LENGTH OF SPEC SCRIPTS: INFORMATIVE DISCUSSION ON SCREENWRITERS NETWORK FACEBOOK PAGE


Page length can vary in a script depending on the genre. What can you tell us about the page length for different genres, and what do you know about what production companies are looking for?
I try to keep to keep my scripts in what I consider the “Goldilocks Zone”…100 to 110 pages. As for what prodcos are looking for, my contacts in Hollywood tell me they’re looking for Thrillers right now. I just had a thriller requested by an agency.
    • I aim for 90 pages no matter the genre, but I know I’m going to go over it, but I still push hard to come in low. I don’t think I’ve come in over 100 pages yet, but 102, 106, 108 is common for me.


    • Oh great…thrillers. I guess I could write my life.


    • Good to know. I have 3 thrillers ready to sell.


    • Here’s one huge change that really affects this question of page length. Back when I was in grad school, I learned that the page a minute rule–or guideline, if you will–was done where you tripled space from the last of a shot to the following slugline.

      As the computer programs came in, they–for some weird reason–went to only double spacing from the last of a shot to the following slug line. That may not seem like such a big deal, but a student of mine wrote a 112 page screenplay that an interested producer put on one of the computer programs–going from triple spacing to slug lines to double spacing to them. So the same exact screenplay–with nothing changed but the spacing to slug lines–suddenly went to 96 pages.

      I still like triple spacing as I think it makes the page more readable, more ink to white space friendly, and keeps the page a minute guide. But H’wood seems to want the double spaced screenplay, so that means even the former 120 page standard is now down to between 100 and 105 pages.

      So if we’re not doing 2 hours anymore, then 95 to 100 is probably the right number of pages for most screenplays.


    • That sounds like too much of a change, Rick – unless you’ve got 2-3 scenes a page. But still, it’s an advantage. I too like the look of triple-spacing (two blank lines above, one below) because it separates the scenes visually – but I like coming in at a lower page count more.


    • I always shoot for 105-110. I just had a producer ask me to write a horror, and when I asked him how many pages he wanted, I suggested 90, he said make it 100 so we can work with it after it’s done.


    • I’ve only been aware of the minute per page general rule, so that’s what I shoot for. And I consider 120 pages generally top heavy. Best to aim for about 100, give or take.

      But I’ve been trying my hand at spec tv scripts in the past couple of months, and I understand that one hour dramas can be as many as 60 pages. and 1/2 hour sitcoms as many as 45 pages. Those numbers seem high to me once you factor in air time for commercials… I’m sure dialogue factors in on the sitcom page count, but the numbers still seem high. Can anyone confirm?


    • I learned and teach that the difference between shots and scenes is: A shot is a slug line and whatever follows it–directiion and/or dialogue–until the next slug line. A scene is a 3 and a half to 7 page segment of a screenplay centered on a theme and/or an action, with a beginning, middle, climax, and end. In other words each scene is a little short story, which can pretty much stand alone but is affected by what happened before and affects what will happen next.

      So what I am discussing is shots–from one slug line to the next–and if you end a shot in the former system and go to a slug line it was tripled space, but now it’s doubled space, and that makes a difference in a normal screenplay, with a few shots or more per scene, of about 18 pages.

      And I just don’t like the double space system as I think it really clutters the page, makes it more ink heavy, and has it busier than it need be. But right now that seems to be the way H’wood wants it.


    • The page a minute was for triple spacing to the slug line. Now with double spacing a former120 page screenplay is about 95-100 pages. And so it goes.

    • Thanks for clarifying. Though from the way you’re describing it (and this is going to derail the thread, I’m afraid), you’re saying a shot always has a slugline (“So what I am discussing is shots–from one slug line to the next”)? I think we’re talking about the same thing in general, but you’re right – I was originally thinking you were referring to scenes. It just sounds like you’re using slug lines for every paragraph/shot.


    • I’m using Final Draft 8 – I’ll have to scrutinize the spacing :]. It might explain why my scripts are shorter now – bummer! I thought I finally learned how to edit! :]


    • Steve: Slug Line: EXT. STREET – DAY or INT. ROOM – NIGHT… A slug are those lines always capped that tell inside or outside, where, day or night. They begin scenes–which are called primary slug lines and change the audience’s eye within the scene–called secondary slug lines.

    • Sorry for the above reply. Strange things happening on my writing space with stuff disappearing and reappearing and moving around on me. It’s truly weird.


    • So when you end a shot on a direction, dialogue, or a transition such as CUT TO: you used to triple space to what followed, which is always a slug. Now you double space and that’s a lot of the difference in screenplay page numbers these days.

      Would someone please tell me what is going on with the comment space? I can’t get it to work right.


    • I teach a TV course and I try and keep the one hour scripts around 45 pages give or take. A few years ago most shows were a teaser and four acts. Now many are five often six acts.

      And as far as script length…I write until I finish my story. I would never turn in a 120 page script anymore but I don’t freak out if it’s 117. (FYI – THE HELP was 141. ) I think we freak ourselves out over things we shouldn’t until we’re all about the rules and forget what we are: story tellers for a visual medium.


    • It seems to get known in Hollywood one has to abide by the rules – strict page count, clear and concise description – but once in, one can bend those rules?


    • Yeah, but for those living in Whitefish, MT trying to sell their first screenplay, and without access to the $$$$$$$ to buy the rights to The Help, you need to stick pretty closely to whatever “they” want–at least in format.


    • Thanks. 40-45 has been my target for hour long material with the 4 act (+ teaser and epilogue) structure.


    • Something is really wrong with my comment rectangle. I’m signing off now.


    • Shooting scripts in one hour are fr/ 49-60 pages depending on the show. Spec pilots, however should come in between 53-60 pages… but I’ve seen some come in fatter at 65-70 BUT never thinner and never at 45 pages for a one hour spec pilot. That would be a mistake. If you stay around 55 pages, you’re gold.

      Single camera comedy shooting scripts come in between 23-25 pages. A spec single camera comedy pilot comes in at 23-30 pages.

      A multi-camera comedy formatted script could be from 45-50 pages. I don’t know what the shooting script count is for 3 camera format, since I haven’t written in this format nor have studied it closely. If you can find some 2-1/2 Men shooting scripts, you’ll get your answer on page count for multi-cam format shooting script page count.


    • is there a way that you could have a general help topic open in addition to the daily questions? I sometimes have an issue I am working on that is unrelated to yourpot for the day and it would be great to get feedback from this awesome group!


    • thank you too. I’ve had the opportunity to read some Office specs and Modern Family specs where the page counts were in the 45 ballpark. Is the sitcom length dependent partly on the dialogue and format as opposed to a feature spec format?


    • I think a lot of t has to do with the pacing of the show.Wow, none of the Modern Family shooting scripts I read were 45 ever. They all came in at 23-25. I haven’t read any Office eps, so I can’t speak to this show. The sample I did find here — http://www.simplyscripts.com/scripts/TheOfficeSample-theMasseuse.pdf — is 30 pages. So I don’t know where this 45 page count is coming from. This 2-1/2 Men script in 3 cam format is 36 pages — http://www.simplyscripts.com/scripts/FinishedTwoandaHalfMen.pdf

    • If you go to Simply Scripts, you will see pilot samples like — http://www.zen134237.zen.co.uk/Terra_Nova_1x01_-_Pilot.pdf Note none of them are 45 pages, ever.


    • ‎^^^^^For one hour pilots^^^^^^^


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