Screenwriting : The All Important First Ten Pages. by Phillip 'Le Docteur de Script' Hardy

Phillip 'Le Docteur de Script' Hardy

The All Important First Ten Pages.

Lee Jessup is a script consultant that advertises a lot! This morning I found this post Called Experts Weigh In In: The First Ten.

Nope, they're not referring to the first ten yards of a drive in a football game. Lee's article is addressing the first ten pages of a screenplay. I believe in opening big and often deliver the inciting incident in the first 5 to 10 pages. This is the way I've always written. Yet, I often read scripts where the first ten are a snooze fest. This can also be a good indicator that the whole script may be a cure for insomnia. I subscribe to the philosophy of lean writing. To me, this means if it doesn't add value, get rid of it. It's kind of like hang gliding. You want the wind of the story to sweep you along. Not weigh you down like an anvil. 

If you're interested, you can read this short article.

Note: This post is not an endorsement for Lee Jessup. I know nothing about her work. 

Experts Weigh In: The First 10 Pages -
Experts Weigh In: The First 10 Pages -
We hear it often: As a writer, you have to grab them in the first 5, 7, 10 pages. But how do you really stand out in the first 10 pages of your screenplay or teleplay? The industry's top experts weigh in.
Linda Hullinger

Great article. Thanks for posting it!

Beth Fox Heisinger

Ah, another article by a consultant highlighting consultants. ;) Aren't ALL pages of a screenplay important? Every. Single. Page. I've read some scripts that fell apart after those well-written-all-important-first-ten. So not only do you need to incite interest, capture and entertain your reader within those first pages, you gotta keep it up throughout the script's entirety—right? Lol! This worry is what keeps me up at night. ;)))

Beth Fox Heisinger

Oh, and just to add some further information: Lee Jessup is a career coach and consultant. She's done some webinars here at S32; she pops up on the PAGE newsletter from time to time, etc. I would guess that she is or has been a judge for some contests, perhaps? She also has a book, a guide for those wishing to build a career in screenwriting titled, Getting It Write, An Insider's Guide to a Screenwriting Career. ;)

Dawn Gonchar

Valid point Beth - you don't want to lose your reader at page 11, 61, or any page :)

Dan MaxXx

Sigh. Lots of experts on forums but very few are employed by a studio or prod company. When will consultants form a union ?

Phillip 'Le Docteur de Script' Hardy


Lee said she was an optioned screenwriter in her bio, but I don't see anything about ever making a movie. I've had several options and have three open right now. I'd be a lot happier getting a movie made.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Phillip, I personally do not know Ms. Jessup. My understanding is that she is from the post-production, production, business planning and development side of things and is now in the career-coaching business to help those who wish to build a career in screenwriting—strategic planning, etc. So more behind the scenes, on the executive side. She grew up going to her father's movie sets in Isreal, then came to the U.S.... Again, just sharing information. ;)

Phillip 'Le Docteur de Script' Hardy


Good info share.

Dan Guardino

If your screenplay doesn’t sell a producer or studio exec within the first five or ten pages the odds are it won't sell.

Owen Mowatt

I don’t subscribe to a singular way of making the first ten pages stand out. It might be that the writer draws in the reader with lyrical writing or a specific tone or visuals… or it might be a shocking scene or set-piece, or a funny scene… it could be a scene with snappy dialogue or none at all. I’ve seen great scripts begin by hitting the ground running and others slowly lure you in. A story needs to unfold the way it needs to… so to say “make sure you grab them in the first few pages with an edgy, shocking moment” might do that particular story a disservice.”

Pretty much this.

Also, if I ever feel the need to use a script consultant, it'll be one that has never used the word, great, when describing any aspect of scriptwriting; It's such a lazy, tired adjective.

Clare Keogh

Hello, I'm a consultant and I read for Warner Bros and The British Film Council. I have to agree with Beth's insights.

Bill Costantini

While it should go without saying that every page and even every sentence and line of dialogue is important, there is an extra type-of importance to the opening of your story, and that's what makes those first ten pages so important in that regard.

No matter how great your story might be after the intro/set-up, if you haven't displayed certain elements in the first ten pages, it's probably Dead On Arrival if it reaches the hands of any entertainment decision-maker.

Stage32 has a webinar about the first ten pages (albeit for television). There are a lot of important elements that should be present in those first ten pages to maximize the effectiveness of your story, and your chance of selling it.

Phillip 'Le Docteur de Script' Hardy


Good insights.

John Iannucci

Gotta love the cottage industry inside the screenwriters part that preys on the screenwriter - consultants, coaches, reviews, script notes, etc. I’m new to this and its amazing. I’m sure there are a lot of good in the avenues I mentioned, but just the shear numbers tilt it otherwise.

Doug Nelson

You gotta grab the reader at page 1 and hold 'im tight all the way thru. If page 1 ain't no good, I ain't goin' to page 2. If you drop the ball at page 10 or wherever - there's no point to reading furrther.

Zlatan Mustafica

I like that football analogy. First ten pages are kind of like getting that first down. It gets you closer to the goal :) Especially if they´re good it makes for a good offensive posession.

Dan Guardino

For me the first few pages are all about set-up and setting the tone of the story. I open my scripts with a lot of questions for the audience, so they will want to hang around long enough to discover the answers. I don’t know if that is right or wrong because I never bothered to read how to books or really studied screenwriting like a lot of other screenwriters.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Personally speaking, as someone who reads a ton of scripts—just for my own discovery, education, study, curiosity, etc—when reading a spec script I pretty much decide if I wish to read any further after reading only the first half page or so—not the first 10. Hell, the first line. That's just me. But, honestly, I think it's often that quick for most. I find this constant compartmentalizing rhetoric just more rhetoric. Not saying there aren't good tips here and there, good information, things to consider, logic, know-how experience, etc, but in truth, any one thing can cause loss of interest.

Zlatan Mustafica

A.S Templeton - I agree, every part of the script matters and every scene is a play on the field and QB is the screenwriter himself/herself.

Matthew H Emma

I concur with Beth that the script in its entirety should be well written and engaging. That said, the earlier you capture the reader the better. I know from many creative works I've read (books, scripts, novelettes, etc), when there is an amazing beginning, in most instances, my interest about how it will end is piqued.

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