I came across this posting (http://candidcoverage.blogspot.com/2010/03/avoid-page-10-rejection.html) on James Jordan’s Candid Coverage Blog (http://candidcoverage.blogspot.com/).
This posting explains why moviemakers reject many scripts within the first ten pages. He then provides 20 tips to avoid that. His focus is on selling a script to a Hollywood studio, but I think many of the tips are useful, even if you are going to be making your own movie.
A few years ago, I submitted my script The Anger Trap to a screenplay completion. I was disappointed with the comments I got back because it seemed to me that the reader hadn’t read past the first ten pages. After reading this blog, I can see what I was doing wrong.
I have taken two of the tips to heart so far.
Tip 9 says that you should introduce your protagonist by page three.
I am still working on my outline, so it is too soon to know how long each scene will be, but I did make some estimates. My protagonist shows up in the third scene, so I need to keep the first two scenes to less than a minute each. I was planning to have the first two run longer than that, but I know that I have to keep them short.
His tip doesn’t say anything about the antagonist, but I assume that introducing him early is a good idea. I already have him showing up in the first scene.
Tip 11 says that by page ten the script should have revealed the main issues of the story.
This is where I think The Anger Trap went wrong. I don’t give any indication of where the story is going until page six, and it doesn’t really become obvious until page 20. I had already been thinking of moving a later scene to the beginning of the film for a possible rewrite.
When I went over my outline, I felt that I had the main issues on the table by the end of the seventh scene. I will need to keep the first few scenes very short to have that done in the first ten pages. I may need to move some of the minor events to later in the script.
All of my major characters, except for one, do show up in the first ten pages. I revised an early scene to introduce Lucas’ boss, James Wilson, within the first ten pages. Introducing the last character in the first ten pages would be a problem though. I think I can leave her introduction until later in the script. I saw it done in The Night of the Generals (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062038/).