How to write a short film - One minute per page
Hello and welcome to my blog, where I offer simple and practical advice on how to write and make an interesting, engaging and hopefully successful short film.
Today I will be taking a look at the rule of thumb that one page of a screenplay is equal to one minute of screen time.
You will find that while learning about how to write a screenplay, as well as when doing most other things in life, there are certain "rules". Some that need to be stuck to vigilantly, such as using the 12 point Courier in your scripts and others like the recommendation that your film should have only one protagonist, which can be bent and even broken.
While more of a guide than a rule, the assumption that one page of script is equal to one minute of screen time, can be very helpful if a little inaccurate at times. It can be very helpful because it enables you to calculate a good estimate for how long your film is going to be. Knowing the expected runtime of your short film can be helpful for several reasons, including deciding the length of your shoot and the size of your budget. While it can also help you to make sure that your film isn't too long (I will be discussing film length in an upcoming post).
However, although helpful, as mentioned above, it is important to recognise that it can be inaccurate and to remember that it is only a rough guide. For example, one page of dialogue is not going to convert into the same amount of screen time as one page of action. Where one page of fast spoken dialogue could last for 10-20 seconds, only a couple of lines of action could easily last for 2-3 minutes on screen. However, although some scripts might be dialogue heavy and others action heavy, it usually balances out across the length of a script (especially longer scripts) and so it is a good rule of thumb.
So use it as a rough guide and then remember that it is also important to consider the style and pace of your films. I know that my films, due to their fairly slow pace, are likely to be slightly longer in minutes than the script is in pages. For example, the shooting script for my short film Scrable was 11 pages long, while the completed film is 12 minutes 45 seconds (without credits). So it is a little longer but also not a bad guesstimate.
Therefore, the next time you complete a script and you want to work out roughly how long it is going to be on screen, remember the "rule" that says that one page of script equals one minute of screen time.
I hope that you find this post helpful. Let me know what you think in the comments below and be sure to check out my YouTube videos. In my next blog I will be taking a look at the different scriptwriting software available.
And remember, if you're interested in 1:2:1 mentoring sessions, where I go into all of the topics I cover here, only in even greater detail, send me a message through my contact page.