Screenplays are the foundation of the filmmaking process. Without them, you can’t expect a film to be made.
Every crew member has to follow the script somehow, and it doesn’t matter how far up they are in the filmmaking process.
Without a script, production can’t start. But while you can still do some aspects during pre-production, how long does it take to write the screenplay?
The speed taken to write a screenplay depends on what you’re writing.
It will take a shorter time to write a TV pilot than a feature-length movie.
For example, a first draft could take between three and six months for a movie script. But overall, there is no set timeline.
That’s why deadlines are so important because they help measure the time needed.
How Long Does It Take To Write A Screenplay?
Gauging the time it takes to write a screenplay can be difficult for new writers.
You don’t want to worry about rushing it, but you don’t want to leave anyone waiting.
But some factors play a part in figuring out how long it will take you to write it.
When it comes to writing a script, there are five steps that you need to follow. But we’ll talk more about that later.
If someone asks how long it will take to write a screenplay, they usually talk about a draft.
Some professionals may take between three and six months to write their script, while most production companies prefer a delivery between eight and twelve weeks.
I mention production companies because they’re where you send your script.
They prefer a quick turnaround; the quicker you write, the better they’ll think of you.
However, it can be more challenging if you don’t have an agent and want to write a screenplay.
When you don’t have somewhere to send a script immediately, you don’t have the same sense of urgency.
That’s why many writers give themselves self-imposed deadlines. Most scriptwriters won’t put a definite time frame to gauge how long it will take to write.
Professional scriptwriters tend to work to a deadline given to them by a production company.
However, if you don’t have a deadline, you could take as long as you need to write a script. After all, even Jordan Peele took five years to write Nope.
If anything, writing the screenplay is the easy part. It’s the rest of the process that takes time.
What Is The Process For Writing A Screenplay?
When I say that Jordan Peele took five years to write Nope, it would be more accurate to say he spent those years outlining it.
See, the screenplay and the editing process are your script’s final steps.
You may think the screenplay is your first step, but it takes the least time if you do everything else first. But what is the rest of the process like?
Make A Logline
Let’s say that you’re looking for a film to watch. How do you decide on a new one?
You’ve probably been looking at the logline without realizing it. The logline is one of the most challenging parts of the scriptwriting process.
They need to be short and sweet, but they also need to sell your story to both the audience and the producers.
An ideal logline should be between one and two sentences, with the perfect logline summed up in 25 words or less.
You only have a short amount of time, so you need to include your protagonist, the setup for your film, a central conflict, and who the antagonist is.
Make An Outline
Now that you’ve got your outline, you need to work on your outline.
The outline works as a brief synopsis of your entire story and shouldn’t be more than a page or two.
Sometimes, the outline is called the beat sheet, so it’s best not to get confused between them.
All you need to do is break down your story through your different plot points.
The outline is where you decide on the structure of your screenplay.
Most conventional stories are told through three acts, and it’s come to be expected by your audience.
So, your first act should be about introducing the characters and setting up the story.
The second is about moving the story to escalate into a crisis, and the third is where it all starts to calm down.
Make A Treatment
Your treatment is an outline with a lot more detail. The treatment is where you break down your scenes and think about the style.
Here is where it starts to get fun. You can take the time to expand on your world, experiment with dialog, and start building your story with depth.
Don’t worry about the page count too much here because your treatment depends on your story.
But, if you do want a rough estimate, you could say that a feature-length treatment is around thirty pages long.
Your treatment is essentially there to make it easier for you to write your script.
Write The Screenplay
Now that you have your treatment, you have the blueprints of your script ready.
Make sure you format your script correctly, and then develop your treatment into the first draft of your screenplay.
Then, when you’re done, you need to work on the final part of the process.
Rewrite Your Screenplay
Once your first draft is complete, you need to edit your screenplay.
Which means you’ll have to rewrite everything again. You’ll have to do this a few times, and you may have to show your script around to get some constructive feedback.
Rewriting takes time, so make sure you love your story, or you’ll never have a finished script.
As you can see, there isn’t a set guide to the length of time it takes to write your screenplay.
You could spend months, weeks, or even years. Instead, take your time to work on your script and send it out when you’re ready.