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Old 06-27-2012, 07:21 PM   #1
entlassen
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Default Minimum length for a feature?

I've heard rule-givers say that a screenplay should never be shorter than 90 pages, but I've read of films that had 60 and 70-page screenplays. Prometheus, I read, had a 79-page screenplay (not that I would use that as an inspiration-- yikes). Has anyone here written a screenplay under 90 pages? And if so, what kind of feedback did you get on it?
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Old 06-27-2012, 07:44 PM   #2
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Default Re: Minimum length for a feature?

Just read The Artist before netflix sent me the dvd, and it's only 44 pages for a 100 minute film.

Of course, there's an extremely obvious reason why it's that short.

(and yes, the hero has a mythic journey arc)
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Old 06-27-2012, 09:20 PM   #3
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Default Re: Minimum length for a feature?

It's funny you should post this now. I am finishing up the first draft of a screenplay that looks like it will be in the mid-70's.

Now there are some sequences that only take a line to describe but will probably take a minute or two of screen time, but not many.

I feel like I either have an underdeveloped feature length screenplay or a bloated short.
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Old 06-27-2012, 10:18 PM   #4
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Default Re: Minimum length for a feature?

When I used to work in development and I got a script that was significantly less than 90 pages, it was pretty much a given that at least one of my big notes would be "needs to be fleshed out/developed more." With the very rare exception, there just isn't enough content in a 60-70 page screenplay to constitute a feature.

Here's another way to look at it. If you follow the approximate "1 page = 1 minute" point of reference, the 90-page suggested minimum is a 90-minute movie. Sometimes you can get away with 85 pages (or 85 minutes), but 60-70 pages is only an hour to an hour and ten minutes long... twenty minutes to a full half hour shorter than the already low-end 90-minute standard run time.

How many movies out there are only 60-70 minutes long? A quick IMDb search reveals that - in the past 10 years - there have been all of 16 features in the US with a runtime of less than 75 minutes. And none of those were distributed by a major studio, mini-major, or other mainstream distributor.

Most scripts that I read that are less than 85-90 pages are missing some element or elements that make it a fully-realized feature. It's often a weak or missing subplot, not enough rising action, lack of character development, etc. (Similarly, most scripts I read that are more than 125-130 pages are overwritten and need to be scaled back... unnecessary scenes, moments that are too drawn out, too much exposition/backstory, etc.) Are there scripts that are shorter or longer than that and work? Sure. But it's usually an exception and not the norm.
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Old 06-27-2012, 11:49 PM   #5
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Default Re: Minimum length for a feature?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bmcthomas View Post
Now there are some sequences that only take a line to describe but will probably take a minute or two of screen time, but not many.
There's no reason to describe a minute or two of screen time in only one line. Don't be the dude who writes, "And they fight for 2 minutes." Try to describe every beat of that 2 minute sequence.
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Old 06-27-2012, 11:51 PM   #6
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Default Re: Minimum length for a feature?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ATB View Post
There's no reason to describe a minute or two of screen time in only one line. Don't be the dude who writes, "And they fight for 2 minutes." Try to describe every beat of that 2 minute sequence.
I don't agree with this. It really depends. Sometimes it's fine to give the general gist of the battle.
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Old 06-28-2012, 12:12 AM   #7
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Default Re: Minimum length for a feature?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ATB View Post
There's no reason to describe a minute or two of screen time in only one line. Don't be the dude who writes, "And they fight for 2 minutes." Try to describe every beat of that 2 minute sequence.
Well it's not a fight scene it's more like, "Alice cleans the kitchen." I guess I could describe every detail of that; wiping counters, scrubbing the sink...even then, it doesn't take much more space.

In general, I think if I'm short twenty pages, there's something BIG missing, not just a few under-described scenes.
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Old 06-28-2012, 12:21 AM   #8
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Default Re: Minimum length for a feature?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bmcthomas View Post
In general, I think if I'm short twenty pages, there's something BIG missing, not just a few under-described scenes.
That's true. A lotta things can go wrong to bring your page count in short, but you still don't wanna be caught writing lazy. Not saying you are, but still...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hamboogul View Post
I don't agree with this. It really depends. Sometimes it's fine to give the general gist of the battle.
Yeah, it does depend. But I can't think of a good example of when it's a good idea to skimp on the description of a scene that's intended to last more than a minute.
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Old 06-28-2012, 12:45 AM   #9
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Default Re: Minimum length for a feature?

If something in the film will take 2 minutes of screentime - there is a *reason* why it is in the film and why we need to see those 2 minutes. We aren't just killing time, we're telling a story. And every second counts. So, what is important about those two minutes?

If it's a battle scene - why is it in the movie? Why are we spending the money to shoot it if it doesn't matter? If it *does* matter - figure out why and write the scene so that it's about that.

The average studio film costs $106.7 million to make and market... so taht's about a million bucks a page, a million bucks a minute. And that's an average film, not a blockbuster (which tend to cost $200-$250m to make... and maybe $50m more to market). So, if you have 2 minutes of cleaning the house, that's $2 million bucks. Why are we spending that money? Now, it could be critical to the story that we see her clean the house - and in that case, you want to make it clear *why* it is important.

I read the OWL CREEK BRIDGE story last night, and the moments are stretched out like crazy in that story... and that is important to the story. Every second of his life is suddenly precious, and the story is written to demonstrate that. "Rope breaks, he falls in the creek and swims away" is what happens, but it is not the story.

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Old 06-28-2012, 01:38 AM   #10
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Default Re: Minimum length for a feature?

Quote:
Originally Posted by wcmartell View Post
The average studio film costs $106.7 million to make and market... so taht's about a million bucks a page, a million bucks a minute. And that's an average film, not a blockbuster (which tend to cost $200-$250m to make... and maybe $50m more to market). So, if you have 2 minutes of cleaning the house, that's $2 million bucks.
Where did you get these numbers, Bill?
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