Cheating the page count

Cheater! How dare you, sir? People are always asking me how to cheat their page count. Believe me I know a lot of different ways to do it. Stuff you haven’t even dreamed of. By the way your dreams are boring if you dream about cheating your screenplay’s page count. But the point I’m laboring to make is, I don’t. I never cheat my page count. Ever. And neither should you.

But, Fus, you say – suddenly getting personal – why not?

  1. We’ll notice.
  2. If we don’t notice now, we will later.
  3. You’re taking the time to hone your sneaky-sneaky skills, not your writing.

Be honest with yourself. Your 150 comedy spec script is not going to suddenly become great because you cheated it down to 120 pages. It’s like squeezing a fat chick into a dress two sizes too small. You can do it. But it ain’t pretty. You need to actually take the time to cut your script down. If you think I won’t notice that you changed the leading, or the margins settings ever so slightly, you’re wrong. I will. Many will. We stare at screenplays all day long.Cut pages.

Let’s be honest, no one wants to read your screenplay anyway. The last thing you want to do is make it harder on yourself, and the reader, by crowding the page with text. You’re smart enough to know it’s all about white space on the page.

Cut pages.

Let’s say you somehow sneak it by me. Congratulations. You win nothing. I take the script file into my Final Draft and apply the standard Screenplay template. Just to make sure everything is neat and proper. Uh-0h. Suddenly the page count jumps by 10 pages. Guess what you have to do now?

Cut pages.

One page of script should equal one minute of screen time which equals a certain about of money per shooting day for the studio. Time is money. Pages are time.

Take the time to trim your script down to an appropriate page count. Anything that helps the read is a good thing. You should always ask yourself why you need a scene, and if you the story would still make sense without it. My friends often give me their scripts as I’m ruthless in trimming. Or at least ruthless with their work. They say, “I need to lose 5 pages in the first act.” I machete the crap out of it. Then they send it back to their agent who then says, “I don’t know what you lost but I don’t miss it.”

Trust me. No one else will either. And your script will be that much better for it.

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2 Comments on “Cheating the page count

  1. Editing is so crucial! That’s a lesson that, as this entry illustrates, is as important for screenwriting as for book writing.

  2. And even if we readers don’t notice it we FEEL it when it takes us 20 minutes longer than normal to read your “100” page script.

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