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4 Screenplay Trademarks from Wes Anderson We Spotted in ‘Asteroid City’

by Alyssa Miller - updated on May 9, 2023

The first trailer for Wes Anderson’s new film, Asteroid City, is here. This time around, Anderson elevates his quirky visual language with classic Americana art and Rob Decker’s National Park posters, with a bluegrass soundtrack and sci-fi elements.

Asteroid City follows the itinerary of a Junior Stargazer/Space Cadet convention disrupted by spectacularly world-changing events. Co-written with Roman Coppola, Anderson always nails his whimsical style due to how meticulously detailed his scripts are. Here are some of Anderson’s classic quirks we see in his scripts, and how they make an appearance in Asteroid City.

How Does Anderson Nail His Visual Language?

By the time Wes Anderson is ready to start principal photography, his scripts are completely finished. He doesn’t limit his imagination and writes what he wants to see on film. 

The action is precise because he knows exactly how he wants each scene to play out. If there is any room for misinterpretation, then Anderson will double down on the needed descriptions. 

Read More: How to Incorporate Visuals into Your Screenplay

Anderson’s exposition is so wonderful to read because it is on the nose, and there is nothing wrong with being on the nose. It tells everyone reading the script exactly what they should expect from the tone of the film. The best part is that he can deliver a scene’s worth of information in a single line and in a single frame, a challenge that many writers and directors struggle with. 

There is an obsessive control and reiteration of information, which is a trademark of Wes Anderson’s style. While we don’t have the screenplay for Astroid City, we can see some of his trademarks in the film’s trailer. Here are four ways Anderson translates his obsession from the page to the screen. 

Delivering Information Through Characters

One way Anderson drives home information in a way that a viewer can’t miss is through the characters. Screenwriters know that there has to be an inciting incident near the beginning of the film that kicks off the film. In Asteroid City, we see this through the conversation between Augie (Jason Schwartzman) and Tom Hanks’s character. 

Over the phone, Tom Hanks’ character reveals that Augie and his family didn’t make it. Augie delivers the information of the inciting incident by stating that his car exploded. 

Necessary information is also told to the audience by the audience so a pivotal moment isn’t lost if someone isn’t looking at the screen. 

Read More: Supercut of the Day: Clustercuss of Swearing in Wes Anderson Films is Fucking Great

Setting the Scene

As I mentioned earlier, Anderson has an obsessive control over his story’s aesthetic. In Moonrise Kingdom, we see Anderson's Art Nouveau adapted to fit the naturalistic environment of the woods and the island in the film.

In his description of one of the locations, Anderson pointedly states what we see and what should and shouldn’t exist in the frame, even down to exactly what each character is wearing: 

4 Screenplay Trademarks from Wes Anderson We Spotted in ‘Asteroid City’

Download the script!

These highly detailed descriptions establish the visual language of Anderson on the page, and easily translate to the screen because of how clearly everyone from the cast and crew understands his vision. 

4 Screenplay Trademarks from Wes Anderson We Spotted in ‘Asteroid City’

'Asteroid City' (2023)

Separating Stories Within the Story

Anderson is not afraid to tell stories within his main story and play within the medium of film. In The French Dispatch, Anderson separates his vignettes with inserts that describe a title card that we see. The stylized card acts as an introduction to a scene that exists outside of the main story. 

Check out how Anderson introduces the “City Section” in The French Dispatch:

4 Screenplay Trademarks from Wes Anderson We Spotted in ‘Asteroid City’_french dispatch script

Download the script!

In Asteroid City, we see that there is at least one aspect ratio change that the town’s folk showcase their latest achievements in technology. From this, we can assume that Anderson separates this moment from his story by having an insert introducing this visual tangent that adds to the film’s overall narrative. 

Split Screen Conversations

Anderson's films often have characters having phone conversations. Rather than have one character on screen at a time, Anderson chooses to show off his characters and their atmospheres through the split screen. 

Split screens allow viewers to see both characters, and the editing plays a central role in establishing closeness and the tone between the characters. In Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson establishes the use of the split screen in his screenplay: 


4 Screenplay Trademarks from Wes Anderson We Spotted in ‘Asteroid City’_moonrise kingdom script

This highly descriptive exposition establishes the scenes and the relationship the characters have with each other. 

Anderson’s Asteroid City uses the split screen to craft a vivid portrayal of the relationship between Augie and Tom Hanks’s characters, emphasizing the tension between them through contrasting color palettes.

Read More: Screenwriting Basics: How to Write Cinematic Phone Conversations

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There is an undeniable charm to Anderson’s aesthetic, and it comes from his ability to establish exactly what he wants in his screenplays. His stories are lean. They say exactly what needs to be said without beating around the bush. 

Screenwriters can learn from Anderson’s unique style by writing their exact intentions with a scene through the exposition. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the traditional form of a screenplay to translate your visual intentions with your story. 

In the meantime, we will be patiently waiting for Anderson’s Asteroid City to hit theaters on June 16, 2023.


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