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

Monday, July 30, 2007

Patience, Grasshopper

Last week, an old friend of mine sent me his script to read.

He's been writing scripts off and on for a while, and most of them haven't been very good at all. Ironically, once he even wrote a play, that was never performed anywhere. But a friend turned it into a movie, with a couple of name actors in it, which I come across every once and a while on cable.

So sometimes things happen.

Anyhow, he sent me this new screenplay to get some notes on it from me, while also stating that he'd already contacted Sandra Bullock's production company about it, and they want to see a copy, which he wants to get to them, you know, yesterday.

So I read his script, which he wrote with a younger writer, and it's actually not bad. It has an interesting hook, it has some laughs, it has some potential.

It has a long way to go, though, to transition from "not bad" to "nailing the story". I gave him a lot of notes.

I have the feeling the script will probably be going to Sandra Bullock's company without any major changes.

I've probably made this rant in various forms before, but I'll make it again here:

You have to learn patience in this business.

You have to realize that your script is unlikely to get any attention at all unless it is really, really good. Or unless it is generally good, with a drop-dead killer commercial premise.

You need to get your script in the best shape possible, before sending it out to agents or production companies.

I get scripts all the time from people hiring me for $60 notes, who say in their e-mails "I already sent this out to such-and-such contest, but I know it needs work, so I want to get your notes."

If you know it needs work -- even $60 worth of work -- it's not ready for a contest.

Timing is everything in this business. Go out too early, and you can blow opportunities. A script that's not there yet, that circulates around town even a little bit, will soon get the taint of something that no one wants.

Send something that's only partway there to an agent, and he'll probably be less inclined to read the next draft, much less the next thing you send him.

You want people to think you're a great writer? Everything you send out, to agents or managers or producers or contests, should be great writing.

If you are an unknown writer, trying to get Sandra Bullock to star in your movie? That's such a longshot, that your script better be drop-dead amazing.



At 10:45 AM, Blogger Spanish Prisoner said...

One more rule to add: Don't talk about your fantastic script all the time when it's not even done. You'll wear it down for yourself. You'll propably get all the praise and think you got all the time in the world. Just focus on writing the best damn thing in the world you are capable of. Everything else is just immature showcasing.

Good post, Scott!

It's a good thing to rant about such things because most do forget about patience, naturally.

At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

all personal puffed up personal ego aside, " everything you send out, to agents or managers or producers or contests, should be great writing," we'll know this when?

After the 11th or 12th rewrite of a revised final draft? ha

At 3:57 PM, Blogger Dante Kleinberg said...

I got some great notes from Scott on my new spec just a few days ago. I'm glad I didn't start looking up contests and stuff because there are lots of months of work to go, I think. (it's soooooooo tempting just to start something else)

At 5:52 PM, Blogger E.C. Henry said...

I hear ya, Scott, but I like to create BUZZ-ZZ.

You are THE BEST when it comes to professional reader feedback. You'll always get my buisness, and if you let me, I'd even advertise you as such, BUT only after first getting your permission.

Glad to hear a client of yours has an "in" with Sandra Bullock. It'll be great to hear a story of writer you worked with get a story of his made into a movie.

As far going for the big fish, that's where the big money is, why not go for it? You can aim small and still fail. Even if the top dog says no, at least you got your shot. Getting them to read your work in the first place is the real goal, the rest is gravy.

E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Brett said...

agsw(jumping in uninvinted, as that's just how I roll, baybee...)

Quill-- I think the "when do we know it's ready?" question is kinda sorta similar to the "if you have to ask the price, then you can't afford it" line.

IMO, if sufficient doubt remains that you even have to pose the question, then the piece very likely is not yet ready. The goal is to get any work so close to perfect that the entire question becomes laughably moot.

"Is it ready?" "Oh HELL yeah."

When you "get good wood," you'll feel it, and once you've felt it, you'll know when you don't. The Old Spice ad is dead-on:

"If you need it, you don't have it.
If you have it, you need more of it.
If you have more of it, you don't need less of it.
You need it to get it, and you certainly need it to get more of it.
But if you don't already have any of it to begin with, you can't get any of it
to get started
which means you really have no idea how to get it in the first place, do you?
You can share it, sure.
You can even stockpile it if you'd like,
But you can't fake it.
Flaunting it, needing it, wishing for it.
The point is, if you've never had any of it...
people just seem to know."

In Bruce We Trust B

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Christian M. Howell said...

Good point. I took advantage of notes I got from you. I did choose a midpoint between my vision and your suggestions, but it has a better roller coaster feel in Act II.

I guess the way to go is have more than one person read and see if they agree on the notes.

Looking at yours and another person's I saw some similar things and that's what I concentrated on.


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