Gah, I spent the morning cutting episode one of Teen Drama Thing down from 76 pages to 72 (episode two is only 69 pages, so the disparity was a bit jarring), and sent it off, only to discover this evening that John August, writer of Go! and Charlie's Angels, has an entire blog post up about How To Cut Pages. I wish I'd known about the Widow Control thing.
Episodes of Teen Drama Thing are actually supposed to be an hour long, so eagle-eyed readers will note that under the 'one page=one minute' rule, they're still running a bit long. This is okay for two reasons:
1) I am extremely pernickety about timing, so like to lay every beat and pause out as clearly as possible, just so the actors and director have no excuse at all for messing it up. This does tend to take up a bit of space, but the final product won't run quite as long.
2) Visual texture is incredibly important to Teen Drama Thing, which is a poncy way of saying there are things going on in the background that might not affect the plot, but will affect the emotional tone of the piece as a whole.
UPDATE: also, 3), they need to run a bit long anyway, as inevitably something has to be cut, and you don't want to have to pad it out to get it back up to length.
Here's an example from HERO TRIP, the superhero/road trip movie I wrote a while ago, the future of which depends almost entirely on whether Will Smith's HANCOCK film makes $50 million next weekend. If it does, 'post-modern superhero movies' are back in a big way, and my script will get moved onto a 'read' pile. If it doesn't, 'post-modern superhero movies' are really really out. Here's the introduction to the real identity of REX, the movie's hero (this is right at the start, so isn't giving too much away).
INT. REX’S BACK ROOM - NIGHT
Hanging in Rex’s wardrobe are an array of costume parts with a slick athletic vibe to them, like neoprene surfwear crossed with American football armor, the same theme as the costume we saw in the credits sequence, but now bang up to date, and clearly working clothes as much as they are a superhero outfit.
REX pulls on the leggings, boots, jacket, utility belt, gloves and a face mask that covers right down to the top of his nose (the costume parts are all a little bashed about, with a couple of carefully-mended tears here and there). As in the comic panels, his outfit is mostly dark blue and white, with a little red in it. On his chest is a simplified logo of a burning torch. No cape.
From a glass display case, REX reverently takes his torch. He looks at it for a moment, then tucks it into his belt, and stands for a moment, gathering himself wearily before he can truly become... THE DEFENDER.
Rex stands for a moment in a proper superhero pose. Then he picks up a control and presses the button - a platform raises from beneath his feet, lifting him up through a hole in the ceiling. Halfway up, it stops. Rex presses the button a couple more times, and it starts working again.
So, you could probably get away with 'REX puts on a costume and a lift takes him up through the ceiling. It get comedically stuck on the way', especially as the whole sequence probably takes around ten seconds. But this is a really important scene - for setting tone and character at least, so I figure it's worth taking a little time to get it right.
You can overdo this of course. One thing to be aware of is that many execs skip all the descriptive stuff and only read the dialogue, so, you know, you makes your choice. Anyway, description is important, and if you care about getting the details right, your script is probably going to run slightly long. And the last reason this is get-away-with-able, is because:
3: When your episode (we're back to telly now KEEP UP) is finally filmed, it will almost certainly be very slightly shorter than the script length suggested. Better to run slightly over the slot length and have to make a few very short cuts, than run too short and have to pad.
Very good article on screenwriting in today's Guardian by Frank Cottrell Boyce, who unlike me has had actual films made (24 Hour Party People, A Cock And Bull Story and others) and thus knows what he's talking about. Go to it.
Oh, also, that thing about not trying to cheat and resize the font a couple of points smaller to make the script a couple of pages shorter without losing any content? Execs know about this, and will totally spot it, apparently in under three seconds. I've never tried it, although I know a man who has. Professional discretion however, means I cannot say his name.