Too Long? What to Cut? - Complications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog




Baby Name Voyager graphs baby name frequency by decade.

Social Security Administration: Most popular names by year.

Name Trends: Uniquely popular names by year.

Reverse Dictionary Search: "What's that word that means....?"

Facebook Name Trees Match first names with last names.


Archives

April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Q. I have solid pilot. It has good dialogue, fleshed out characters, fun action, solid structure, etc etc... basically people like it. Quite a bit actually. Unfortunately, it's now hitting 75 pages. You've talked about how page count varies wildly based on writer's voice and style. I think that's a large part of this, but it's still one of the longest pilot I have ever seen.

Maybe there's a scene or two that can be cut without major loss, but that's only going to give back, max, three pages. Cutting into most scenes, I fear, will compromise how the script presents to the reader and how the dialogue flows, which is working really well right now.

Do you have any advice? Perhaps I can leave it as is? (Fingers crossed) Or is there a particular strategy that you use when a script runs over and serious cutting needs to take place.
75 is way, way, way long, unless you are Amy Sherman-Palladino. In other words if your characters all talk like they're in HIS GIRL FRIDAY you're okay, but they probably don't. Even Aaron Sorkin's scripts are in the 60's, and they do go on.

An hour drama script should be about 52 pages.

Here are a few ideas how to fix it:

a. Start later. Could some of the story be backstory? Are you spending time setting things up that we could probably figure out without the setup? Could your Act One out be your Teaser out?
b. End earlier. You're writing a series. You want to end on a great cliffhanger so people will stick around for ep. 2. What if you end the episode sooner?
c. Cut a subplot. Odds are you have multiple subplots. Kill one. Save it for a later episode.
d. Jump the plot forward faster. Assume the audience is intelligent and sophisticated. Say you have a cop finding the murder weapon. Then they examine it. Then they argue about what it means. Cut the examination. We'll learn everything we need to know about the weapon from the argument.
e. Are your scenes too long? My scenes run one to one and a half pages. I might have a few two page scenes. A three page scene is a looong scene on TV. Can you get into your scenes later and get out of them sooner?
f. Kill your darlings. There are a couple of scenes that are in there because you just love them so. You know you don't strictly need them for the episode, but they're the reason you wrote the show. Cut them.

The key question is: these people who are liking it, are they professionals? There is such a thing as a salable 75 page script. But it's a fast-moving, talky episode. If professional screenwriters are liking it, you might be able to get away with it. But if your friends who are liking it aren't pros, then you may have trouble with your pilot.

Labels: ,

4 Comments:

What about the Split? Couldn't you cut half way and let it stand on it's own, with the foreknowledge that there's 'more where that came from'? I mean, I think the first KillBill did pretty good on it's own. With a series isn't this sort of expected?

By Blogger Lokier, at 8:57 PM  

I wrote a spec pilot earlier this year, knowing full well that it would have to be a two-hour pilot given all that must happen in it to set up the story, and knowing that none of that setup could be used for backstory. In the end is was a whopping 135 pages. Needless to say, I tried to cut it down, hoping I could maybe make 100 pages. I have ended up shelving the project until I am older and wiser, because it was just too much to handle. I do hope to see that pilot made eventually, but I know that cannot happen until I have firmly become planted in Hollywood and have the capacity to be a showrunner.

By Blogger Nicholas, at 10:43 PM  

Specifically on letter "a", about backstory--that's the real challenge of pilot writing, 'laying the pipe' as they say. It's hard hard hard sometimes to 'explain' by showing, which is to say situationally, rather than having to spell things out explicitly. You might want to look at how economically you've done that. Sometimes you've got to explain the 'world of the show', but often not as much as you think you do.
The 'cutting' advice in 'e' is also almost always available, at least in my limited experience. One of the most consistent pieces of advice I've read or hear is 'get in late and out early'. There again, in a pilot, one feels the need to set the world in the reader's head very specifically. I try my best to suppress as much of that urge as possible.
I'm with Alex about 'killing your babies', except I keep them in a little orphanage (a notebook file) in the hope that I may find a loving home for them in a future script. It makes it easier to cut them if you don't think you've lost them forever.
Also, how much direction are you giving, like camera angles and actor's instructions? I try and use those very, very sparingly.

By Blogger OutOfContext, at 1:14 PM  

Maybe you could think about extending it into the length of a TV movie.

I've just written a spec pilot, and it came to a standard 55 pages. If you outline your spec well enough, you really shouldn't be going 5 pages over, let alone 20. Spend more time on the outline than the spec itself, in my view.

By Blogger Will, at 5:01 PM  

Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.



This page is powered by Blogger.