Film Courage: Does a network require that you submit an outline before writing?
Christine Conradt: Sometimes. It depends on the exec that you’re working with and it depends on the producer. Sometimes the producer will require it. Sometimes it’s just we go from one paragraph to one page. Sometimes we go from one paragraph to a script, whatever they want, whatever makes them feel comfortable in their process is what I deliver to them.
Film Courage: What’s the typical show that you’re writing for, the length of time?
Christine Conradt: That is takes me to write it?
Film Courage: What would be the typical air-time?
Christine Conradt: For most television, it’s 83 to 86 minutes for a feature.
Film Courage: Then what does that translate into in terms of pages?
Christine Conradt: It depends on the producer in terms of pages. So you know sort of the standard is one page equals one minute of screen time. That’s sort of a loose guide.
I have a producer I work with who won’t shoot anything under 116 pages because he likes to have a lot of footage to cut down to help the pacing.
I have other producers I work with who they don’t want anything over a hundred pages. So it depends on their production process.
Film Courage: Interesting. So I’m really getting the sense that it’s all about flexibility.
Christine Conradt: It is all about flexibility. Yes! Being flexible is definitely a help.
And again, giving them what they want. When I ask producers “Why do you fire writers?” I ask every producer I’ve worked with “Why do you fire writers?” And they will always say “Because they don’t give me what I ask them to give me.”
So either notes they’ve given and the writer comes back and they haven’t done that with the notes because they thought they knew better or they just didn’t know how. Or they asked for a certain page count and it wasn’t that page count.
To me, those are the wrong reasons to get fired off of a project. Those are things you can control. So if you’re just paying attention and asking them what they want and they want to tell you what they want.
I ask “What do you want your page lengths to be here? Where do you want your act lengths to be?” And then that’s what I give them.
Film Courage: So what’s the time frame that you’re usually given? Once they’ve given you the title, you’ve met with them, you’ve come up with some ideas, what time frame are you working with?
Christine Conradt: It depends. Typically I get 4 weeks for a first draft and then two weeks for every subsequent draft, which is pretty quick actually. It’s not that difficult if you’re only working on one project at a time but if you’re a working writer you’re working on multiple projects because it takes so long before one of them suddenly comes back and says “Okay, we’re greenlit. We can actually move forward.” You don’t know when that’s going to happen.
So you’ve got all these sort of irons in the fire and then eventually one will come back and sometimes two come back, which is great. But now you have to balance how you are going to deliver both of those scripts.
Question for the Viewers: When hired to write a script, what questions do you ask the producers?