Size matters... at least length
Another favorite Hollywood argument (without argument, there would be no Hollywood) is about script length. The common rule that many spit out is: "One page of film script equals one minute of screen time." This means that, since the average film is 2 hours long (or 120 minutes for the mathematically challenged), a script should be 120 pages.
- How many films have you seen that are actually 2 hours long?
- If you write:EXT. MOSCOW - DAYWorld War III begins.
Do you really think that'll only take a few seconds on the screen since it took only two lines of a page?
So, if we're willing to suspend our belief that a script should really be 120 pages, how long should a script be?
It's a trick question. See, regardless of reality, Hollywood expects film scripts to be about 120 pages. 115 is okay. 125 is okay, too. 90 is not good and neither is 140. TV scripts (sitcoms or 1-hour dramas) have expected lengths as well (it's harder to give you a number because of the different formats they use - get a sample and you'll see for yourself). If a reader sees a script that's the wrong length, there's a good chance it'll get trashed (unless, you're a famous writer -- fame has many perks).
So, what do you do if you finish writing and you're way off in the length department? My first question is usually, "what can I cut or condense" (if I'm too long) or "what do I need to flesh out" (if I'm short). Then I go through the script and see what I can do with my editor hat on. If I'm using Scriptware, I just look at the Status Line on the screen and I always know how long my script is as I edit.
The other option for changing length is called "cheating." Call it what you like, but it's making changes to the format to squeeze or lengthen your script without changing a word. The things to adjust, in order of least to most noticeable, are:
- Word-wrap gutter (if your program has one -- this determines which when words wrap to the next line. Increasing the gutter lengthens your script, decreasing it shortens your script)
- Action margins (try just moving the right margin by a character or two)
- Dialogue margins (change the left and/or right margins by a space or two)
- Remove Dialogue Split By Action continuings
- Line spacing (the amount of blank space between lines -- change this by a couple pixels or 1-3% if your program allows you to)
- Number of lines per page (this has to do with your printer -- 6 is standard. Try 6.5 or 7 to shorten the script)
- Number of blank lines before Scene Headings and Shots (change from 2 to 3 or vice-versa)
I'm not recommending that you cheat, I'm just saying that you can. You are responsible for your formatting karma.
You can do all of these things with Scriptware with just a couple of keystrokes! And, as you do, you'll be able to see the effects immediately. And your script is always perfectly formatted, ready to print and submit!