GITS: The Twitter Conversations — Script Readers (Part 2)

May 23rd, 2012 by

So late the other night, I was just about to head off to my nightly 20 minutes of sleep when I decided to check Twitter one last time. Big mistake… that turned into a bit of brilliance.

The mistake was I saw that @BittrScrptReadr [The Bitter Script Reader] and @nate_winslow [Nate Winslow] were having a conversation about some scripts they had been covering. Of course, I butted in with a snarky question, then suddenly the whole thing changed into this terrific conversation in which another person who reads and covers scripts @amandapendo [Amanda Pendolino] joined in, and off we went for about an hour. As it turns out, hundreds of people tracked the exchange, so I asked Future Super Producer Nate Winslow if he could create a transcript? Of course, he figured out a way to do it. So I thought I’d serialize it with commentary this week.

BSR [Bitter Script Reader]
GITS [Me]
NW [Nate Winslow]
AP [Amanda Pendolino]

Here is Part 2 of GITS: The Twitter Conversations — Script Readers:

GITS: How many pages into a script [usually] before you know it’s NOT great?

BSR: you can know on p. 1, but ALWAYS before p. 10

NW: When it’s a REALLY bad one, you know by the bottom of page 1.

GITS: How important to you is the writer’s voice? Their style on the page?

BSR: It’s that X-Factor that subliminally makes you LOVE a script. But I don’t NEED it for “Consider”

AP: v. impt to me personally, but looking for voice isn’t really the job

NW: It’s an intangible. If it makes the script better, great. If it makes it worse: :(

AP: exactly. I always love inspired prose. it heightens mood, atmosphere, tone, world.

GITS: How important are characters? Multidimensional, compelling characters?

NW: Great characters are the one trump card for an iffy concept for me.

BSR: Important, but if you have an INCREDIBLE concept, and Strong execution, you might skate by w/out

NW: If you make me care about characters, I’m willing to forgive a lot.

NW: Partially because I’m rarely faced with characters I *LOVE*.

BSR: And I’ll co-sign Nate’s point too.

AP: Characters are the 1st thing I comment on after general comments. protag is most important

AP: I think about them as more than just characters; they’re ROLES that need to attract A-listers

BSR: there’s the all important question “Who can play this?”

AP: I didn’t think about them as ROLES until I had been writing for a few years.

BSR: Dammit… Amanda beat me to it.

NW: It’s also who would WANT to play this? Does it DEMAND an A-lister to play this?

GITS: Screenwriters, if you’re not paying attention to this conversation, you are really stupid! These folks are spitting pearls here!

NW: Would someone take SAG scale instead of 10 million to play this part? If the answer is yes…

NW: …that’s a script whose chances of getting made just went up about 500%.

BSR: too long for Twitter, but one of you should ask me about “castability” next time we meet up.

GITS: So you’re saying part of you puts on a producer’s hat when you read a script?

NW: Sure. I work for producers. I’m trying to think with them/their slate in mind.

BSR: Yes, you have to think like a producer, specifically, the producer you’re reading for

AP: with one co I read for, I’m lucky enough to read scripts that often have major attachments

AP: but once I found myself saying “if these oscar noms weren’t attached, it’d be a pass”

AP: I think that’s important to ask – is a bad script getting read JUST bc of attachments?

BSR: Attachments TOTALLY get a bad script read. I often ask “How’d ____ get attached to this?”

You want pearls? How about this:

* There are scripts where a reader will make an assessment as to whether it’s any good not by the bottom of Page One. Read that slowly. Bottom. Page. One. What does that say to you as a writer? (1) Make sure you write a good script. (2) Make sure Page One kicks ass.

* Your voice can be a plus, but it ain’t gonna sell your script.

* Characters are super important for many reasons, but pay close attention to what Nate said: “If you make me care about characters, I’m willing to forgive a lot.” Read that slowly. Make. Me. Care. About. Characters.

* Perhaps the most interesting observation in this part of the chat is the notion of characters as roles. Do you ever think about your characters that way? If not, evidently you’re not in sync with Hollywood script readers because that consideration — who can be cast in a script’s roles — is a top-of-mind thing for them.

For Part 1 of the conversation, go here.

Tomorrow more insight from these Hollywood threshold guardians.

Good news! Based upon feedback I received from readers who enthusiastically wanted another Twitter conversation with these fine folks, I asked Bitter, Amanda and Nate — and they agreed. So I will find a time some evening when they’re free and we will schedule something so that you may participate in a live Tweet chat to ask any questions you might have about the script coverage process. Feel free to thank Bitter, Amanda, and Nate in comments.

Some background info:

The Bitter Script Reader has spent many years – “perhaps too many,” he says – working in development and as a reader at production companies and agencies.  For over three years, he’s blogged regularly about the missteps he’s seen writers both young and professional make, and implored his audience to avoid those same writing pitfalls.  You can find him at his blog and check out his videos on his newly-launched YouTube Channel.

After working for a motion picture literary agent at a major talent agency, Amanda Pendolino went on to become a professional script reader for a few different production companies. She is also developing some feature comedies, in addition to an original sitcom.

Still waiting to hear back from Nate Winslow, but suffice to say I refer to him as Future Super Producer.

6 thoughts on “GITS: The Twitter Conversations — Script Readers (Part 2)

  1. donna says:

    This is a great insight, Scott, yet it leaves me a little frustrated. For all the talk about how often these folks Pass and and then keeping in mind Oscar noms for a Consider, we still are stuck with the repetitious remakes on the screen and newbies can’t even get read.

    These folks, presumably, are working for the houses that don’t even read unsolicitated submissions. Until the newbie is given some kind of idea of who WILL read, this type of conversation contributes to the disappointment of all of us.

    Don’t want to sound like I’m whining, but it seems like every post (here and other boards) from readers revolves around how many horrible scripts they read and yet, based upon the number of houses that actually read newbie material (darn near zilch), we have to assume they’re complaining about everyone who’s already gotten a foot in the door.

    I’d love to read a post from a reader who works for someone who accepts the unsolicited submission. I’d love to read a post that outlines the best way to submit that doesn’t involve only responses for a read from houses that no one has ever heard of or has an ‘iffy’ reputation.

    1. Scott says:

      Donna, many managers will read unsolicited material. Email them with your logline. If your story concept interests them, chances are quite good they will ask to read your script. It’s really that simple.

      Re what movies the major studios make: It’s no secret, and I’ve discussed it here often. They operate with a guiding principle: Similar But Different. And because now more than ever, as they are all owned by ginormous corporations who only care about financial bottom lines, the studios will tend to make conservative decisions because they don’t want to be held responsible for the next “John Carter” or an innovative movie that doesn’t connect with an audience, and risk getting tossed out onto the street.

      As screenwriters, we have a choice. Either aim to work in Hollywood and make by and large mainstream, commercial movies, many of which are remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels, and or similar movies to other movies, or go off on the indie film route, or even DIY / make our own content.

      Per the latter, frankly there’s no reason why writers nowadays can’t make films of any sort and any length, then stick them on YouTube and see what happens. There is no one stopping us. We have the technology [digital cameras, digital editing, digital effects]. We have a built-in distribution system with the Internet. Sure, marketing is a bitch. But if you’re smart and come up with a must-see story concept, write a great story, cast and shoot it well, there’s no telling what can happen.

      Just look at what’s going on in the e-book world. “50 Shades of Gray” has sold 10 million copies! I’m going to post an article about e-book phenomenon because it is precisely in the ‘spirit of the spec’ I talk about.

      So to sum up: Yes, Hollywood makes a lot of derivative movies. It’s a business, they will do what they need to do generate revenues but also protect their ass.

      If you want to write in Hollywood, you have to live with that reality. You can write what they want or sell them your dreams. I wrote about that here.

      If you’re having trouble getting read, that’s probably because you have carpet bombed Hwood managers with enough email inquiries. You should be willing to send out 500 or more. Hell, a thousand if need be.

      It only takes one set of eyeballs reading your script to change your life!

      It could also be that up to this point, your story concepts / loglines have not been in the wheelhouse of what managers think Hollywood buyers want, so perhaps an adjustment is due re how and what stories you generate and choose to pursue.

      But if your storytelling sensibilities are not mainstream, commercial, then why not go the indie film route.

      Or got DIY. Make a movie yourself. Or some shorts. On the Internet, there are no rules about how long your movie can be, what type of genre it should be, none of that pertains. You are free to do anything.

      You never know what can happen. But that’s the way it is and should be if you embrace the spirit of the spec.

      [Note: By 'you,' I mean everyone].

  2. Love BSR’s video “Shit Script Readers Say” – saw this a couple of months ago and laughed.

    “If I read one more Bridesmaids rip-off, I’m going to go shit in a sink!”.

    1. Haha! I have got to watch that video!

      I find it funny that these readers say they want something original, yet also that the studios only want remakes, sequels, prequels, etc… It’s a very frustrating contradiction, and I think this conservative thinking on the part of studios is to their detriment. Somebody mentioned The Matrix got a pass, what, like 50 times? It was a huge hit that spawned a franchise and a major following. I also think such rigid, conservative thinking is a major reason theater attendance has dropped so significantly, because the movies reflect the mentality.

      I get why the bottom line is imperative. It is a business after all, but what business in any industry has succeeded by being afraid to take risks? And how many have succeeded beyond expectations because of that crazy risk? Especially when you consider how many movies have failed that do meet all the business criteria.

      Maybe Hollywood needs to consider opening the doors to fresh, new ideas and writers. Maybe then the readers wouldn’t get stuck with so many boring, terrible, remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels, ‘similar but different’ scripts. Yeah, I know. It’s a lofty dream. ;p

  3. [...] Check out the whole exchange at GITS:The Twitter Conversations—Script Readers (Part 1) & (Part 2) [...]

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