How many pages are in a movie script?
- 1. Scripts are normally longer than movies The average script in the dataset (sans cover pages) was 118 pages while the average running time for those same projects (sans credits) was 109 minutes. So, en mass, we could say that the rule for these scripts is ‘one page per 56 seconds’ or ‘1.08 pages per minute’.
Sep 01, 2020 · 2. Break the script down scene by scene. After you’ve read the script one time all the way through, go back and read it again. This time, make a list of all the different scenes in the script. If scenes are working towards a common event or show a continuous piece of action, group those scenes together.
- A Quick Primer on Film Screenplay Formatting
- Searching For A Relationship Between Length and Runtime
- Scripts Are Normally Longer Than Movies
- Not All Films Contain The Same Kind of Material
- The Amorphous Nature of ‘Action’
- Final Analysis: Is The Page-Per-Minute Rule Ever Effective?
- Further Reading
The formatting on a modern film script is extremely exacting, including pre-defined margins, layout, headings, capitalisation and font (12 point, 10 pitch Courier Typeface). The key elements are: 1. Scene heading– Setting out where the upcoming scene takes place and sometimes a time of day/night. INT is used for interior scenes and EXT for exterior scenes. 2. Action– Descriptions of what is happening in the scene, how the characters are moving and anything else the reader/viewer needs to know which is not contained in the dialogue. 3. Character– The name of the character who is about to speak. 4. Dialogue– The words the character is speaking. 5. Parentheticals– A few words in brackets between the Character and Dialogue, giving guidance on how the line is to be spoken. Writers are normally advised to keep these to a minimum and only to use them when vital to understanding, such as “(sarcastically)” or “(to the dog)”. There are other elements and formatting rules but I’m focusing on t...
Given that formating is so rigid, it’s certainly possible that there is a correlation between page count and screen time. Writers do not have much scope to change the length of their Scene headings, Character names and Parentheticals (as counted by lines, not words) and so the elements most that could most affect the length of a script are Action and Dialogue, which also heavily affect the length of a finished film. For brevity’s sake, I have moved my full methodology to the final section of this article. I built a dataset of 761 scripts which had all been made into theatrically released movies. I removed any cover pages from the total page count and also removed four minutes from the publicly listed running time of a movie (my past researchhas shown that 3 minutes 43 seconds is the median end crawl length). To measure the effectiveness of the rule I looked at the ratio of pages to minutes. A 50-page script which becomes a 100-minute movie would have a ratio of 0.5, a 100-script and...
The average script in the dataset (sans cover pages) was 118 pages while the average running time for those same projects (sans credits) was 109 minutes. So, en mass, we could say that the rule for these scripts is ‘one page per 56 seconds’ or ‘1.08 pages per minute’. In either case, it’s less catchy. Part of the problem is that the “final” script does not always represent the finished film. A film will go through a number of stages between the first draft and the final movie. The list below is not a strict chronology but more of an example of the many phases that can shape a film’s contents: 1. The writer(s) create multiple draftsof the script 2. Directors, producers, studios (and sometimes powerful actors) will suggest changes. 3. Changes will be made to accommodate the budget, schedule, locations, weather andforce majeure. 4. The actors and director will work together to craft a performance, sometimes changing the lines. 5. The editor will editthe final scenes from what was shot....
By lumping all 761 scripts into one set of calculations we are ignoring that movies can differ significantly from each other. Splitting up the dataset by genre can teach us a couple of things. Firstly, all genres show a ratio of above one, meaning that in all cases the average script is longer than the eventual movie. Secondly, there are differences – Adventure and Action films are the closest to the page-per-minute rule, while Comedy and Horror are the furthest from it. This raises the question of what is different about the contents of movies between genres. After all, in theory, it takes the same amount of page length and screentime to say “I love you” as “Time to die”. In practice, some genres are more likely to contain longer or more frequent lines of dialogue than others. Last yearI conducted a large research project into over 10,000 feature film screenplays submitted to script competitions and to professional script readers. Using that data we can get a sense of how each genr...
Part of the reason any such rule will always be shaky is that the number of words/lines of Action does not denote its screen time. We could imagine one script with a full page of Action describing a location in exquisite detail while another script includes the line “The two massive armies fight to the death”. I wanted to test the theory that dialogue is fairly consistent (i.e. pages to minutes ratio) but it’s the Action blocks which cause the one-page-per-minute rule to fall apart. To do this, I took 64 scenes which were almost entirely dialogue and looked at their screentime in the finished movie. The chart below shows what I discovered, namely that pages and minutes were lesscorrelated in these scenes that within the complete dataset of all scripts. I have added an orange line to indicate where one-page-per-minute would be, revealing that two-thirds of the scenes had a ratio of over 1. Crucially, the standard deviation (a measure of how different a set of numbers are from each ot...
We’ve seen how shaky the rule is, in mathematical terms at least, but that doesn’t mean that it should be dropped completely. There are a few things the rule is good for: 1. Least-worst rule we have– It does work as a crude guide in many cases. Assuming no one is making major decisions based purely on this rule, then it’s not doing much harm. 2. It frames scriptwriting– The rule is easy to remember, and therefore more likely to be used. Seeing as we should always remember that a script is a blueprint for an audio-visual work (as opposed to a piece of stand-alone prose), it may be useful in keeping the nature of screenwriting front of mind during the development process. 3. Useful as a non-literal allegory– It speaks to a wider truth, that ‘more pages = more minutes = higher budget’. While the exact prediction of running time may be off, it does allow everyone to quickly see that the average 200-page script is too long and the average 60-page script is too short. This was never meant...
If you are interested in reading more data-led analysis of screenwriting topics then you may enjoy the following articles: 1. Defining the average screenplay, via data on 12,000+ scripts 2. An analysis of 12,309 feature film script reports 3. Who dominates the screenwriting software market? 4. What percentage of screenwriters write a second movie? 5. What percentage of directors are writer-directors? 6. How old are Hollywood screenwriters?
This project wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of Liora Michlin. Thank you to John August for the question and for his notes during the process. My methodology was that I started the research by collecting as many scripts of produced films as I could. I ended up with over 1,500 PDF screenplays from a variety of sources including ones I already had, leaked scripts, those published by writers and those published by studios during awards season. I was surprised at just how many scripts available online were incorrectly formatted. Some were clearly wrong (i.e plain text or the wrong font) while others had subtle differences (i.e. incorrectly spaced). After narrowing the scripts down to just those which fully match the formatting guidelines, we had 761 PDF screenplays (in US letter format) I sought out finished scripts, not transcripts. A film script includes all the elements we spoke about before and this is what the rule we’re testing applies to. By contrast, a transcri...
This was a fun project to do. When John emailed to ask, I was instantly keen to start and annoyed I hadn’t thought of this already! It’s a rule I had long followed and repeated but not once thought to check. If you have any industry rules, adages or old wives tales you want tested, drop me a lineand I’ll go all data-ninja on their asses…
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Aug 17, 2020 · If you’re ever curious how a movie script translates to what you’re watching on screen—including just how much of an actor’s dialogue was improvised or prewritten—do I have a browser ...
Nov 06, 2019 · When a screenplay alternates from one scene to another scene, which take place at the same time, this is called an INTERCUT. Instead of writing scene headings over and over, you can write one scene heading for each location and then indicate that the scenes are INTERCUT together by placing that INTERCUT atop the page to the right.
“We read it in the same room together, and then looked at each other and we were in floods of tears,” she says. Director...scheduled ...
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May 10, 2018 · And it’s also one the very best things you can do when it comes to adapting a novel into a screenplay. There are a ton of sites where you can download professional screenplays for free but we have a put together a post 50 Of The Best Screenplays To Read And Download In Every Genre that’s a great place to start.
It can take up to four-six months for you to hear back from a producer. Be patient. It is difficult to wait for a response, but during this time you should be working on your next script. If another producer wants to read your script at the same time, you should inform him/her that 'so and so' is also having a read of it.