Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Don't Waste My Time

Someone heard that I’m an up and coming screenwriter. This person, who I will, for all intents and purposes of this blog refer to him as: Raul. Which of course, is NOT his real name or ethnicity.

Raul sent me his “life-changing manuscript.”

He certainly changed MY life. I don’t think I’ve ever been so incredibly bored with a script in all my life. When you begin to dream of going to a dentist for a root canal, you know the script is bad.

The premise was shaky, it was poorly constructed and he repeated himself at LEAST ten times a page. And no, that’s not an exaggeration.

Granted, I started in the same place Raul obviously was. Thank goodness I had the sweet feedback from a Hollywood producer that said basically, “You’ve got great ideas, but you need to learn more. This won’t cut it.” Keeping that in mind, I attempted to extend that same wisdom to Raul. I called him.

“Raul, what is your script about?”

“Oh, it’s a life-changer.”

“Raul. That didn’t answer my question. What about it is life-changing?”

“The character’s journey.”

“Okay, what is the journey? Because I didn’t see it. At all.”

Raul proceeded to speak but never said a word. I tried to rephrase.

“Raul, what color is your car?”

“Do what?”

“Your car. What color is it?”

“Well, it’s kinda bluish-green, more green than blue, but when the light hits it, it shines blue. Teal? Yeah maybe that’s the color. Or seagreen?”

Bingo. I located him.

My advice to Raul at that time was to 1.) purchase Save The Cat! By Blake Snyder and Your Screenplay Sucks! by Will Akers. I gave him some general pointers such as: Never repeat yourself. Write short concise sentences. Vertical structure is great.

And then he asked me the inevitable question: “Did you like it?”

Heck no, I didn’t like it! I’d rather be kicked in the face by a Clydesdale! Of course I couldn’t SAY that!

“Raul, I can’t see how this is a life-changer. I couldn’t get through it.”

Raul proceeds to tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about and when it gets bought he’s going to post nasty comments all over my blog. I tell him to calm down, he contacted me for serious advice and that’s what I’m giving him. I also tell him if he wants a group of cheerleaders for his scripts he needs to keep within his family. I explain that I am as objective as possible. I actually WANT him to make it and I point out that I’m being much nicer than anyone in Hollywood would ever be. His script was amateurish and would never make it past the reading floor. I tell him I started out the same way. We all did. All he has to do is listen, make some adjustments and rewrite.

“It’s perfect the way it is. I finished it last night. It’s complete.”

At this point my jaw drops to the floor with a loud *clunk!*

“You sent me your first draft???”

“And the final one. It’s perfect the way it is.”

I realize Raul is narcissistic and will not listen to reason. I will help people as long as they want or need help. But this guy, I do NOT want my name associated with. If you ever bump into him, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. 

“Raul, that script will never make it to a producer. And if it does it will only be because you know someone. You do know that writers rewrite all the time, right? On the set, etc.?”

“I won’t need to. It’s perfect the way it is.”

You’re an idiot, Raul.

I had the opportunity of speaking to Derek Haas, screenwriter of blockbusters like WANTED, 3:10 TO YUMA, & THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS.

I asked him, "Derek, how many drafts of WANTED did you go through before it was made into a movie?"

Derek's reply: (NOTE: THIS IS A WELL KNOWN SUCCESSFUL SCREENWRITER SAYING THIS!):  "Oh I had about 84 drafts on my computer by the time it was ready to be shopped around."

84. 84 drafts, Raul. 84.

A screenplay is the bones of the production. You provide the structure for a story. The director comes in and adds the flesh to it, with the actors, the sets, and the vision. The producers come in and make it look pretty and gus it up, make it presentable for the viewers. It’s a team effort. Even if this guy somehow sold his horrible slaughter of verbiage, he’d be fired on the spot for not being willing to rewrite. The only award Raul will be receiving is Employee of the Month at his local hamburger joint.

If that sounds harsh, I’m sorry. This is a tough business to get into. And you can’t break into it if you aren’t willing to work and do what it takes to make your work better. If your pride gets in the way of that, well, then that path is all yours to walk. Alone. I’m not going with you.

So, dear readers and adoring fans, if you plan to send me anything to read, please make sure you have rewritten it a few times and be prepared to hear the truth about what I think. Friends will pat your hand. I won’t do that. Friends will tell you your work is awesome. I will look for holes you need to fix and dialogue that is boring and trite. I will never call you names, but I will encourage you to take a long look at your work.

Your work is NOT perfect.

Neither is mine, for that matter.

But I’m willing to rewrite it. Even it means 84 times.


  1. GREAT advice!! I'd want the truth so I know that my work doean't look like a K-garten effort when trying to get a "serious" reputation in a "cut throat" business, not to mention, a JOB!
    People need to be able to detach from their work a bit and know that every work could use a "clean-up". I'm sure there are many writers that see their work ON the screen and still think of a change that could be made!!!

  2. I almost feel sorry for Raul; that kind of attitude isn't going to get anyone anywhere. I'm glad to hear you value honesty, because without it, editing is next to worthless.

  3. I felt sorry for Raul until the verbal tirade he gave me insulting myself, my children, and any family member remotely in my family tree. If a grown man throws a temper tantrum that bad, over CONSTRUCTIVE criticism, I'd hate to see him on a set surrounded by professionals. There are a lot of hard working writers out there who have put in the time, honed their craft and are malleable to the desires of the director/producer/studio. For him to say, "It's perfect as it is," and never budge, never consider that perhaps his script could use some tweaking shows great immaturity. Hollywood has rules and he broke ever single one. He didn't want to listen or learn what the rules were either.

    Good luck, Raul.

  4. You know what they say, "There's nobody as arrogant as an amateur." And if nobody has said that, they should. Jill

  5. Jill...

    I completely agree. Thanks for the post!