Screenwriting MythBusters Part Two

Does Size Matter? Yes and No.

Back in the olden days, when screenplays existed on paper, aspiring writers devoted an astonishing amount of time to discussing how many brads a script should have. It was fodder for heated Internet debate. What a waste! As if the number of brads would get your script read any sooner or taken any more or less seriously. For the record, as someone who sustained more than one brad injury toting around stacks of scripts: a) two and b) not the cheap ones.

Now that we’re not counting brads, there’s more focus than ever on page count. There’s no hard and fast rule here; don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. What counts is what makes you look like a professional. You’re in the zone at approximately 103 to 118. Approximately!

Remember, each page of script translates to a minute of screen time, so the running time of what’s in movie theatres is a guideline. One hundred and twenty pages is a 2-hour movie – plus credits. But those guys getting movies made can break a heck of a lot more rules than a new writer trying to break into the business.

Does page count count?

As a producer, if you’ve gotten so far as to have me request your script, I’m going to take a look no matter what. I think any industry professional would say the same. Whether it’s too long or too short, you’re still going to get read. Page count, however, is one of the ways you make a first impression as a writer.

If we receive a 133-page script, we may suspect there’s a focus problem or that the writer hasn’t edited and tightened their work. But honestly, if I’m reading 133 pages of a great script, I am not an unhappy camper!

If a screenplay is 83-pages, we might guess that the story and/or writing is thin and perhaps the writer hasn’t dug deep enough. It’s also possible that the script is too lean because there’s more in the writer’s head than is on the page.

If you turn in a 153-page script, you look like a green writer who is unaware of industry fundamentals. You absolutely cannot fool us with cheating the margins and make that 153-page behemoth pass as a svelte 112. We can instantly tell when formatting is off. Don’t fudge it.

Page count counts, but it is not what seals your fate.

Each word counts by leanly painting a rich picture. Each character counts by serving a significant function in the story and supporting the theme. Each scene counts by advancing plot and revealing character – preferably both. Each effective twist or intriguing reveal delights our story-loving brains. Each time conflict escalates you’re adding tension and heightening the stakes. Every time your story creates a visceral reaction in us, you’re drawing us in.

These are the things you should be “counting” before sending your script out.

Why? Because size DOESN’T matter when the writing is strong and the story is compelling.