16. Understanding page count
In today’s blog (part two of last week’s Story Tip Tuesday about episode length), I will try to answer a common question, and that is, 'How many pages should my script be?' As I mentioned last time, the first thing you need to know is the running time of your episode. The good thing is, the rest is simple math! If you’re writing a live-action script, the easiest way to determine page count is: one page equals one minute of screen time. That means if you’re writing a 22-minute episode, your script should be approximately 22 pages. If you’re writing a 26-minute episode, your script would be roughly 26 pages, and so on. Keep in mind that this is only a guideline, but when it comes to a live-action script where a director will be hired to decide on much of the action, it’s a pretty good rule of thumb. My live-action scripts tend to be a few pages longer, mostly because I tend to write a bit more action and also want the pace to be a bit faster.
Now if you’re writing an animated script, the page count is different and it’s important for you to understand why. Even though any good script should hook us through the action and take us on the journey of what happens, there is a fundamental difference when writing for animation.
Animated characters cannot hold our attention for long, neither can they express the emotional subtleties of a human actor in a live-action film. There is no director actually directing animated characters to act. Therefore, when writing for animation, you need to direct the action of the scene, describe the emotional journey, paint the pictures and make us hear the sounds. You need to choreograph a battle and clearly explain the special effects. And, since most animated shows are for kids, you have to make sure there is lots of comedy and lots of action to keep the story moving.
Since more of your page will be taken up with these descriptions, with characters' dialogue usually said while the action is happening, you’ll need more page space. And that’s why an animated script should be approximately 1 ½ pages per episode minute.