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Thread: Pages --> Minutes

  1. #1
    Not your mother's dragon RedDragoness's Avatar
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    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?

    Thanks!

    -RD
    ~Speculative fiction from dark, dark places~

  2. #2
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    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.
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    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."

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    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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    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
    almost undistractable mccardey's Avatar
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    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
    practical experience, FTW zmethos's Avatar
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    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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    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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    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
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    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.

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

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW
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    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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    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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    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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