewer a chance to prepare for what’s to come.

Jump cuts also help to bring the story to a different time. Instead of watching a girl jump on a trampoline, imagine that we watched her jump on a trampoline 40 years ago.

This is the equivalent of the original moment. The jump cuts provide an additional temporal break from which the character could immediately come back.

Other uses for jumpsView of the orange and blue evening sunset through the ears of grass with the silhouette of bird house in the background

You can create a jump cut by using any sudden change in direction or a slow steady shot as the starting point. But you can also use a fade in or out, and a dream sequence.

A jump cut on its own, though, is probably the easiest method.

Let’s look at one example of a jump cut used in the movie Fight Club.

Remember that section of the movie where Edward Norton is yelling at Marla Singer in her living room? While he’s yelling, she goes to the bedroom and asks him what’s wrong.

He’s acting like he’s out of his mind. When he’s done yelling, he turns to her, and yells again, saying that they’re both idiots.

Cut to Marla in the bedroom talking on the phone. The camera slowly pans down the length of her body.

She looks at the ceiling and she’s slowly standing up. She throws her phone at the ceiling and starts to change into some clothes.

The camera is still slowly moving toward her. She is shirtless, and you can see she’s beautiful. Cut to her through the window of her car in the driveway.

The next image is of the window of her car in the driveway. You can see Marla standing by the car.

She’s talking to the man from California, her son, Henry. Cut to a close up of Marla’s face.

Then a bit more of Marla in the window. You can see her black tights and the red lace ballet shoes she’s wearing. The lace shows through the cloth of her tights and this allows the camera to see the whole of her legs.

Next, Marla is standing in the middle of the room. We don’t see her face, but we can see her back.

There’s no one else in the room. She’s looking at something in her hand.

Cut to a pan up of the wall of the room, showing the bed. It’s surrounded by pictures of her and her son.

Then the camera goes through the wall. Back down to Marla in the window.

She’s looking down at the street. The scene cuts back to her face. She’s wearing a red lace ballet skirt again.

Marla is lying on the bed. She’s wearing a short white skirt.

She’s lying on her stomach. You can see that she’s covering her breasts, but her hands are in front of her.

She’s talking to her son. Cut back to her face, and Marla is making love to the window.

She’s dressed like she was in the living room. From here, you can see that Marla is taking pictures of herself with her camera. When she’s finished, she sits up.

She’s in her white skirt again. Marla is telling her son to go away. Cut to Marla’s face.

Her mouth is open in a smile. She’s making love to the window.

Back to the room. Marla is talking to her son.

He’s hanging around her neck. Cut to the front of Marla’s neck and she’s got a small black notebook in her mouth.

She’s looking at it.

In the next shot, she’s pulling up the sheet over her body. She’s lying on the bed.

Her legs are in the air. She looks up at the window and she’s still holding the notebook in her hand.

Another picture of Marla on the bed. She’s turned on her side.

She’s sitting with her legs in the air and her back to the camera. We can see her red lace panties.

Next, Marla is sitting at the table. She’s drinking wine.

The wine is flowing down her arm. She’s taking pictures of herself with her camera.

She’s still holding the notebook in her hand.

She’s taking a close up of her face. Her mouth is open in a smile.

She’s holding the camera in one hand. She’s looking into the camera.

She’s taking another close up of her face. It looks like she’s thinking.

Marla is taking another close up of her face. Her mouth is wide open and she’s staring at the camera.

She’s taking another close up of her face. She looks like she’s very serious.

Marla is lying on the bed in her tights and black ballet shoes.

She’s making love to the window. Her legs are bent and her hands are behind her head.

Marla is lying on the bed. She’s staring into the camera.

The white fabric of her tights is hanging out of her skirt. Her feet are bare.

She’s making love to the window. Her legs are bent and she’s spreading her legs.

Marla is taking a picture of her leg. She’s lying on the bed, with her legs up in the air.

She’s dressed like she was in the living room.

Marla is making love to the window again.

Marla is lying on the bed.

Conclusionman in black and white skull print shirt

Creating jump cuts is a talent one can develop. This is to provide the viewers with something different, something exciting.

If you want to add jump cuts to your screenplay, explore your options and study the art.

If you noticed the given example, there were many different views of the story that revolved around what Marla was doing. That's how jump cuts should be made.

However, if you wish to be more creative, you can apply more effects and style to your film, adding in your personal touch.

A jump cut is achievable as long as you know how to properly do it. Thus, do your research and strive to expand your knowledge as much as you can.

Many film experts are willing and able to guide you to be the next best filmmaker in the industry. Harness that energy, and make use of it the best way you can.


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