Screenplay Length

Collapse

Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Screenplay Length

    I'm a writer seeking feedback and professional opinions on feature screenplay length. I know that the "Standard Length" for a feature script is supposedly 90 - 130 pages. I have a character drama script that's 127 pages -- after several rewrites to shorten it among other things.

    My question is this: Is 120 pages or shorter considered the "ideal" still, or if it's good, do 7 more pages matter? The input I've gotten so far is that as long as it's not over 130, don't sweat it.

    I know it's easy to get caught up in the mechanics and "small stuff" when you're thinking about the marketplace, and I don't want to do this, or cut scenes that shouldn't be cut or shortened. Any Pro's or those with experience that can offer an educated opinion would be appreciated. Thanks.

    Tony McIntosh

  • #2
    First, there's Courier New and Courier.

    Courier New 120 pages = Courier 105
    Courier New 130 pages = Courier 114
    Courier New 90 pages = Courier 78

    I think that the industry standard is Courier (90 to 120). If it is comedy, you try to stay closer to 90, if drama, latter.

    If you have them hooked on the first 25 pages or so, they won't care if you wrote 127 pages. However, if your intro sucks, they will find 90 pages a chore.

    But I usually shoot for 105 to 115 pages on my scripts.

    Comment


    • #3
      Pages

      BP is right on, especially about hooking the reader.

      The first 25 pages are important, but the first one or two are critical. You've got about that long to convince the reader she's in good hands -- easy to read, easy to understand, properly formatted, with great word selection, clever dialogue, perfect spelling and grammar.

      Nick

      Comment


      • #4
        Screenplay Length

        Tony, generally professional people in the business like to receive screenplays thatâ€TMs fewer than 120 pages. Especially from an aspiring writer, otherwise at first glance theyâ€TMll think youâ€TMve overwritten.

        Thereâ€TMs no law that says you canâ€TMt go over 120 pages, but if you do you better make sure itâ€TMs perfect.

        What would be considered perfect?

        FORMAT:

        Make sure itâ€TMs correct. Courier or Courier New, 12-font. Margins: left 1.5â€, top, bottom, and right 1â€. And the correct spacing.

        DESCRIPTION:

        Make sure itâ€TMs tight. No long novel type prose. Check to see that youâ€TMve written in the present tense, as if youâ€TMre describing action as it happens. Donâ€TMt use the progressive verb form, like â€Bob is walking down the street.†Use the active voice, like â€Bob walks down the street.â€

        Remove any unnecessary adverbs. Example:

        Bob moves swiftly down the field.

        The above description could be tighter and more visual.

        Bob sprints down the field.

        DIALOGUE:

        Make it tight. Meaning, say the same thing, but with less words. No long winded 20 lines of dialogue. Look for the heart of what youâ€TMre trying to get across and rewrite.

        STRUCTURE:

        Since the majority of screenplays are written in a three-act structure, thatâ€TMs what Iâ€TMll assume youâ€TMve done.

        Break your screenplay down into itâ€TMs acts to make sure youâ€TMve hadnâ€TMt over or underwritten any of them. Example:

        For a 127 page screenplay, your first act will probably end somewhere between 32-38 pages, give or take a few pages. If it ends, say at page 48, youâ€TMve overwritten. Thatâ€TMs too late for something to happen and get the story going. Youâ€TMll be taking a chance on boring the audience.

        Now, some people will say you shouldnâ€TMt worry about hitting marks like by this page something should happen. They would say, â€Just right the story, man.†With the first draft you should just write the story. But during rewrites you need to break the screenplay down into their acts to see if thereâ€TMs any problem.

        With my first screenplay, I just wrote it. I then sent all 87 pages of it to screenwriting competitions thinking it was the greatest story in the world and I was going to clean up. When I didnâ€TMt finish in any of them, I took a closer look at my story to find out why.

        After I broke it down into its three-acts, I seen that the second act was underdeveloped. Especially the second half of the second act. I did a rewrite where the script was now 107 pages and sent it to the next available competition, which was the Fade In competition.

        Out of 2000+ entries, I was in the top 50. A semi-finalist. Thatâ€TMs why I believe using the three-act structure is a good tool to get your script in shape.

        REMOVE:

        Camera angles, sound effect (SFX) abbreviations, phrases like â€we see...,†â€we hear...,†and the camera sees..., etc.

        I mentioned the reasons why in another thread. Iâ€TMll repeat it in case you didnâ€TMt see it.

        You need to immerse the reader in the story thatâ€TMs being told. When you include anything that reminds readers that what theyâ€TMre looking at is just a screenplay, it shatters the illusion. Example:

        We hear BIRDS in the distance.

        On the table we see a large bucket of water.

        Keep the reader out of your story. Just state whatâ€TMs happening. Example:

        Birds CHIRP in the distance.

        On the table sits a large bucket of water.

        When the reader reads description he/she visualizes what theyâ€TMre seeing. When the writer also tells them what they see, "we see...,†itâ€TMs sort of redundant.

        Youâ€TMre not William Goldman whoâ€TMs able to pick up a phone and get work. Youâ€TMre an aspiring writer whoâ€TMs using this screenplay as a pitch. You donâ€TMt want to take a chance in annoying the reader.

        When you feel your screenplay is done. Meaning, itâ€TMs tight, where itâ€TMll be a fast and smooth read. The grammar, spelling, and punctuation have been checked. Then you would send it out for feedback.

        When you get the notes back from the reviewers, make the appropriate changes.

        To answer your original question, if your screenplay is perfect, being at 127 pages wouldnâ€TMt matter.

        Comment


        • #5
          110 pages, these days

          Ideal length is 110 pages, with 120 as the outer limits. PEARL HARBOR was under 120 pages!

          If your script is better than the script for ____ (insert name of your favorite film in the same genre) then those 7 pages don't matter. Read your script, read the script to your favorite film, if your script is better - keep the pages. If your script isn't better... you're in trouble. Whether you like it or not, that favorite film script is a sample of the quality of your competition. (You have to read the actual script - not just see the movie.)

          Part of "quality" in screenwriting is the ability to paint a picture with very few words.

          Here's an article from my website on trmming your script:

          www.scriptsecrets.net/art...ttingc.htm

          - Bill (I'm back from London, my website's back up!)

          Comment


          • #6
            Rewarding Laziness

            I'll venture to say that spec scripts should generally be 90-99 pages in length, genre permitting.

            When a studio reader finds themselves staring at a stack of specs on a Friday before a weekend of fun in the artificial sun, they'll more than likely choose a few screenplays with a page count that doesn't stray into the triple digits. It'll be crap anyway, they'll assume, so the lower the page count, the faster they can determine how much it sucks.

            White space is also important, maybe more so than page count. As they flip through the pages to check for that glorious 9X page number, they'll look for any reason to chuck it into the waste basket; namely overly detailed narrative action or long-winded Shakespearean monologues about crotch burn.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Rewarding Laziness

              <!--EZCODE ITALIC START--> they'll look for any reason to chuck it into the waste basket; namely overly detailed narrative action or long-winded Shakespearean monologues about crotch burn.<!--EZCODE ITALIC END-->

              Damn, I better re-write that scene...

              I'm jumping on the losta-white-space train, myself. I just wrote about 70 pages of a first draft. After being very frustrated with how it was going, I finally felt like I was "clicking-in" at about page 60, for lo!, suddenly, I'd been visited by the Brevity Fairy!

              So now I'm re-writing the first 60 pages, trying to make each page look like a veritable snowfield. And I'm MUCH, MUCH happier with the results, so far! Page count is still about the same, but I know it's a smoother, more refreshing read (and lower in tar!).

              My goal is a finished product that looks friendly and inviting -- and still packs a punch. But I must profess, I'd be worried if my script (a drama) were under 100 pages - I'd wonder if my characters were developed enough for a reader to give a hoot about.

              Comment


              • #8
                Believe it or not

                Goreomedy-----"When a studio reader finds themselves staring at a stack of specs on a Friday before a weekend of fun in the artificial sun, they'll more than likely choose a few screenplays with a page count that doesn't stray into the triple digits. It'll be crap anyway, they'll assume, so the lower the page count, the faster they can determine how much it sucks."


                ---Plausible assumption, but believe it or not, MOST readers will not read spec. scripts that are under 110 pages or over 120 pages.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Screenplay length

                  Tony,

                  Although I entirely believe you've cut and pared and pruned etc. your screenplay...I personally ENJOY finding out how much I can cut and still convey my meaning. You might just try saving your REAL screenplay, then copy and see how much you can pare. I would be astonished if you couldn't take off 7 or 8 pages in action alone (on a screenplay as long as yours). I find that doing this sort of exercise reminds me of what's necessary and what's not--and, really, a lot isn't neccessary. You can convey so much with really descriptive verbs (as mentioned above) as opposed to adverb and verb.

                  I've really enjoyed doing this with my TV scripts--and can get a 12 page act under 10 pages if I really go for it.

                  But, if you've really kicked your own *ss over the thing, send it out. It's YOUR vision, after all. Screw 'em if they don't like it. You KNOW you did it and that alone should give you impetuous to keep writing.....

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    If your script is good enough and keeps the reader turning the pages, it could be 140 pages. If they like it, they'll work with you to cut it down.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      "Plausible assumption, but believe it or not, MOST readers will not read spec. scripts that are under 110 pages or over 120 pages. "

                      News flash kids. Readers don't get to decide what scripts to read and whether or not they will read it based on how many pages it has.

                      Readers are ASSIGNED to read scripts and write coverage. That's what they're paid for.

                      If the coverage is good, the production exec reads the COVERAGE and then if the coverage makes him/her want to read the script, s/he will read the script.

                      It has nothing to do with page numbers.

                      If it's 150 pages and the coverage says "this is an incredible story, huge potential audience, wonderfully written" etc. then they're going to read it.

                      But if the coverage says "this is 50 pages too long" they're probably not going to read pages 1-100 either.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thank you everyone for your comments and input. Within the last week or so, I went back and attacked my script, ON A BRIGHT DAY NEXT WEEK, and brought it in at 120 pages. Basically, I knocked out unnecessary dialogue and "said it" visually in action description. I also trimmed the pages somewhat by reformatting my screenwriting program pagination -- while maintaining proper industry format.

                        The deal with this script is that I originally wrote it to direct myself, independently and low budget. Since then I've decided to "put it out there" and am going to give it to friends' agents, etc. to see if it generates some interest for a sale or option, along with the other script I'm working on now. Previously, I was writing this character drama for me basically, without much thought of what an agent/studio reader/story analyst/producer would think of it. Interestingly enough, I didn't "sell it out" or cheapen it, but just made it tighter. I think I'm a good writer, but it just needed that adjustment.

                        The posting from "wcmartell" that suggested you compare your script to the script of your favorite film in the same genre was right on. Cuts to the meat of the matter, which is my style. I feel my script is as good as a few other good "family dramas" that I like a lot -- but different from those as well. Original.

                        Thanks guys. Later.

                        Tony McIntosh

                        Comment

                        Working...
                        X