How 2 Develop Movie Screenplay Structure

Every story should have a begriming, a middle and an end, and movie scripts are no exception. However, screenplays have quite a precise structure which usually goes something like this:

The right format of a screenplay means that one page equals one minute of screen time on average. This means then that a 90 page screenplay makes a movie that is roughly one and a half hours long.

Movie scripts are split into a begriming and an end that are roughly the same length. The middle is roughly twice as long. So, a two hour movie has a 30 page beginning, a 60 page middle and a 30 page end. For a ninety page screenplay these are about 23, 44 and 23 pages respectively. 

This is not set in stone as the end of the begriming and the start of the middle may not be an exact point but an event that occurs over a few pages. But it is a guide I would strongly recommend you follow.

The reason for this is very simple. It's what we expect from movies. Have you ever watched a movie based on a book and thought you were being fed the book line by line? Have you ever walked out of a movie that just didn't get going? Or have you ever felt frustrated by a movie that seemed to end and then carried on for another twenty minutes? All of these are structure problems.

As ever, there are script writers and movie makers who can bend and even break the rules. My advice, however, is always to completely understand the rules and be able to work within their constraints before thinking about bending them.

We'll be adding loads more information here but we'll also be launching a screenwriting course in the next few months that will take you through the process in a series of lessons. Each one will also get you to put the lesson into practice and write part of your screenplay. By the end of the course, you end up with a complete first draft of your movie script.

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