Screenwriting : Does The 1-3 page scene length rule apply to "Continous Scenes" ? by David Sullivan

David Sullivan

Does The 1-3 page scene length rule apply to "Continous Scenes" ?

From what I understand, a good general rule of thumb is to keep most  scenes at around 1-3 pages.

But what if you have 3 scenes that are 2 pages each, but part of the same continuous action sequence?

For example, let's say the characters are in a grocery store. 

In the first scene they are in the lunch buffet area.

In the second, they move to the checkout line. 

In the third, they are outside the grocery store in the parking lot. 

So although there are three master scene headings here, it feels like one giant scene. Any thoughts on how the "1-2" page scene length advice applies to this situation? 

Nick Assunto - Stage32 Script Services

I don't know where you heard that rule, but I don't like it. Though it certainly does apply in action just from good writing, as a lot of scenes don't need to be very long in certain scripts, that's such a shame to every great dramatic script where the scenes tend to go on a little longer, or even huge action setpieces. So I don't think you should corner yourself by the rule. A scene should be as long as it needs to be.

Eric Christopherson

Yeah, what Nick said. Get into the scene as late as possible and get out as early as possible and focus on making it all as gripping as possible and you won't have to worry about how long it is IMO.

David Sullivan

Thanks for the advice Nick! I read it here :

http://johnaugust.com/2003/how-long-is-a-scene

And in Dave Trottier's book "The Screenwriter's Bible". It seems like it's not an iron clad rule, but It got me thinking - as I have quite a few scenes that hover above 3 pages. I don't know if it makes a difference, but the script in question is a comedy.

Pierre Langenegger

First of all it's not a rule, you can do what you like. If it works for your story, do it, if not, change it. Look at single location scripts such as Buried.

Ted Westby

Once again, Nick hit the hammer on the nail. It's a shame to see people falling into the pitfalls of "rules" when it comes to the imagination of storytelling. And Eric's advice is spot on. Write from the gut and understand how that position will play as it applies to an audience. That eems the only rule I'd be concerned with. Write on, David!

David Sullivan

Thanks for everyone's input. Truly appreciated. Resolved to just finish a first draft before I start nit picking on scene length . Back to the grind!

Bill Albert

As long it the scene keeps moving it doesn't matter. Keep your characters changing and the interest up and it won't matter how long it is.

Phil Clarke

David: exactly that. Just get that first draft down. Zero over-thinking. Your focus should be purely on having something you can rewrite.

Bill Costantini

It does feel like one giant scene to me, too....because they are all happening in the same time and around the same place. And when you cut away from that...like back to the house or to somewhere else...it will feel like a different scene. But they are all kinda associated with the same thing...the grocery store and the parking lot...so it does all feel like the same scene, and especially if it's mostly talking stuff, which could slow a story down quite a bit.

You probably need to ask yourself a few questions:

!. What is the purpose/intent/goal of each scene?

2. Does each action/dialogue in each scene advance my story?

I' go line by line to answer those questions, and those are just two of the 30+ questions that I ask myself for each line and each scene. Best of luck to you, David!

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Peter Roberts

Need to be careful about so called 'rues' which may, in the end, prove very binding. Of course, there are 'guides' and 'time proven methods' (though even those need to be handled with care) which may help but in the end Nick Assunto has it.

Dan Guardino

It doesn’t matter what it feels like or how many pages a scene is. What matters is when and where things take place. In your example you have two or three scenes. You could have just two and a sub-scene heading if the action at checkout takes place during the same time period. If the checkout counter takes place LATER, you would need a new master scene heading which means you would have three scenes.

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