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]
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.