Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

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  • Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

    this is a good quick read to be mindful of when a "pass" is received.

    https://screencraft.org/2019/03/18/w...O7i04U.twitter
    Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 10-09-2020, 04:26 PM. Reason: Added tags
    "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

  • #2
    Re: Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

    Your script is a PASS unless it's so good it breaks through. Everyone is trying to get through some many scripts and not miss a great one... but plenty of readers have said (I was a reader at contest and companies) that their job is to make sure their company doesn't miss anything good, but also they don't want to recommend something that their boss will hate.

    So that's a lot of pressure. And they aren't always giving their opinion as much as what their "mandate" is from the company.

    So when a rep requests your script, you usually get that 1 opinion, not filtered through anyone else... but then you send it out into Hollywood and it's all filters and blockers and just people whose job it is to say "no" let's save the company money so we can spend it on our superhero movie. We make 2 movies a year, is your script going to break through?

    So they passed on your screenplay mostly because it wasn't good and second because saying "yes" is much scarier than saying "no."

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    • #3
      Re: Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

      A pass doesn't necessarily mean that your script isn't any good; it may just not be what they want (for whatever reason).

      There are multiple layers to get through: In a production company, you have to impress readers/creatives/owner, and not necessarily in that order, though the owner sure has the final say.

      For one of my scripts, requested after a cold query to a company's development person (who I think in that case was also the reader), I got a pass because, as she stated to me, "so-and-so (the owner/partner)" didn't like the "subject matter". The script in question is peculiar-interesting, and perhaps for this particular owner was too peculiar-interesting, from a political standpoint.

      Nevertheless, it had been requested as interesting or appealing enough, by the development person, but then was overruled by the boss. It probably also revealed a miscommunication between the owner and the development person over what to accept for reads, which I presume was rectified soon enough.

      That was no concern of mine, though, because while it was definitely the end of the road for that story in that company, neither did I make a single alteration to that script.

      In other words, aside from the things mentioned in the article, a pass arises for any number of reasons: Personal taste, politics, timing, budget level, genre, etc. etc.

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      • #4
        Re: Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

        all true:

        the five points that the article makes is one we can all keep in mind...

        1) it's not written well.
        this is probably the most true. newer writers have the tendency to send scripts out before they are truly ready.

        2) it's not for the company.
        this can mean a lot of things. they don't do that genre, they have a similar project, the subject matter is saturated...

        3) bad timing.
        the company may simply be at a point where they cannot produce your script

        4) because your script didn't "woo" them.

        i don't think every writer really understands that someone MUST be passionate about your spec. why on earth would they ever invest time and money into something they felt was mediocre. and it does no one any good to say, "but terrible films get made all the time." focus on what makes your story amazing and stand out from anything they've ever seen.

        5) contests, competitions and fellowships are subjective.
        this is about understanding that these organizations have guidelines on what they're looking for, so the more you know about them the better your chances. it still is very subjective and just because you win a contest, you still might have to fight through on all the other four topics above.
        "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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        • #5
          Re: Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

          As FA4 summarized, any one or more of items 1 thru 5 result in a pass.

          I look at it this way -- the only item the writer has any control over is #1: the quality of writing. So I focus on this alone because I have no control over items 2 thru 5.
          Last edited by sc111; 05-13-2019, 11:55 AM. Reason: Typo
          Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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          • #6
            Re: Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

            Again, these are the things that you should not care about. At all. Because the answers are 1000 in number and do not help you write a better script.

            Unless the reasons were make sure Page 4 had a dog in it... if there's no dog, they pass every time. But there are not specific reasons, they are general and every person/company responds uniquely to each script.

            They pass because that's what they do with 99% of work.

            A slightly better article would be WHY DO THEY DECIDE TO BUY? But it would just be the same things just positive.

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            • #7
              Re: Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

              Originally posted by Bono View Post
              Again, these are the things that you should not care about. At all. Because the answers are 1000 in number and do not help you write a better script.

              Unless the reasons were make sure Page 4 had a dog in it... if there's no dog, they pass every time. But there are not specific reasons, they are general and every person/company responds uniquely to each script.

              They pass because that's what they do with 99% of work.

              A slightly better article would be WHY DO THEY DECIDE TO BUY? But it would just be the same things just positive.
              i disagree.

              writers should 100% care about the quality of their writing. what else is important? the point is that many writers believe they are ready and they are not.
              "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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              • #8
                Re: Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

                Originally posted by finalact4 View Post
                writers should 100% care about the quality of their writing. what else is important? the point is that many writers believe they are ready and they are not.
                All above is true.

                But what I was saying was exact same point in my eyes. You can't control the pass reasons and thinking about them won't improve the quality of your writing.

                Yes 100% care about your writing, but 0% care about the reasons they pass on your writing because you will never KNOW for sure.
                Last edited by Bono; 05-15-2019, 06:38 AM. Reason: i can't spell, i'm a writer

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                • #9
                  Re: Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

                  Originally posted by Bono View Post
                  All above is true.

                  But what I was saying was exact same point in my eyes. You can't control the pass reasons and thinking about them won't improve the quality of your writing.

                  Yes 100% care about your writing, but 0% care about the reasons they pass on your writing because you will never known for sure.
                  This.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

                    Originally posted by Bono View Post
                    All above is true.

                    But what I was saying was exact same point in my eyes. You can't control the pass reasons and thinking about them won't improve the quality of your writing.

                    Yes 100% care about your writing, but 0% care about the reasons they pass on your writing because you will never known for sure.
                    totally agree. you can't worry about what is outside your control. articles like this can give a new writer, who does obsess about the pass, the permission to let it go.

                    how many times have we seen writers send out queries and worry more about whether they receive a response or not to the query instead of writing that next spec.

                    with queries it's send it and forget it.

                    i knew what you meant, Bono. your post, where i bolded it, could have been misunderstood by someone.
                    "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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                    • #11
                      Re: Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

                      I was wondering if anyone else had seen this: This script is green-lit now. It was on a amateur offering on scriptshadow (it won the weekend to get a review the following weekend, and was fairly well savaged).

                      But the weekend it appeared there for voting, a producer saw it and contacted that writer, bought it, and now it's slated to film.

                      The producer bought it before that writer had a chance to fix all the things that others thought were wrong with it.

                      I love stories like this, because they show how "good" is subjective. Because one might think, gee, if a script can't get a thumbs up from an online review guy, how could that script hack it in h-wood? Well, just fine, apparently!

                      I think the takeaway is you still need that ONE PERSON who gets what you're doing and agrees and has some power to get it done.

                      http://scriptshadow.net/amateur-frid...a-little-girl/

                      Here's the deadline announcement (they changed the title): https://deadline.com/2019/05/becky-m...st-1202611885/
                      Last edited by figment; 05-15-2019, 06:15 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

                        The first notes I ever had, back in 2010, included this in the first line:

                        Remember, reading is a subjective thing...
                        (before she proceeded to savage my script)

                        But this advice is one of the most important things I've ever learned in this journey. That, and Goldman's "Nobody knows anything."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

                          I basically see companies reading scripts from "outsiders", assuming you are an outsider, as a way to cover their bases. They just want to make sure they don't miss out on the next Little Miss Sunshine, Matrix, etc... - that game-changing, breakthrough movie. Also - I believe they always read scripts with their particular really good connections in mind. Maybe their brother is good friends with Bruce Willis, for example, so they know they could get to an A-lister if they wanted. Or maybe their agent is married to George Clooney's agents (or one of his agents). That's basically the idea. Your script does have to be great, of course, but only great within the context of what they are looking for and their particular connections.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

                            Originally posted by figment View Post
                            I was wondering if anyone else had seen this: This script is green-lit now. It was on a amateur offering on scriptshadow (it won the weekend to get a review the following weekend, and was fairly well savaged).

                            But the weekend it appeared there for voting, a producer saw it and contacted that writer, bought it, and now it's slated to film.

                            The producer bought it before that writer had a chance to fix all the things that others thought were wrong with it.

                            I love stories like this, because they show how "good" is subjective. Because one might think, gee, if a script can't get a thumbs up from an online review guy, how could that script hack it in h-wood? Well, just fine, apparently!

                            I think the takeaway is you still need that ONE PERSON who gets what you're doing and agrees and has some power to get it done.

                            http://scriptshadow.net/amateur-frid...a-little-girl/

                            Here's the deadline announcement (they changed the title): https://deadline.com/2019/05/becky-m...st-1202611885/
                            what a great high concept. thriteen year-old takes down four escaped criminals. i'm so glad you shared this story. this is an important lesson to writers that as you develop your craft you will ultimately be able to separate the wheat from the chaff when receiving notes. you don't have to agree with a note. not at all. my advice is to carefully 'consider' all notes before determining what you'll use and what you won't. it's your story. it's your vision.

                            often writers may lack the confidence to toss out a note from a veteran, believing they must know better. it is an opinion. sometimes notes enlighten us, and sometimes they do not match our vision.

                            the most dangerous notes are the ones offered in the way the reader would do it. i try to remind myself to keep in mind the writer's intent. what is their vision? and how can my notes help them execute that vision better. if i feel really strongly i'll mention it, but the bottom line is the writer will decide.

                            this story has a great set up. it's easy to see the entire movie by knowing the initial beats. i like it a lot. it's bold. they leveled up the protagonist's age to 13 which helps a lot.

                            i love the change in the title. very much ala Salt, Lucy, or Hannah. "Becky" screams adolescent protagonist. i hope they keep the dobermans. can visualize THAT poster.

                            this is a good example of when you have to persevere. believe in yourself. surround yourself with people who believe in your dreams and if someone doesn't like your script, it's okay, cuz the next one might love it.
                            "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Why Did They Pass on Your Screenplay...

                              Originally posted by figment View Post
                              I was wondering if anyone else had seen this: This script is green-lit now. It was on a amateur offering on scriptshadow (it won the weekend to get a review the following weekend, and was fairly well savaged).

                              But the weekend it appeared there for voting, a producer saw it and contacted that writer, bought it, and now it's slated to film.

                              The producer bought it before that writer had a chance to fix all the things that others thought were wrong with it.

                              I love stories like this, because they show how "good" is subjective. Because one might think, gee, if a script can't get a thumbs up from an online review guy, how could that script hack it in h-wood? Well, just fine, apparently!

                              I think the takeaway is you still need that ONE PERSON who gets what you're doing and agrees and has some power to get it done.

                              http://scriptshadow.net/amateur-frid...a-little-girl/

                              Here's the deadline announcement (they changed the title): https://deadline.com/2019/05/becky-m...st-1202611885/



                              Even the most successful writers/directors in the business have faced the ups and downs of some people hating their projects and then ultimately finding someone who believed in them. Roger Avary said that when he and Tarantino submitted Pulp Fiction to Tristar, Tristar execs said it was the worst script that Tristar had ever been handed: "This is awful. It’s not funny. It makes no sense. This guy’s dead, he’s alive. What’s going on?’ Fox turned down Boogie Nights because they "considered both the concept and the storyline to be “POOR,” while the characterization and dialogue rated only “FAIR.” Recommendation: “NO.” Other projects rejected: Back to the Future, Star Wars, ET, Dumb and Dumber, the Exorcist, While You were Sleeping.... My Girl couldn't even crack the quarter finals of Nicholl. Most likely, a majority of the scripts that are sent out aren't ready or are under-developed, but even if they are great material, it hasn't been a guarantee. It seems like the writers that are trying something groundbreaking or off the beaten path have faced this more like Tarantino, George Lucas, Paul Thomas Anderson. Tarantino also had problems hawking his earlier scripts like True Romance. He said that his manager was cursed out for sending out this "piece of *^"

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