SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

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  • SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

    There are a million variables, but as an aid to the newcomers here how about we post the page length of our first SPEC scripts. Maybe also include how many pages they ended up becoming after polishes.

    With minimal research, those who're new to screenwriting already know that 90-100 pages is the new norm. It was probably up to 120 back in the 1990s, and 110 in the noughties. The reasons for this decline are many, and nobody's going to turn down that PERFECT script that's a bit outside the range.

    But no matter, let me start by disclosing my own stats:

    Script #1: 110 pages out for first read; present version at 105

    (You can also tell a bit of story about the evolution your script went through, if it's relevant and, hopefully, interesting!)

    _______________________________________________

    Since I have a detailed database and can generate numbers on almost any metric, I'll also say that the average of the first third of my scripts was 110 (this included a few 125-page epics), the middle third came in at 105, and the most recent third of my output's been 95.

    Some of you know that I'm the guy that keeps editing/polishing my own old stuff, so the fact that my average is still dropping precipitously must mean that my older stuff is just plain overwritten. I've used every trick in the book to shorten these older scripts, but they're still coming 10+ pages longer than my newer stuff. What's the difference? Genre? Too talky? Dunno.

    I do know that the pre-writing outlining stage for my first script was a whopping 8-page outline. I remember at the time thinking, "What a waste of time; oh well." But I learned quickly. By the mid-third of my screenwriting output, my outlines were coming in at about 40-50 pages. I've attested many times to the fact that a detailed outline (for me) makes writing the final script a lot easier. Perhaps they help make for tighter writing? Probably.

    So, let's see what everybody's first SPEC script was, eh?

  • #2
    Re: SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

    i think anything under 120 is still acceptable.

    there are some genres that are generally longer because the tech set up and world building require more detail: epics, sci-fi, action, some thrillers.

    rom-coms, comedies, dramas and horror are typically shorter to support less complicated plots. they're also typically lower budgets. 90 pages seems to be the sweet spot, though there are exceptions.

    there is also a difference between writing styles; some writers present scripts with a spartan style and lots of white space while other have dense action lines.
    "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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    • #3
      Re: SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

      166. I know, I was already boiled, basted, flame thrown, chopped, and served in several other threads here about it.

      But I have no interest in changing it at this moment. I polished it seven different ways, and that's what came out. I am proud of it.
      Last edited by Merrick; 08-17-2019, 11:18 AM.

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      • #4
        Re: SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

        I remember I was the opposite -- my early stuff was almost too short. I feel like I had 87 pages for my first one I wrote.... I was never a 120 page guy.

        I think 93 minutes is the perfect runtime for a movie. Maybe 110 minutes for a tense thriller / horror movie, but in general. And yes there are plenty of movies I love that are longer...

        You know what it truly is? Some short movies feel like weeks and some long movies feel like seconds. But we won't know that until we read the script or see the movie.

        Jaws is a long movie at 2 hours 10 minutes, but it feels the perfect length watching it. So that's 130 pages if it's page per minute. But Something tells me the script was shorter.

        I remember Braveheart script I got was so much shorter than movie because the action scenes said stuff like THEY FIGHT basically as he knew he was directing it.

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        • #5
          Re: SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

          My first script was a romantic comedy that came in at 155 pages. The first doorstop. That particular script I knew was just an exercise and I never went back to pare it down. I've written a couple rough drafts of other scripts that have an initial draft in the 130-140 page range and I get it down to 110 pages. The last draft of a feature I wrote was something like 105 pages?

          I've been reading a number of the recent, shorter scripts and now have my own fantasy of writing a 90-page script.

          But I still want to feel like a full movie. I recently read the script that had the bidding war called DON'T WORRY DARLING -- clocks in a 95 pages. Compared to THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, which had a draft at 103 pages and then the "for your consideration" draft at 85 pages.

          DWD was overwritten at the scene level. Lots of distracting actor direction throughout. Take that out, and you're probably down to 65 pages of story. It felt thin. Good story there, but it does need some fleshing out. It doesn't really have full subplots. Just a singular problem.

          THREE BILLBOARDS had much more development of the main story and the subplots. He gets a lot of story mileage from a minimal number of words. It felt like it had twice as much story as DWD.

          So, I'd love to write a short feature that has a lot of story mileage. Not something that is short and feels under-baked.

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          • #6
            Re: SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

            Originally posted by finalact4 View Post
            i think anything under 120 is still acceptable.

            there are some genres that are generally longer because the tech set up and world building require more detail: epics, sci-fi, action, some thrillers.

            rom-coms, comedies, dramas and horror are typically shorter to support less complicated plots. they're also typically lower budgets. 90 pages seems to be the sweet spot, though there are exceptions.

            there is also a difference between writing styles; some writers present scripts with a spartan style and lots of white space while other have dense action lines.
            Agreed. I forget where I read you talking about how world building in sci-fi eats up hella page count. FUKKIN AGREED! I'd project that world building in sci-fi adds around 20 pages that take away from character building. Character building becomes WAY harder when you gotta explain how a, dumb example: a bed functions in the future.

            In a drama you just say: Dude flops onto the bed, turns toward the LA skyline. We get it. In sci-fi it's: Dude flops onto a bed, diodes illuminate at the presence of skin. (then you gotta explain why, takes time on the page), then when he turns to face the skyline, what does that sh!t look like, function like, how is it smart and different. What's ironic about it? Sci-fi is FUKKIN HARD! Agreed!

            Those pages you read were sci-fi. First draft (after hella cuts/rewrites) came in at 144? Got it down to 126 and was stuck. That's when I finally sent it to manager. With manager's help we got it to like 121, then 119, 117, then finally 115. And that's what finally went out.

            Last feature was 113. Horror. I kinda liked the number "13" for personal reasons.

            Oddly two of my pilots both came in at 67 pages. Both went into development, one sold. No one ever mentioned page count. I theorize that TV doesn't care about page count as much as the feature world, because they assume it's gonna get longer. But I wouldn't recommend 67 pages. 55 is the sweet spot IMO.

            I think the new one is 57 pages?

            OOPS... didn't answer the main question: First spec 110. Dark family drama.
            Last edited by GucciGhostXXX; 08-16-2019, 11:44 AM.
            Bruh, fukkin *smooches*! Feel me? Ha!

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            • #7
              Re: SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

              just finished Wasteland's rewrite. was 128, got it down to 118 and even able to add prolly 5+ pages of clarity and character building.

              this was the longest one i've ever written.

              tracker was originally 117 i think, but then i reworked the beginning which sets up the science and the premise of actually experiencing a killers memory. the opening pages are all form the KILLER'S POV:. as if we are the killer. provocative imagery. dark. original.

              all others are usually between 106 - 116 there abouts. sometimes it's a matter of deleting a subplot.
              "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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              • #8
                Re: SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

                Then there are the scripts that might be 110 pages, but seem to take forever to read. I think some times writers squeeze in more words on a page to make a 120 pages look like 110. So, you look at the clock and realize that you've only gotten to page 30, when normally you should be on page 50 by now.

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                • #9
                  Re: SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

                  Well, you could be talking about a boring script that's 85 pages that seems like 125, but maybe also talking 'white space' that gives your eyes a break.

                  Time for a screensnap. I've used it before, to promote aggressive widow-orphan bashing, but it's also a macro look at white space in a script: White Space or Not

                  I go into preview mode, then shrink the pages way, way down so that big black blocks of text jump out pretty quickly. You just press the down arrow and surf through your scripts really fast, to see.

                  Anybody else ever tried this?

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                  • #10
                    Re: SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

                    I heard an interview where a manager (can't remember who) who said they hate it when writers try to fudge the page count and squeeze a 130 page script into 110 pages. He said he feels frustrated when he realizes he only got through a few pages and it's taken up a huge chunk of time.

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                    • #11
                      Re: SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

                      A lot of people have said this -- don't do this. Don't fudge the page count. It's stupid quite frankly. Actual do the work and cut pages and words and scenes and characters if it's too long.

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                      • #12
                        Re: SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

                        Originally posted by Bono View Post
                        A lot of people have said this -- don't do this. Don't fudge the page count. It's stupid quite frankly. Actual do the work and cut pages and words and scenes and characters if it's too long.

                        Yeah. I get antsy when I expect to read a certain script in the alloted time and it's taking me three times longer than the previous script I read (where the pages obviously aren't fudged). It's usually done in a way where the writer thinks people don't notice. But, psychologically, you're thinking this script is not moving. For comparisons, I think I read Andrew Kevin Walkers script in like a couple of hours - talk about a fast read.

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                        • #13
                          Re: SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

                          Nope!

                          I'm always gonna fudge it. But not drastically.

                          Mainly because I FUKKIN HATE 'widows'. My OCD on the page won't allow it. I do first look for ways to cut, but if that doesn't work, I'ma fukk with margins until it LOOKS right.

                          Another thing I fukkin' hate! When the last page has a GIANT widow. My last page goes to the very bottom of the page, normally. I figure out a way to make that happen.

                          Gripe against Final Draft: There should be a "What words can I cut to slim page count?" Feature. And "How do I end the last page at the very bottom?" Feature. It's a pretty shitty software... after using super deep music software that'll allow you to do just about anything. Their "Now you can add photos!!!" Upgrade was fukkin absurd to me. Dude, in music software I can split a chord apart and change the notes in the chord, do you GET how that WAY harder for a software to do? FD sucks ass!

                          Also... I find it hilarious when writers complain about the COST of the software. Dude, try being a composer. My studio was $100,000 just to be in the game. Software was probably $40,000 of that.
                          Bruh, fukkin *smooches*! Feel me? Ha!

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                          • #14
                            Re: SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

                            that's all right. I feel the same thing with how the page actually looks. John August does too -- so much he invented his own font.

                            But I find that different than squeeing in 20 extra pages via margins.

                            I for sure has made fonts bigger or small and moved margins to make something look right.

                            My favorite page in a script maybe ever was in the spec THE BABYSITTER and one page just was huge letters WHAT. THE. ****. And it was perfect. And I could see how it was filmable but also funny as **** and the perfect buy me now.

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                            • #15
                              Re: SCRIPT LENGTH: let's take a poll

                              Originally posted by Bono View Post
                              that's all right. I feel the same thing with how the page actually looks. John August does too -- so much he invented his own font.

                              But I find that different than squeeing in 20 extra pages via margins.

                              I for sure has made fonts bigger or small and moved margins to make something look right.

                              My favorite page in a script maybe ever was in the spec THE BABYSITTER and one page just was huge letters WHAT. THE. ****. And it was perfect. And I could see how it was filmable but also funny as **** and the perfect buy me now.
                              yeah that margin thing is a big cheat. i cheat on dialogue to bring up a widow, but not the action lines.

                              i will say that in a podcast interview with AB Fischer (i think it was his interview) and he said he hates it when writers to that, because he reads so many scripts that he "feels" how long it is by reading and says he'll think his on page 40 something and he looks and he on 30. not good to do.
                              "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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