Is there a logistical or practical reason why one should write a feature length screenplay (about 100 pages) rather than shorter screenplays (about 10-40 pages?) I'm considering this from the point of view of building experience, as well as from any advantage that either might bring.

2 Answers 2


Chicken or Egg

There is no 'correct' narrative length for stories.

However there are video markets that have ideal running times for shows based on many factors (technical, audience expectation, ticket sales), this is where the length comes from. The idea of 'feature-length' and 'short' screenplays comes from Hollywood distribution established over a century ago.

In the celluloid era, films were paced around film reels as units of quantity: newsies were 1-reel long, comedic shorts were often 2-reels (the actual running time varied based on thickness of the celluloid, image size of each frame, etc). Some prestige films lasted longer than 3 hours and toured with a roadshow.

With broadcast television. run times became very rigid to match their scheduled time slots, to allow for commercial breaks, and to remain competitive with other networks. In the brief history of YouTube, the ideal format length has changed arbitrarily on the whims of the content they promote through their algorithm.

Fitting the same story into long and a short formats can teach you certain skills, specifically how to fit a story to different formats, learning when to beef-up, consolidate, or remove characters, plot elements, and scenes.

It's important to remember that long after the original broadcast, TV shows and 2nd-run movies are cut shorter – any extra screenplay content is discarded after the film has been released. Meanwhile on DVD, films are re-cut to be longer, with extra content and deleted scenes added in – none of this is for the benefit of the story, this is 100% marketing and the constraints of time/data according to the distribution format.

Writing scripts is not creative writing

If you want a job writing for broadcast television, the standard use to be to write an episode of a popular sitcom – your screenplay would never be produced but it shows that you can write for existing characters and understand the production format – key skills you will need in the writing room.

I've heard since Netflix, the industry pitch has become to write your own crazy show – the crazier the better – proving you have the skill to pitch crazy ideas to Netflix, which will also never be produced…. I can't imagine this trend continuing forever since Netflix has financial swings and is currently criticized for scattershot productions which are often terrible and just as quickly cancelled.

Professional screenwriters will follow the money. It's extremely unlikely that the executive who 'greenlights' a show has ever read the screenplay, or has heard anything more than an 'elevator pitch' idea which sounds marketable. In that environment, shows are pitched as ideas and the scripts come later, written to fit the show.

Unless you have your own production company, you will not have any say over what content from your screenplay ends up on film. Scripts go through many iterations, and many writers on the way through production. A typical screenwriter will work on another author's screenplay to get that script production-ready.

Write what you want

If you are writing for your own pleasure there are no hard rules.

You will learn by applying your ideas to established formats with 'Save the Cat' pacing – the story won't necessarily be 'better' but casual audiences will recognize the familiar story beats that conform to their expectations which should make the screenplay more commercially accepted (at least by the standard set by blockbuster movies in the 1980s).

Many writers benefit from format constraints, it's a balance of their open-ended creative ideas and narrow established conventions of the market.

If you want a job writing screenplays there are MANY rules which are constantly drifting based on how the industry works at any given time. Having the skillset to adapt your ideas to different formats will be useful no matter what format is currently trendy.


I believe if you are going to sell something or compete in a contest, the most likely thing you can sell (these days) is the feature length script; 90 to 110 pages. With exceptions: The point is to create about 100 minutes of screen time, but one minute of action is described in fewer words than one minute of dialogue. In "The Quiet Place", there is exactly ONE line of dialogue; the rest is action, so the screenplay is just 67 pages long.

So if you have little dialogue, you can do shorter, if you have more, maybe longer, but not over 120, and every page after 110 decreases the odds of it getting past readers.

Comedy also tends to run shorter; shoot for 90 pages.

In general tend to the shorter side of the range instead of longer: Within reasonable limits, a director can stretch scene length, but it is harder to compress scene length without leaving something out or the action or dialogue feeling rushed or incomplete.

Going to 40 or 50 pages is in the "hour long" time slot, an episode of an ad-supported TV series (with commercials, there are 44 minutes of screen time. Without commercials, like HBO or Netflix, you need 60 minutes of screen time).

Here is a description of TV formatting:

https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/how-long-is-a-tv-show-script/ Typically we follow the one-minute-per-page average, that is a range a director can stretch or condense to meet time limitations. But again, stretching is easier than condensing.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.