Random Writing Resource

January 28, 2008 at 7:56 am | Posted in format, Jessica, movies, writing | Leave a comment

A while back I posted an entry on making every word count. The entry more or less referred to screenwriting and it offered more commentary than it did information on the many pieces that go into a screenplay. But since I posted that entry on screenwriting we’ve had a number of people stumble across our blog in search of the average screenplay word count. As I am only in the kindergarten stages of my screenwriting learning curve I don’t feel all that qualified to offer advice or guidance on the subject. What I can do is share some information passed on by an industry insider, Skip Press. In his book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Screenwriting, Skip has this to say:

    The general length of a Hollywood screenplay is 114 pages. 

    Properly formatted screenplays in Courier 12 (font) generally work out to a minute a page, in screen time.

    Properly formatted manuscript pages generally work out to a certain number of words per page, double-spaced (which is generally 250 words per page).

Screenplays, as opposed to novel submissions, are less to do about word count and more to do about length. As Skip mentions in his book, one page equals about one minute of screen time.

To help you organize your screenplay according to industry standards, there is invaluable software to guide you through the proper format. The two most talked about software packages are Movie Magic and Final Draft. Both are equally popular and both get the job done. (These links take you to most recent versions of the software. Should you choose to make the purchase, be sure to verify your operating system for the right compatibility.)

Your screenplay needs to have a wider left-hand margin — most use 1.5 inches. Screenplays are printed on three-hole-punch, 8.5 X 11 inch paper, and bound together by brads made of solid brass. Put the brads in only the top and bottom holes, and see that the prongs on the back side lie flat.

As Skip says, the idea is to conform to industry standards so that the reader(s) can focus on the content, and he goes into greater detail on margins (different for page 1 than for the following pages), and other formatting issues in the book.

As with writing novels, the best thing you can do for your screenwriting education is to read, read, read, and, in this case, watch, watch, watch. Best to have a movie’s screenplay in front of you while screening the film itself. There are a few online sources where you can find scripts – some free and some retail. A few of those sources are:

Drew’s Script-o-rama (free)

ScriptFLY (purchase)

Simply Scripts (free)

As I mentioned, I have just about everything to learn about writing a screenplay, but these are a few things I think a newbie might find helpful – and just the tip of the iceberg for where the form differs from a novel’s. If any of you more experienced screenwriters have some more resources or advice to add, please share!

And whether you’re writing a novel or a screenplay, keep up the good work! The writers’ strike proves how much we need writers and, better yet, good story-tellers. And as stated in this Funny or Die video, without writers there’s just reality . . .

-Jessica

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