Screenwriting : Do you respect the number 120 page limit? by Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Do you respect the number 120 page limit?

Whether you like it or not, most production company readers frown on receiving scripts that exceed a two-hour or 120 page limit. I had several older scripts that exceeded that limit by anywhere from 4 to 15 pages and I found a way to trim them all to 120 pages or less. I did it by identifying the least critical scenes in the stories. All the scenes I trimmed were perfectly good scenes but I wanted to get to 120 or below. My most recent features have been averaging between 96 to 105 pages but I do go over that occasionally. 

Do you respect the 120 limit or does that inhibit or insult your creativity? Do you think overly long feature screenplays demonstrate a lack of experience?  

Karen E Ross

We just heard from Lindsay Schwartz in the Writer's Room, she worked on The Quiet Place, which had a 60-page script. Food for thought.

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Karen:

I haven't seen the film but I understand it's very good.

Doug Nelson

Are you asking me as a writer or a reader? When teaching screenwriting - I suggest that students aim for 100 pages; knowing full well that it's only a suggestion. As a reader, I look for a complete story, regardless of 'page count'. But I'm aware that each page costs production dollars so there are economic limitations that come into play. As a writer, I pay close attention to my story's rhythm and flow with an eye toward capturing the audience's interest/attention. Having said that; I'v read scripts that bore me to tears within a few pages (most of 'em). Very few hold my attention all the way to page 100 but there are a few stunning exceptions. Page count has no real impact on my creativity.

Stefano Pavone

Only if I can make sufficient cuts and compromises. If my script requires the length of a Michael Mann or Sergio Leone epic to tell its story, then so be it.

Jim Boston

Phillip, I try my level best to reach "FADE OUT" by Page 119...but I'll be happy with a story of mine if I can tell it in, at the most, 129 pages (not including the title page).

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Jim: I've written as many as 135 pages. After a few rewrites, I have trimmed this western screenplay down to 119 pages.

Diego Cantu

If you can keep your script under 110 pages, that is awesome. Horror, try to keep it at 90.

Johann Evrard

I recommend this episode of SCRIPTNOTES on the topic : https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/scriptnotes-podcast/e/68095185. They basically say that there's almost no basis to the 1 page/1 minute myth...

Dan Guardino

Mine usually end up between 95 and 105. Once in a great while I'll reach near 110 but that pretty rare.

Kiril Maksimoski

If I write story aimed to UK/US market, I (try to) respect page count, if writing domestically I don't.

Dan MaxXx

Lawrence Kasdan said in many interviews that American (Hollywood) screenplays have shrunk from 120 to 110 pgs. I checked Star Wars:TFW and the script is exactly 110 pgs.

Also, Action-Godfather screenwriter Steven E De Souza told me studio action scripts are between 101 to 105 pages.

Sure, there are unicorn scripts & screenwriter-autuers who write to whatever page length but two screenwriters with a combined 100+ years experience are telling us from inside.

Phil Clarke

I have never come across a client's 120+ page script I couldn't easily bring down to a more respectful and presentable 90-110. More often than not, a 120+ page script tends to be down to verbose scene description or poor scene layout.

Michael Elsey

I fall between 90-110.

Claude Gagne

The longer the stories are, the higher it'll cost to make. I haven't found a niche for my lying so I keep them on the shorter side. A lot of action in the script, I'll exceed 90 pages. Time is money.

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

Phil Clarke:

I agree. It boils down to evaluating every scene in terms of what it contributes to the story. The ones that add the least amount of value become more obvious with time. Those are the ones I trim.

Richard P. Alvarez

Come in late, leave early is a big part of keeping the length short and the pacing tight. Obviously eliminate any 'fat' by cutting extraneous scenes. Make each scene count. They should advance the plot AND illuminate character if at all possible. Search and destroy any 'orphan' words or phrases that run onto a new line.

Create space on the page - to give the reader breathing room.

And never ever fuck with the margins.

I aim for 100 pages - give or take 3... depending on genre. Sure, I'll run long on a first draft - but then comes the cutting. See above.

Nick Assunto - Stage32 Script Services

However many pages you need to tell the story. I do recommend people are always going through to see what they can cut, because usually there's something. When I see a 140+ page script I groan, because it is typically the mark of an amateur, and I have yet to read one that has been as good as it should be at that length. When I see something in the 90-100 range, it's usually going to be more polished. Depends on the writer. Like if Stephen King wrote a script I'd probably tell him to trim the action down, we don't need one page describing a chair props will handle the chair.

Craig D Griffiths

Depending on your style. Sorkin says due to his scripts being so dialogue heavy he comes in around 130 pages. I am 100 page person. I don’t aim for that. I just normally end up there or less.

Phil Parker

If an overburdened script reader/producer/manager's first emotion is 'relief' that your script is less than 110-115 pages, then you've put them in the right frame of mind from the get-go. :)

Paul Grammatico

That's a tough one. I have read scripts that are around 90-100 pages. When it gets to 110 or over, unless it is really engaging, I start to fade.

Craig D Griffiths

Phil Parker Brian Helgeland said he handed Clint Eastwood a 90 page script. Clint look at how thin it was and said “I can already tell this is the best script I’ve ever read”.

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