My writing partner and I have a pretty good relationship but sometimes we clash on trivialities. Thanks to mis-writing-screenplays and MWS&M, I've presented a pretty good case for not saying "we see," or "angle on," or "POV," and omitting a "roll credits" a page into a spec script.

But in a couple of scripts, she maintains I've broken a rule that threatens to call attention to itself without serving a purpose. I contend it serves a purpose and it's not that big a deal. But I promised I'd ask you guys for opinions.
Here's how one of the scripts opens:
OVER BLACK:
VIRGINIA
Perfect.
And, indeed, it is.
FADE IN:
...to an exquisite diamond and sapphire choker necklace glistens against VIRGINIA CUMMINGS' clear porcelain skin. She's 20, dressed in a stunning gown the best Neiman-Marcus has to offer as her maid CASSIE WASHINGTON (20, African American) fastens the clasp.
INT. VIRGINIA'S BEDROOM, DALLAS, NOVEMBER, 1941 EVENING

CASSIE
Prettiest thing I ever seen.
And here is another:
FADE IN:
EXT. SALMON BEACH, WASHINGTON AFTERNOON
A lush evergreen forest next to the crystal blue water of Puget Sound. In between, along a thin strand of rocky beach, sits an eclectic neighborhood of beach houses built above the water on stilts.
A sleek racing skull skims across the still water.

EXT. TRIPLE SCULL AFTERNOON
DIANE
You're rushin' the slide! You're rushing
the slide!
Synchronize! Synchronize.
DIANE DARROW (36) sits at the stern, stop-watch in hand, Even with her intense furled brow she's absolutely stunning. Her hair breezes back with each stroke of the oars..
The point of contention is having a character speak before the script introduces him/her.
I contend, lots of movies start over black. My writing parter argues that is a director's choice, but defies screenplay convention by not revealing who is saying.
Any thoughts?
Joe Myers
"Sorry, as always, to post on-topic."
1 2
Here's how one of the scripts opens: OVER BLACK: VIRGINIA Perfect. And, indeed, it is.

Whoa, Nelly!
IMO this is problematic for a few reasons.
1)

VIRGINIA should be
VIRGINIA (O.S.)
2)

"And, indeed it is."
How do we know it is, if we're looking at black?
Besides, iit reads as archaic and jokey.
You don't need it at all. Write what you can see. You can see black.

So...
FADE IN: ...to an exquisite diamond and sapphire choker necklace glistens against VIRGINIA CUMMINGS' clear porcelain skin.

This is directing on paper. Is the choker ("choker necklace" is redundant) significant to the plot? If not, forget it. If so, try and find a way that doesn't dictate the shot.
In any case, the LOCATION slug should go first, even if the first thing you see is the choker. Production reasons and screenplay convention.
She's 20, dressed in a stunning gown the best Neiman-Marcus has to offer as her maid CASSIE WASHINGTON (20, African American) fastens the clasp.

This is a lot of description for a very minor action.
INT. VIRGINIA'S BEDROOM, DALLAS, NOVEMBER, 1941 EVENING CASSIE Prettiest thing I ever seen. And here is another: FADE IN: ... along a thin strand of rocky beach, sits an eclectic neighborhood of beach houses built above the water on stilts.

A neighborhood "sits"? If you say so.
A sleek racing skull skims across the still water.

A skull is racing across the water? With teeth, or no teeth?
EXT. TRIPLE SCULL AFTERNOON

Make up your mind. Is it a "skull" or a "scull" my $2 is on scull. My $5 is that 50% of readers may not know what a "scull" is maybe you need to find another word.
DIANE You're rushin' the slide! You're rushing the slide! Synchronize! Synchronize.

I would put this dialogue immediately BEFORE the TRIPLE SCULL slug, and add an (O.S.).
DIANE DARROW (36) sits at the stern, stop-watch in hand,

A bone of contention with my writing partner.
I contend that there is a difference between "sits" and "is sitting."

"Sits" means (to me) that the character is standing, and then sits down.

"is sitting" describes the position the character is in when we first see her.
Even with her intense furled brow she's absolutely stunning.

"Even with her intense furled brow"? This is kind of Bulwer-Lytton territory.
If you mean she's concentrating, why not say so?
Her hair breezes back with each stroke of the oars.... The point of contention is having a character speak before ... black. My writing parter argues that is a director's choice, but defies screenplay convention by not revealing who is saying.

I side with you. Just put in the character name PLUS (O.S.), follow it with the first available LOCATION slug, then describe the action, and intro the characterr.
Any thoughts?

Yeah. You're probably going to hate me for the above.

"Anybody can direct. There are only 11 good writers." ‹ Mel Brooks
My writing partner and I have a pretty good relationship but sometimes we clash on trivialities. Thanks to mis-writing-screenplays and ... but defies screenplay convention by not revealing who is saying. Any thoughts? Joe Myers "Sorry, as always, to post on-topic."

You're right. Find a script that illustrates your point and I'll bet you'll see it the way you did it. The fact is, this stuff changes all the time, and people come up with styles that become norms (at least for a while), like Shane Black's snarky little comments in his scripts

Why your partner's arguing over that is baffling.
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My writing partner and I have a pretty good relationship but sometimes we clash on trivialities. Thanks to mis-writing-screenplays and ... (20, African American) fastens the clasp. INT. VIRGINIA'S BEDROOM, DALLAS, NOVEMBER, 1941 EVENING CASSIE Prettiest thing I ever seen.

Doesn't work for me unless File 13 is your goal. Yes, there ARE other movies that open with a black screen, but I cannot recall any examples when that was not done to show that the characters are also "in the dark." To open with a character talking in total blackness only to find out she can see perfectly fine but you're the one who can't just doesn't make sense. That, plus "OVER BLACK" means there will be something on TOP of the black bg. And finally, "fade in:" always! always! ALWAYS! is the opening slug to a screen play followed by the first actual slug line. You've done it right below (the first two slugs), so what happened above?
And here is another: FADE IN: EXT. SALMON BEACH, WASHINGTON AFTERNOON A lush evergreen forest next to the crystal ... hand, Even with her intense furled brow she's absolutely stunning. Her hair breezes back with each stroke of the oars..

For my taste, you're getting too wordy in the action. For example, by definition, all racing sculls are sleek. (Plus you have scull spelled wrong the first time you use it.) Then, the slug for your second scene doesn't make sense. The "exterior" of a triple scull and the first action in the scene is Diane sitting IN the scull? The scull is part of the overall scene at Salmon Beach. You don't need the second slug.
Hey, you asked... '-)
Caroline
Old teachers never die, they just yammer on.
OVER BLACK: VIRGINIA Perfect. And, indeed, it is. FADE IN: ...to an exquisite diamond and sapphire choker necklace glistens against ... gown the best Neiman-Marcus has to offer as her maid CASSIE WASHINGTON (20, African American) fastens the clasp.

In spite of the fact that MC's probably technically right, this reads perfectly fine to me.
It tells us we're looking at a black screen and hear a voice before visually fading in. And then we immediately get an explanation of what the voice is looking at. I'd add an (O.S.) on VIRGINIA, but aside from that, it works for me. Whether or not there's a good reason for doing it in this case, I don't know...
Steven Soderberg's scripts used to do this sort of thing and I found it very effective.
Alan Brooks

A with an Underwood
FADE OOT, said the *******...
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OVER BLACK: VIRGINIA Perfect. And, indeed, it is. FADE IN: ... her maid CASSIE WASHINGTON (20, African American) fastens the clasp.

In spite of the fact that MC's probably technically right, this reads perfectly fine to me. It tells us we're ... case, I don't know... Steven Soderberg's scripts used to do this sort of thing and I found it very effective.

Just imagine someone writing -
A BLUR
Something, we don't know what, is whizzing by. Interesting patterns, what's going on?
PAN UP TO REVEAL that it's a video camera we've been looking through, held down toward the highway. Up ahead it a small Southern town...

*
That's what the opening of Sex, Lies & Videotape looked like, as I recall. (The movie, I didn't read the script.) Worrying too much about the technical stuff is silly, past a certain point. But directors can write all kinds of crap in their scripts and not follow the "rules" others do, because they're going to make the movie.

Caroline's right about there being no good reason about the black thing, though. But there's nothing wrong with it, either.
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My writing partner and I have a pretty good relationship but sometimes we clash on trivialities. Thanks to mis-writing-screenplays and ... but defies screenplay convention by not revealing who is saying. Any thoughts? Joe Myers "Sorry, as always, to post on-topic."

There's a lot I would comment on about these samples, but limiting it just to your question I'd say that the answer will vary according to context. I think it's fine in the first instand; that we don't have enough information too judge in the second instance; and that's it's wholly unnecessary (i.e., your partner is correct) in the third instance.
-ml
The point of contention is having a character speak before the script introduces him/her. I contend, lots of movies start over black. My writing parter argues that is a director's choice, but defies screenplay convention by not revealing who is saying.

Purely stylistic. Of the director's domain, but it won't hurt or harm your script. I say shrug and concede the point for harmony's sake.
jaybee
Just imagine someone writing - A BLUR Something, we don't know what, is whizzing by. Interesting patterns, what's going on? ... kinds of crap in their scripts and not follow the "rules" others do, because they're going to make the movie.

Of course. I have the script for "Sex, Lies & Videotape" around here somewhere. If I can find it, I'll post the actual opening bit.

One of the writing techniques he used a number of times in SL&V was to lead form one scene into the next by doing a voice-over of the dialogue from the next scene at the end of the current scene. If the dialogue is carefully chosen, it pulls you forward because it seems to relate to what you're seeing, but has a different meaning once the actual context is revealed.

Not the most mind-blowing technique, but if well done it adds an interesting layer, especially in a character-based film like SL&V. Something like

...
Charlotte looks back from the door with tears in her eyes, then leaves. The door shuts with a soft click.
Chuck sinks into the chair and closes his eyes.
VINNIE (V.O.)
Breakups ain't so bad if you can get the
girl to think she's leaving you...
INT. SQUASH COURT DAY
Vinnie and Chuck play squash.
...
Sort of a silly example, but it adds something when the dialogue comments on one scene and is also part of a conversation in the next.

Alan Brooks

A with an Underwood
Ogres have layers...
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