View Full Version : the old page count q

08-09-2004, 10:50 AM
I guess everyone on this board is pissed about format/page count questions. I'm sorry, but I've got to have your opinions on this. I tried to keep my pages to a minimum but... now the script is 126 pages. And I have already cut everything unnecessary. If I cut more it'll affect the whole story, the characters, etc, etc. Given that the standard is maximum 120 pages, is there a possibility that my thriller won't be taken seriously? Anyone had the same problem? How did you solve it? Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

08-09-2004, 11:09 AM
The page counts are suggestions. 126 rather than 120 won't make too much of a difference. Those suggestions are aimed at people who think they are going to get someone to seriously consider a 60 or 150 page spec. Have you had other writers read your script? They would probably be able to point out things that can be cut, that you think are necessary. If, in the end, you've cut all that can be cut, you should be fine at 126. If it was a comedy, you'd be in trouble. Thriller, probably okay.

TwoBrad Bradley
08-09-2004, 11:14 AM
Everyone on this board is pissed about format/page count questions, but I need your opinions. I tried to keep my pages to the standard 120 pages, but the script is 126. If I cut more it'll affect the whole story, the characters, etc, etc. Is there a possibility my thriller won't be taken seriously? How do you solve this problem? Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

08-09-2004, 11:54 AM
There's an easy way: identify the scenes you love best and think are most effective -- and delete them.

Aim for 110 pages -- or less.

-----------------------One of the many reasons you should never listen to dpat ~PipeWriter

08-09-2004, 02:00 PM
What Brad said. Look at each paragraph and make sure that you are as economic with your words as possible.

Also try and cut as many widows (a single word that hangs down to the next line) as you can.

08-09-2004, 02:02 PM
Thanks to all of you.

"Aim for 110 pages -- or less"

I want to but it really wouldn't work. It would also HURT.

Deus Ex Machine
08-09-2004, 02:03 PM
Anyone who says they have cut all that can be cut hasn't really tried to cut at all. You are pruning it with tweezers like it was a banzai tree, you should be hacking it with a chainsaw like it was a dead redwood.

Combine, compress, edit and cut.

08-09-2004, 02:07 PM
Any time I get a script with more than 115-120 pages I expect to find bloated writing or unnecessary scenes. Usually I'm right. Unless the first 5-10 pages are VERY tight, I quickly lose confidence in the writer's ability not to be boring.

It's hard to believe you can't delete anything without losing the thread of the story. If you can't get rid of whole scenes, look at each secene one-by-one. Ask yourself what the audience needs to learn from the scene. Leave that part in, get rid of the rest.

One thing I see a lot is dialogue that meanders because the writer wants to convey more than one idea in a scene, and has to steer the dialogue between each idea. If you have a scene with more than two pages of dialogue, see if you can break it up into two half-page scenes.

If you truly have a story that can't be told in less than 126 pages, save it for after you're famous. Stories that sell can usually be told in 110 pages or less.

08-09-2004, 04:20 PM
Author, I am not sick of the question that you asked. But if I were to be upset about something, it would be the contention that nearly always accompanies that question. Everyone laments, "I have cut everything that I can!"

I have never seen a script on this board or on Zoetrope that did not have extraneous descriptions, parentheses, commentaries, or some other kind of junk.

So you might look at the script again.


08-09-2004, 05:10 PM
I am looking at the script, Comic Bent. I guess, I'll have to cut a lot more than I feel is necessary. But I didn't write it to enjoy it myself, right? Thanks again, guys, you are great help. :)

08-09-2004, 05:44 PM
Submitting a 126 page script won't sink you, unless it could have been 115 pages long, and...yes, the reader will know the difference. Excise any scenes that don't advance the plot...they'll get cut later in development anyway. Then, analyze the rest of your scenes. Have you entered them as late as possible? Do you exit them as soon as your scene objective is met? Can you trim the beginning and end of a scene without losing much? Is there any way to convey your action description with fewer words? Can you trim introductory sentences, greetings and small talk from your dialogue? Is there a way to combine two scenes into one? Remove everything that is not your story. The more streamlined your draft, the clearer it will read and the better chance you will have to garner some industry attention.

See pages 179-182 in Richard Walter's book THE WHOLE PICTURE. Walter is the master of minimalism and in a pithy number of pages "shows" exactly how much fat there really is in screenplay pages that may appear lean. It's a great book and those four pages alone are worth the cover price.

One last thing, it is possible to over-edit. Be careful not to edit to the point where your script seems chrome-plated. Don't strip your voice out of your writing. Quite often, it is the writer's voice that sells the screenplay.

Think of it like focusing a lens manually. You go too far in one direction and it's out-of-focus. Then you go too far in the other direction and it's also out-of-focus. Then you split the difference and the picture is completely in focus. Good luck.

Bridgette a la Mode
08-09-2004, 08:09 PM
Excellent attitude, Author. I wish more people would realize they're not writing for themselves. As someone said earlier in this thread, only half-joking, the stuff you like the best is the best stuff to cut. Nothing worse than self-indulgent prose. It's all about the story, not the writer.

08-09-2004, 08:48 PM
Deus, the word you were looking for was "bonsai", which means "plant in a tray". "Banzai" means (more or less) "10,000 years of life!" and was popularized by troops in the Pacific Theater fighting the Japanese during WWII and hearing them cheering on the Emperor by yelling, "Tennouheika Banzai!" Long Live the Emperor!

I have always thought this was interesting. Germany fought for the 5000 year Reich, Japan for 10,000 year Emperor...

08-10-2004, 12:00 PM
You could try cheating the margins and or lowering the point count of your font by a fraction if your software allows.

Justinpz Since 1965


08-12-2004, 12:08 PM
"First" draft of my comedy just came in at 89.5.

Seems like a cruel joke.

08-13-2004, 03:42 PM
Have you tried *combining* scenes?

You want to get your script to the 110 area.

I have never read a script that couldn't be trimmed of one page - even those scripts of mine that have been trimmed and trimmed and trimmed again.

If your script really is uncutable at 126 pages, it may be a *story* issue rather than a writing issue.

Movies are usually under 2 hours, so that they can clean up the cinema between showings and start shows every 2 hours. If you are working in TV, it's completely unflexable - you have an *exact* number of minutes, and the story you tell must be something that can be told in that exact number of minutes.

Time to look at more radical ways to lower your page count.

- Bill

James Wilde
08-15-2004, 03:52 AM
The information I have supports both Mijorico and Bill Martell.

For example, on the Zoetrope site they ask for 87-130 pages, but make it clear that a few pages either side will not outlaw a manuscript. And no, they don't define 'a few pages'.

Bill's point about it's maybe being a story issue rather than a writing issue is also valid. Think about the original 'East of Eden', where the whole film was based around a few chapters at the end of the book, where the brothers, Cal and Aron are in their teens. Probably three quarters of the original story was discarded when producing the film story.

And don't forget that other people will have a say in this manuscript of yours. Someone will later say, e.g. 'Let's lose the whole xyz subplot'.

But worrying over 126 pages because all the books say 90 to 120 is unnecessary. If you have an agent it's her job to tell you to cut it still further and suggest where - you're probably too close to it to see that by now. If you don't have an agent, and I guess you don't, you've got so much going against you right now that you don't need to make a so trivial a page overrun as 6 pages into an additional millstone round your neck! :) I know, I'm there, and I've got more than 6 pages to worry about.

Besides, think of the dvd. That can run up to 3 hours - 180 pages!! - whilst they cut out three subplots for the 1 1/2 hour box office release! Not that I'm suggesting you've underwritten by 54 pages...

Just my US$0.02

08-15-2004, 08:20 AM
There's an easy way: identify the scenes you love best and think are most effective -- and delete them.

I know you have to be willing to do this, but what would be the point of cutting your most effective scene first?

08-15-2004, 10:44 AM
You might want to try cutting it to 120, rather than 110. Why not look at the last part of each scene. Those last bits tend to be "he leaves" or "She watches him leave, a thumb in her mouth."

Do you really need those? Sometimes by trimming the end of a scene, as in "leave early", you can cut some flab.

08-15-2004, 12:00 PM
Yes, 126 pages is a problem. Yes, there are readers who will pick up your script with bitter hatred in their hearts. Yes, I absolutely believe you could get fifteen pages out of your script:

-There is always a lean way to say what you want to say. I usually get five pages out of a script between rough draft and first draft, just playing this game. Screenwriting is like haiku. You are paying by the letter.

-There is a most efficient way to achieve your storytelling goals in each scene. Do you have unnecessary characters onstage who all have dialogue? Can you not only combine scenes, but combine characters? Are you writing scenes to deliver information that could be given offstage? Can you do with a brief action what you are now doing with dialogue (a tremendous skill if you can do it).

-Kill widows. Not just single dangling words, but two or three words left alone on their own line.

-Parentheticals. You never need them and they always add at least one line. Action is far better delivered in action text. Kill all minor actions (lighting cigarettes, picking up a glass, etc.) Actors like to improv these, and they are not critical to the story.

-CUT TO:'s. Again, extra lines.

-CONTINUED's. Extra lines.

-Starting scenes with characters walking in and greeting each other. Or saying goodbye at the end of scenes. Or answering phones. Just start in the middle of the action.

-DO NOT cheat the margins, type face, etc. Readers can spot this immediately, and they will hate on you twice as hard.

-DO NOT print your script on 24lb. paper. This is a rule for everyone. It will make any script look too fat. 20lb only, please.