In the most basic terms, a screenplay is a 90-120 page document written in Courier 12pt font on 8 1/2″ x 11″ bright white three-hole punched paper. Wondering why Courier font is used? It’s a timing issue. One formatted script page in Courier font equals roughly one minute of screen time. That’s why the average page count of a screenplay should come in between 90 and 120 pages. Comedies tend to be on the shorter side (90 pages, or 1 ½ hours) while Dramas run longer (120 pages, or 2 hours).
A screenplay can be an original piece, or based on a true story or previously written piece, like a novel, stage play or newspaper article. At its heart, a screenplay is a blueprint for the film it will one day become. Professionals on the set including the producer, director, set designer and actors all translate the screenwriter’s vision using their individual talents. Since the creation of a film is ultimately a collaborative art, the screenwriter must be aware of each person’s role and as such, the script should reflect the writer’s knowledge.
For example, it’s crucial to remember that film is primarily a visual medium. As a screenwriter, you must show what’s happening in a story, rather than tell. A 2-page inner monologue may work well for a novel, but is the kiss of death in a script. The very nature of screenwriting is based on how to show a story on a screen, and pivotal moments can be conveyed through something as simple as a look on an actor’s face. Let’s take a look at what a screenplay’s structure looks like.