Screenplay Format: How Long Should Your Script Be?

Screenwriting is a unique style of writing. I hope you’re enjoying my blog and gaining solid insight into how to write a screenplay.

Although the one minute of screen time per page rule still holds true, there is some wiggle room. However, a page count is a measure of production costs.

Screenwriters always wonder about the page count of their screenplays.  Page count is important because your potential buyer reads your movie script as a blueprint; a map for the costs of making the movie, teleplay, webisode or stage play.

How many pages should your movie script have?

Screenplays are getting shorter just like the attention spans of readers. The standard 120 page film script has been trimmed to a compact 110 page script with more white space than ever. Comedy scripts are clocking in at around 90-95 pages.

One of the signs of a novice is that they tend to cheat on page counts in a variety of ways. Don’t do it. Just don’t. Never change margins, fonts or font size to keep your screenplay page count within an anticipated range.

Everyone will notice and your movie script will be tossed in the trash can.

What about the one screen minute per screenplay page rule?

The page length for feature film scripts still roughly equals one screen minute per page.  There are exceptions, of course.  If you have a big block comedy scene that is dialogue heavy but goes on for five pages, it may equate to three minutes of screen time.

A five page courtroom room scene may extend into six or seven minutes if you take all the pauses, contemplations, silences and reactions into account.

I’ve noticed dramas tend to run longer than comedies for this very reason.

High concept, fantasy and  sci-fi films sometimes break the one screen minute per screenplay page because the writer must define and set up the world of the story. This really depends on whether the parameters of the story are explained more easily on the screen or on the page. It all depends on the level of detail required.

Mood scenes often distort the relationship between screenplay page count and screen time. One page may sometimes equate to two or three minutes of screen time.

What about TV Scripts?

The length of TV scripts is dependent on its platform. Cable and streaming TV scripts often look like movie scripts. A 30 minute TV show often clocks in at around 28-32 pages and a 60 minute show around 58-62 pages. That said, I’ve seen TV scripts of AMC’s Breaking Bad as low as 45 pages and episodes of Homeland as high as 65 pages.

Broadcast networks shows often have higher page counts. This is often due to TV script format. Many 30 minute sitcom scripts are in double-spaced format and run as high as 35 pages plus. Paradoxically, this may run at 26 minutes of screen time due the fast pacing of sitcoms. There tends to be less variance in page counts for 60 minute tv dramas.

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