Do you print out your script pages as you go along, or do you wait until you have a completed draft before printing out the whole thing (assuming you’re using a word processor and not a typewriter.) There’s nothing more motivating to me than to see pages of script piling up, but then if I want to make a change to what I’ve written already there’s a potential for waste and I feel bad enough that we’re still using trees for paper instead of something more plentiful and efficient like cotton or hemp.
Saint Paul, MN
In the early days of ink-jet printers, there was a lot more incentive to economize: printing an entire script could take half an hour, and cost a few bucks’ worth of ink. Now, with fast-and-cheap laser printers, the temptation is to print a lot more. Fight it. The business of making movies already wastes a lot of paper — everything from call sheets, to budgets, to rainbow-colored script revisions. As a single screenwriter, you can at least make sure you’re not adding to the problem.
I tend to write first drafts longhand, scene by scene, and print out pages as they get typed up. Call it paranoid, but I like to have at least one hard copy in case my hard drive commits hara-kiri. So, for a normal first draft, that means about 240 pages — 120 hand-written, and 120 typed.
The real waste comes during countless drafts of the rewriting process. Here are some suggestions to keep it somewhat reasonable:
Only print what you need.
Before you hit Print, ask yourself if you really need the whole script, or whether you simply need a few pages. Often, your corrections are contained to just a few pages, and it’s easy to print only the range you need.
If you’re using Mac OS X, use the pull-down menu in the Print dialog box to select ‘Layout’. Set it for two pages, with a hairline border. (Confused? Here’s a screenshot.) You’ll end up with two pages side-by-side, and it’s perfectly readable. Your 120-page script is now sixty pages, and can be held together with a binder clip. (Never hand in a script printed this way; keep it for your own use.)
Use recycled paper.
HP makes a good paper that’s 30% post-consumer. Unfortunately, recycled paper rarely comes three-holed, but if you’re printing the two-page layout, that doesn’t matter.
Reuse the back sides.
I avoid printing scripts on the back sides of scripts — I get confused which pages are new. But script pages are perfectly good scratch paper for everything else you need to print.
If you’re giving somebody your script to read, consider emailing them a .pdf rather than printing it out. These days, almost anyone can handle a .pdf file.
Even if you only implement a few of these suggestions, you can cut your paper use by 75%. Until they start making hemp copier paper, you’re doing your part to keep the trees in the forest where they belong.
(Originally posted January 20, 2005.)