What’s the difference between WALLA and CHUFFA, because they’re similar? WALLA is basically just background murmuring. Let’s say we do a scene at a baseball game. Two characters are sitting in the stands and we need to have background murmuring of the fan saying, “Ump, you suck!” “No batter!” “Hit a home run!” Stuff like that. It doesn’t go in the script, but we need to pick it up on the day. Just ad lib stuff. That’s WALLA. Now, let’s say the guy behind me yells, “Hey, ump, you suck!” And I turn around and I say, “Hey, would you mind not yelling in my ear?” Now, that guy, that’s dialogue. That has to be in the script because I’m responding to it. My line is in the script because I’m talking. Now it’s not WALLA, it’s dialogue.

CHUFFA, let’s say we’re doing a scene and you have a groom, he’s driving to his wedding and he puts on the radio and the DJ says, “It’s going to be a scorcher today. Temperatures are going to be 115 degrees.” That’s dialogue. It has to be in the script. And then we cut back to the groom and he goes, “Oh, damn.” While we’re on the groom’s face, we still need to hear the DJ still talking. The radio didn’t go off. So he’s going to say something like, “Temperatures in the valleys are going to be 90, and by the beaches, they’re going to be 80.” That needs to be scripted. It doesn’t go in the script, but it needs to be on a piece of paper so that the actor playing the DJ knows what to say. You don’t want to make him make it up on the spot. You’ve got to write it out for him.

Now, you don’t need to put a note in the script either that says, “WALLA to come,” or, “There will be WALLA.” That doesn’t go in the script either. You’ve just got to make a note of it to do it yourself. Because if you did put it in the script, it would take the reader totally out of the moment. I mean, your script, by the way, is not being produced tomorrow. If I were me, maybe I’m shooting the script tomorrow, maybe I want to put a production note in the first example that says, “Background extras will be drenched in sweat.” But probably not. I’m probably not even going to do that either. That’ll come up in the production meeting. Your script, on the other hand, you’re not shooting it tomorrow. It’s a calling card. Maybe you’re hoping, praying someone will buy it. But if you put something like that, a production note, in your script, it’s just going to take the reader out of the moment.

You’re trying to cast a spell. You’re trying to get people sucked into your story. And if you put a production note like that, it’s just going to take them out of the moment. “Oh right. I’m reading a script here. I was enjoying the script. I was enjoying your story until you told me this stupid production note that I don’t need to read anyway.” If you’re trying to get an actor attached, the actor doesn’t need to know that background extras need to be drenched in sweat. If you’re trying to get a director involved, the director is going to say, “Well, yeah, that’s my job. I know to do that.” So they don’t need to read it in the script. If you’re trying to get a studio to give you money, the studio doesn’t need to know. They don’t care about that. They just want to know if the story is any good.

So it really doesn’t need to go in the script at all. If you’re shooting tomorrow, fine, put it in your script. But otherwise, don’t break the spell. For more tips on how to be a professional writer or how to be an amateur writer or just what Hollywood is like, you can find me here. Subscribe. If you’re on YouTube, subscribe to my channel. Follow me here on Instagram @MichaelJaminWriter.

Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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