How to Write and Format a Phone Call in a Screenplay (Examples)

Phone conversations and texting are now messed with our lives.

It’s only natural we want then in our films.

We want realism.

But how do you write it? How do you get that ear-popping dialogue through the phone and on a page?

How do you write a phone conversation in a screenplay? You write a phone conversation in a screenplay by writing “Phone rings. (Character Name) answers the phone” inside the action line of your script.

From there you can write dialogue as you would typically write it.


Phone rings. Roger picks up.
I told you I didn't want to talk!

Is what your trying to write a one-sided conversation, or can we hear the other voice?

Let’s explore all the options below.

How to Write a One-sided Phone Conversation in a Screenplay

A one-sided phone conversation is what we normally hear.

Next to people who are talking on the phone as long as they’re not on speakerphone.

How to write a one-sided phone conversation in a screenplay? You write a one-sided phone conversation in a screenplay by writing “(Character name) answers the phone.” Then write the dialogue as if the person was talking to someone else.

After the conversation is over, you can end the scene and leave your character on the phone, or you can write “(Character name) hangs up.”


The phone rings. Sarah answers it. 
Sarah holds her other ear because of the background noise.
Yes, can you speak up im in a crowded area?
Yes, this is her.
Are you serious!?
Sarah sighs in frustration. 

Most dramas don’t have the person end the scene by hanging up the phone they just cut to the next scene, but it’s totally up to you and your vision.

Why Would you Write a One-sided Phone Conversation?

Now before going off and writing a one-sided conversation think of the phycological effects, this has on a reader.

They don’t know what the other person is saying.

  • The first thing the audience is going to think is what did the person say?
  • Who is the person calling?
  • Why is she/he upset, happy, or blank?

From here, you see a lot of movies reveal the results in the next scene.

But even if you don’t, you can hold those questions over an audience’s head for as long as you want.

As long as you know, you need to answer those questions eventually unless the phone call comes at the end of the movie like a cliffhanger.


As you can see in the above clip. The only information you get from the other side is some slight breathing and two words.

“Good luck”

Play with the information, on the other hand, choosing what to give and what, not to the reader.

How to Write an Intercut Phone Conversation Screenplay

The intercut phone conversation is a little harder to handle formatting-wise.

But because of this, you can have a little bit more fun creating it.

How do you write an Intercut phone conversation screenplay? You write an intercut phone conversation by first establishing the locations of both people on the phone with a scene heading and the first line of dialogue you want them to say.

Then on the next line write “INTERCUT — PHONE CONVERSATION” or “INTERCUT with (Character name) and (Character name).”

You can then write your conversation as normal, and the reader will picture both locations while reading.

When finished an intercut phone conversation you would want to write

“END INTERCUT” or “(Character name) hangs up

If one character hangs upon another.

When writing “END INTERCUT” You then have to write another scene heading, letting the reader know which characters we are looking at now.


Balloons fly in the air. The creaking of rollercoasters and the music of the Ferris wheels fill the air. Sarah walks along slowly down the middle of the festival.
The phone rings. Sarah answers it. 
One light remains on in the single building. Richard tie on the desk filled with vanilla folders and his sleeves rolled up.  Richard holds the phone.
Is this Mis Jefferson
Sarah holds her other ear because of the background noise.
Yes, can you speak up im in a crowded area?
(Speaks louder)
Mis Jefferson
Yes, this is her.
Mis Jefferson this is Richard from Florida. It's not going to work.
Are you serious!?
Sarah stands still heart racing amid the fun around her. 
Sarah sighs in frustration. 

Remember if you want a character to talk when that character isn’t shown you have to write “Character name (O.C)”

O.C – off camera.

Why Would You Write an Intercut Conversation?

As you can see from the example above, more perspectives equal more information for the audience.

If you want the audience to understand how not just your main character feels about the information exchange but the other character or party as well. The intercut phone conversation might be right for you.


Why is this phone conversation famous?

One word “tension.”

You can tell without much dialogue and not even seeing the movie that the two men are unsure of who each other are. Or their position.

Matt Damon tries to make up a story, but Leo isn’t falling for it.

The lesson here is you choose how much dialogue is given. Remember, action is always better than words.

Screenplay Split-screen Phone Conversation

Split-screen phone conversation is the most complicated of phone conversations.

Not just because of the formating but because you have to remember each person’s position.

This becomes even more difficult with multiple people meaning more than two.

How do you write a split-screen phone conversation in a screenplay? You write a split-screen phone conversation by first establishing the locations of all parties involved and writing there the first piece of dialogue. Once all parties on the phone have been introduced, you write “SPLIT SCREEN — PHONE CONVERSATION” or “SPLIT SCREEN with (X) and (X) and (X) .”

The easiest way…

Another way to write a split-screen phone conversation in a screenplay is to use “/” to represent the split.


Might be simpler, especially if you’re dealing with three or more people on the phone.

If more than two people are talking on the phone. You can write:

“(X) hangs up.”

Then when the phone conversation ends you write:


As always, please reintroduce the location of the character you want to show after the phone conversation is ended. Or start a new scene.

Why would you write a split-screen phone conversation?

Mostly used in comedy movies because people might feel a comedic tone even if you’re not trying to be funny.

The comedic split-screen conversation has been built up over decades and isn’t likely going ot change in one movie.

With that said, there had been movies to take the split-screen conversation to a new level.

“Unfriended” is a horror film where the entire movie is a split-screen conversation and nothing about this film is funny.

After analyzing this movie, the reason the split scene worked here without a comedic vibe is that the split-screen went digital.

Changing the method and taking it off the phone and adding skype allowed the screenwriters to reinvent the split-screen.

Other than that it’s the fastest way to give information as well as provides the most information to the reader and the audience.

Every movement the actors make gives more of an insight into how the characters feel about what’s happening.

A famous example is this scene from “Mean Girls.”

How to write a Phone Voicemail in a Script

How do you write a phone going to voicemail? You write a phone voicemail by notifying the reader in the action line.


Roger finds his phone, dials, VOICEMAIL.


In this post, you learned how to write

  • A one-sided phone conversation
  • A two-sided (intercut) phone conversation
  • A Split screen phone conversation

Ok now, you’re a master at writing phone conversations in a script. the only thing else is to do is to practice.

Now its time to hear from you:

Did I miss anything?

Which technique are you going to use?

Whatever your response leave a comment I would love to talk about it.

Happy writing.

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