When is a spec too short?

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  • When is a spec too short?

    The topic of page count is done a lot here, but the discussions I've found (checking page through March) deal with looooong scripts. I get that 148 pages is too long for a spec script. Consensus seems to be no more than 110 pages.



    But when is a spec too short? Does it have to be at least 90 pages? Is 86 pages OK?


    It seems to me that a screenplay with heavy action would run longer than the minute-per-page rule of them. But what do I know.


    Does anyone have any insights or experience to share? What do pros think when weekend reads include a screenplay less than 100 pages? Less than 90 pages?


    Thanks.

  • #2
    Re: When is a spec too short?

    You see a fair number of comedies and microbudgets that are within shouting distance of 90 minutes, but it's pretty rare to see one that's lower than that.

    Nothing wrong with a 95 page script at all.

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    • #3
      Re: When is a spec too short?

      Put a nice quote page up front... instant page!
      "The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely." ~Jung

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: When is a spec too short?

        If I'm not mistaken there was a black list script a few years ago -- “Motor City” by Chad St. John that is 75 pages.

        I remember quite a few people talking about it since it was
        A) very short and
        B) features little to no dialogue.

        I never read it, but I hear good things...

        That being said I think it's one of the few spec scripts to do well that is that length. There are a ton of director scripts and indie scripts that are really REALLY short, also some odd stuff like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" comes to mind (I heard it was only 50-60 pages!), but it's important to remember that those aren't specs -- but rather a different type of animal.

        When is a spec too short? Great question and I don't think there is a definitive answer. IMO it's when the story is compromised by its page limitations. Example: characters don't have enough depth, narrative doesn't go far enough, if you read it and you're left wanting more (in a bad way), etc.

        You can always try to be a Bada$s and make a super short spec -- if you do it well enough maybe it will even generate buzz, but it's much safer to follow the herd and stay around the 110 (give or take) mark.
        Last edited by CameronAlexander; 08-09-2013, 09:52 AM.
        Twitter @CameronAlxander

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        • #5
          Re: When is a spec too short?

          Originally posted by ClintW3 View Post
          The topic of page count is done a lot here, but the discussions I've found (checking page through March) deal with looooong scripts. I get that 148 pages is too long for a spec script. Consensus seems to be no more than 110 pages.



          But when is a spec too short? Does it have to be at least 90 pages? Is 86 pages OK?


          It seems to me that a screenplay with heavy action would run longer than the minute-per-page rule of them. But what do I know.


          Does anyone have any insights or experience to share? What do pros think when weekend reads include a screenplay less than 100 pages? Less than 90 pages?


          Thanks.
          Under 80 pages.

          Now, don't bug me with your silly questions.
          "A screenwriter is much like being a fire hydrant with a bunch of dogs lined up around it.- -Frank Miller

          "A real writer doesn't just want to write; a real writer has to write." -Alan Moore

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: When is a spec too short?

            Since original posting, I found this quote by Lawrence Kasdan:

            People used to say scripts should be 120 pages. That's bullshit. They should be 100 pages long. There's no one who has ever given the note: "This script is too short.-

            http://nofilmschool.com/2013/08/lawr...iting-podcast/

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            • #7
              Re: When is a spec too short?

              I finished one with only a few lines of dialogue, and it naturally came out to about 70 something pages. I think that will get some reader's alert bells ringing though, so I went back and paced some of the action scenes out a little more sparsely to make sure it was above 90. A 90 page script that reads like it's 70 pages makes everyone happy.

              And Motor City was a great script, though I heard when they were developing it they obviously threw the no-dialogue thing out the window.

              I think as long as you're around 90, you're good, for first impressions. But as always, if it reads well and is entertaining, no one will care if it's 80 or 120 once they get done with it.
              @ZOlkewicz - Don't follow me on Twitter.

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              • #8
                Re: When is a spec too short?

                Under 11 inches, I throw them back.

                - Bill
                Free Script Tips:
                http://www.scriptsecrets.net

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                • #9
                  Re: When is a spec too short?

                  I got signed off an 87 page thriller set in the Appalachian mountains with about 5 characters.

                  It's a gut call. If you're happy with it and believe there's a full story there, go with it. If you feel you could expand on a few moments, do that.

                  A script is too short when the story is unfulfilled.

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                  • #10
                    Re: When is a spec too short?

                    Originally posted by ATB View Post
                    I got signed off an 87 page thriller...
                    I'm afraid you're going to have to unsign yourself and give back all of the progress you've made until you can learn how to write a properly lengthed screenplay.

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                    • #11
                      Re: When is a spec too short?

                      Length doesn't matter... content does.
                      Writer / Director available for your project.

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                      • #12
                        Re: When is a spec too short?

                        Yup it totally goes both ways. I've read 99 page scripts that made me go "What a fun, quick read" and I've ready 99 page scripts that made me go "Coulda used 10 pages of character".

                        With that said, 12 scripts on last year's Black list were 120+ with the vast majority between 110-120.

                        As long as there's meat on the bone.
                        Write, rite, wright... until you get it RIGHT.

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                        • #13
                          Re: When is a spec too short?

                          Originally posted by asteven50 View Post
                          As long as there's meat on the bone.
                          Usually, in my experience (with plenty of exceptions) under 90 tends to mean that the writer hasn't fully exploited the potential of the material.

                          If I wrote a draft that came in under 90, I would ask myself lots of questions along the lines of, "Have I gotten all the possible awesomeness in this story on the page?" Now maybe the answer is yes, but I'd sure as heck ask myself the question.

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                          • #14
                            Re: When is a spec too short?

                            Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
                            Usually, in my experience (with plenty of exceptions) under 90 tends to mean that the writer hasn't fully exploited the potential of the material.

                            If I wrote a draft that came in under 90, I would ask myself lots of questions along the lines of, "Have I gotten all the possible awesomeness in this story on the page?" Now maybe the answer is yes, but I'd sure as heck ask myself the question.

                            Agree 100%. Although there are exceptions to every rule, the majority of scripts that come in around this length do feel like they are missing something.
                            Write, rite, wright... until you get it RIGHT.

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                            • #15
                              Re: When is a spec too short?

                              It's not the length, it's how you use it.

                              Oh, sure, everyone thinks that execs are dying for those really long scripts, but most actually find them unrule and a painful reading experience.

                              We've all gone online and seen the videos of guys with huge scripts, but that just sets an unrealistic standard.

                              Everyone's script is unique and special. One day, you'll find that special someone who thinks your script is perfect.

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