Notes from a Screenreader: Luggage Handling

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

Luggage handling is the awkward moment when characters have to take story time to account for their props. “Henderson! They’ve buried the bomb in the middle of the densest civilian population on the planet!” “Let’s go! I’ll pack the trunks in the jet.”

This is an extreme example, obviously, but it happens all the time in spec scripts, and it falls under the umbrella of things that don’t need to be said. Remember, you have visuals on your side.

  • Plot hole hunting. A plot hole is only for big things, which people don’t notice anyway. We can safely assume that they intend to bring their equipment with them. In the remote instance we can’t, show the important piece of equipment being loaded on the jet.
  • Blocking. Moving people around should also be done visually. Even when the placement of characters is vitally important, visual cues are better than dialogue. Hence the ubiquitous use of maps and voices over action that accompany heist and military setup sequences.
  • The lost and found. Luggage handling at its best adds to story. The necklace has been the key all the while, it was the stamps on the envelope, Bruce Wayne pulled a MacGuyver on the autopilot. But those hints are artfully buried by good writers, salting the mine for a huge and satisfying reveal.

Handling luggage should be done behind the scenes.

 
ANNIE LABARBA

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

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