How long is a movie script? While there is a degree of variety to screenplay page counts, there is far less flexibility when it comes to the length of a screenplay than one might expect. Unlike prose writing such as a novel, there is very little wiggle room for a script’s page count. In this post, we will explain why page counts are so important in screenplays, let you know the average page count to shoot for, and we will take a look at exceptions to the rule.
How Long is a Movie Script
Why page count matters
The page count of a script is crucial because page count directly correlates to the length of the finished film. The general rule of thumb is that one page of a screenplay equates to one minute of screentime. Before scripts are shot, they are typically timed, a process by which the script is read aloud at the pace the screenplay is intended to unfold while tracking scenes on a stopwatch. The following video explains how to time a video script, but the process is similar to how a movie script is timed as well.
This page-to-screen equation is not always 100% accurate as things like the ratio of action to dialogue can throw off the timing of a script but, for all intents and purposes, the ‘1 page = 1 minute’ rule is the standard script-measuring metric. Be sure you know how to properly format a screenplay before writing, otherwise, your script timing will not be accurate.
How Many Minutes is a Page of Script
Average Page Count
The average page count for a movie script is between 90 and 120 pages. The reason for this is because the average movie’s runtime is between an hour-and-a-half and two hours and, as we already covered, one page = one minute of screentime.
When it comes time to submit a feature-length screenplay to festivals worth the entry fee or industry gatekeepers, a writer can often get away with as few as 80 pages but should never go beyond 120 pages in a spec script. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
Screenplay Page Size
Exceptions to the rule
Of course, there are plenty of movies that are longer than two hours. A film that is longer than two hours is typically considered ‘long’, and when producers or other industry gatekeepers are looking at spec scripts, ‘long’ is not an adjective they are seeking.
Quentin Tarantino’s best movies frequently cross the two-hour threshold and his scripts are much longer than average to match. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplays tend to be extremely long because of his emphasis on dialogue. Sorkin’s first draft of The American President was more than triple the average script length at 385 pages in total. He was able to spin these excess pages into what would become The West Wing television series.
The reason why writers like Tarantino and Sorkin are able to break the established page-count rules is because they are established figures in the film industry. It is highly advised that an unknown writer stay below the 120-page threshold with their writing. Page count rules cease applying as strictly once you are a proven commodity in the film industry.
Formatting a Screenplay
Now that you have a solid understanding of screenplay lengths, it is the perfect time to master the essentials of screenplay formatting. Knowing how many pages a movie script should be is meaningless without a working knowledge of the ins and outs of script formatting. Learn how to format all of the elements of a screenplay and about StudioBinder’s browser-based screenwriting software, up next.