by David Barbeschi | June 6th, 2020
Sometimes, when I’m commissioned to rewrite a script, I come across strange things that are just irritating. Like page-long sex scenes (why?) or overuse of exclamation marks and ellipses (so it reads as if every sentence is either yelled or trails off).
In this particular case, the writer/director had taken a crack at the script, and the result was just atrocious, and according to the producer, it somehow dragged on despite being under 120 pages, like, reading through it was just long. So the producer hired me to step in and anonymously rewrite the script. Awesome!
Three pages in and I notice something: the previous draft of the script, though overly descriptive and with way too much dialogue, somehow managed to keep itself at two pages. Meh, must be an issue on my end. Let’s just keep writing.
Many pages later, this keeps happening. The previous draft’s Act 1 ends on page 26, mine ends on page 30. How is this possible? And then it hits me.
I open a new Final Draft document and copy-paste the previous draft into it. The original draft was 117 pages. But when I pasted it into a document with default spacing, it was revealed that the original draft was 136 pages long.
That’s 10 pages less than the fucking Avengers: Endgame script.
So why did the producer (and anybody else who read the original script) feel like this script dragged on and was too long? It’s because it was too long. The director had been told to shorten the script, and instead of trimming out one of the 10 storylines (no joke) his feature script had, the director thought he could be clever and reduce the space between the script’s paragraphs, thus reducing the page count.
Here are few snaps that illustrates spacing of the script.
I talked about this with friends/colleagues of mine, and this happens frequently. So let’s establish this now.
Do not alter the spacing of your script.
It might seem like an easy way out at first, but trust me, in the long term, you end up jeopardizing a bunch of stuff.
The common take on a script’s pacing is that 1 page = 1 minute. Budgets are estimated around this mentality. “Hmm, it’s a 120-minute action film, with the right actors it should cost this much”.
Now suppose you mess with the spacing. Suppose you decide to use that fun ‘Leading’ option Final Draft offers, or let’s suppose you decide to write everything in A4 then convert that to US Letter afterward, or any other trick to get away with keeping your novel of a script intact.
You are providing false data.
I keep using this sentence, but a script is a blueprint which a production team will then use to make their film. If the blueprint is providing inaccurate information, then the production pretty much becomes stagnant.
Because a timetable will be established, the poor producer and their minions will be going off of the idea that “oh, it’s just a page, we can finish it in a day” and they won’t realize that it’s three pages compressed into one. So they will end up going over-schedule, over-time, and consequentially over-budget. The studio or the investors might even pull the plug.
Because some screenwriters refused to do their job and cut out needless scenes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | David Barbeschi
David Barbeschi is an Italian-Armenian filmmaker with a solid track record of producing and writing award-winning fiction projects.