As mentioned, screenwriting is storytelling in script form. While most people associate screenwriting and scripts with movies, they are hardly the only medium that necessitates the talent and technical know-how of a Screenwriter1.
Screenwriting is often used as a catchall term for all the many types of scripts a Screenwriter can work on, such as:
- Feature films
- Short films
- Episodic television
- Television limited series
- Television movies
- Video games
For each of these types of screenwriting, the length of the script can vary. For instance, a script written to become a feature-length film can come in anywhere between 90 and 120 pages, give or take. Scripts for short films could be anywhere from a page or two to 40 or more.
There’s considerable diversity in script length within the world of television as well. Depending on whether a script is written for network television where there are regular commercial breaks or streaming where there may not be a single commercial shown during it, a script could be anywhere from around 25 to 70 pages.
Teleplay is a term used to emphasize that the script is in fact meant for television. Those thought of as comedies are typically on the shorter side, as these shows usually run for about a half-hour. Dramatic teleplays are usually conceptualized as hour-long shows, and therefore the script length is longer for them.2
It’s important to keep in mind other designations commonly associated with different types of scripts. For instance, spec script, which can be a confusing term for someone just learning about screenwriting because it means different things depending on whether you’re talking about film or television.3
In film, a spec script is an unsolicited script that a Screenwriter crafts on their own without any backing, financial or otherwise, from a Producer, production company or studio. A spec script can be an idea entirely from the Writer’s imagination or adapted from existing material like a book or newspaper article–but make sure the rights have been attained! Feature spec scripts can be used merely as a writing sample or potentially optioned or bought for future production.
In television, a spec script is a script that a Screenwriter crafts as a writing sample, as it’s a pseudo or faux episode of an existing television show. It might sound strange that someone would write a spec script for this medium knowing that it won’t get produced, but it can be very important for a Screenwriter’s career.
In deciding who they want to be part of their Writer’s room, the Creator or Showrunner of a particular show will want to see that a potential Writer can craft a script in the tone and voice of their show, hence the need for a spec script.
With every type of script we’ve mentioned so far, that version of the script is not what the eventual Directors, Producers and other filmmakers attached to it will use when they go into production. Rather, they will use what is called a shooting script.
While a shooting script may contain several elements that make it distinct, perhaps the biggest difference between it and any other script is that it has been updated to include scene numbers that inform the production schedule and the order in which each scene is shot.
A shooting script is also a “locked” script, meaning that it is in its final form. That being said, last-minute revisions can–and usually do–still happen. When they occur, those pages will be added to the current script in a different color to denote their inclusion.