On Writing : How long is that thing? by Phil Mitchell

How long is that thing?

I am writing a screenplay based on one of my books, but it's already 180 pages long and growing. I heard somewhere NOT to make scripts more than 120-140 pages. That can't be right. Can it?

Doug Nelson

It can be...and in fact, it is if you want your script read and given any serious consideration. Actually, I suggest you aim a for 100 - 110 page count. Nearer to 100 is best in today's market.

Phil Mitchell

Thanks Doug. It looks like i'll have to squeeze it down by half. Maybe I can bring back those hidden gems later? It feels a little like throwing the baby out with the bath water. It's not finished but I've posted the Log line it's called "Bad Ivory" The one I have finished is called "Who's Your Daddy? 1966" Thanks again for your advise.

Phil Mitchell

If the opening scene in "Inglorious Bastards" is seventeen pages long. How many pages are there in the whole script? I am constantly being told not to go over 110 pages.

Vasco Phillip de Sousa

Scripts are about 120 pages on average. Remember, if you're doing it correctly, it should be a page to a minute of screen time. So, 180 pages is a three hour movie. That worked for Titanic and Gladiator, but it's incredibly expensive to film something that long (editing becomes more complicated too.)

Also, think about your audience. Are they the type of people who'd watch an incredibly long film? (Abel Gance had his super long Napoleon epic. Have you seen that?)

Perhaps you need to cut it into more than one story. The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park/Lost World, and other books were cut into more than one film. Some are adapted as mini series (like Alex Haley's Roots.)

Or, perhaps you need to stop micromanaging your actors. You don't need to describe as much in a script, scripts aren't meant to be read in book form, they are meant to be performed. (Try reading some Shakespeare, it's meant for actors, not to compete against novels.)

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