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Screenplay pages and amount of film


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#1 Lucita Jones

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 10:44 AM

Hi,

I am having problems calculating how much film I will use to shoot a screenplay for a shortfilm. I will be working with short ends of different lengths and I am calculating which short end I will use for which shot. It is difficult for me to calculate the length of the shot based on the length of its written description on the screenplay, despite that I have been told this is the convention.

I know that one page of a screenplay should equal one minute of edited film. I just don't think this is a reliable way to calculate the amount of film I will use to shoot the film, even if I add the amount of film used for threading, slating and double or triple takes. For instance, a 10-page screenplay should, according to this convention, equal 10 minutes of film plus another 10 minutes (2:1 shooting ratio), plus, let's say, 25% for threading and slating. I find it too risky to judge film length by the length of the screenplay and by dividing each page in thirds.

What if I have to translate a screenplay written in Spanish into English? (Spanish is lengthier a language than is English, so that means that one scene in the Spanish version will take up more space in a page than the same scene will in the English version. Hence, text length cannot be a reliable parameter for calculating film length.....I know this is the convention producer's use, but how can it ever be reliable????

How would you, as DP's working with a limited amount of short ends, determine the amount of film assigned to each shot based on the length of each shot on the screenplay? WOuld it be better to ask the director to visualize the shot and time its length? Are directors usually willing to do this?

I'd appreciate your advice on this weird dilemma I am faced with.....

Thanks a lot,
LJ
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 11:30 AM

Well, first of all, 2:1 is not realistic. Try 5:1 minimum, or 7:1 or 10:1.

I usually calculate 10:1 -- it's easier to do the math. So every script page = 1 minute of final film = 10 minutes of film stock, or roughly one 1000' roll of 35mm or one 400' roll of 16mm per page of script.

Some scenes need less but some scenes need more (like covering a long dialogue scene between several people.)
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#3 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 12:54 PM

Don't forget Kodak's handy-dandy on-line "Film Calculator" to help calculate run times for any film format:

http://www.kodak.com...d=0.1.4.3&lc=en
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#4 Lucita Jones

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 02:33 PM

[quote name='David Mullen' date='Jun 10 2005, 08:30 AM']
Well, first of all, 2:1 is not realistic. Try 5:1 minimum, or 7:1 or 10:1.


Thanks David, but this is an extremely low budget film and we only have enough stock to shoot 2:1. So, 2:1 is as realistic as we can be!

I know its very very tight, that's why I have to make as precise an estimate as is possible....


I hope all works well. There must be someone out there who was been in my situation before..Any ideas/suggestions!?

Thanks
Lucita Jones
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#5 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 02:52 PM

For 2:1 to be achieveable you need to eliminate coverage. This will effect editing, of course.
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#6 Luke Prendergast

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 04:16 PM

The obvious way to find the length of each scene would be to act it through. Being a short, this would take approximately no time.
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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 05:10 PM

Hi,

If you can only afford 2:1, you cannot afford to shoot film. You just won't get the production in the can.

Phil
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 12:41 AM

2:1 is simply not realistic. You not only would only be able to do one take of everything, you couldn't even overlap coverage. You'd practically have to shoot exactly the final shot in the movie, once, almost editing in-camera. If someone spoke two sentences, and half of that was going to be played on someone's reaction, you couldn't even shoot the person saying the whole sentences, just the pieces that would end up on camera in the final cut.

2:1 is not realistic, not even possible, unless this is some weird exercise to cut in camera, in sequence, as close to 1:1 as possible, so that any flubs, slates, roll-outs, etc. would get you up to 2:1.

You need to cut your script down so that you have enough money to shoot at least a 5:1 ratio.

And the lowest ratio I've ever managed in nearly thirty features is 7:1 but I've heard of some people doing 5:1. In film school we had a 3:1 ratio short film -- one 3-minute roll of film cut down to a 1-minute short. That wasn't easy either but there was little dialogue to cover luckily.
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#9 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 05:01 AM

Forget shooting film with a 2:1 ratio. Maybe you have to do a complete runthrough in dvcam and time it. Still, what happens if there is a bad focus pull, flubbed line by an actor, boom mike comes into a shot, etc.?
You definitely need to re-think this.
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#10 Mark Allen

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Posted 12 June 2005 - 12:50 AM

The director of the movie Primer shot a near 2:1 ration by shooting only 1 take and never covering anything from multiple angles - in fact, in many of the shots you can see him mouth "cut" (pointed out humorously on the commentary).

And note that he also comments - if there was one thing he wished he'd have done differently - he'd have shot more film.

Wasn't worth the headache in the end.
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#11 Lucita Jones

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Posted 14 June 2005 - 01:19 PM

Thank you everyone for your opinions and suggestions.
We decided to switch to 16mm and buy more film to be on the safer side. I still believe in 2:1 ratios, but I will try it with a screenplay that has been written specifically for such a limitation. For now, I'll store my 35mm short ends until I find an affordable camera and shoot something short and experimental. (I want to use an old Bell & Howell camera, for instance)

Thanks again
.;)
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#12 DavidSloan

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Posted 15 June 2005 - 12:03 AM

The whole 1 page per minute thing is only if you're working in the absolute most conventional sense-master+2 over the shoulders. If you work differently, you can't even bother with that.
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 June 2005 - 12:34 AM

The whole 1 page per minute thing is only if you're working in the absolute most conventional sense-master+2 over the shoulders.  If you work differently, you can't even bother with that.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Actually, you're thinking of shooting ratios based on standard coverage. But even with hardly any coverage, a 2:1 ratio is near impossible. For standard coverage of dialogue, 5:1 to 10:1 is more realistic but it really depends on the number of people you have to cover in a scene.

The "one page per final minute of screen time" rule does not have anything to do with shooting ratio or coverage, merely how much screen time the action & dialogue take up.

The rule tends to be more accurate in long stretches of dialogue. Obviously action can be more misleading if you have the classic description: "And the war began." But screenwriters should cleverly attempt to stretch or compress descriptions so that they fall into the page per minute rule if possible (usually by employing lots of paragraph breaks) so that it is easier to budget the movie based on running time.

It's important that the script be somewhat accurate because it's hard to budget otherwise. For example, I shot a record (for me) 200,000' of 35mm stock on "Akeelah and the Bee" but later heard that the final 20-page spelling bee climax ran 40 minutes in the first cut, so it's no wonder our shooting ratio seemed so high at the time (20:1). But you have to remember that for every word the kid spells on stage, there are reaction shots from several family members in the audience, plus reactions of several people in several locations watching on TV, so the amount of footage burned just by 1/8th of a page of dialogue was incredible. It's very hard to write that level of simultaneous action and dialogue and have it time out at a page per minute, yet every budget and scheduling decision is based on that assumption.
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