View Full Version : How much concern do you put on page count?
11-20-2005, 08:47 PM
I used to be really stubborn about having the number of pages in my script equal the number of minutes the scene would be on film, but after doing a few more drafts I've been loosening up on that, giving however much description there needs to be, making the page as long as it needs to be even if it "goes over". For example, there are many montages in the script. One of them, judging by the length of the voice over that is heard during the entire scene, is 1 and a half minutes tops, but because of the amount of description there needs to be for each mini-scene in the montage and whatnot, the scene takes up 4 pages. I think this would be about an hour and forty minute film and originally the script was 102 pages. After re-writing it, it's now 113 pages. I didn't add one scene, that extra 11 pages is just splitting paragraphs into two, giving more coherent descriptions, adding lines with simply "SMASH!" or "BLAM!" between two paragraphs, etc.
It's much, much more readable this way and I think more enjoyable, but how concerned should I be with the page length? This is a comedy and like I said, I think it would be about an hour and forty minutes, but do you think an agent will see the page length and say "Two hours for a comedy???" I've looked at some online scripts for produced movies which are very long for how long the actual movie is but are also very easy to read and it seems like the writers took as much room as they needed -- the Resident Evil script is 120 pages for an hour and forty minute movie, the Dawn of the Dead script has incredibly long page length for montages that are only a minute in the movie. I know you probably have to balance it -- better descriptions/more easily readable vs. matching the scene length with page length -- but how much emphasis should you put on the two? Do you allow your script pages to run longer than its equivalent in film minutes?
11-21-2005, 09:43 AM
There are many montages in the script. One of them, judging by the length of the voice over that is heard during the entire scene, is 1 and a half minutes tops, but because of the amount of description there needs to be for each mini-scene in the montage and whatnot, the scene takes up 4 pages.
I wouldn't worry about 113 pages.
They'll still read it, and if it's good, they'll just knock out the montages that you have labored over. :(
Sorry, but those montages are usually (not always) just cumbersome and inefficient.
Don't sweat the page count. There is always lots of stuff to cut, mostly descriptions that do not add real length to the script.
11-21-2005, 12:07 PM
You are right to make your whole script readable. Do use the white space. Ease of reading matters.
I agree 113 pages isn't fatal, and I also agree there are probably places you can make your dialog and description leaner. Make every bit of writing as concise as possible while still giving enough flavor that the reader can visualize the movie playing.
One-page-equals-one-minute-of-screen-time is a rough average. It doesn't mean you should do anything special to make sure each specific page covers one minute of screen time. It's simply a ballpark estimate of the overall playing time of an entire script of x number of pages.
For the average to work out, do not add or subtract anything to make any given page equal a minute of screen time. If you already padded certain pages to make a page of writing equal a page of screen time, take out the padding.
If your entire script is lean but vivid, with adequate white space, then some pages will cover more than a page of screen time, some will cover less, but it should average out close enough. Reading a variety of pro scripts will give you an idea of how much detail to include.
11-21-2005, 03:59 PM
I agree with what everyone above says, but I also think you're overthinking the hell out of this. What gives you any idea how long the movie's going to be? That all depends on many factors that are determined by everyone but you. How the actors perform and deliver their lines, how the director sets up and handles his shots, how the editor puts it together for pacing.
I mean sure if you let your scenes or your full script run on forever, you've got a problem, but if you're approaching writing a scene by deciding it should run two and a half minutes, you're already focusing on the wrong thing. And if you're then trying to make sure it hits exactly two and half pages, you're beating your head against a wall for nothing. Just write it as tightly as you can and worry about hitting emotional peaks, plot reversals and stuff like that, not how it looks.
11-21-2005, 04:37 PM
"What gives you any idea how long the movie's going to be?"
Like I said, the montage for example is pretty short, between 1 minute and a minute and a half. It's not unclear to see that. The dialouge is pretty brief. But for each shot, and there aren't that many shots (or mini-scenes), I have to put a scene heading and describe the location and the action etc. for what amounts to a brief moment.
11-21-2005, 08:08 PM
RyanO, not trying to be mean here, but you're missing the point that's been driven down your throat by some of the best posters here on DD. Comic, Joan and Jmsullivan have explained this in detail. Since you're perseverating over the topic then mabye it's something that begs repeating.
DON'T WORRY ABOUT MONTAGE SCREEN TIME - EVER! It's a waste of energy and it's implausible that you could EVER estimate all of the factors involved (as it's been said) into the exact amount of SCREEN TIME your images would fill.
I don't even understand your question of how long my scripts run? But I'll try and humor you anyway.
My scripts take the same amount of time, upon estimation of industry standard, that all scripts take per page to minute of screen time. Joan explained this to you. An approximate one page to one minute of screentime -- depending on different factors. If you're interested in writing a story, then write it. One hundred ten pages to one hundred twenty pages is what most shoot for. Comedies usually run ten pages less. If your worried about your montage running too long, then cut it. Too short, then lengthen it.
11-21-2005, 08:32 PM
If you want to keep arguing about this, go ahead, this is just childish though. I give up. I estimate that the scene would be 1 to 1 and a half minutes. If I'm a moron for trying to estimate how long something would take, whatever. I guess I'm a moron for estimating how long it takes to drive somewhere. I don't know how I got drawn into arguing about this. This is not even the point of the topic. It's not about me estimating the length of one montage in my script. It's about how much balance you should give on making the script readable/making it run longer than it otherwise would. And how much concern agents have on page number.
Also, I never asked you how long your script runs. I was asking, in general, to everyone how long their scripts usually run. Mainly the people who were actually helping me out.
"An approximate one minute per page, more or less, to one minute of screentime"
i kind of baffled that nobody suggested that a four page montage is ludicrous. actuallly ludicrous doesn't even do it justice. please don't come back and say it's only a minute and a half on screen.
if you can't cut your montage down then there is a problem. a four page montage is ridiculous and that's one of several montages?
craft is combining all these questions into pratical application. now, i think if you posted the pages not only would you get a realistic idea of your question from people who read it, you'd be able to see through there revisions, or suggestion what you can do to elminate it from your script, which will not only help you on this particular scene but like scenes. that's how you learn.
post the scene because this will be great. you will learn a tremendous amount, trust me. do it. don't back out. i'm a clean butcher and you will walk away a better person. you'll get like 15 responses. maybe way more.
practice is not repeating the same mistake throughout ten scripts it's eliminating the mistake and finding new skills to help you practice at a higher rate then you build on those skills and climb that ladder and learn more and then craft becomes a self full-filling prophecy.
11-22-2005, 08:52 AM
I gotta agree with Vig on this. A four-page montage? Come on. There's got to be a better way to get the information across. Ultimately, a lot of non-commital "if it works, it's fine" cheerleading doesn't really help anyone.
I would re-evaluate any 4-page montage, regardless of whether you think it will take up 1.5 minutes of screentime or not.
11-22-2005, 11:11 AM
Thanks for all of your advice. You're right, it may be longer than 1.5 minutes. Who knows.
I may just be being paranoid, but I don't know about posting four pages of the script online. I've posted pages before and I don't think anyone here is going to steal my work, but this is a montage that takes place between the 2nd and 3rd act and it explains the ENTIRE story. I will post one page of the montage though (the last page of it). Here it is...
A hang glider hangs on display from the tall ceiling of the lobby like a symbol of the Cube Corporation soaring high and mighty above the heads of its competition.
A sign reads, CUBE CORPORATION: SOARING ABOVE AND BEYOND.
Zack stands on a ladder and unhooks the glider. James has to dive out of the way as it nose dives to the floor.
ON THE ROOF’S HELIPAD,
Close up shots. Zack stretches duct tape over minor tears in the sail. He ties the sail to the mast with rope. Finally we see what it is he’s working on.
He is building a raft.
Thirteen months passed since the world first ended...
Demonstrating his work ethic, Richard snores on his sofa, snuggling with the unharnessed mannequin glider pilot.
IN ZACK’S OFFICE,
Zack works with purpose at an editing bay, making additions to a cut of The Alpha Chick, looking not unlike any reclusive hard-working editor.
A look of hope slowly forms on his face.
...when phase one of the plan had at last been accomplished, a cure found...
ON THE ROOF,
Zack stands next to his handiwork: the finished glider-raft.
He is now painfully emaciated and naked except for boxers. He wears a du-rag over his long hair and aviator goggles on his forehead. His beard whips in the high-altitude winds.
He releases a handful of confetti over the edge of the roof and watches as a warm updraft lifts it back upward.
...and the time had come to hit the skies.
The dishevelled CEO stands on the roof of his tower, alone, and sets his sight on something far out in the distance.
The Cube Corporation. We soar above and beyond, don’t we?
He begins to laugh.
As the confetti trickles away in the wind, the camera pulls back to reveal how stranded the filmmakers really are. All across the city, there is nothing. No signs of life. Cube HQ is truly an island surrounded by an ocean of zombies.
For example, there is one shot of Zack standing next to the glider raft and releasing confetti into the wind then looks out across the city, while we hear a voice over. This is fairly brief, probably only a few seconds shot. But it takes up many paragraphs, almost half a page. It seems necessary to describe how Zack (a gifted inventor and once- multi-billionaire CEO) has transformed into this insane, dishevelled monster, and splitting the paragraphs and adding lines like "He is building a raft" makes it easier to read. But am I adding too much, making it too long? Should I combine the first 3 paragraphs into one, or combine the last two? What do you think? Thanks again for your advice.
11-22-2005, 12:07 PM
Hey RyanO...I'd like to examine your statement below.
I may just be being paranoid, but I don't know about posting four pages of the script online. I've posted pages before and I don't think anyone here is going to steal my work, but this is a montage that takes place between the 2nd and 3rd act and it explains the ENTIRE story.
1) Yes, you're being paranoid.
2) This sequence needs to be severely amped up!!!!!!! If it falls at the end of ACT II, it needs to be very exciting, extremely exciting, edge-of-your-seat exciting! It sounds dull with a VO and the action isn't exactly heart-pounding.
The end of ACT II should have our hero's facing their greatest danger, where all hope seems lost...and then they resolve their situation, face their fears, conquer their enemies.
Here, you have them standing alone on top of a building releasing a hang-glider. The zombies need to be battering at the door, racing up the stairwells, climbing up the side of the building, surrounding our heros.
3) If you employ a 4 page montage at the end of ACT II to explain the entire story...ummm....it's a zombie story, the details aren't that important, particularly since this is a comedy. Comedies don't really need too many details...just laughs.
11-22-2005, 01:17 PM
Writer1, well, they do.Act 2 ends with the two main characters -- Zack and James -- finally after fighting their way through a zombie-infested Hollywood, finally making it to their corporate headquarters. I know this isn't action packed but it's not by any means the 3rd act, which action packed and at points does seem like all hope is lost. This montage sets the way for the third act. It's sort of like a montage like, if this were CASTAWAY, showing Chuck coming up with the plans to build a raft and building it. The actual building of the raft isn't action packed, but when we see him actually USING the raft, trying to make his way off the island, it is action packed. This is just a montage explaining what happens during this 13 months. You might be right about the zombies breaking into the building. That might make it a little more intriguing.
What I meant by it explaining the entire story is that James' V.O. has a joke that makes fun of their situation, which explains what's happened. It explains the entire premise of the movie.
11-22-2005, 01:19 PM
It's truly not necessary to explain how a gifted inventor was transformed into whatever he was transformed into. If you have to explain the movie that far along in the story, then what was the point of all the dramatic storytelling you did up to that point?
If you've been telling your story with the audience in mind -- what they know at any given point, when they're worried, when they're hopeful, when they're relieved -- then they already understand how the guy was transformed. They just experiemced it.
If you are doing a montage, then all you would say is who stands where throwing confetti, and then who's where doing the next thing. It's a series of quick visuals, described quickly. The pictures tell the story. It's up to the audience to get the meaning from the visuals, and from what they already know about the characters and what already happened to them.
Worry about the pace of your story, sure -- is it getting slow or boring? Does the audience need to stop and have a laugh to catch their breath? But screenwriters do not generally worry about the playing time of scenes, we only worry about how well the scene works dramatically.
The reason you instinctively knew you had a question about this is because you know you used a whole lot of extra verbiage to explain some quick visuals. That may work in a novel, I don't know, but in screenwriting, we only tell what the audience sees, not what it means. That's why it should only take a few words to describe something that appears on screen for a few seconds.
And that's why a page of screenwriting -- (writing only what we need to see on screen --) will roughly equal a minute of screentime, and we don't need to even think about it.
11-22-2005, 01:43 PM
"It's truly not necessary to explain how a gifted inventor was transformed into whatever he was transformed into. If you have to explain the movie that far along in the story, then what was the point of all the dramatic storytelling you did up to that point?"
What? I'm not sure what you're saying. If you mean why do I mean to explain what he's transformed into, it's because it all happens in this montage. In the second act he's a badass CEO. Are you saying I shouldn't explain what he's transformed into (long hair, emaciated)? This is the first time we see him like this in the movie.
11-22-2005, 01:52 PM
Sorry, I thought you were explaining the deep significance of the transformation.
If he's transformed into a scraggly-haired, emaciated zombie, for example, that's probably enough of a description. A few words to give the general idea. Unless you're making the movie yourself, you're not the art director. Give the reader a quick mental picture and move on.
11-23-2005, 10:55 PM
What you've written isn't a Montage. It is a series of short little scenes.
Were it a montage it would be written like this:
blah blah blah blah (some kind of action or description)
- So and so stitches fabric.
-Somebody fits wood together, forms a frame.
-bozo snores on the couch.
-CEO stares in to the mirror, looks harried.
-so and so holds up a set of wings.
-Somebody's frame now looks like an airplane/glider.
-CEO throws up in the bathroom, his body nothing but ribs and skin.
-what's his name throws confetti, tests the wind.
The whole point of a montage is to cover a bunch of time REALLY FAST in quick little visuals where the point/info is glaringly obvious.
If your style is very lean and mean then 103 to 108 pages will be all right.
You don't want to add Fluff. BOOMS and BLAMS will only distract from your writing.
If the story needs something then go back and see where your characters are weak, where subplots can be developed, where smaller story lines can be fleshed out or followed through on, etc.
Never add stuff just because. EVERYTHING must have a solid purpose in the script.
11-24-2005, 05:23 AM
I've got to agree with Scripter1 -- this is not a montage.
Of course, I can't tell what mood, feeling and pacing your script has hopefully communicated up to this point, but from the excerpt only my directing genes have me inventing a lot of images and angles that I would love to linger on.
There's poetry in throwing the confetti in the air, seeing it raising with the wind.
And the moment the raft is revealed, isn't that worth making big?
And that full shot of the empty city in the end, that's quite an image too, isn't it?
And still, this is only part of your sequence?
Again, not knowing the overall tone of your script, I'd say this series of scenes (as opposed to series of shots, which I think it is not) can and should take its time.
I think you should be honest to yourself and your script and write it out as a sequence that moves the story forward -- because that's what it seems to be doing -- and worry less about how much time it takes.
Is it vital to the story? Then it should be there. Feel the pacing in what you've written and don't fight it by calling it a montage.
Oh, and correct me if I'm wrong here, but doesn't the writing itself suggest a poetic form of narration? Images of loneliness, the confetti in the air (nice image), working against a goal? If you want this to be action-cut, aren't you conveying the info the wrong way?
Just my two cents.
On the note of page counts, by the way, my experience is that while a script may average out to 1 pg/min, that's an ideal situation, when the script isn't more skewed towards either dialogue or action description.
With which I mean to say: A page of dialogue (especially snappy dialogue) takes significantly less than a minute. A page of action (very much as what you've written above) will end up taking a lot more than a minute on the screen. Subsequently, an action-only 110 page script is probably longer in minutes than a 110 page dialogue-only script.
An extremely non-scientific check in Drew's Script-o-Rama shows that "When Harry Met Sally" has 122 pages (a-pages not counted, in which case you get around 130) for 96 minutes, while "Predator" has 102 pages for 107 minutes.
Which means 44-47 seconds/page for dialogue-driven "Harry Met Sally" against 1 minute 3 seconds/page for action-driven "Predator".
End of today's procastrination. :)
11-24-2005, 10:35 AM
So I should call it a sequence instead of a montage? I start the "montage" (or sequence) with...
CUBE HEADQUARTERS MONTAGE:
IN THE LOBBY OF CUBE HQ,
Should I change that to "CUBE HEADQUARTERS SEQUENCE:"? Or what's the normal way of starting a montage/sequence? What type of "heading" do you use?
11-24-2005, 02:35 PM
I think you're over-obsessing with this one particular part of your script. How do you write out any other sequence in your story?
Just write each slug and then what takes place in that scene, and then on to next.
I think I know what you're trying to do: you're trying to create a closed entity, a part of your movie that's a little island in itself, because it's got little or no dialogue, maybe (but you know you can't write that) one piece of music over it all, and it spans over a long time... Am I right?
Neverless, the way I see it, this is no part that needs to be set aside from the rest of the script -- the way you write it will tell us what it is. Just as you don't type BEGINNING OF ACT II or JOE FALLS IN LOVE SEQUENCE -- you just let the content and the style convey what it is.
If you use transitions sparingly, you could open this particular sequence (with which I simply mean part of your script) with a DISSOLVE TO: to make it stand out somewhat.
But the bottom line is: Don't tell us what you write. Just write it.
At least that's what I would have done.
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