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

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Opening The Floor To Questions

So I'm spending more and more time on the treadmill (3.65 miles this morning, mixing walking, jogging and running) and less time blogging, though I guess the trade-off is worth it, at least for me.

Still, it occurred to me that, since this blog nominally focuses on my specialty of reading, maybe it was time to see if there were any questions that anyone actually had about what I do.

So anything you want to know about pro script readers, let it fly now. Any myths you want debunked, any burning concerns you need assuaged, any dumb questions you ever wanted answered.

Anything, anything, anything. Either post under the comments, or send an e-mail to my account (

Hopefully, this will give me a nice pile of specialty-specific questions that I can draw from for future posts, in between musing about the actual nonsense that I encounter on a day-to-day basis.

Let fly.


At 1:28 PM, Blogger Brett said...

Here some that i've seen answered before, but I'd love to hear YOUR take on them and see them all answered in one swell foop.


1) how often does a reader really make or break a project? IOW< has there been a script which YOU have read where you made *THE* difference, either yay or nay? Where your support and enjoyment of the piece led to something tangible for the writer, or where your intervention killed momentum that had previously been building? (I ask because some people seem to think of readers as these über-powerful evil bastards who play ducks and rakes with the souls of us poor struggling genius writers)

2) Out of the 9000 (or whatever) piecees of coevrage you've done, what percentage of the time have you been truly impressed by the work -- to the point that yoiu are even a little bit jealous?

3) Does it happen often that some exec in the firm totally ignores your coverage and goes in another direction from what you absolutely believe is the best course?

4) Honestly-- are you nearly so hung up on all the formatting specifics as what many newbies suggest in their advice to fellow newbs on websites and chat boards?

Good to see you settling into something like a a normal routine. And forget blogging (after you answer ME, of course) and get done with that rewrite on HB.

At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Chris P. said...

Hey Scott, I love the blog. Here's a question for you:

Often spec monkeys are told to write something completely original -- Thank You For Smoking, for ex. -- and that the world does not need another serial killer story.

But almost any script will seem derivative once you put it in a genre.

So how do you transcend the genre? Do readers reach page 10 and think, “Oh gawd, not another police procedural”? Even if that script has a great story with something unique about it?

Thanks, and keep up the great work!

At 2:58 PM, Anonymous Joshua said...

Brett's questions pretty much hit it on the nose - how much power do you have, obi-wan?

At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How would you rate the quality of the "site favorites" scripts at I'm guessing low, but how low?

Suggested scale (ignore if you want).

10 - Casablanca, Chinatown.
9 - Hit movie.
8 - Produced movie.
7 - Could sell/ great sample.
6 - Might land an agent.
5 - Okay, nothing special.
4 - You're not going to make it.
3 - No chance you'll ever make it.
2 - I can't be bothered after half a page.
1 - Not a screenplay.

At 4:10 PM, Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

First of all, anonymous, I love that scale.

Second, Scott, somebody once posted a comment on Wordplay about myths that needed to be debunked once and for all and a long list of myths were bandied about by all. I can't remember who, Bill Martell methinks, wrote one "myth" that stuck with me. said "sleeping with me will not help your career".

Well? Is it a myth? Can you sleep your way into a movie deal? Cuz, ya know, I may need to get a few shots.

At 6:49 PM, Blogger Bill Cunningham said...

Yeah Maryann, the movie deal was called DEBBIE DOES DALLAS...

At 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if I wash your car on Sundays can you get me a job 'reading?' (just kidding)

At 2:55 AM, Blogger taZ said...

if I wash your car on Sundays can you get me a job 'reading?'(not kidding)

No really, how did you become a reader, details...

At 7:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Scott,

Great blog!

My question: what, specifically, are you looking for on that first page that will keep you reading on?

Tough one, I realize. Could you put up a few specific examples? If not samples from the works themselves, then maybe an explanation of two or three scripts you strongly recommended, why, and what they had going on in the first few pages.


At 7:59 AM, Blogger Emily Blake said...

How siginificant is size of a script on your first impressions of it? I've been told that reader will reach for your script first if it's shorter, but I've also been told that if a script is not long enough the reader will assume it's missing something. I ask because I have the unusual condition of writing shorter scripts.

At 8:14 AM, Blogger The Gambino Crime Family said...

Good one. I'm the middle of chopping a novel down right now and I'm wondering how short is too short...

Speaking of books, have you read any great and/or awful adaptions lately? Any that were better than the source material (like with The Godfather?)

At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can the Reader truly give a non-biased and accurate review of any screenplay that is just not his "cup of tea", so-to-speak?

If a Reader is heavily into Sci-Fi, or Action flicks, how can he fairly critique something, such as a family film?

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

All good stuff so far. Keep 'em coming :-)

At 11:00 AM, Blogger writergurl said...

Some folks insist that loglines are CRUCIAL, what's your take on it as a reader?

At 2:49 PM, Blogger jefe said...

How is your script notes service going? Any takers? Any customer feedback you'd want to share?

At 3:33 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

The script notes thing has been fairly successful, a small, steady flow that threatens to swamp me at times but somehow never really does.

And everyone seems happy so far, while I guess the fact that I have done multiple notes for more than a few people is a good sign.

I've also read a few rewrites, and it is pleasing to see how people take ideas that I give them and find their own take on them to improve their scripts.

So, you know, even though I'm not making a fortune off it, it's helping them, and it's giving me a chance to give constructive criticism (something I too rarely get to do as a reader), so it's a chance to exercise some analytic muscles for me too.

Having said that, I'm hoping to read very few before now and May 1, so I can get a couple of my own things in shape for the Nicholl.

At 5:21 PM, Anonymous cwmagee said...

What's the longest river in Africa?

At 6:56 PM, Anonymous phillip said...

Are the mistakes you see via your $60 notes much different than the mistakes you see on the agent/studio stuff?

What are some of the differences between the two groups?

At 8:31 PM, Blogger CD said...

Scott --


What have you learned, by reading so many scripts, that you a) didn't know or wouldn't have ever occurred to you or b) have never seen mentioned in a screenwriting book?


The book 500 Ways to Beat the Script Reader. Ignore or absorb?


Robert McKee's book Story. Essential reading and useful for the creation of a Hollywood script or strictly a tool for non-creative development types that helps them judge creative work?

At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Stephen Benson said...

what are things that make you stay with a script and do things like:
remember the premise
remember the title
remember the writer's name?
of the faceless projects that cross your desk what are things that make you go hmmmmm?

At 3:43 PM, Blogger Abe Burnett said...

Maybe this is too "on the nose" but how'd you get to be a reader? Have you addressed this question elsewhere in your blog? If so, just pointing me in the direction of that post would be much appreciated. You seem to be a model for "how to do it" as far as anyone interested in Reading is concerned.

Have you read "Reading for a Living?" Does it provide solid advice for how to get started as a reader in your opinion? Any additional pointers that you felt weren't covered adequately in that book?

Thanks, btw, for an excellent blog that I check daily--devouring new posts whenever they appear.


At 4:55 PM, Blogger Dave said...

first off, I'm not a reader for a living, but I've read a ton of scripts and have belonged to a writer's group for over 10 years. That said... The question:

From Anonymous: My question: what, specifically, are you looking for on that first page that will keep you reading on?

I can say that if you read upwards of a few hundred scripts, you'll get an idea of what makes you want to read past page 1.

Go to one of the script sites that allows you to upload a portion or the whole thing and spend a month reading as many of the scripts as you can.

While many folks may be able to write - perahps even tell a story, you'll see that (maybe) there will be a few that stick out more than the others.

I find that Unforgiven, Princess Bride, a few good men, as good as it gets (there are lots of other) all have a great start. The sign of a quality script is one that makes you want to continue reading.

Typically, I'd say they get you into a character really fast. You typically have a hard time putting the script down (that is if you're awake and don't have something urgent to take care of). They are scripts you can find yourself reading 5,10 or more pages before you realize it.

The script for There's Something About Mary didn't appeal to me that much, but the movie works great.

I think that scripts written by writers only might have a little more punch because they have to put so much visualization into the script versus a writer/director who already has those pictures in his head.

Great blog scott... feel free to smack me around if that's too far off base :)

At 1:42 PM, Blogger Erik said...

Here's sort of a weird question:

I read a site once that claimed 20 lb. paper was standard for screenplays. I'd never heard that before, and pretty much forgot about it.

Until I tried to find paper that was already hole-punched, and could only find it in 20 lb. weight.

So the question is: Does anyone really care, or even notice, if a screenplay is on 20 lb. or 24 lb. paper?

(I imagine by the time you hit 28 lb. it starts to be noticable.)


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