Shortening a script -- approaches?

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  • #46
    Re: Shortening a script -- approaches?

    I can only speak for myself, but I do think there's a pulse underneath a script and I think, mathematically, people can sense a structural stretch from important moment to important moment. I also think that a script is really 4 acts, and the closer you get to the end, each act is broken into more and more halves as as the stakes rise. I think it's like listening to a rise in volume and pace at the end of a musical climax.

    That may be completely subjective, but it's helpful to me. Even when I go based on feeling alone, I find that all the turning points of my scripts always end up on the same wads of pages. Who knows?
    https://actbreakdown.com

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    • #47
      Re: Shortening a script -- approaches?

      I can only speak for myself, but I do think there's a pulse underneath a script and I think, mathematically, people can sense a structural stretch from important moment to important moment.
      A pulse, or pacing, yeah, good stories have it but what you're talking about has more to do with structure than screenplay length.

      If a writer outlines their story, structure and pacing issues should be taken care of before they hit FADE IN:
      Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue

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      • #48
        Re: Shortening a script -- approaches?

        Originally posted by karsten View Post
        I recently completed an initial draft of my latest screenplay, and the page count came in at 168. *cough*

        It wasn't too difficult to cut that down to its current length -- 137 pages -- by tweaking formatting: using double spaces before slug lines instead of triple spaces, single spacing after periods instead of double spacing, etc.

        Also, I was initially adopting the one-shot-per-paragraph idea, which came out to a lot of action lines that almost looked like stacking, but I've since been combining a lot of these into single, combined paragraphs, though still trying to make sure that none of them are over four lines long, except for the occasional five-liner.

        Now it gets difficult, though. At this point, I'll need to actually begin cutting material that I'd prefer to keep, to bring it in at 120 pages.

        I do realize that questions like these tend to fall into the "How long is a piece of string" category, but what are some of the approaches you use, or decisions you make, when dealing with the necessity of cutting, oh, 17 pages out of a script?

        It's an ensemble piece, and I suppose I could just delete a character, but that would be amazingly painful.

        Well, first of all, just to make things a bit more painful -- what you should really be aiming for these days is 110 pages, not 120.

        That being said, here's something that you might want to try, which can also be really painful, because it's going to make you question your script -- and that always hurts.

        In order to successfully cut, you need to step back.

        It's very easy to fall in love with scenes as they are written because you love what your characters are doing in saying in the scene.

        But what they are doing and saying is simply the particular *content* of the scene. Those contents might be any number of different things.

        What you need to ask yourself, of each scene is, not what its contents are -- but what is its purpose. Why is it there in the script?

        What happens in each scene such that, were it missing, the story would not have moved forward? You reduce that information down to something simple.

        "John suspects that Mary is cheating on him."

        "Mary hides the evidence."

        "John realizes that their marriage is over."

        Those things describe what is actually happening in particular scenes. Now, what the "contents" of those scenes may be -- they could almost anything. How long are those scenes? They could be two pages, five pages, half a page.

        What's important is for you to clarify, in your own mind, what each scene is about, how it is contributing to the unfolding of your story. And, of course, what may appear to be going on in a scene isn't necessarily what the scene is actually about -- that's central to the way we write stories.

        The point is, you've got to know what the scene is "actually" about -- because then you're in a position to know that you can throw out that five page scene and put in, potentially, a completely scene taking place somewhere else, that may be only two pages long. Instead of having five people in it, maybe it only has two people.

        But it may serve exactly the same story purpose.

        And, of course, when you start asking that question, you may come to realize that another scene has already accomplished the needed story purpose and you don't need that particular scene at all.

        NMS

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        • #49
          Re: Shortening a script -- approaches?

          Originally posted by nmstevens View Post
          NMS
          Neil Marshall I presume? Good to see you here.
          "Friends make the worst enemies." Frank Underwood

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          • #50
            Re: Shortening a script -- approaches?

            Originally posted by DavidK View Post
            Neil Marshall I presume? Good to see you here.
            Well, to be clear -- it's "Neal Marshall Stevens" -- not to be confused either with the producer Neal Stevens or the director Neil Marshall (of The Descent fame).

            I'm the guy who wrote the remake of Thirteen Ghosts and, more recently had his name on a dtv movie called (alas) "Super Hybrid" which, despite my receiving sole credit, I think, may have had a few minutes of my original screenplay in it.

            You can watch Thirteen Ghosts. Do not watch Super Hybrid, even if it shows up on the SyFy channel.

            NMS

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            • #51
              Re: Shortening a script -- approaches?

              Originally posted by nmstevens View Post
              Well, to be clear -- it's "Neal Marshall Stevens" -- ... You can watch Thirteen Ghosts. Do not watch Super Hybrid, even if it shows up on the SyFy channel.
              Haha - hi, sorry about the mispelling. Thanks for the heads-up, I'll avoid Super Hubrid. I'm sure you'll enjoy the discourse here, or at least some of it.
              "Friends make the worst enemies." Frank Underwood

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