Saturday, December 20, 2008

Reading Scripts

Reading scripts is a large part of my job as a producer. It's always a joy to come across a really well written script that speaks to my sensibility as a storyteller. It's rare but when it happens, I realize again why I decided to be a filmmaker. Good stories make me feel happy, excited, and positive. Who doesn't want to feel that way all the time?

You don't have to be a master screenwriter or top director or producer to know you are reading a good script. A good script should be a page turner. You should feel compelled to want to keep reading more when you reach the end of a page. As you are reading the script, actual scenes should start playing out in your head. You are seeing the film, not just reading it. If this happens, it is a strong clue you are reading something that is well written.

However, every well written script won't speak to everyone. I have read many that are award-winning that I felt weren't my cup of tea. That doesn't mean they are bad. It just means that they aren't my taste. Sometimes it can be hard to discern between a bad script and one that just doesn't speak to you. This is where having a firm grasp on script structure can really help as you assess the strengths of a script -- read up on script structure, take classes, watch a ton of movies and read the scripts of the movies you like. 

I won't lie, reading scripts can be a chore at times. There are many more bad scripts than there are good ones. Because there are so many scripts available and not enough time to read them all, it is a reality that development executives use time-saving means for getting through mountains of scripts each week. I hate to say it but there is a 30-10 rule. Read the first 30 pages and the last 10. And there is also the "only read the dialogue" way of reading a script. If the script is really bad it's hard to get past page 3 and yes, I have passed on scripts from reading only 3 pages. I know that may sound insane but because I have so many other scripts to consider, I would rather not waste my time on a script that has tortured me for 3 pages. Don't worry, a script has to be really bad for me to pass after 3 pages. Really bad.

I am sure screenwriters are cringing as they read this. They want to believe that their scripts are being read from beginning to end and that the readers are savoring every word. And that can be a reality if you have crafted a really good script. So hopefully knowing there is a lot of stiff competition out there, screenwriters will feel compelled to make sure their script is so good that an exec will keep reading the entire script. Keep those pages turning so fast that before an exec even thinks about using the 30-10 rule, he or she has already finished reading the entire script!


Paul Del Vecchio said...

Great article! I was pitched a script recently (for me to direct) and it had sooo many bad grammatical errors and the writing was confusing (because the structure was terrible). I had to struggle to get through 35 pages because the structure and grammar were so bad.

Great advice here! If you wouldn't mind, I have a quick question for you as a producer who reads tons of scripts. Do camera angles in scripts bother you if they help set the tone?


Paul Del Vecchio

Jane Kelly Kosek said...

Thanks for the comment and great point about ensuring proper screenplay format and grammar are used! Those are essential components to have any script taken seriously. I won't even read a script that has poor grammar or incorrect screenplay format. To answer your question, camera angles don't bother me if they are used sparingly and they really do set the tone. Thank you.

Sabina E. said...

Noody is really right or wrong about what makes a good story. I think the most important question most producers ask themselves: would this story make me any money?

Sad to say, but it's the truth, aint it?