A Letter From Our CEO – Now, Community Matters More Than Ever (COVID – 19)

Read Here

Screenwriting : Character Ages by Becca-Chris M

Becca-Chris M

Character Ages

Curious if you all put in ages for characters when the age isn't really pertinent to that character.

Richard Koman

Yes, for all speaking parts.

Richard Koman

They still need to cast the actors.

Richard Toscan

Yes, it's important for a sense of casting. But sometimes a brief description tells us everything we need to know.

D Marcus

I never put a characters age in my scripts.

Tarus Rhinehart

I'm still researching that one myself but from what I have gathered from the articles and resources I have been using, it appears that it's better to put an age range (i.e. mid 20s) vs. an actual number (25). The main reasoning for that is for casting roles appropriately as the Richards pointed out.

Becca-Chris M

Thanks for the input, guys.

William Martell

I don't put in ages unless it's important to the story (or the character is a child).

D Marcus

Putting in an age range isn't "better" nor is it inferior. If there might be confusion then an age or age range is better. For example, a college student who is in their 50's or early teens. But it is not needed if the college student is not unusual - every producer, casting director and actor will understand that the character attending their first year of college will be in their 20's. It's a personal choice, isn't it?

Richard Koman

Putting in a specific age is actually better because it gives you as the writer more specificity about this character. Being specific is always better than vagueness

D Marcus

Not being argumentative, Richard but what if my choice as the writer is to not be specific about a characters age? What if it doesn't matter to me, the character I created or my story if the the character is 28, 31, 35 or 38? If it doesn't matter to the story or the character is it being too vague for me to choose to leave out the specific age?

Richard Koman

There's a difference in the speech, the life experience, the marital status, etc. between a 28 year old and a 38 year old. How can you make that character come alive for yourself f you can't define any of those traits in your own mind?

James Chalker

Unless the age of the character is integral to the story, the context of the story should be enough to indicate the general age of the characters.

William Martell

Because a character is not a bunch of statistics, they are a person. And a person who can be cast with whatever age the list of movie stars are. This isn't a novel, we do not know the age of our leads until they are cast... and don't want to limit casting by saying a character is 28 if that age has nada to do with the story. The physical appearance of the character is (usually) unimportant, only the character of the character matters.

D Marcus

@Richard. All those things; the speech, the life experience, the marital status of my characters all come out in the way I write the character NOT in a number attached to the character introduction. I make the character come alive in the way they speak and act. And when the actor is cast changes will be made in the script. I don't ever want anyone from the reader to the producer and director to the CD to the actor to define a character by the specific age. Unless (of course) age is essential to the character.

Becca-Chris M

James and William - those were basically my thoughts. If the character wasn't a main character, their age shouldn't really have to be stated.

Richard Koman

But you don't know that person if you don't even know how old they are

Karen Keslen

I avoid put ages on my characters, I like imagine that anyone can do them. But is very useful when the age really matters in the story.

Shawn Speake

For the current spec market: "Usually, it's important to include the character's age." -The Screenwriter's Bible.

Becca-Chris M

Thanks, Shawn.

Rick Reynolds

Always. Even if it doesn't matter. Spanky Spanks, 20-40, shop owner, known as the nicest guy in town... Even if the note is only there for me, I find it to be important.

Richard Koman

You guys really need to accept that this is the rule. State the age when character is introduced. All this resistence to this rule is really a fear of commitment to getting specific, to really seeing the character.

Shawn Speake

Any writer on this post without, or, not following The Screenwriter's Bible for the current spec market is doing themselves a disservice. If you're 'really' trying to sell your script in the current market there are rules. Just like any other game. You should know them.

Shawn Speake

So you don't follow any formatting rules at all for the current spec market? You write anything, anyway you want, Lisa?

Shawn Speake

Never mind, Lisa. I just looked at Breach of Confidence. Typo on the first line. The very first master scene heading. Keep doing you.

Shawn Speake

That's exactly what I'm talking about. I'm gone.

Dave McCrea

This is a judgement call I reckon. Whatever helps the reader picture the character is good, and usually an age range helps - "20s" or "40ish". Like William said a specific age is too limiting. If you leave the age out completely, that is good for a lead role in particular as then you can send a script to Ryan Gosling and Robert Downey Jr. Some parts are well-described so you can picture them anyway without stating their age - or they're a minor one-scene role where you can leave it up to casting to figure out how old he is. A "GRUFF BARTENDER" could be 25 or 65. Certainly making that one-scene bartender exactly 43 is waaay too specific. But I hate scripts where there there is no character info at all - it's MIKE and BOB and WILL and you can't picture who is who and have to turn back the pages to figure out who is who.

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

You guys are hilarious. Arguing about ages, lol. How can the people with the smallest power in Hollywood have the biggest egos. (please don't take that too literally and nit pick a we so love to do) Lol. That being said, I'm the same. Put the dang age. I mean at the end of the day I don't want to figure out how old your character is through the amazing clues you've sprinkled throughout your first scene. Jeez, just think about it this way. Which one would hurt you? If you put an age on a character, no one thinks of it. If you don't, some people will wonder why. Writers are initially looked at as inexperienced until proven otherwise. Don't let not mentioning an age be the petty reason a bitter reader chooses to toss your script away. Give your characters ages.

Shawn Speake

This is about 'knowing' what is expected of us as writers when we get professional coverage. We cannot fly by the seat of our pants and make it in this game. I've gotten over 20 pro coverages in the past nine years and there are rules, or guidelines, we have to follow to fit in and get in. And if you can't write a master scene heading properly, I assure you, you won't get a recommend. It speaks volumes about your attention to detail in your craft. The writers who are debating this obviously aren't getting paid professional coverage or they would know these things. We can't just do whatever we want and get in. That dream won't come true. Learn the way in. Work the dream into reality.

Becca-Chris M

Agreed, Dave. There needs to be description of characters. Seems like describing them is a skill in and of itself to master!

David Kurtz

Becca, you raise a legit question, and J-P should consider who has the ego problem. Seems to me if age is totally irrelevant, I leave it out -- but most times at least an a general age range seems relevant.

D Marcus

An interesting take, Shawn. I come a different side of this. I have covered more then 500 scripts. What gets a consider or recommend from me isn't a master scene heading. It's more simple than that - and in a way more complex. If I feel my boss will think the screenplay will attract top talent then I "consider" or "recommend". If that script doesn't have character descriptions or age ranges or follow some "rules" it doesn't change my recommendation.

G. Leo Maselli

As of yesterday 45% of moviegoers are 18 to 39 years of age. Producers wants a script that speaks to that demographic. If I've got a guy age 60, he will usually end up to be a very savvy and experienced 30-something. Yes - you must indicate the age of the featured characters.

Richard Koman

I think of it like this. Your goal is to shift the experience of the reader from reading a script to seeing (in her mind) a movie. anything that is unexpected, that is technically wrong (according to some arbitrary rule), takes the reader out of the imaginative haze that your great story put her into and snaps on the critic mind. 'What, no ages? What else is wrong, let me look carefully for typos, etc!' Does she say, oh that's ok, it's such a great story? Or, 'interesting story but not a professional'? Why would you want to awaken that dragon over two digits?

Shawn Speake

Hey D! My example is random. I'm just saying it's a sign the writer hasn't done nearly enough homework. This isn't Facebook. This is business. Misinformation here can mislead the younger writers. Screenwriting is hard work. We must learn not only the art of screenwriting, but also the art of storytelling, and the current market specifications. If our only way into the game is through coverage and a recommend, and mine is. I gotta be strong with advanced techniques all across the board. I know. I've gotten coverage without knowing advanced techniques. And it sucked. Been there -- done that. To post to writers that they can succeed without doing these things, and telling them it's okay to fly by the seats of their pants, is doing them a disservice. And nobody wants to help a young buck succeed more than me. Ask my team/network… please, I insist! I know if you succeed, you'll say, let me tell you about my boy, Shawn.

Becca-Chris M

G. Leo- where did you find that stat? I'd be interested in keeping up on stats like that.

Shawn Speake

This is a great thread. Check it out! I'm getting professional coverage Jan. 5. on KINGSTOWN. Yes! Finally! It's posted on my profile now and it's been run through double-digit coverages. If you like, I'll share my results with you. I'll even send you a copy of my coverage. Together we can all learn from my experience with KINGSTOWN. Happy Holidays, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a successful 2015!

David Kurtz

Becca, stats were discussed on teleconference by Screenwriter University yesterday.

D Marcus

Shawn, I'm sorry that you feel that offering my opinion based on my experience is doing screenwriters a disservice.

Shawn Speake

I did not say that, D. Don't write a post saying, I said something I didn't. I was greeting you, I wasn't calling you out. If you're paranoid, that's on you.

Shawn Speake

Checked out your profile, D. You've been here over a year, and you don't have any log lines or scripts posted. Why are you debating what it takes, when you're not doing any work yourself?

Shawn Speake

This isn't Facebook. This is business.

D Marcus

Shawn, I'm not debating. I'm entering into a discussion and offering my opinion. I appreciate and respect your opinion. Mine is a little different coming from a different place in the business. Why do you assume I am not doing any work for myself? I don't have any log lines or scripts posted here because I rarely write on spec. And I don't feel comfortable posting the few spec scripts I have on line. As a working writer with an agent it is unwise for me to allow scripts and log lines to be so public. I apologize for upsetting you.

Doug Nelson

Becca, the simple answer is yes; including a character’s age amounts to two key strokes, three at the most. It gives the reader a quick clue as to who your character is and it helpful to the Casting Agent to send the right actors to the auditions. But remember, the age specified is the character’s age, not the actor’s. So I may specify a 21 year old character but be auditioning actors from 18 to 25. My casting agent and I communicate. She understands the difference between the character’s age and what the actor can perform.

Becca-Chris M

Thanks for the input, Dan and Doug.

JC Young

Producers would like at least a range so they can imagine casting choices or ideal cast choices. It also helps readers imagine the character better. I tend to leave ethnicity out unless it's critical though to leave more possibilities

D Marcus

You say the writer will need create a breakdown of all roles. That seems like the CD's job. So far I've never met a CD who expects the writer to create a breakdown of all roles.

JC Young

Breakdowns are more in the realm of the producer and upm

D Marcus

JC, that's the way I've always done it - and seen it done. The writer writes the script sometimes putting in exact age, sometimes including an age range and sometimes not including an age at all. When the script is purchased (and rewritten) and put into production the producer and/or UPM will send their casting requirements (breakdowns) to the CD. The writer doesn't (in my experience) do the character breakdowns for the CD.

Michael Elder

It all depends on the quality of the scotch.

Doug Nelson

You guys are getting me confused by your terminology. As the Writer, I always provide character bios to the Director & Casting Director. When I’m the Director, I do the shot list. When I’m the Producer, I do the budget breakdown and block out a production schedule. And I don’t understand how all this relates to Writers putting character ages in the script. Maybe, I’m just a little slow.

D Marcus

Doug, when you're the director you do the shot list. When you're the producer, you do the budget breakdown and block out a production schedule. When you're the writer you write the script. And then the producer does the budget breakdown and blocks out a production schedule and the director does the shot list. It's not standard for the writer to provide character bios to the director and casting director. It quite unusual. It doesn't directly relate to writers putting character ages in the script. What happens on a message board is the topic ebbs and flows as people reply and ad their perspective. You're not a little slow, you just haven't been reading along.

Doug Nelson

You all are telling me something I already know - but I still put the character's age in the script. I kinda wish that we would stay on topic, or start a new topic that we can explore more fully or at least tell me something I don't know.

JC Young

John Totten, I've experienced being asked for such character descriptions on a single form for a producer. And in one case the producer asked for my thoughts on who I saw in certain roles. But in the end its their vision and who they get attached

D Marcus

John, I have a lot of experience in casting offices. You offered your $.02 and I was curious about it. We have different experiences. I learned from you. That's a good thing, isn't it? I never put ages in my script. I find it interesting that you can't imagine a writer doing things differently then you do. We are all quite different. I give the producer or director some idea of what I'm thinking based on how I write the characters. I let them think of ages and casting. Strange, isn't it? Not all writers approach their scripts in the same way.

Other topics in Screenwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In