If you’re a college-level film student or aspiring screenwriter, understanding the intricacies of screenwriting is crucial. One fundamental aspect that often puzzles newcomers is deciphering scene headings and their associated abbreviations. Among these abbreviations, “INT” and “EXT” stand out prominently. In this article, we’ll explore what these terms mean in a screenplay and how they play a vital role in the filmmaking process.

The Significance of Scene Headings

In the realm of screenwriting, scene headings, also known as slug lines, serve as a roadmap for the entire production team. They convey essential information about a scene, such as its location, timing, and other critical details. These details are essential for a cohesive narrative and efficient filming. However, let’s delve deeper into the core question: What do “INT” and “EXT” mean in a screenplay?

Check out this really good Youtube video diving into some formatting tips including INT and EXT

INT: Interior Settings

When deciphering a scene heading, “INT” stands for “interior.” This abbreviation signifies that the ensuing scene unfolds within the confines of a building, room, or any enclosed space. Understanding this simple yet crucial distinction helps the production team, including the director, cinematographer, and set designers, visualize the scene’s environment accurately.

In every master or primary scene heading, you will encounter either “INT” or “EXT.” This initial element sets the stage for the scene, indicating whether it takes place indoors or outdoors.

EXT: Exterior Settings

Conversely, “EXT” in a scene heading signifies “exterior.” When “EXT” appears at the beginning of a scene, it informs everyone involved that the action unfolds in an outdoor environment. This distinction is pivotal for the production team to plan for outdoor shoots, lighting, and set design that complement the natural surroundings.

However, things become more intriguing when it comes to secondary scene headings or sluglines. You may notice that they occasionally omit the “INT” or “EXT” delineation. Instead, a secondary subheading or slugline may appear after a period, followed immediately by a location descriptor.

For instance, consider “IN THE LOBBY.” In such cases, the period following “IN THE LOBBY” serves as a reminder that the scene remains either “INT” or “EXT,” which was originally denoted in the primary scene heading. “IN THE LOBBY” specifies a location within the larger, encompassing scene.

Handling Scene Transitions

But what if a scene transitions from an interior to an exterior setting or vice versa? This is where scene headings become even more nuanced. In screenwriting, a new scene heading is introduced to signify such transitions effectively.

For instance:

    • Action line items.

In this example, the scene seamlessly transitions from the interior (kitchen at night) to the exterior (backyard). The term “CONTINUOUS” indicates that the scene’s timing remains consistent – it is still nighttime.

Now, let’s address scenes that shift between both interior and exterior settings. These scenes are marked by a unique scene heading:

    • Action line items.

In this scenario, the scene unfolds both inside and outside Mable’s bedroom. It could be a moment of intense communication between a character inside the room and another outside the window. This versatile scene heading, “INT./EXT.,” is frequently used for scenes in cars, where part of the action transpires within the vehicle, and part unfolds outside.


In summary, “INT” stands for interior, signifying scenes that take place within enclosed spaces, while “EXT” denotes exterior scenes set in the great outdoors. These distinctions may seem subtle, but they are fundamental in guiding the entire production team through the intricacies of filmmaking.

As you embark on your journey in the world of film and screenwriting, mastering these scene headings will enable you to communicate your creative vision effectively. Remember, every abbreviation and detail in a screenplay contributes to the seamless storytelling process, ultimately bringing your cinematic dreams to life on the big screen. So, as you continue your cinematic endeavors, embrace the power of “INT” and “EXT” in your screenplays, and let them guide your storytelling adventures.