I have a question regarding page count. I have a screenplay that I’ve completed, which is about 135 pages or so. I brought it down from 143, but I keep hearing about this magic number of 120 pages, and how that’s what Hollywood looks for. I know my story is tight; it’s now to a point where it’s sacrificing what I set out to do.
I’ve actually used the “tight” page layout option in Final Draft to get it down to 125 pages. My question is: Is this something that is easy to spot, or considered bad? Personally I can’t tell very easily that it’s formatted tighter?
And as an aside…any chance of getting my short film mentioned on the site? It’s called “this moment” and screened at Sundance this year, as part of Kevin Spacey’s triggerstreet online festival top ten.
I’ve plugged your film, so let’s get to your question.
Yes, everyone can tell when you use the “tight” setting on Final Draft. Yes, it’s cheating. While I know some people who use it, I personally recommend against it. In typographic terms, “tight” reduces the leading between lines, which makes your script fractionally more difficult to read. Anything that makes the reader more likely to give up rather than finish your script is a Bad Thing.
So don’t do it.
I’ve crossed the 120-page barrier on many occasions, and the world hasn’t come crashing down on my head. But 135 is really long. While you may think you’ve trimmed out all the fat, you haven’t. How can I be so sure, without having read your script?
- This is one of your first scripts, and first scripts are always fat.
- Please flip to page 73. If you had to cut this scene, would the entire movie fall apart? No. You’d write around it. So cut it and deal with the absence. Repeat as needed.
- Your short film is good, but it too has fat. If each of the setups were half as long, the film would be more effective.
In case you’re wondering, real working screenwriters do worry about page count and such. I was on a panel last week with Terry Rossio, where we both talked about going through the script page by page, killing off widows and orphans.