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

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Group Is Good

So this past Monday night I got to debut the first 26 pages of my new script at my screenwriting group.

For those of you who haven't been following along, this is a very cool group over in Studio City, in which actors sit on the stage and read long chunks of four writers' scripts every week. Afterward, the other writers in attendance throw a lot of knowledgable notes at you. It was the second time one of my scripts was read; after the first session, I bounced that flawed tale to the back-burner while I fast-tracked this new one.

This is the first writing group I have ever been in, and I'm finding it productive in several ways:

IT IMPOSES A DEADLINE. There's nothing like knowing that you have to have 25 pages ready on a specific date to force to to set aside the time and actually do the work. Though in a perfect world, I'd set aside this time myself, this isn't always a perfect world, and it's nice to have a goal, particularly when I'm as swamped with other stuff as I am now.

IT MAKES YOU WRITE BETTER, AND TIGHTER. Nothing jumps out like a typo (or just plain bad dialogue) coming out of someone's mouth; fear of that made me polish my script pages to a shine. But I also had a problem in that I wanted the reading to stop at a specific beat, and as of Saturday night that beat was on page 30. So I curled up with the script on Sunday, just cutting out the fat, eliminating unimportant lines of dialogue and tightening scene descriptions. After another go-through on Monday, that story moment was on page 26, which was much better anyway. Most scripts can use a good shake-out like this in general.

IT GIVES YOU A BETTER SENSE EARLIER IF THINGS ARE WORKING. There's nothing worse than pouring a lot of time into knocking out a complete draft of a script, only to realize that there are fundamental flaws that you really wished you'd seen a lot earlier. Though my 26 pages were fairly solid (and I have the rest of the script fairly well blocked out in my head), I did get a lot of good notes to help me see what needs to be emphasized more and how certain things were and weren't playing, that is going to wind up effecting the shape of certain upcoming sequences in important ways. And it was nice to see that no one saw the page 22 twist coming.

HEARING YOUR WORDS IS INVALUABLE. For most of the reading, I sat in the audience with my eyes closed, just listening to the actors (as well as to the veteran actor reading the scene description). It's remarkable how different things sometimes come across when you are hearing them, rather than seeing it on the page. It also helps with my writing, because now I have a better sense of how the things I write sound as I am writing them.

So it's all good so far. The organizer of the group has assembled a solid, ego-free collection of writers and actors, and I'm all geeked-out to churn out the next 25 pages for my next session. It's nice to see that the people there were intrigued by the first 26 too; having expectations to live up to is a nice driving force as well.



At 12:29 PM, Blogger Danny said...

Great to hear, Scott. Keep at it!

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Robert Hogan said...

Hey Scott, can you drop me a note at robert (at) fadetoblueent (dot) com and let me know how I can in touch with the organizer of your group? I want to try something like this in my hometown and I would love to get some pointers on how your organizers puts this all together. Thanks

At 3:25 PM, Blogger The Film Diva said...

Yay, Scott!! I love actors and working with actors. Glad to hear you are in with a good bunch. hope the script keeps progressing.

At 5:14 AM, Blogger Moviequill MacGuffin said...

sounds like a very constructive group...

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Emily Blake said...

Hearing your script read by real actors is like being in a band and looking down from the stage and seeing people singing along to a song you wrote. It's surreal, but the most awesome thing ever. You just want to be like, "You do know this came from my brain, right?"

Or at least that's what I think. So good on you.

At 6:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop talking about your script and write it. Seriously.

At 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is your group looking for a new member...

- Allen

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Anonymous -- Hey, I knocked out 50 pages in a month. That's not bad.

Allen -- There's a waiting list, and you need to be approved. If you are interested, let me know.

At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm def. you want me to hit you up with a personal email?

- Allen

At 2:07 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...



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