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Old 07-09-2004, 08:46 PM   #1
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Default Vertical skimming

Just got our first taste of this "new trend" - maybe it's been here for awhile.

Still, i'm interested in people's thoughts and experiences.

What I mean if you have not heard the term before is the practice of readers skimming scripts, looking for vertical reads - no vertical read capability (meaning fast as heck - in their opinion) then no real read.

I say "real" because after getting our new supernatural horror script back from a major agency I realized the reader only "sort of" read the script. In fact in his/her coverage there were plot points not even noted. The ending - they totally missed. They plain got it wrong.

No we ain't talking Shakespeare here - it's horror meant to give you nighmares and high school boys their first chance at being lucky... it's old school.

It's an easy read and there is not a lot of blah blah... like this post.

My last question is - How can you advance your career if nobody's really reading the script?


p.s. I have been working on movie and tv shows for the past four years (PA, runner, stand in) - there's a lot of stuff not being read or written until the project is in production. And even then...
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Old 07-09-2004, 09:56 PM   #2
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It seems that the only way to combat this at a production house, agency, or management company level is to write a compelling script from page one to FADE OUT.

I know that readers are paid to read on a per script basis most of the time. And more often than not, they know by page five if the script is even worth finishing. So why not do them a favor and yourself a favor by writing a compelling script that is well-written?
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Old 07-09-2004, 10:08 PM   #3
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In our case I think it has more to do with what is now considered horror and what is horror in the old school sense.

Jeepers 1/2 - joke - laughable
Final Dest. 1/2 - sad jokes
new chainsaw mass - joke and a half
Japanese version of Ring - brilliant
American version - yawn...

I thought we were not supposed to "dumb down" our work.

BTW, we place in festivals - we are told repeatedly "well written, scary as hell..."

Don't get me wrong I have 3 producers with creds. who want to make this film - problem is enough $$. They want direct to DVD. I am trying to avoid that for the moment.

No one in their right mind ever thinks - "Now something to sweat over for a year - just to sell for 1500$ for a directo to DVD thing." Wow...

However, I appreciate your thoughts Hamboogul.

I think the readers thing, being paid per script is just that. They are pushing cars off the assembly line just to get paid their $50 bucks or whatever they are getting. And credentials? Let's not even go there.

I am not trying to say we are all right and they are all wrong.

Vertical skimming bugs me and I wondered if it bugged anybody else.
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Old 07-09-2004, 10:20 PM   #4
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It rarely happens when a script is good, most scripts that get skimmed are ones that take 20 pages to start getting good. Now I'm not saying yours isn't good, I've never read it but as for the reader not getting it... well sometimes it's just that, parts may drag on and the reader just doesn't get it sometimes. You as the writer need to make it compelling for the reader to want to read it.

As for the examples of the "horror" movies you listed and how bad they are minus the original Ring, all I can say is if that's not the type of thing you write then maybe there's a reason people are looking at straight to video... because all those movies were successful movies. The industry is a business and it's about making money. When dealing with the horror genre that's even more true, it's why they make it. Usually cheap to make and huge calculated ROI. It definitely ain't about writing Shakespeare. In the case for Final Destination, that was just a great concept.

Skimming happens but it doesn't happen all the time, and one reader that may skim a script doesn't mean he/she does it on every or even a lot of scripts.
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Old 07-09-2004, 11:14 PM   #5
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Yeah, it's been Agency related only so far.

I liked concept of final dest. too
Execution was miserable.
And you are right about the money thing.

It's a sad sad thing about the money thing...
All I see is money and the hunt for it. Great actors? Good story? That's an accident.

Thank you for the input.
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Old 07-09-2004, 11:42 PM   #6
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we are told repeatedly "well written, scary as hell..."

You know the thing missing from that list? Great story. Without a great story and great characters it doesn't matter how scary the film is, it'll never be great. Perhaps, and i can only guess without reading your script, that is what it lacks. Or perhaps the reader was just having a sh!tty day and had other things on his mind while he was reading it.

Also i don't think that by any stretch of the imagination you can blame it on what Hollywood now considers as horror. For me, no one is doing horror better than the Japanese (Hideo Nakata and Takashi Miike in particular). But it is absolutely clear that Hollywood recognises this. They're currently remaking Ring 2 and Dark Water (and hopefully with the addition of Nakata as director on Ring 2 they won't fudge it up this time).

Anywho best of luck with it, don't be discouraged simply because one person didn't like it as much as you do.
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Old 07-10-2004, 01:22 PM   #7
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"just write a great story" is kind of useless advice. If you gave 10 people on this board a script, responses would likely be all over the map. People rarely agree on what's "great." It's like telling someone who wants to be a 4-star chef "just cook really tasty food."

The reason readers skim is because they're being paid $50-75 per script, they have a bunch to get through and they want to finish in time to meet their friends for drinks and hopefully get laid. The harsh reality is you spend thousands of hours writing, polishing and marketing your script, they spend less than one distracted hour reading it.
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Old 07-10-2004, 01:33 PM   #8
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I agree and disagree with your assessment. Yes, "just write a great story" is a sarcastic and useless advice, one that I often give. My other favorite useless advice being "The easiest way to break in is to write a great script that I'm shocked that so few people try it."

But I do think that if you gave 10 people (perhaps not on this board but those with enough industry experience), a majority of them would recognize good writing and exemplary execution within the genre. I am sure that if I ate a great clam chowder that a four star chef made, I would see that it's better than other chowders I had even if I don't care for chowder myself.
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Old 07-10-2004, 01:50 PM   #9
Writing In The Margins
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Default soup

Hamboogul, I will have to agree and disagree with you. I agree that a 4 star, well-schooled chef will technically make a better clam chowder. But if the taster simply has bad taste, they can't tell the difference between gourmet chowder to Chunky Soup. In fact, someone with bad taste might even say the Chunky Soup is better.

The problem with Hollywood is that a lot of people have bad taste, or stated another way, they don't know what good taste is. What good is it for a writer to write a "great story" if the reader doesn't know what a great story is? But unfortunately, that's the nature of the beast, the system we must play in. Don't get me wrong -- all things considered equal -- there are a lot of writers out there who don't know what a great story is either. Lots of bad going around, not enough good.

That's why selling a script, landing an agent, getting a deal, attaching stars, is all about right place, right time -- and a modicum of talent.
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Old 07-10-2004, 03:02 PM   #10
Gary Whitta
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Default Re: soup

Chunky Soup Clam Chowder is actually f*cking good. Don't knock it.
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