Had a couple of Bang2writers ask me this week about script length, with their query basically being:
“Is it **REALLY** one page = one minute in spec scripts?”
Yes. It is.
… I get this question LOADS and this is usually because of one of two things:
1) The scribe in question has seen a produced TV script online with its own format – ie. Hollyoaks is often in the region of 50-55 pages, whereas the episodes themselves are approximately 23 minutes long.
2) The Bang2writer wants to write a dialogue-heavy “rapid fire” script, like The West Wing or Studio 60.
Dealing first with 1), it’s important to remember PRODUCED TV scripts are different to SPEC TV scripts. I began script reading yonks ago before there were that many TV Specs in circulation, so as far as I’m aware there are no *hard rules* saying you DEFINITELY CAN’T write “outside” of normal spec format standards – which is Courier 12 pt, one minute per page – BUT I would always advise doing so when writing TV specs. End of the day it just guards against any misunderstandings and effectively “reader proofs” your spec and makes sure it gets read, anywhere you send it. Gotta be good.
Looking to 2) then, this is where it gets more hazy. Some would argue Script Daddies like Aaron Sorkin can do what they like, whereas Speccers have more to prove – and there’s certainly weight in this theory IMHO. After all, if you send your thirty minute spec sitcom somewhere, there may be a good chance a reader looks to the fact it’s 50-odd pages long and sends it straight back unread, thinking you don’t know what you’re talking about cos “it’s one minute per page, BIATCH!”
As with all things scriptwriting-related, there’s always more than one way of looking at this issue. The Speccer in question may just well be the NEW Aaron Sorkin. Why not? *If* you get a sympathetic reader, you could be laughing all the way to the bank, Hollywood and worldwide fame, etc etc.
Again, there’s something else. Most scripts – even ones with “rapid fire” dialogue – have WAY TOO MUCH DIALOGUE that’s often turgid or goes off at a tangent or basically just feels extraneous. If you DO want to be like your big mate Sorkin, you need to make sure you’re as great as him. This doesn’t just mean writing LOADS OF DIALOGUE. It means writing dialogue that is story AND character specific; dialogue that is insightful, amusing, with pith and pathos.
So basically you have to write the BEST EVER ****ING DIALOGUE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. And repeat that, over and over and over and over throughout the script so the reader cannot put it down (if indeed they *did* pick it up in the first place!). Pretty hard going. But people have done it, there’s no reason you can’t too. Unless your dialogue isn’t that great, in which case I’d recommend “less is more” and all that.
Format people – remember it’s NOT ABOUT THE “RULES”. It’s about not getting BUSTED.
ON THIS BLOG BEFORE ABOUT SCRIPT LENGTH: