How Do You Show a Text Message in a Film?

Not too long ago I was asked to read a script, and when I finished I had one question: what year was this script set in? I wondered because the whole script revolved around people in different cities being completely unable to communicate with each other, to know what was going on in each other’s lives. Yep, this present-day film took place in a world where mobile phones had not been invented.

You’d be surprised at how often screenwriters ignore today’s modern means of communication. And not just phones — in order to be truly contemporary, filmmakers must incorporate text messaging into their movies. But how to do that creatively?

Here, with some answers, is Tony Zhou, whose latest short film looks at the innovative — and not so innovative — ways filmmakers are visualizing the sending and receiving of text messages. Watch as he pulls examples from House of Cards, Sherlock, and browser-based films like Noah before blasting into the future of SMS-on-screen, a world still open for exploration.