Twice last year, we did a live Tweet Chat with three people you should follow: Amanda Pendolino [@amandapendo], Nate Winslow [@nate_winslow], and The Bitter Script Reader [@BittrScrptReadr]. For the next two weeks, I will be reprising posts I ran on the blog including the transcripts of those conversations. Read on, then go to the bottom for some exciting news:
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 1 of GITS: The Twitter Conversations — Script Readers:
GITS: Re recommends: What percentage of them do you give on scripts you cover: 0% or -1%?
BSR: I’m not sure I’ve ever given a RECOMMEND. I think STRONG CONSIDER is as high as I’ve gone.
GITS: Because if you give a RECOMMEND, that REALLY puts your ass on the line, right?
BSR: it’s like saying “STOP THE PRESSES! Everyone read this NOW!” If it can’t stand up to that, you’re fucked
NW: Yeah, what he said. You’re not saying “consider reading this script,” you’re saying “you MUST READ THIS.”
NW: With the implication that it’s not only worth reading, but probably worth making.
BSR: A reader I worked with at a certain agency once got reprimanded for having too many CONSIDERS! REC’ has risk
NW: I’ve given one Recommend that I stand by completely. That one got validated in a big way, which was nice.
GITS: So are there scripts you read that qualify as Recommends, but you don’t because of possible repercussions?
NW: Scripts that make me even contemplate saying “REC” are unbelievably rare. So no, don’t think I’ve cut back.
BSR: I don’t think I’ve ever pulled my punch, only because I read twice (once for the read, once for synop.)….
BSR: That second read makes me more objective and saved me from jumping th egun on REC once or twice
GITS: Okay, we just learned something. TBSR reads a script TWICE for coverage. Now we know why his eyes bleed!
FasterBlasters: Readers often say they’re judging scripts based off what their employer is looking for…
FasterBlasters: You read/have read for many companies, no? How much time do you spend discussing…
FasterBlasters: What they’re specifically looking for with them?
BSR: u figure it out quick, either based on past productions or on their reaction to your coverages
BSR: It’s one of those things when you figure out when your sensibilities mesh with theirs
FasterBlasters: How about when they’re looking for a new direction? Do they tell you and talk to you, etc?
BSR: Sometimes. Others it’s a thing where you find out after the fact “this isn’t what we want now”
NW: I read for the prod. co’s I work at–for me, I’m always aware of what they’re looking for.
GITS: From a reader’s perspective, what’s more important in your evaluation: Story concept or story structure?
BSR: for prod cos: Concept. For agencies: it’s a horse race, but structure might have the edge in some instances
NW: The optimist in me says they’d want both. I read for management sometimes, so concept is really important.
NW: The whole “Well, he/she can learn structure later” idea–tougher to teach ability w/ great concepts?
BSR: this is where I should probably mention that the prod cos I’ve read for have been very heavily genre-based
BSR: hence, concept carrying the day. But Nate’s right – both are critical
AP: I basically read twice too!
AP: consider w/RES is kind of a cop-out, but sometimes I use it and explain further in email
AP: I always think.. if I’m on the fence, it should really be a pass
GITS: Hey, screenwriters! @BittrScrptReadr and @nate_winslow represent the most important people in Hwood as far as you are concerned.
GITS: They and their kin are the ONLY people who actually read entire scripts and their coverage is often determinative of a script’s fate.
GITS: So if you aren’t following the likes of @BittrScrptReadr, @nate_winslow, and @amandapendo, you are missing out on key insights.
AP: romcoms are a treat.. it’s easier to remember a 2-person story
BSR: yeah, faced w/a rom-com or a sci-fi epic, I go rom-com every time
NW: Contained thrillers, also a breeze in that regard. One location to remember.
GITS: See, right there is what I’m talking about. Prefer rom-coms bec it’s a 2-person story. Easier.
AP: killer concept w/ mediocre execution =consider. mediocre concept w/ killer execution =pass.
BSR: What Amanda said, though I might whip out “Consider w/Resev” for the latter in some cases
GITS: Question: When you crack open a script, do you always hope it will be great?
BSR: I’m giving 3 hours of my life to it. You bet your ass I hope it’ll be great!
NW: ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS. ALWAYS.
AP: Absolutely! 3 scripts I’ve cons’d or rec’d are shooting right now. makes me happy
I hope you realize what you’ve got here. Script readers are the threshold guardians of Hollywood. Nobody reads anything without coverage and they provide said coverage. So really if you want to know for whom you’re writing your spec script, it’s people like Nate, Amanda, and Bitter Script Reader.
Therefore getting to know how they think, how they operate, what their expectations are, and so forth just might be a little bit helpful.
* They would prefer to read a rom-com or a contained thriller over a science fiction script. Why? Because they are easier to read, fewer characters, familiar world. Does this mean you should not write sci fi scripts? No. It means that when you write science fiction scripts, you have to work that much harder to make the script readable and entertaining.
* They hardly ever, ever, ever give recommends. Why? Because it puts them into a tricky situation where if their bosses don’t agree, they will likely look askance at the reader, questioning their story sensibilities. So a strong consider is about the highest ‘grade’ a script will get from a reader.
* Despite all the shitty scripts they read, despite all the long hours of slogging through page after page of material, all of them desperately want to think that when they open a script, it will be great. You know what? I find that inspiring. It means they haven’t been swallowed up by cynicism. It means they truly love movies. It means they are fundamentally and at their core rooting for you — Mr. and Ms. Screenwriter — to nail your script.
I will be excerpting the rest of the conversation over the next few days. But here’s my question for you: Would you like us to schedule a public Twitter chat where you could ask your own questions to Bitter, Nate and Amanda? If so, post something in comments and we’ll consider that.
[Originally posted May 22, 2012]
Here’s the exciting news: We will be doing another live Tweet Chat, offering you an opportunity to pose questions to Amanda, Nate, and TBSR. Date: Wednesday, April 10th at 10PM Eastern / 7PM Pacific. Hashtag: #GITSTC. So book that date and remember that hashtag.
Be sure to read this 10-part series to see the territory covered, then come up with some fresh new questions to ask these guardians at Hollywood’s gates.