a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Readers Aren't Your Enemy

There's a post in the Hall of Fame section of Wordplay (which if you haven't been there, you should go immediately, by a professional script reader named Travis, which he posted way back in June 2000. The gist of it is that he's a reader, and he's your enemy because he isn't nice; if he thinks your script sucks, he's going to say so in his coverage.

To me, that doesn't make him an enemy. That makes him exactly who you'd want him to be (provided, of course, that he knows what he's doing; ignorant readers are your enemy. Hopefully they don't keep their jobs long).

Because face it, professional readers are just another filter in the long line of scripts getting to the people you want them to get to. And you want us to be the right kind of filter -- the one that rejects the scripts that are undercooked, underthought, underimagined or just plain awful, and rewards the good writing by bringing it to the attention of the people we work for.

And we aren't your enemy, because the holes in our filters aren't small. It's not at the reader level that well-written scripts are being stymied; it's at the one after that, where of the 100 scripts I might slap a consider on for a given company in a year, maybe 5 get much interest.

So as a reader, I don't have to make the tough calls. When I read something I like, that works, that's well written, I'll say that in my comments, even if it might not be right for the company I'm reading it for. Hell, I read "Being John Malkovich" for HBO Films back in the mid-1990s, when they were looking for issue-oriented, mostly true stuff, and were never going to make a movie like that (while I never thought Malkovich would go along with it either -- bless him). But it was a fresh, original, inventive script, and worth a consider, which it got, even though, indeed, HBO didn't make it.

The job of a good reader is to write concise coverage and good notes, so even if we don't think it is going to work, our bosses can read through it and decide if it is something that he might spark to. I've had that happen.

The bottom line is that there aren't swarms of unproduced great scripts out there. I've put a "consider" on scripts that were just fairly good, just because, grading on a curve, fairly good is good enough to make it through my filter. So don't think that if you write a great script, it won't make it past the readers. I love reading great scripts.

There are a lot of good readers out there, and a good number of half-assed ones. But even Travis isn't your enemy, because though his attitude might be a little sour, it sounds like he's being a fair judge of what works or doesn't (assuming that his brain hasn't exploded by this point). And that's really all you can ever ask.


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