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Screenwriting FAQs

Below are a few questions on screenwriting I’m asked on a regular basis. If you have a question you’d like answered that is not on this list, please shoot me an email.

Q: How do you think of ideas for movies?

A: Good question. It’s pretty much impossible to know where our ideas come from. The most important thing is to recognize when you get them. When you get an idea (for pretty much anything), write it down! You can decide later if that’s a movie, book, play, etc. Just write it down.

[Also see the longer version of this answer: How do you think of ideas for Movies]

Q: How long should my screenplay be?

A: Between 90 and 120 pages – one page generally corresponds to one minute of movie time. Most assistants/readers/agents/managers/producers don’t have the patience to read anything from a new writer longer than 120. Also, most comedies should come in closer to 90 minutes. So if you’re writing a comedy, aim short.

Are there exceptions to this rule? Absolutely. If you’re an established writer with numerous credits, make it as long as you want. But if you are just starting out and you want your script read, keep it under 120 pages.

[Are you just staring out? If so, check out my post: Screenwriting Help for Beginning Screenwriters]

Q. Are you supposed to number the first page?

A: The answer is “no,” but, most screenwriting programs will format your screenplay so you won’t have to worry about stuff like that. When in doubt, get your hands on some screenplays and see how they do it. Drew’s Script-o-Rama has a few.

Q: Which screenwriting program would you recommend?

A: There is a debate over which is better, Final Draft or Movie Magic. Both programs are way too expensive, but will help you format your script. I’ve used both, but go with Final Draft for two reasons: 1. I’ve never had anyone say “send it over in Movie Magic Format,” but it’s common to say, “send it in Final Draft,” and 2. I’ve used Final Draft a lot more, so I am used to it. However, the latest versions of FD and MM can convert your script into a PDF, which everyone can open. Will this end the FD vs. MM debate? Only time will tell.

Q: What does a script reader do?

A: Along with assistants, readers are the people who will read your script first. Please see my post about this, subtly titled What Does a Script Reader Do?

Q: Do I need an agent or manager to sell my script?

A: No, but it helps. Producers will meet with you if you don’t have an agent, but do your homework so you know they’re legit, as well as what kind of movies they are looking for. And make sure your script will rock their socks.

Q: I’ve just written a script, how do I get an agent?

A: Woah woah woah. Slow down a second. First, how many times have you rewritten your script? If the answer is less than three, rewrite it. Then rewrite it again. Then have your friends read it and give you notes. Then rewrite it. Then send it to someone impartial (like Script Doctor Eric) and get their notes. Then rewrite it one last time.

Then come back and I’ll tell you how to get an agent.

[Again, you may want to read help for beginning screenwriters.]

Q: That sounds harsh, is it really that difficult to get an agent?

A: No, but when you asked how to get an agent I assumed you meant a “good” agent representing your best work. If you don’t want to put in the time and effort, you might get lucky and land an agent with a mediocre script. But then what? Your script probably won’t sell, and the agent will keep asking you for your next script. What will you write? Will it be good?

I hope it will. Let me know if you need any help.