Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Last night I was reading an indy comedy. The script was great. It was funny and sweet and original and the writer had a strong voice. The only problem….. its 124 pages long. You can’t have too mush of a good thing right? Well actually in this case, yeah you can.
You see if a company makes this, it’s going to be on a shoe string budget and every page in the script is more money the story takes to shoot, so at 124 pages producers will either Pass or say “cut 34 pages from the script.”
My advice, cut them off at the pass. Cut the number of pages down to whatever it should be in the first place before sending it out. And make sure that as you do you maintain the script's appropriate structural balance.

If you’re not sure how long your script should be, make a list of the three films made within the last ten years that are most like your movie in terms of cast, genre and size/scope (budget). Now look up how long they are on IMDB, take the average. Remember it's one page per minute. That’s how long your screenplay can be. Not a single page more.
This is one more little thing that communicates to the reader you’re a professional. If I was designing a car, I wouldn’t give Toyota plans for a 21 foot long midsize car, or a subcompact that cost the consumer $100k. The same is true of your screenplay.
In a marketplace where people will pass for just about any reason… don’t give them one. And don’t spit in the wind, don’t tug on Superman’s cape, don’t check into a hotel with Angela Lansbury, don’t wear a red shirt on Star Trek, don’t pull a gun on Little Joe (yes that’s some Old School TV), and never ever be so bold as to ask anyone on Lost to completely explain anything.


  1. You know, I tend to come at this from the completely opposite angle.

    First, a note on the formula: it's all become too predictable. Mainstream Hollywood is relying too heavily on formulas like Michael Hauge's structure, and every time I see some big blockbuster (or wannabe blockbuster) I can count out the beats without looking at my watch or any other time piece.

    It's all too predictable.

    It's also too forced for me. That piece of crap "Training Day," for example, has our protagonist going from good guy to bad guy in the course of a day...or two hours, however you wish to count it.

    There's no real craftsmanship anymore. There really isn't. Everything is just climbing a literary ladder to reach the top at a particular time.

    And why can't something last more than two hours? Why do we need to forcibly squish something that originally could've lasted....say 2 hours and 15 minutes....into a 90 minute movie?

    Whatever happened to telling just "a good story," instead of just another cookie cutter effort?

    I tend to enjoy those that are less dominated by the time constraints and those that allow their stories to happen "naturally," like the obvious "Lord of the Rings," and "Superman Returns."

    Yeah, studios want to pinch every penny they can, and I understand that, but slicing up the story just to squeeze one more dollar out of it can be counter-productive. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is possibly the WORST of the adaptations, from the screenwriting point of view. I feel it takes way too many short cuts just because it's 'running out of time.'

    This need to reign in the story is understandable in some cases, but others its just disastrous. We need a more "natural" sense of progression in our movies, not just making sure the minutes line up in perfect time and step.

  2. I understand your point, but it's coming from your perspective and fails to take in the perspectives of several other very important parties: Other film consumers (who may not agree with you), theater owners, film financiers. Film is a very expensive medium (average studio movie these days is 100mil, even "art" films cost millions of dollars) so it's a system with many moving parts that gets a movie made. If everyone in that system isn't happy the system doesn't move forward. Inherently you can run into a situation where "too many cooks ruin the broth." But that's the situation we have, and the sky is blue, and the oceans wet. It is what it is. You can work within it (warts and all) or remain on the outside throwing stones.

  3. but isn't it also fool hardy to try to "please everyone?"

    American Pie was made, rude crude and all, but from what I've heard people were screaming left and right, literally quitting their studio jobs in protest of this movie being made...

    no one can please everyone...not myself, not Spielberg, not even J.J. Abrams and his precious "Trek" reboot...

    I understand the need to keep the majority with you...but there also needs to be some risk to keep it fresh and vital. That's how Eminem made his career. It's how Kevin Smith keeps on going.

    Sure these are likely the minority, but come on. I talk to and with the fans of lots of movies over at, and we all have our opinions, and the discussions can get heated, but there's quite a few of us aching for something different.

    Also, don't perceive me as "throwing stones," as you put it, it's just a there's several of us who are tired of the same old thing over and over again.

    We don't always agree (especially over this new "Trek" reboot) but we're all pushing for something fresh and different.