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When 90 isn't 90

As we all know, the benchmark length for a feature film screenplay is 90 something pages. I tend to write nearer to 90 pages because I know that anyone reading the script professionally will prefer it to be shorter. I know I do. When I receive a screenplay for coverage the first thing I do is look at the script’s page count. If the film or streaming script is over 100 pages I know I’m in for the long haul. Of course that’s fine if the screenplay is brilliant; but few are, alas.

To be kind to readers then (and I know you will be), and to exercise your ability to be concise in screenplay form, aim to write a 90-page script. If your script is a developmental draft, which it is likely to be if you’re in the early stages of your screenwriting career or trying to break into the film business, 90 pages works well. When your screenplay is developed, further down the road, it may get longer as certain aspects are evolved; but not necessarily: some of the best screenplays are on the short side (unless you are Terrence Mallick or Francis Ford Coppola of course).

90 pages then. Cool. But here’s the thing. UK A4 format is more spacious that US Letter size. So a, say, 91-page screenplay page set up in Final Draft to UK A4 becomes 98 pages long in US Letter page set up in Final Draft. Of course the script itself remains the same length; but the document gets longer.

So when we say ‘my screenplay is a cool 91 pages long’ do we mean 91 pages long in UK A4 page set up, or US Letter page set up? There’s a difference from a busy script reader’s point of view.

There’s more. Open your 91-page Final Draft screenplay in, say, Scrivener screenwriting software, and it becomes 100 pages long. Other screenwriting software programmes will no doubt render slightly different page lengths of the same script set up in either UK A4 or US Letter.

What to do?

If you’re an American screenwriter writing for the US film market, set your screenplay page up to US Letter and write scripts that are 90 something pages long. If you’re British screenwriter writing for the UK film business, set your pages up to UK A4 in any screenwriting software and write 90-something pages long feature film or streaming scripts. There’s really nothing else you can do. Just bear in mind that your script will be of different lengths in different screenwriting software programmes.

Happy screenwriting.


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