So, someone gave me their script over the weekend.
“Read this, you’ll love it!” they said.
I come to the table with a clean slate and moderate expectations. This was not David Mamet, so you know, I give room for error. But his script was so incredibly sloppy and confusing I wanted smack him…especially since he hadn’t even written FADE IN: at the top of the page! What the heck is THAT!?!?!
No fade in; your script goes in the trash, tossed by the reader who has moved on to another piece of work that doesn’t reek of unprofessionalism.
There were few slug lines, and the ones that were there had no DAY or NIGHT or LUNCHTIME or whatever you want. So, it was unclear when the scenes were actually taking place. Confusion.
Also, in reference to a crowd of people, an animal name was used. That is fine and dandy when introducing them, but from that point on, you would need to refer to the crowd simply as that: CROWD. To keep referring to them as dogs, dingoes, whatever, will confuse the reader.
Do you see a theme here? You must not; I repeat MUST NOT EVER confuse your reader. It’s the READER that moves your script along to the producer. And they don’t have the time to decipher what you MEANT. They have no problems chunking your script and moving on. None at all.
There were a few other mistakes that I found…clichés, repeating words…all of which I brought to his attention in a polite but objective way. I thought (silly me!) that he would be happy to get the help. But you know what I got?
Summary: “Thanks for your help, but I don’t need to write any slug lines because I know what’s going on, besides, it’s a form of art. I interpret it as I see fit. As for the names for the pack of people, readers are smart and they’ll know what I mean. Thanks for checking it out, but you know, I’m gonna do it my way.” He snatches back the script that’s bathed in a red pen and storms out.
Learn from this, prospective screenwriter. Learn.
Ask yourself, how high do you want to go with this screenwriting idea? If you ask someone for help, and they give it, before discarding their advice, I suggest you listen. Not because it’s me. Always give an ear to anyone that gives criticism to your work. And for God’s sake, be polite and thank them when they’re done. Your script may have given them the worse migraine of their life, and what they say may help you win an Academy Award one day. Be gracious to those who take the time to help you.
It’s painful to have your script gutted when you’ve worked so hard on it. Trust me, I know. But do you want to sell it? Do you want it optioned? Do you want to see it up on the silver screen with Morgan Freeman playing a role YOU created? If it’s too hard to admit that maybe something you wrote didn’t work, if it’s too hard to admit that maybe you need to write a few more drafts for what you “see” to actually make it to the page, how can you grow? How can you stretch your talent? It’s a craft, this writing screenplays.
Ask yourself: How good do you want to be?