questionmarkMy question deals with the amount of screen time the main character(s) receives in a script. In other words, how much screen time can be devoted to the main character(s)? Is there a unspecified limit as to how much face time a main character gets on screen?

The reason I ask is because I feel as if the viewer needs breaks from constantly seeing the main character(s) on screen.

For instance, the script that I am currently writing has two main characters that receive relatively the same amount of screen time. The two characters lead separate lives and do not meet until about page 60-65, of a planned 110 page script, where their lives intertwine.

So, is it feasible that these two characters are seen in every scene of the movie (be it that they share or do not share the scene together)? Or is it better to develop minor characters that serve as breaks in the film which would serve the purpose of moving the story forward as well as give the viewer a break from seeing the two main characters on screen?

— Nick
Long Island, New York

Your hero can be on-screen 100% of the time, as Ryan Reynolds is in Buried. There’s no rule that you need scenes centered around other characters.

In fact, many high-concept comedies focus almost exclusively on their heroes. Consider Groundhog Day or Liar, Liar. There’s hardly a scene in which the hero isn’t front-and-center.

But it’s true that in most stories, you’re going to want something else to cut away to: a villain, a supporting character, an asteroid headed this way. Cutting to something is a crucial part of pacing, and you generally gain more energy by cutting to something new than following a single character through a series of actions.

Part of planning your story is deciding which characters are allowed to take the wheel and drive scenes. In your case, it sounds like you’re ping-ponging between your two main characters, which is a well-accepted structure. As long as the story feels like it’s moving forward, your audience probably won’t object to the distribution of screen time.