Cutting pages from script

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  • Cutting pages from script

    Say you are asked whether you can take, oh, say 10-15 pages from your 106 page indie drama. Let's say you think 10 could be doable. Not fun, but it could probably work in the end.

    In looking at that process, I realize that some things just will have to go. But I can also see how one might trim a few hanging words, close up some vertical spacing, and do other little tricks to tighten up things in order to get to the page count. I know that I'll sacrifice a lot of pleasing white space, but que sera.

    Note, I'm not talking about changing indents or font size, but maybe moving a parenthetical to an action line, or little things like that.

    My question is: Is [doing this] "cheating" the spirit of this request, or is it acceptable to try to get to the requested page count in stealthy ways so as not to lose what you feel you must keep?

    And, if it's not too much to ask, why would a line producer care about this? How does page count even help determine a budget? Or is a request to cut pages about something else? Thanks for your thoughts.

  • #2
    Re: Cutting pages from script

    Originally posted by SBdeb View Post
    Say you are asked whether you can take, oh, say 10-15 pages from your 106 page indie drama. Let's say you think 10 could be doable. Not fun, but it could probably work in the end.

    In looking at that process, I realize that some things just will have to go. But I can also see how one might trim a few hanging words, close up some vertical spacing, and do other little tricks to tighten up things in order to get to the page count. I know that I'll sacrifice a lot of pleasing white space, but que sera.

    Note, I'm not talking about changing indents or font size, but maybe moving a parenthetical to an action line, or little things like that.

    My question is: Is [doing this] "cheating" the spirit of this request, or is it acceptable to try to get to the requested page count in stealthy ways so as not to lose what you feel you must keep?

    And, if it's not too much to ask, why would a line producer care about this? How does page count even help determine a budget? Or is a request to cut pages about something else? Thanks for your thoughts.

    Generally, when a producer is asking to get the page count down, he's thinking, in a rough way, in terms of a calculation that relates page count to production days. Usually (and, of course, depending on what's on the pages and the number of locations and other factors) you can usually shoot a certain number of pages a day.

    And that number -- the number of productions days -- is intrinsically connected to the budget.

    So, without knowing anything more, I suspected he's thinking in terms of what the budget can support in terms of production days and is calculating that back to the script and thinking -- we need a script that's shorter by 10 to 15 pages.

    So to answer your question, to satisfy that concern, ratcheting (which is what I call trimming widows and orphans and condensing paragraphs,etc.,) and even cutting lines within scenes here and there, is not going to really address the problem.

    What's going to address the problem is cutting scenes. Whole scenes need to go. You need to take that deep breath and start asking yourself whether you've got multiple scenes that are doing the same job story-wise and if so, which one can afford to go.

    And by the way -- you really want to do that ratcheting stuff before the script goes out, because when producers ask for cuts, they don't like to get the script back shorter but, somehow or other, essentially identical.

    So, as a rule, I'll always go through a script and every time I find a paragraph where the last line has just one word at the end, I'll rewrite it to get rid of that one word and because of the way FD formats, just doing that (losing one word saves a line, and those extra lines accumulate over the script) tends to collapse the script for four or five pages over the length of 105 to 110 page screenplay.

    Plus, of course, you look for other cuts.

    NMS

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    • #3
      Re: Cutting pages from script

      Originally posted by SBdeb View Post
      My question is: Is [doing this] "cheating" the spirit of this request, or is it acceptable to try to get to the requested page count in stealthy ways so as not to lose what you feel you must keep?
      Yes. But I would do it anyway. I would suspect that if you could get two pages out by doing this, and 8 pages out by other means, he would feel like you cut ten pages.


      And, if it's not too much to ask, why would a line producer care about this? How does page count even help determine a budget? Or is a request to cut pages about something else? Thanks for your thoughts.
      If you're trying to cut 10 pages from a 106 page script, on some level, you want to look at ways to get from point A to point F without touching all of B, C, D, and E. Think expansively.

      You should be able to talk to your producer about this. Does he have specific budget concerns? Does he have specific pacing concerns?

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      • #4
        Re: Cutting pages from script

        Thanks guys! As always, I really appreciate the words of wisdom.


        Not knowing anything, it just seems that if someone wants to reduce costs that it would be more effective to say, "hey, take out the scene with the hurricane, or the helicopter crash, or the ___ scene or the stampeding cattle scene" as opposed to me randomly removing a scene or three, "ratcheting" the script to tighten it up, and/ or shortening dialogue throughout. If you're simply asked to shorten it, it conceivably allows me to keep all the helicopter crashes I want, right? (And yes, this family-based indie drama probably doesn't have any of those, but in fact, I might have something like a wedding, or whatnot.)

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        • #5
          Re: Cutting pages from script

          If you use Final Draft; go to Format, then to Leading, then select Very tight, Tight, Regular or loose. I tried it - a 25 page script in regular shrank to 22 pages in tight. (A 12% size reduction.)

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          • #6
            Re: Cutting pages from script

            Originally posted by Doug View Post
            If you use Final Draft; go to Format, then to Leading, then select Very tight, Tight, Regular or loose. I tried it - a 25 page script in regular shrank to 22 pages in tight. (A 12% size reduction.)
            The problem is, from what I understand, this was already submitted. I think they would spot shenanigans pretty quickly.

            I've never had this problem. I always write too long, so when I want to cut ten or fifteen pages I can always find them. Sometimes I cut my favorite scenes, because other than my enjoyment, they aren't doing much else.

            Another thing that works for me is to take two scenes and blend them together in a way that moves two different parts of the story forward. It sounds harder than it is.
            "I just couldn't live in a world without me."

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            • #7
              Re: Cutting pages from script

              Originally posted by Doug View Post
              If you use Final Draft; go to Format, then to Leading, then select Very tight, Tight, Regular or loose. I tried it - a 25 page script in regular shrank to 22 pages in tight. (A 12% size reduction.)
              DO NOT DO THIS.

              I can not stress this enough.

              DO NOT DO THIS.

              As somebody who has read a bunch of slush-pile scripts, I will say:

              You can ALWAYS tell, and it's ALWAYS annoying.

              Very Tight is actually painful to read. You are making your reader hate you with every single line break. The fact that such an option even exists is one further piece of evidence that Final Draft's primary business is selling to aspiring writers.

              Furthermore, and, look, I want to be nice about this, but:

              People who read a lot of screenplays develops a sense of pace. They have a sense of, "oh, this is dragging," or, "oh, this is really dense and wordy," or "jeeze, this is taking forever."

              You're not going to trick them by using formatting to shorten your script. They won't care - they're going to know based on, you know, how the story reads, not the number on the last page.


              This isn't relevant to the OP's question, but for everyone else reading this:

              If you're trying to write a two hour movie and you have an over-120-page script, then there is a problem and you need to figure out what that problem is.

              Figuring out what the problem is will make you a better writer. Solving the problem will make your script better.

              Now, for the sake of argument, I will concede that there are exceptions. Guess what: you're not one of them. I know, I know, you have this super-compelling argument why you're the exception. Nope. Your script has a problem. Find it. Fix it.

              If I told you that I would buy your script if you could get it down to 113 without hurting the story and without formatting cheats, you'd get it down to 113, right? You'd put in the work and find a way.

              Great. So we've established the principle. Now we're going to negotiate the price.

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              • #8
                Re: Cutting pages from script

                distance from a story, even a week or three, may help with cutting, honing, etc. take a fresher look, fire up the chainsaw and get the scalpel ready. without the distance, i'm still too close to do much good from what i already have. and if with some distance, i am still adding or revising (as in layers, depth, etc), changing direction, motivation, etc to a story, the story is not near 'done' yet and isn't ready for cutting anyway. if you have an apple pie in the oven, and it is near done, you should be able to smell it, and it should smell wonderful, whether it is quite ready to eat or not. and all in the house know it is an apple pie.

                one more thing to add and of no importance as always...once upon a time i would draw and paint pictures...and at a point i learned i had to look at that picture and step away and say to myself, 'it's done.' or i could work on the same picture day after day and at a point, completely ruin what i started with. like your pen and ink of lincoln ends up looking like andrew jackson and so on. basically, the flaws, the imperfections, etc, help to make it a good picture.

                always plenty to cut and places to add, but don't mess with the good stuff too much.

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                • #9
                  Re: Cutting pages from script

                  Do not mess with the standard formatting in any way. I can glance at a script and tell immediately if the author has "cheated" in spacing, margins, etc.

                  If the page count has to come down, then you need to roll up your sleeves and do it the old-fashioned way. Part of being a successful screenwriter entails the ability to cut, condense, and streamline.

                  I had a project at Legendary that Stephen Norrington rewrote and he ballooned the draft to over 150p. Legendary wanted 115p. They ultimately fired him and spiked the project. But if you were the writer they hired to come in and cut the script down, you'd have to have that skill.

                  One trick... Search for scenes which perhaps you could enter later or exit sooner. That can be remarkably effective and make a scene even stronger. We don't always have to show up for the start of a conversation between characters.
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                  • #10
                    Re: Cutting pages from script

                    Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
                    People who read a lot of screenplays develops a sense of pace. They have a sense of, "oh, this is dragging," or, "oh, this is really dense and wordy," or "jeeze, this is taking forever."

                    You're not going to trick them by using formatting to shorten your script. They won't care - they're going to know based on, you know, how the story reads, not the number on the last page.
                    This. There is no point at all in trying to cheat the page length by changing the leading or using other tricks. You might get away with varying page length by one or two lines but that's it. Anyone in the industry reading a script know what it should look like, will not enjoy anything that makes it a more difficult read, and will not be fooled. If there's a problem with length, it's almost certainly not to do with formatting.
                    "Friends make the worst enemies." Frank Underwood

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                    • #11
                      Combining scenes

                      1) Don't cheat margins & spacing.

                      2) Look for ways to combine scenes - often you end up with three scenes which each only do one thing... when you could combine them into one scene that does 3 things, and each of those things helps make the other 2 things work. It's all about finding ways to pack information into a scene.

                      Good luck!

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

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                      • #12
                        Re: Cutting pages from script

                        Thanks one and all! As always, I'm most grateful for the ideas.

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