Tips on Presentation

Content adapted from an article by Alex Epstein

Screen­play Length

Standard screen­play format clocks in at a page a minute. So, a spec screen­play should be from 105 to 115 page. Anything over that gives them one more excuse to reject it. A 130 page script just looks and feels fat.

Comedy scripts may also be shorter. Comedy movies are rarely over 100 minutes long. If you have a comedy script that’s over 110 pages, cut out the least funny 10 pages. Tele­vi­sion scripts for direct-to-television movies, miniseries and one-hour drama shows are essen­tially the same. Sitcom scripts are quite different. A 22 minute sitcom script may be 50 pages long. Action is off on the right, dialogue to the left. Don’t try to fake it.

The Windows version of the Courier 12 font is about 10% bigger than the Mac version. It adds 10 pages to a script. There is some flex­ib­ility in the stand­ards — no one counts how many char­ac­ters there are in a line of dialogue unless it is obvi­ously over­length. But don’t use too many format­ting tricks to shorten an over­length script. It becomes obvious really fast when the writer, instead of thinking how to tell his story more effi­ciently, has changed font size or margins. Finish your script, and go back and start cutting.

How to Bind and Send Your Script

Just like unorthodox screen­play format, unorthodox screen­play binding gets you off on the wrong foot.  If your script looks substan­tially different from all the scripts coming from the studios and agen­cies, then people know you’re an amateur and will treat your screen­play dismissively.

Screen­plays should be on 3-hole 20 lb. paper, bound with two (not three) 1 1/4″ folding brass brads (ideally Acco #5 brads) with brass washers in back, and card stock covers. Why two brads and not three? Because you only need two to bind a script, and when you’re making thou­sands of script copies a week, as the studios and agen­cies do, the cost and time of putting in an unne­ces­sary third brad adds up.

Covers should be card stock. Please do flatten the sharp points of the brads so they won’t catch. Bashing the brads with a hammer will accom­plish this nicely if you have brass washers; other­wise, push the ends of the brads inwards as you fold them, jamming the two legs of the brad together.

Please never spiral-bind your script or use those funny folding metal strips with sliders to bind the script. Brads are the only thing used. Have you ever tried to feed a spiral bound script into a copier? Ever tried to re-bind a spiral bound script you took apart so you could copy it?

If you are sending a script from another continent, try to get 8 1/2 x 11″ paper if you can. People are a little suspi­cious of scripts copied onto A4 paper. But if you can’t conveni­ently get standard Amer­ican paper, it’s not a big deal.

Xeroxing your title onto your cover is not done.

Don’t put a copy­right date on the script. It makes the script seem old hat when people read it a year later.

Sending your script

Priority mail is 2 or 3-day delivery.  Special Fourth Class Rate (Printed Matter) is a little less than 6 first class stamps.  It’ll get there in a week or two. It will gener­ally take 4–12 weeks for a company to read your script, so you might want to save the postage. I know you’re excited to send it, but they have a stack of scripts that are more urgent than yours because they came from people with whom they have rela­tion­ships; so you may want to save a buck.

You do not need to use bubble-wrap envel­opes. You do not need to protect your script with file folders. Just a plain 9 1/2″ x 12 1/2 envelope (or a Post Office Priority Mail envelope) will protect it just fine.

Getting it back

Some people like to include a stamped, self-addressed envelope (SAE) with their script. Your script is prob­ably smudged and coffee-stained, and you’re getting it back four months later when you have rewritten it, or ought to rewrite it the moment you get your script sent back with comments. What’s the point? Let the producer recycle the paper.

Some companies will, as a cour­tesy, send your script back to you at their own expense. Most don’t, even when you are also an industry professional.

(Adapted from Alex Epstein © 1999;

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