Script length: the debate rages on...

Budding writers continually ask, "What if my feature script is only 70 pages?" Um, 70 pages, for a feature screenplay? Nope, sorry, too thin. If you adhere to the minute-per-page rule (which isn’t all that accurate), then you’re gonna have a movie that’s an hour and ten minutes long. Not even Woody Allen cuts ‘em that short! Besides, if you send a 70-page script to an agent or producer, they’ll label you as a rank amateur. When you’re trying to get a career off the ground, that’s the last thing you want. An intriguing, well-told story (for a feature-length screenplay) typically has peaks and valleys and twists and turns. It’s difficult including those things in a swiftly told story. So if thin scripts are your thing, go ahead and write short films. Nothing wrong with that. Just don’t pass ‘em off as features.

So why is your script so short?

Flip through the script. How’s your action to dialogue ratio? Is it a little heavy in the ol’ chit-chat department? I find that many budding scribes rely too heavily on dialogue to tell their story. Not too long ago, I did a critique on a horror screenplay that was 98 pages – and 95% of it was dialogue! Screenplays are not about dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. Screenplays are about actions. They are about people doing things. Things are happening. This is why we call them motion pictures. If the writer of that 98-page script had bothered to include sufficient directions/actions, he would’ve ended up with 130-pages...and that’s waaaaaay too long for a typical horror script.

So no, 70 pages ain’t gonna cut it for a feature. You’ll have to bring up that page count at least another 15-20 pages.

In a previous blog (3/26/07), I offered page counts suggestions for various genres. I also discussed the one page = one minute of screen time "rule." If you haven’t read that particular entry, I suggest you do so.

1 comment:

debate popular said...

I agree with you apart from the dialogue to tell the actions can not be told by its characters but become the action inside the movie or the situation is and wants to show that it is important for the director to work with that.