Screenplay length and drama...

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  • Screenplay length and drama...

    I'm currently writing my first draft of my first full length screenplay. I'm not sure if I'm talking too long to set up the plot or if the script is just too long in general. It's currently 36 pages and I'm half way through the first act.
    Could someone please read what I've written so far?

    Nothing really big has happened yet (my idea of big in movies is explosions and guns so...) apart from stuff like an intro that sets up the script like a flashback (that a girl is confessing to her crimes in a prison), people warning the main character to beware of another (because she acts like she's "possessed") and two characters talking to each other and bitching about other characters as well as hinting at the criminal activities that are going to happen in a few pages (a brief mention or hint of gang rivalry).

    I mean, I've read the script for 'Welcome to the Riley's' and there didn't seem to be an inciting incident in that.
    It's a drama (I suppose. Don't think it can fit into any other genre)... Just worried if it's talking too long to set up or if I should just write it and then mention it when I get it properly critiqued by a beta reader, which might be the best thing to do.

    I read online that if nothing has really happened in the first 25 pages then the agents and exec's will throw it away.


  • #2
    Re: Screenplay length and drama...

    First drafts are not supposed to be finished products and can always be edited down, but a 72 page first act has you on pace for a 300 page screenplay.

    What is the inciting incident in your outline, and what is the threshold your hero must cross to enter act 2?

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    • #3
      Re: Screenplay length and drama...

      Bookworm, finish it. It's a first draft, screw the length. Let it be messy and sloppy and put every idea that occurs to you along the way into it and finish it.

      Then set it aside for two or three weeks. Don't look at it. Read some other stuff. Read some of the script pages and their critiques in that forum.

      Then go back and reread the draft. Don't ask us what the inciting incident is, ask yourself. Where can you get in later and out sooner? What can be combined so as to make each scene serve multiple uses? Now cut.

      You have to develop this muscle yourself.

      Then maybe ask someone to read it.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Screenplay length and drama...

        Originally posted by carcar View Post
        Bookworm, finish it. It's a first draft, screw the length. Let it be messy and sloppy and put every idea that occurs to you along the way into it and finish it.

        Then set it aside for two or three weeks. Don't look at it. Read some other stuff. Read some of the script pages and their critiques in that forum.

        Then go back and reread the draft. Don't ask us what the inciting incident is, ask yourself. Where can you get in later and out sooner? What can be combined so as to make each scene serve multiple uses? Now cut.

        You have to develop this muscle yourself.

        Then maybe ask someone to read it.
        I respectfully disagree. If you're on pace for a 300 page screenplay you're doing yourself a grave disservice by continuing to "just" write. I'd stop now and spend some time sketching out an outline - not for the story, but for the structure. It will save you months of work during the rewrite if you can get a grasp on structure now.

        On the other hand, and you probably won't believe this, your first screenplay is bound to be **** whether it's 110 pages or 300 pages. Years from now you'll be embarrassed to look at it. That's why it's even more important to take your time now and LEARN structure on this first one. What you learn on this one may shorten your learning curve for the next 6-8 screenplays and save you years of work - if you take the time to get it right.

        Or you can just spend months writing a 300 page behemoth. Then a year rewriting it and honing it down to 100 pages only to realize it is ****.
        If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there are men on base.
        Dave Barry

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        • #5
          Re: Screenplay length and drama...

          Yep. I second that - stop now and outline. What is the moment where your protagonist is launched on the adventure? Get to that moment faster. We don't need to know every detail.

          But there is a forum where you ca post your first five pages and people will read it and give you suggestions: http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/...isplay.php?f=7
          Chicks Who Script podcast

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Screenplay length and drama...

            Outlining (at least in your head) is very important, but for a first script, I'd advise that you just WRITE the sucker.
            Finish it, feel a sense of accomplishment and then put it in a drawer for a year.

            The next script: outline thoroughly (writing a treatment may be the best way, or so I've come to discover works best for me), trim down any action lines/dialogue as you go and when it's ready, compare it to the first effort.

            Becoming anywhere near professional level takes years; forget about all this "born talent" nonsense - even gifted people need to practise!
            Cufk, Tish, Sips.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Screenplay length and drama...

              no. in many ways, the art of screenwriting IS the art of outlining. writing is just the fun thing you do after the hard thing.
              stop. outline.
              or turn it into a novel.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Screenplay length and drama...

                Originally posted by Bookworm452 View Post
                I'm currently writing my first draft of my first full length screenplay. I'm not sure if I'm talking too long to set up the plot or if the script is just too long in general. It's currently 36 pages and I'm half way through the first act.
                Could someone please read what I've written so far?
                No need to read it -- you are taking too long. Scrap and redo.

                Look up some beat sheets (e.g. here) and see if you can figure a way to shave and tailor your story elements to fit.
                Results posted for the Halloween 2020 contest
                in Writing Exercises forum

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Screenplay length and drama...

                  I have got it outline but the scenes turned out to be longer than I thought. It isn't my first scripts - I've wrote lots of short plays for my theatre that were performed... I doubt it will be 300 pages! I'm going to write it and get my writing teacher and my beta reader to read it and help. If there is someone else willing to read it, that would help as well.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Screenplay length and drama...

                    Post the first five pages in the scripts section. If the scenes are taking longer than you thought, you're entering too early and leaving too late. If you post some pages, some may be able to help you narrow the scenes down. You don't have to take any of the advice, but it may help you figure out your scenes better.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Screenplay length and drama...

                      You will have a very hard time cutting out the pages when you are done. You don't think you will, but suddenly every scene is - to you - CRITICAL and you can't let any of them go.

                      The first draft of my first screenplay came in at over 170 pages. I thought, hey, no big deal, I'll cut some stuff. I spent several weeks trimming it down and got into the 150s... Had to face reality, I can't just edit it to fit. I have to rewrite it. From a fresh outline. I need to pick my best scenes, and then combine the overwritten conflict/narrative into new scenes to tell the story correctly.

                      The good news is that for my second project I did a better outline and kept to 110. The writing experience I gained typing those first 174 pages (not to mention the confidence of FINISHING a script) was as good as any class assignment and I saw a huge difference between the two projects. I'm now working on number 3 using a SERIOUS outline and even bought a cork board for pinning up index cards.

                      So, should you keep writing or stop and reassess? Depends What do you want to accomplish with the draft?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Screenplay length and drama...

                        Originally posted by Bookworm452 View Post
                        I'm currently writing my first draft of my first full length screenplay. I'm not sure if I'm talking too long to set up the plot or if the script is just too long in general. It's currently 36 pages and I'm half way through the first act.
                        Could someone please read what I've written so far?

                        Nothing really big has happened yet (my idea of big in movies is explosions and guns so...) apart from stuff like an intro that sets up the script like a flashback (that a girl is confessing to her crimes in a prison), people warning the main character to beware of another (because she acts like she's "possessed") and two characters talking to each other and bitching about other characters as well as hinting at the criminal activities that are going to happen in a few pages (a brief mention or hint of gang rivalry).

                        I mean, I've read the script for 'Welcome to the Riley's' and there didn't seem to be an inciting incident in that.
                        It's a drama (I suppose. Don't think it can fit into any other genre)... Just worried if it's talking too long to set up or if I should just write it and then mention it when I get it properly critiqued by a beta reader, which might be the best thing to do.

                        I read online that if nothing has really happened in the first 25 pages then the agents and exec's will throw it away.

                        I'd go much further than that. If nothing has happened in a script in the first five pages, most execs will throw it away.

                        Personally, back when I was working as a story editor, it got to the point where I'd throw a script away if nothing had happened in the first two pages.

                        But that begs the question. Why would you write a scene in which nothing was happening? Even if you include the modifier, nothing was "really" happening.

                        There's nothing wrong about opening with a flashback that sets up the action that's going to follow. Very often the inciting incident may very well be something that can happen fifty years ago and on the other side of the world -- with its effects only just now finally arriving at the door of the protagonist.

                        Or you can use it as some sort of bookend, or whatever.

                        But generally, the purpose of using that kind of bookending device is to facilitate our entrance into the story. It's to get things moving more quickly.

                        Yet, from what you're saying, that's not happening. The scenes that you've described just don't strike me as adding up to 36 pages. How many actual scenes are we talking about? How long are they?

                        While you may have outlined them it might be instructive to take a step back and outline not in terms of the action of the scene but in terms of their story purpose.

                        Why is each scene there in story terms? What would be missing in the event that you cut out each scene? What story information would you have to put back in so that a reader would be able to understand the overall flow of the story?

                        When you understand that about each scene, then you'll know why each scene has to be there -- or whether, in fact, it doesn't.

                        Maybe a particular scene is really only contributing a very small amount of story information, information that an adjoining scene has already established, or something that can be added to an earlier or later scene with a few lines.

                        Then you have a scene that you can lose.

                        A lot of times it's only when our backs are to the wall -- that is, when you're involved in production and you absolutely have to make cuts -- that you realized that this or that scene really can be cut without losing anything vital.

                        You face that moment of truth when you realize that, while you'll miss not having in the movie, nobody watching the finished film will ever know that it existed.

                        You have to look for those scenes -- the scenes that nobody reading the script would notice if they weren't there.

                        NMS

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Screenplay length and drama...

                          You might also want to check out the book "Screenplay" by Blake Snyder.
                          If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there are men on base.
                          Dave Barry

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Screenplay length and drama...

                            All good advice so far Bookworm, but I endorse Grandmaster's to get through it first, then revise...Well maybe not quite 300 pages but...


                            You might find the Beatsheet Calculator to be helpful convention to structure your storyline. Amazing how many, many scripts follow this to have rising, paced action. It may be found at http://www.beatsheetcalculator.com/index.php . Basically once you have your script length, plug it in and presto!!, it breaks down events by page.


                            By way of an an example, a 110 page conventional script/plot breaks down as follows... I added this in because it seems to provide a decent framework for rising, well-paced sequence of events. By no means is this the only way to structure a script, but it seems awfully decent to me.


                            Beat Sheet-- 110 page breakdown example...
                            Opening Image Page 1
                            Theme Stated Page 5
                            The Set Up Pges 1 to 10
                            The Catalyst Page 12
                            Debate Pages 12 to 25
                            Break into Act II Page 25
                            B Story Page 30
                            Fun and Games Pages 20 to 55
                            Midpoint Page 55
                            Bad Guys Close In Pages 55 to 75
                            All is Lost Page 75
                            Dark Night of Soul: Pages 75 to 85
                            Break Into Act III Page 85
                            The Finale Page 85 to 110
                            Final Image Page 110


                            TO find further info on each of these sections, you might google Beat Sheet or review Tim Stout's analysis at http://timstout.wordpress.com/story-...rs-beat-sheet/. Seems to me like he has the most cogent explanation of it out there. Hopefully this might save you some time on your way.

                            Good luck!!
                            " Don't really like writing. But I do like having written." Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Screenplay length and drama...

                              Listen to NMS. He knows things.

                              Watch movies you want to emulate and pay attention to their pacing. Chances are, when you really study them, you'll be surprised at how much information the audience is left to infer. you don't have to spell everything out. If it's not important to the plot, out it goes, whether you like it or not.

                              That's one of the most important skills to learn as a screenwriter - the ability to cut out things you really like because they hurt the story. Start learning now.

                              I think it helps to think carefully about why characters do what they do. A lot of times writers will simply move the pieces around to do what they want, when in reality the writer should look at things from the character's perspective. What would this person want? What would they logically do? Why do they commit to each action in the story? If you know the answer in every situation, you'll have a stronger story.

                              Something else I bet you're doing - too many characters. Do you need all those people? Do you need all their backstories? The more characters you have, the harder it's going to be to keep up with them. Who do you not need? Ditch 'em and don't look back.

                              The key is to look objectively at your story and figure out what is necessary and what is just you wanting to tell us all that your brain has imagined. We don't need it all - only the important parts.

                              So if it were me I'd say stop, answer these questions now, then start over. If you just keep going and cut later, it's going to be so much more difficult and a greater time waster than if you learn to discipline yourself in the beginning.

                              But in the end, you have to do what works for you. Either way, good luck.
                              Chicks Who Script podcast

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