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Do you double or triple-space scene headings? May 05

Rabbit Hole - First PageTriple or Double-Spacing?

I recently found myself in a bit of a quandary. After countless hours cutting and tweaking, my finished script weighed in at 111 pages. I had really wanted to come in under 110 pages (as spec script lengths are trending shorter and shorter these days).

As a big fan of whitespace, I always triple-space my master scene headings (i.e. I leave two blank spaces above them). But what if I simply double-spaced them (i.e. leave just one blank space above)? How many pages could I save?

The answer: 2

After switching from triple-spacing to double-spacing I was at 109 pages. Woohoo! But not so fast. The new spacing made me feel a little claustrophobic. Was it simply because I was so used to triple-spacing?

What do most scripts use?

I decided to spend a couple hours going through 171 spec scripts, and pre-shooting drafts, in my collection to get a sense of what was considered “standard.” It’s by no means exhaustive, but I’d say the sample is large enough to provide a fairly accurate assessment.

Here are the results:

Triple Spaced: 86 (50%)

Double Spaced: 72 (42%)

Other (used transitions between scenes): 13 (8%)

Somewhat surprising results! Nearly half of the scripts I went through were double-spaced.

Perhaps even more surprising is that nearly 10% of the scripts used CUT TO: (or other transitions) to separate each scene.

All of these scripts were what I would consider “professional.” That is, they were either written by pros, or were on the Black List, etc. No production or shooting scripts were reviewed.

Some Notes

  • I definitely noticed a trend towards triple-spacing in recent years
  • It got to the point where I could fairly accurately predict whether or not a script was double or triple-spaced, based on the page count. For example, if the script was over 115 pages, odds are it used double-spacing (to cut down on the number of pages).
  • Many scripts that felt light and breezy while I was reading them, actually used double-spacing. So it seems the spacing between the shot headings didn’t matter to me (or make an impression) as much as the overall whitespace.
  • More bold and underlined scene headings popped up in recent years. Of the scripts reviewed, 11 used bold for headings, and 5 used underlines.
  • The most attractive script to look at was RABBIT HOLE (see above image). It used underlines for scene headings and bold for character introductions. I think we’ll start to see more scripts utilize this approach in the future. It looks great, and made the script easier to read and process. (The spacing between shot headings was inconsistent, however.)

In the end, I decided to leave the triple-spacing in my script and hold fast at 111 pages. But it was nice to see that double-spacing was a very viable option (especially if you’ve been diligent about limiting the number of action lines per paragraph to provide ample whitespace).

Is this kinda stuff interesting to you guys?

What’s your take? Slightly longer, yet more whitespace? Or are certain page counts psychologically more important? Let me know!


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4 Responses
  1. Ron says:

    Yes, very interested. God help me, this is interesting.

  2. Trevor Mayes says:

    Haha. Thanks Ron. Great to know I’m not alone there.

  3. Scott says:

    I generally trust what Final Draft’s latest version puts on the page, but I will keep an eye out now. The above example, though, needs all the white space it can get with all that exposition.

    I also know the rules get WAY bent when a director is writing his/her own script. One fun example: Tarentino scrawls his titles across the cover page by hand!

  4. Trevor Mayes says:

    Hey Scott,

    I believe Final Draft defaults to triple spacing — at least mine does.

    That image is the first page of RABBIT HOLE. And as you know, first pages tend to be a heavier with action lines than other parts of the script. But it sure is purdy.

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