An excerpt from my script review for The United States vs. Billie Holiday which will be available 03/29/21:
80 pages for any script feels light, especially one that’s based on a book or actual events.
When writing a horror, tighter stories can be close to the 90 page mark, but with this being a drama, it felt more like a whirlwind sightseeing tour of Billie Holiday’s life.
I mentioned in the plot section how the Strange Fruit angle is glossed over, but it felt like more of Holiday’s story could have been included.
There’s a flashback (technically a drug induced dream sequence) where we see Holiday at 10, being told by her prostitute mother to go out and get working…as a “whore” at ten years old.
Really? We’re just going to briefly mention this little life altering event and move on?
Do we need to see a ten year old having sex? Absolutely not, but the opportunity to show the aftermath of what few options were available to her, how it influenced her life and the men she chose to be with, made a statement on this period in US history…something!
It was all lost, and I felt like this happened a lot in the script, and instead of showing us, we get multiple interviews or characters like Jimmy being told what happened in Billie’s life.
Post Covid, the tide will be changing.
Personally, I feel we’re approaching an industry shift…
As streaming services inevitably merge, the bigger ones will stop throwing cash at abbreviated projects like these, gobbling up content just to have something new, and demand worthwhile projects.
Aside from major “tent poles” (like the MCU), streaming services are going to become the power players, because they have the money behind them.
Even before the pandemic, studios were having trouble turning profits on projects, but streaming services have subscriptions pouring in, month after month.
Sooner or later economics are going to flip that hierarchy.
It’s something to at least think about, if not plan for.
Doing your job as a writer includes everything from a strong story to good characters, but also means having an adequate page count with few typos.
Your goal should be to have your reader be absorbed by your story, even if in the end the project isn’t for them.
When they forget they’re reading a script, you’ve done your job.
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