INT. LIBRARY - DAY
Vernon leaves and closes the door.
A musical riff builds to a climax as Bender screams. BENDER (screams) Fuck you! We see the clock, it reads a quarter to eight. We see Bender, lighting his shoe on fire and lighting a cigarette with his shoe. We see Claire thinking. We see Brian playing with his balls. We see Andrew playing with his sweatshirt. We see Allison pulling a string around her finger and making it turn purple. We see Bender put the flames on his shoe out. He then plays air guitar. We see Allison drawing. We see Andrew playing paper football. He cheers silently. Allison shakes dandruff from her hair onto her picture. We see everyone fall asleep.
John Hughes, The Breakfast Club. Written and produced in the 80's, this script is still one of the most beloved teen angst movies of all time. Hughes uses "WE SEE" to start almost every single scene and sprinkles it with abandon, as in the above scene, throughout the script. 53 times to be exact! If a movie that has grossed close to 46 MILLION DOLLARS to date can use "WE SEE" with such abandon, why can't you?
The simple answer is, you're not John Hughes! You are an up and coming screenwriter whose stuff actually has to get read before it gets produced. The screenplay for the Breakfast Club was produced by Mr. Hughes himself - a reader didn't have to read it, love it, risk their job for it and then pass it on up the food chain to a bunch of other people who actually had to read the thing before it got greenlit. If it had, it likely wouldn't have gotten produced because using "WE SEE" in a screenplay sucks. Here's why:
Using "WE SEE" in a screenplay is redundant
Screenwriting is a visual medium. Everything you write is being written to show action that WE SEE on the screen. That means that if you were going to truly commit to the use of "we see" than you would need to use it in every single line of action, like our friend John did above. Obviously if it is happening, we are going to see it. Save the keystrokes, save the ink.
Using "WE SEE" in a screenplay is a wasted opportunity
If you are looking for screenplay success, than you are writing on spec and your one reason for writing should be to impress the shit out of the reader with your story telling ability. If you are writing for you or because you love it as an art form, then feel free to ignore this and write in any old style you like; you're cool, you don;t have to impress anybody. If on the other hand you actually want to see your name in the credits than you have to impress a whole lot of someones with your epic writing skills.
Every time you use "WE SEE" in a screenplay, you are wasting the chance to wow the reader because anyone can say
We see a train approaching and hear the WHISTLE as it CLATTERS down the tracks.
but a writer who knows how to engage the reader is someone who will get their stuff read, which, unless you plan on producing your own screenplay, is the only way to get it produced. Imagine you are the reader. Which draws you in more? The above or this:
A mournful whistle announces the approach of a train as it clatters down the tracks.
Using "WE SEE" in screenplays is lazy writing
Or at least it seems that way. Writing "we see" in a screenplay takes a lot less creative energy that actually coming up with a creative way of actually showing us what is seen. You chose screenwriting for a reason; so why not use this visual story telling to actually to write in a way that is visual and engaging?
If there is one exception is when you want to draw attention to a single item or person in the scene. Ken Levine, also known as The Bitter Script Reader, talks about this exception to the rule but is also convinced that most screenwriters, especially the noobs, tend to get carried away.
...and the number one reason why using "WE SEE" in screenplays sucks is
It takes the reader out of the story.
This is your enemy if you want to achieve screenplay success, and Writer, know thy enemy. Remember those readers that John Hughes got to avoid by just producing his own script and making it into a hugely success movie? Those are the same readers that you have to suck in to your story, grab by the throat, and never let them come up for air until FADE OUT.
Every time you use "WE SEE" in a screenplay, you remind the reader that he isn't battling storm troopers in some far, far away galaxy but is actually sitting on his threadbare sofa in his boxers drinking his 6th cup of coffee of the day.
Sure, your story might be so damn good that he barely notices this slip into uninspired writing, but why take the chance? Wouldn't you better champion your own cause by writing the same sentence in a different way that avoids the use of these two distracting and detracting little words?
Like every other word you use in your screenplay, you must ask yourself, "Does this add anything or can I leave it out?"