A gem from Hollywhooped (POV of studio reader)



No announcement yet.
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • #31
    Re: General Notes from a Reader

    For you, it's disdain/respect. For Tao, it's disdain/disdain.

    I mean, consider the source.


    • #32
      Re: General Notes from a Reader

      Jimjim - -

      Thanks for clarifying, I see your points. And, of course,
      we should all raise the bar to "extraordinary" if only
      for our own growth as writers.

      Still, it seems to me that "extraordinary" and "what
      the studios are looking for" can often be at cross

      I wonder if the writer may end up second-guessing
      or back burner-ing too many of their scripts when
      constantly checking the pulse of Hollywood execs,
      who, as history shows, are cameleon-like when it
      comes down to figuring out 'what they're looking for,'
      an industry known to quickly run hot and cold on
      this or that material.

      I do check the sales boards, maybe there's some
      lag-time because I'm not inside the industry to the
      degree you are, but once I read the news I find a
      large percentage of novel and comic book adaptations,
      remakes of older films, and original pitches. Spec
      scripts by 'tyro writers' constitute the smallest
      percentage of sales.

      And when you look at the fact that a number of
      mediocre scripts make it all the way to the screen,
      it's clear some (if not many) scripts are optioned or
      sold for a myriad of reasons other than "extraordinary."

      And I wonder where it leaves the spec writer trying to
      break in. At square one, I suppose, sitting at a computer
      and working out a concept.

      Of course, we should study structure and craft until it becomes second nature. But, in terms of creativity,
      I wonder if a spec writer can end up stifled trying to
      please the industry, anticipate its desires, while banging
      their head against the wall for an idea that dovetails
      with the most recent option or sale.

      As a writer, I find it stifling.

      To others:

      Yes, I will overcome my unreasonable fear of new
      software and load Final Draft tonight.


      • #33
        Re: General Notes from a Reader

        Hoorah SC! Let us all rejoice in the sweet glow of FD!

        :hat :b


        • #34
          Re: General Notes from a Reader

          Go for it, Sc111. I have to chuckle at you dragging your feet on learning the new software... MM sat on my shelf for two years. :lol Maybe it's a Scorpio thing.


          • #35
            Re: General Notes from a Reader

            SC - you're misinterpreting my point in a self-defeating direction. Your response limits relevant information to sales and the pulse of studio execs (if that can be measured), which is only a small part of what I'm talking about.

            Writers influence the way other writers write and by reading work from people at the top of their game, as well as those on the rise, I learn more about my craft and am inspired to take chances or try different techniques in my own efforts.

            In the wider spectrum of Hollywood, the ugly end of this sees a lot of poor imitators, who, following the heat, suddenly try to write dialogue like Tarantino, characters like Kaufman, or comedy like the Farrelly Brothers. These are the people chasing the box office and the spec sales. The flip side finds capable writers who incorporate the best of others' successes into their own. They become better writers, see the bigger picture, and have careers. They give the exec who doesn't know what he wants exactly what he's looking for, not by guesswork, but with great work.

            As a simple example, say two young painters go to a museum and see their first Picasso. One guy goes home and makes his own bad cubist imitations. The other blends some of those techniques into his own style, changing and growing as an artist; he and his work are better for it. People find it both familiar and new, it works critically, it sells, everybody is happy.

            Back to my original point - the greatest disadvantage for amateurs outside of Hollywood (imho) is that they don't get a steady diet of strong, solid, well-crafted scripts to read, 95% percent of which will never reach the screen or be posted online, (i.e. for every Picasso the public gets, the insiders get at least twenty to look at and learn from).

            Also, just because these scripts don't get made or don't sell, it doesn't mean they're nothing but fodder for the recycle bin. They all make some kind of statement, small or large, about what the writer can do, helping that writer create an identity that will affect their future reads by people in the industry and thus their potential to get assignment work or sales. A pass doesn't kill the potential usefulness of a script that's well-written.

            Our scripts define us as writers and if we settle for crap, then that's what our audience will expect from us.

            But a disadvantage is just that and it doesn't spell doom because at some point everyone was on the outside and every writer was an amateur.

            Creating extraordinary work is the only way to break in.

            Beyond the basics, the continued study of our craft involves following the progress of our peers and competitors, looking at their scripts as both craft and commerce. We must do this if our work is to ever be extraordinary, because we cannot survive or grow in a vacuum.


            • #36

              Somebody asked me to elaborate on a previous statement, wondering - what are the basic criteria that, if met, compel me to forward a script up the ladder.

              No surprises here probably;


              Also, me being me, if it's an action script, I will comment on the action, the set pieces, and the technology. If it's supernatural or horror, I comment on those aspects as compared to similar projects I have recently seen.

              My comments in total are usually 3/4 to 1 page in length, one paragraph for each element.

              When reading for the agency, I would say that Concept and Character are the most important elements. A great idea combined with a great role will often get a consider even if the story needs work and/or the dialogue is weak. Why? Because the idea can sell, the good role creates packaging possibilities, and an A-list writer can be brought in to fix what needs fixing. But those situations are rare and really, it all needs to work for the project to move forward.

              When reading for the production company, I also have to take into consideration what kind of movies we are looking for and if we already have something similar in development.

              The X-factor in all this is EXECUTION. If ten writers were given the same outline and were told to write the same script, we all know every one would be different. What often sounds like a simple, cheezy, or just plain bad idea on the sales board often works on the page because the writer is talented enough to pull it off, to execute in all the above mentioned areas and give life to that which would seem inanimate.


              • #37
                Re: General Notes from a Reader

                CE's recent response ties in well with the "great script" debate. I could have just linked it, but this one deserves two homes.


                It is always an achievement when someone
                finds your script entertaining - which seems
                to be the case here.

                But the quality of the feedback feels a
                little whitewashed and generalized to me.

                If I paid someone to write coverage and
                he handed me something of that ilk, he'd
                have to do it over again.

                This does not mean the reader's opinion
                doesn't count. If he found the script
                entertaining - I believe him.

                But is he looking at the script with the
                same kind of eye a "Hollywood reader"

                This is why friends may love the script,
                but the reader at CAA passes on the

                And in a contest, your script is being
                compared to the work of unseasoned
                writers from Osh Kosh.

                At CAA your script is being compared
                with Scott Frank and Steve Zaillian's.

                Being objective is crucial (and you seem
                to have that ability).

                Of course, on top of being objective, a
                writer has to be knowledgeable in what
                makes a script work or not. The idea
                of being objective is useless if the writer
                doesn't know what to look for.

                Over the years, I have met MANY scribes
                who have said to me, "Please read my
                script. It's fantastic. You won't be
                disappointed. Everyone who reads it loves
                it...." And the coverage ALWAYS comes
                back looking like Hiroshima after the blast.
                (This just isn't a writer's phenomenon,
                just about anyone pushing a script is
                guilty of it - including producers and

                Writers should be confident but cautious.

                The truth is that most scripts do not live
                up to the hype. And scripts that sell -
                don't sell because they're brilliant - they
                sell because they offer potential.

                Of course, there are many other factors
                that go into selling a script that have
                nothing to do with it being "great."

                Below are two posts (combined) I wrote
                for TWOADVERBS:

                A "great" script is like "beauty is in the eye
                of the beholder." I know women who date
                men that are on par with Mr. Ed (and I'm
                talking looks - not about being hung like a

                But to these women, they have found "Mr.

                Part of the seller's job is to get the right
                script into the hands of the right person.
                It's like matchmaking.

                There is rarely a script in town that EVERY-
                ONE is dying to purchase. While one is
                willing to spend 2 mil on the project,
                another company wouldn't take it if it were

                Write a "great" script about 19th century
                Inuits and present it to Neal Moritz and
                he'll pass. Give it Miramax and it's a sale.

                It was the "right" script for Miramax.

                Since I have read thousands and thousands
                of scripts that have sold - I can swear on
                a stack of Bibles that most are NOT great
                - most aren't even good.

                But they sold because the material felt
                right for the right person - and the plethora
                of other factors lined up just right as well.

                Recently, Dreamworks bought a terrible
                script, but their slate was empty, they were
                looking for a certain kind of project and this
                one was right for them. It sold.

                The notion of the "right script" selling is just
                a more realistic approach to the way the
                business operates. This shouldn't prevent
                scribes from writing a "great" script anyway.

                "Great" to me means that everything comes together
                and works as a whole.

                In the STUDY section, there is a thread called GREAT
                SCRIPTS YOU PROBABLY HAVEN'T READ, where I
                mention a few script I've read over the years that I
                thought were great.

                I know there are people who have read those same
                scripts and DIDN'T think they were great.

                So "great" doesn't really exist.

                Of course I could quantify why I think those scripts
                are great (and I do in the thread), but, to be honest,
                those scripts work for ME.

                They hit the RIGHT chord on a personal level and
                MOVE me.

                Another analogy is clothing.

                I've tried on "great" pieces of clothing that look
                amazing on display and better on some model
                but aren't the "right" fit for me.

                Studios and producers and buyers, in general,
                are looking for the right fit.

                After STAY sold for 1.8 million dollars, everyone
                in town read it. And most scratched their heads.
                Most agreed it was well written, but many also
                agreed that the ending was questionable and
                the script wasn't worth that sort of money.

                But it was the RIGHT script for New Regency.

                DEJA VU was recently purchased for several
                million dollars - some claimed it was the most
                amount of money dished out for a spec script
                (without any blind deals attached) ever.

                With that sort of money being paid for a
                script - it would have to be GREAT.

                However, most agree there is nothing great
                about it. The premise is hardly inspired and
                the execution boasts a few good beats - but
                no one would deem it great.

                However, for whatever reason, it was the
                RIGHT script for Jerry Bruckheimer.

                Yes, one needs to have a script that is
                commercially viable (for the most part) and
                it should display some proficiency of craft but,
                I believe it does not have to be great.

                "Great" is masturbation. It's about writers
                saying, "I sold this script because it was
                great. I got an agent because it was great."

                (Translation: I'm a great writer. I'm great.)

                Bullshit. I've read their scripts, and most are
                not great.

                They sold their script or got an agent because
                they found "Mr. Right" - someone who clicked
                with the project and found the chemistry and
                passion to champion it.

                "Great" is also a buzz word. "How can I make
                it in Hollywood?" "Write a great script."

                Teachers and purveyors of HOW TO books use
                "great" every chance they get.

                What else is someone going to say?

                "Great" makes everyone look smart (writers
                are writing great scripts and we are selling/
                buying great scripts). Also, in such a tough,
                puzzling business, "great" allows the writer
                to actively strive for something specific (so
                he thinks). He enthusiastically tells himself,
                "All I have to do is write a great script and
                Hollywood's doors will open for me!"

                Anyone who works in the business knows
                that is not entirely true.

                Write a script and get it to the right person -
                who meshes with the material - and the doors
                COULD open.

                As an example, there was a script called
                TIPTOES. A dreadful piece of dreck about
                dwarfs. It was written on the level of an
                Ed Wood film, and I dismissed it pronto.
                However, I was stunned to learn that Gary
                Oldman was involved with the project. (He
                was playing a dwarf!) Obviously, the material
                clicked with him. It didn't change my mind.
                It was a terrible script. Much to my surprise,
                some good talent attached itself to the
                script. (They wanted to work with Oldman.)
                I watched in horror as the project came
                together - not believing that anyone could
                find any merit in a screenplay that bad.

                The film was made and screened at Sundance.
                People walked out of it. The director had been
                taken off the picture (because producers were
                shocked at how bad it was) and he blamed
                his removal as the cause of the wretchedness.
                But, it was all there in the screenplay - from
                day one. Despite its good cast - the film did
                not find distribution and was released on DVD
                last month.

                No matter who championed that script, it was
                not great (not even fair) and would never be
                great. But it found the right home and was
                produced. It made the writer (his only credit)
                some cash.

                Someone loves Ted Bundy.
                Someone loves to pop people's pimples.
                Someone loves the smell of rotted eggs
                Someone loves to eat their boogers or their @#%$ (coprophagia).
                Someone loves sex with dead people.
                Someone loves "What Dreams May Come."

                And someone will love your script. (No
                offense meant toward anyone's script.)

                "Great" is subjective. So when someone
                does find a "great" script - it is "great" to
                that person, not necessarily great in
                the context of all scripts ever written.

                So, again, it isn't about a great script, it's
                about the "right script."


                • #38
                  Re: General Notes from a Reader


                  I agree that your advice has merit. And, yes, writers influence other writers.

                  But I don't live in LA and I don't have an inside track to all these great scripts you get to read. All I can do is read the work I have access to and move forward with my own work.

                  From the tone of your posts it's clear you have a professional detachment where you can follow the advice you offer without becoming caught up in self doubt.

                  What I'm suggesting is that there's a strong possibly for a writer starting out to become overwhelmed by all the 'extradordinary' scripts that have gone before and become creatively paralyzed when they sit down to write with ghosts of these great writers hanging over their shoulders.

                  Yes, one can observe techniques of others and adapt or incorporate them in their own work but, using your Picasso example, when Picasso developed cubism nothing like it existed before, he broke from tradition. Of course, first he was classically trained, had all the traditional techniques down, as did Salvador Dali, before either man broke from tradition. But they're both known for their innovations, not their tradtional work.

                  I'm concerned that the seeds of innovation will lay dormant if too much emphasis is put on aligning oneself with the work of other writers.


                  • #39
                    Re: General Notes from a Reader

                    Scripts are available. Hollywood Book and Poster ships everywhere in US, and they have a comprehensive list of scripts of all drafts and sizes.

                    Online classes are available to anyone with an internet connection.

                    Places like DD exist, where you can post pages and get feedback (I've gotten some invaluable feedback here).

                    Once upon a time, one might have been able to use the excuse that they didn't have access to these things. That is not the case any longer.

                    Every writer experiences self-doubt, in fact, it may be a pre-requisite. What differentiates those who move forward from those who don't are the ones who write in spite of the self-doubt. Who don't let their inner demons stand in their way.

                    One can come up with a million excuses not to write. I've come up with some doozies in my time. The only question you have to ask yourself is, "Do I really want this?" If the answer is, "Yes." Then, you know what you have to do. If it's, "No." Then, quit.

                    It's as easy as that.