Thanks to stumbling across Screenwriting from Iowa… And Other Unlikely Places blog, I found his great post with an important tip from playwright/screenwriter David Mamet. Spoiler: he’s a fan of mini movies! (Even if he doesn’t know it.)
Today, the link takes you to a short blog post, which is good in this case. It gets right to the point with a useful screenwriting tip.
Whenever you learn this lesson, it’s a good one. Screenplays can’t lag. Mamet saw 7-minute skits paying off and applied the time limit to his scene writing. Of course, times change. What have you noticed in your every day world that shapes your inner attention? Maybe 7 minutes is too long in today’s social media climate. Are we being conditioned to want a faster payoff?
The best way to answer that question is to watch, time and make notes. Not just within your genre, but throughout your day. Time is constantly something we are unconsciously aware of. So, I challenge you! For one day, time how long it takes to do the things you think a majority of people have to do most days.
Here’s a little list to get you going:
- How long is a stoplight? In my town, they average 1 minute until it changes from red to green. Except for side streets, which can be up to 2 minutes. Feels like an eternity, and yes, I timed it recently because I needed to know. (Warning: don’t drive with me.)
- How long does Starbucks or McDonalds take to deliver your order? I use to be a Mystery Shopper, and I had to shop a few restaurants. Those shops focused on how long the food items took to arrive at the table. Guess timing things to please customers isn’t a new thing.
- How long is the line at a grocery store before they call in another cashier? This probably varies a lot due to available employees, but I’ve often wondered if they like having lines so we look at the products next to the checkout and make an impulse buy. (But that might just be my writer’s mind looking for intrigue.)
Now, for some of the above, you are just waiting in line. Bored. Other times, you are being ‘entertained’ or occupied in some manner, so that could affect the time before someone gets annoyed/restless. But, think about this… all these things make up our inner time clocks that tell us when something is taking too long.
Remember when Act One was taught as being 30 pages long? I wouldn’t write Act One over 20 pages today. Things change, and thanks to Scott W. Smith and David Mamet, we’ll be thinking about that the next time we sit down to write and wonder if it’s taking us too long to get to the good stuff in our script.