Beats

Beats
Beats are a useful technique often used by scriptwriters in creating pace for the film. A beat is the smallest element of structural technique. It is an exchange of behavior in action/reaction. Beat by beat these changing behaviors shape a sequence. A sequence needn’t be built up of just one action. It can have multiple actions, and each action is one beat. For example; A man could walk into a room, walk to the window and look out, sit down on a chair, pick up a book and read it, put down the book, get up and leave the room. This sequence has five beats – 1. Walking into the room, 2. Looking out the window, 3. Sitting down, 4. Reading a book 5. Getting up and out of the room.

The scriptwriter can benefit from breaking down each sequence into beats because he can then have greater control over the sequence. He can shave off beats to make a sequence shorter, add more beats to make it longer or increase and decrease the tempo of beats to suit the point of time in which the sequence occurs. In documentary, the scriptwriter may have limited control over the nature of actions that take place in a sequence, but he can control how many of them feature in the final film.