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Thread: Pages --> Minutes

  1. #1
    Not your mother's dragon RedDragoness's Avatar
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    Mar 2016
    A galaxy far, far away

    Pages --> Minutes

    Hi all.

    I feel like a total imposter here because I usually write short stories and novels, but I have a few short film scripts I'm working on: stories that just seem like they'd be better told through a visual medium.

    My question is, what is the general pages:minutes of screen time ratio? Is it 1:1 - 1 page of script per minute of screen time?


    ~Speculative fiction from dark, dark places~

  2. #2
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    Nov 2008
    Brillig in the slithy toves...
    In general, but it depends on how much dialogue vs how much action you've got on the page.

  3. #3
    I agree with Roxxsmom.
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    California, U.S.A.
    It's more of an "average over time" thing. If you have a 90-page script, you could determine that you have a 90 minute movie, so one page would average one minute of screen time. But it's ridiculous to see this as an accurate measurement. You have no idea how long that car chase is going to be onscreen. Or that love scene. Or how long the actors are going to pause between their lines of dialogue. Or what additional scenes the director might insert. Or what scenes might be cut or changed.
    "Searching for truth is like looking for a needle in a haystack . . . and I can't find the haystack."


    All my stories are closed-captioned for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

  4. #4
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin jwdoom's Avatar
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    Oct 2015
    Portland, OR
    Yes. The rule of thumb, with standard formatting, is a page a minute. Action scenes run longer and talky scenes run quicker but those are known caveats.

  5. #5
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Feb 2010
    Quote Originally Posted by jwdoom View Post
    Yes. The rule of thumb, with standard formatting, is a page a minute. Action scenes run longer and talky scenes run quicker but those are known caveats.
    This was certainly true back in the Dark Ages when I was working in film.

  6. #6
    from words to worlds zmethos's Avatar
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    Apr 2016
    Rule of thumb: 1 page = 1 minute on screen. It's just an average, though. Depends on how "black" your script is (how much of it is given to description and action versus dialogue).

  7. #7
    I agree with those who express caution with this rubric. I feel it is up to me (as the writer) to determine the appropriate length of a written scene on a page.

    Even though typed lines of action-description are formatted differently than lines of dialog, I don't let the greater length taken up by an intricate action-scene force me to trim down pages of more-necessary dialog needed elsewhere.

    I just write the action more economically and more succinctly so that the 'quicker' dialog scenes still assume their rightful predominance in my story. My general ethic is that it's the dialog which is the real meat of this medium. Action can always be truncated.

    That being said, I do rely on shorthand guidelines like average-page-count and other rules-of-thumb to help me organize my script in the first place. It helps to lay out the document prior to inserting content; aids in knowing 'where you are' and 'what is still left to do' as you go along.

  8. #8
    Last of a Dying Breed popmuze's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    Nowhere, man
    I'm about 60 pages into a script. Every time I come up with ideas for a scene, the most I get out of it is two pages. What I'm writing on page 60 I thought would be near the end. Should I go back and fill in some earlier scenes, or am I closer to the middle than the end?

  9. #9
    An unknown known SJWangsness's Avatar
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    Aug 2009
    Generally, a script should end up in the 100-120 minute range. Figure a page = about one minute of screen time. So, yes, you're coming up short. Fundamentally, though, the story determines the script. Have you really told the story? Is it fully fleshed out? Two-minute scenes (i.e., two pages) aren't especially short. Watch movies closely and you'll notice a lot of scenes are even shorter. So, again -- go back to your story and ask yourself whether you've really told it, or only the barebones version of it. Let that guide you.

  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Pacific Northwest
    First a caveat: I'm a playwright not a screen writer but . . .

    The script is as long as it takes to tell the story. If it takes 60 pages to tell the story, that's it. In movies as well as plays there are opportunities for shorter works.

    If you pad your story to make it 100 pages by throwing a lot of additional obstacles in the way or adding more scenes, the story will drag. We've all seen movies (and plays) where obstacles keep popping up to the point the audience is exhausted.

    Go back and look at the story you are telling. What makes it a 60 page story? Character development? Complexity of the story? Number of main characters? If you want to write a full length movie, find a story that takes 100 pages to tell. In my writing, I write dozens of ten minute plays for each one act play and dozens of one act plays for every full length play. A story that takes 100 minutes to tell is hard to come up with. I've tried to stretch plays I've written but never successfully.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

    Last edited by Doug B; 03-28-2017 at 07:46 PM.

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW
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    Dec 2006
    Quote Originally Posted by popmuze View Post
    I'm about 60 pages into a script. Every time I come up with ideas for a scene, the most I get out of it is two pages. What I'm writing on page 60 I thought would be near the end. Should I go back and fill in some earlier scenes, or am I closer to the middle than the end?
    I agree with Doug that a story should be as long as it is and unnecessary padding will only weaken the final product. That said, you could look at some basic structural tools if you're struggling to write stories that hit the desired length.

    Yes, these are formulas and you should not follow a formula to write your story. However, understanding some of these structural templates CAN help when you're thinking about your own work and how to structure it.

    Put it simply. A 120 page script is three acts. Roughly 30-60-30. Act two is really two 30 page acts. You could take a look at some Save the Cat Beat sheets and other methods of story breakdown and see how they apply to movies that you love or scripts that you admire.

    Another way of looking at a feature length story is in terms of sequences. Typically each is fifteen minutes in length. So Act I is 2 sequences etc. Each sequence should have its own beginning, middle, end. It's own mini-story within the story, with character conflict and resolution that ideally escalates the tension and pushes forward the overall narrative.

    Another way of thinking about it is that when you take a look at various act breakdowns, if you separate them out into the key elements of each act you're left with roughly 45 KEY STORY BEATS. So that's 45 scenes with room for another 10-15 to flesh out the story.

    I'm sorry for not providing greater detail on these but I think if you explore organically you'll hopefully come to a better understanding and fight a methodology that's helpful to you.

    Note that I don't pre-structure my own writing but I've studied enough that I have some basic guidelines at the back of my mind when I'm writing a script.

    Currently, for example, I'm writing a 60 page TV pilot. I've broken this down into a 5 page teaser and roughly 4 12-13 page acts.

    Best of luck with your script!

    I understand that talking about structure in this numerical way is antithetical to most writers. And it was/is to me also. That said, go read anything by Dickens. Either the longer works or even the individual chapters in the Pickwick Papers. You'll see the same basic structural spine forming the frame for his stories.

  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW
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    Jan 2016
    I'm a playwright, and here is my experience:
    I was told the "page a minute" rule as well, and I do go by it. However, my mentor gently pulled me aside after looking over my eighty-page script and said, "Because of the way you use language, this play will run about two and a half hours." When actors cold read it to me, and they were doing it quickly, it was a little over that. The play was quite monologue-heavy at the time and over a quarter of it was stage directions. I took the (wonderful!) advice given and cut it down to fifty-three pages. I have no idea how long the current draft will run.

    So, what I am trying to say is if your script is monologue-heavy, the 1:1 ratio may not work. I looked over everyone else's responses, and (took a bunch of notes! Wow!) hope that my experience could be of use, as well.
    I'm cheering you and your script on!

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW vicky271's Avatar
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    Mar 2014
    I don't write screenplays. But in drama class in high school, i believe that was the formula. One page for every minute.
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  14. #14
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin JJKHawaiian's Avatar
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    Jun 2011
    Casa Grande, AZ
    Maybe check to see that you have given enough time for the "setup" of your story. Sometimes, the goal starts too early.
    Also, are you sufficiently preparing the audience with enough excitement, sadness or whatever for the climax?

    Do you have enough "action" in your play to sufficiently let the characters move around? Maybe let the dialog breath a little by adding strategic pauses (adding suspense or drama), or by cutting to another conversation, or an earlier dream or flashback. Also, If your story is too linear, it may get boring. Cutting to another scene is good, just don't get crazy, or you'll lose the audience, unless you write like Quentin T.

    Rewrite and rewrite then rewrite and rewrite again, lol. You need at least 75 pages to even be considered a full-length feature film.
    Get that logline ready, too.
    John Hamilton


  15. #15
    Makes useful distinctions Lady Ice's Avatar
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    Sep 2009
    Try reading out loud- that way you'll at least get an idea of how many minutes the dialogue adds up to.
    "We work in the dark--we do what we can--we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art." (Henry James)

    "Either you think--or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you." (Tender is The Night)


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