Why Write A 75 Page Screenplay? by West Liang

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage:  So did you submit your screenplays for ALL I WANT and SOMEONE THAT I USED TO KNOW to competitions (screenplay competitions)?

West Liang:  No. No.  I have submitted previous scripts of mine to competitions, either plays or screenplays.  And I have’t won anything.  I’ve been placed in various things but I haven’t won anything.  This goes back to what we talked about earlier regarding taste.  I do think that the market doesn’t always know and I think for this film (ALL I WANT) the intention was to always go out there and shoot it.

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

A great example is when we started to structure the story and when we started to think about how to bring that idea from our head to the page to set and onto screen, I told (writer/actress) Melissa Center that this script is probably at max 75 pages and she was a little bit surprised because I think the industry standard is probably at least 90-95, 98 whatever.  But having done my previous indie feature where that script was clocked in at 98 or 102 pages long and it was an indie film.  We didn’t shoot on 2% of the script.  And so we had to go into post-production in that film, really struggling to piece the story together in a way that is coherent.  So I knew that this film would be a really short shooting schedule because of budget and because of schedule and so the intention was how do we go into post-production in the editing room with as much as the script as possible so that we can really go in there with all the tools for the editor?  It’s a waste of time and a waste of vision to have a 98-page script and you go into a 10-day shoot schedule where you can only shoot 7-pages a day.  The math is basically going to squeeze out 15-20 pages out of your script.


“At some point the artistic journey becomes a business journey.  And I literally was using words like ‘We really have to manage assets and liabilities.’  And a good example is you go into production with a 100-page script and that’s your asset.  And then you look at the budget and you look at your schedule and then suddenly that script becomes a liability because you can’t shoot the extra 15 pages.”


And so that’s a good example. We didn’t really write the script with the intention of going out there and submitting it to contests or going out there to try to raise money. This was really the blue print for this journey that we were going to go on.  It was a road map for this trip that we were going to take.  And so we nailed it down to a quote..unquote “short feature-length script” by industry standard.  But the end process is that we have a full-length, feature film that is over an hour and a half.

Film Courage:  So you thought if I take out 20 pages that will save us X amount of dollars…I don’t know how you figure it out…we won’t be here two more days or three more days, whatever?

Watch the trailer to ALL I WANT here on Vimeo

West Liang:  Right. Because what I think it comes down to for indie filmmaking is at some point it comes down to math.  If you are shooting 10 days and you are probably going to be budgeted at 7, 8 pages a day, right?  Then that means you are probably going to have a 70, 80 page script and if you want to have enough time for the actors to play around a little bit, if you want to give enough time for your crew to give you a good set in terms of lighting, if you want to have a little room for making those mistakes on set, then if you go into a production telling your first AD that I need to shoot 10 pages a day, that’s just really kinda of unfair for the production.  And what ends up happening is you go into post-production with 20% of your script missing and it’s really tough.

Film Courage:  So if you hadn’t made SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW (and I’m sorry I don’t know how much time went by between both projects) but you probably would have gone in with the mindset of let’s do industry standard, let’s do 98-pages.

West Liang:  Absolutely. You go in there and it’s purely artistic, you go in there and express something.  And everybody is saying “Let’s do it.”  The director, producer and you do it.  Then the first day of shooting, the crew and the cast are getting to know each other and then you miss one scene, even if it’s one scene and then you go into the next day already behind and then on the next day we’re behind and the next thing you know at the end of the production schedule, you’ve missed a nice chunk of your movie.  So I think that without this experience, without having gone through that, I probably would have been like “Yeah, let’s go out there with a full-length script and let’s just do our best” and I think we would have probably had some struggles in terms of narrative in post-production.

Film Courage:  Sure and then there is the whole romantic notion of “Hey! I’m in LA and I’m on a film set.  And this is cool and I’m [finally] doing this!”  But then time and money slip away and reality hits.  Have you always been so disciplined?  What that a trait which was gained from this last production?  Or were there other things that kind of helped you become this “on point.”  Because I’m sure that’s not fun to have to be “that guy” on set but you essentially have to.

Watch the trailer to ALL I WANT here on Vimeo

West Liang:  I think it’s having an idea of what you can and can’t accomplish.  I was saying to some of our people on the crew during pre-production was at some point the artistic kind of journey becomes kind of a business journey.  And I literally was using words like ‘We really have to manage assets and liabilities.’  And a good example is you go into production with a 100-page script and that’s your asset.  And then you look at the budget and you look at your schedule and then suddenly that script becomes a liability because you can’t shoot the extra 15 pages. And the crew is like “Oh my gosh, we’re behind! Behind…Behind.” And that puts a certain type of energy on the set.  So to answer your question, I think the consensus between Melissa and I was always let’s prepare this product for success.  Let’s try to create a roadmap.  And we wrote the movie for a location that we knew we had access to.  And the location changed several times during pre-production and I had to go back in there and basically tinker a little bit and so that’s another thing. I think we have to go in there with as much information as you can.

Film Courage:  And I’m seeing still again, seeking balance, one scale is tipping more and then you’re rewriting to fit the scene.  It sound like you did an excellent job of managing this.

West Liang:  Yes.  We had an amazing cinematographer Ruben O’Malley.  He came from New York.  I mean I literally met him…we had phone conversations and emails leading into the production, but I literally met him two days before filming.  I picked him up at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) with Melissa on Thursday.  We started shooting on Saturday and we did a tech scout on Friday and we had dinner and talked about what we wanted to do.  And we had an amazing editor Derek Drouin, an amazing sound designer and composer, all along the way.  We had so many people who were getting paid far less than they deserved.  And I certainly was seeking a balance of trying to make sure that all the pieces were in the right places. But at the same time, it comes down to the kind of group of people that you have to collaborate with.

Question for the Viewers:  How many pages was your last script?








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