Problem Reading Dark Scripts

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  • Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    I specialize in writing light-hearted kids' movies and series, or family-friendly movies.

    My watching habits are much the same, with some regular sitcoms and sci-fi/fantasy action serials added on.

    But I know there aren't many writers like me out there. So, when I do script exchanges, I tend to get dark, dramatic scripts. Sometimes, those scripts are too dark or gross for me to get through.

    I do my best to avoid it, like communicating with potential note traders, but sometimes it happens anyways. This isn't just a recent thing for me - it's happened several times in the last few years.

    How do you deal with reading scripts that are way out of your style/demographic wheelhouse, or in a genre you rarely watch?
    https://devonmw.wordpress.com/

  • #2
    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

    Originally posted by Chroa View Post
    How do you deal with reading scripts that are way out of your style/demographic wheelhouse, or in a genre you rarely watch?
    I don't read them. I'm not going to be able to give a subjective review for something I can't stand anyhow, so what's the point?
    STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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    • #3
      Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

      I do not read things that I know I will not like. For me that includes a great mixture of subjects and genres.

      "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

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      • #4
        Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

        I just put it right out there when someone asks if I'll read something of theirs:

        "I don't read horror or slasher, or anything beyond PG-13. It's just me and no reflection on your choices with the script."

        Of course, if you read for competitions, sometimes you don't have a choice...

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        • #5
          Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

          Yeah, I don't want to sound narrow-minded about the issue. I just know that it will be painful for me to read a script about certain subjects, like sports. I am not going to agree to read certain things for free. I have had people pay me to read and make some corrections, and in such cases I will read a script that otherwise I would not.

          "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

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          • #6
            Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

            I'm going to offer the counterargument and say judge a script on its own merits, not your personal tastes. You can be picky with what you watch or read for your own purposes, but if you're giving notes, you just don't have that luxury. If you're too picky, you'll quickly find yourself in want of people to read your own material, because you won't read others.

            With all the writers groups I've been a part of over the years, as well as all the read requests, I've come across countless pieces of material that I personally wouldn't read or watch on my own. But I do my best to give notes, and typically focus on character and story structure, and whatever else I think I can be of help with. Plus it's never a bad thing to be exposed to other genres/subjects, since there's always some lesson to be drawn from them.

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            • #7
              Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

              Originally posted by docgonzo View Post
              I'm going to offer the counterargument and say judge a script on its own merits, not your personal tastes. You can be picky with what you watch or read for your own purposes, but if you're giving notes, you just don't have that luxury. If you're too picky, you'll quickly find yourself in want of people to read your own material, because you won't read others.
              If you're getting paid to give notes and if you want to keep your job, I agree with you. If you're not getting paid and don't have to worry about keeping your job, you can choose NOT to read anything you want.

              Most people are only fooling themselves anyway. I've read far to many notes, written by people who obviously didn't like the subject of a certain screenplay, even if it was well written and suddenly got very picky with their criticisms.

              Complete objectivity is great to shoot for but is rarely achieved -- at least by amateurs.

              And even production companies often specify what genres they are interested in.
              "I just couldn't live in a world without me."

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              • #8
                Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

                Originally posted by docgonzo View Post
                With all the writers groups I've been a part of over the years, as well as all the read requests, I've come across countless pieces of material that I personally wouldn't read or watch on my own. But I do my best to give notes, and typically focus on character and story structure, and whatever else I think I can be of help with. Plus it's never a bad thing to be exposed to other genres/subjects, since there's always some lesson to be drawn from them.
                In my opinion, life's too short to read stuff you can't stand. I'm not going to compel myself to tolerate stuff I find repugnant so I can learn some "life lesson." I can find that in stuff I like to read and enjoy myself while doing it.

                A pro writer once stated in a defunct writing newsgroup ... "You don't owe anyone a read." I agree wholeheartedly.
                STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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                • #9
                  Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

                  In 2009, I adapted a short novel written in 1902 about a man who regularly beat a dog.

                  My passionate reason to take on the task was that one of the many job titles I've held in my lifetime is that I once bore witness to such kinds of people. Usually, at the behest of complaints by their neighbors, it was my job to separate these people from the possession of their animals. They were and are persons who I find thoroughly repugnant and deserving of receiving the same treatment they give the animals they mistreat and abuse, but then that would put me at their level.

                  When the screenplay was completed (ha!), I submitted it to The Black List. I paid for two reviews.

                  The first review came in with an overall score of 7, with which I was happy enough knowing full well I'd need to rewrite the piece many times to come. The review had many praises, scored some areas as high as nine (egads!), and also (rightfully, I can see easily now) pointed out the deficiencies and scored them appropriately. The combined “almost high” score gave me cause to purchase a second review.

                  The second review, however, reflected the reviewer's disgust with the subject of the story — that of a cruel, inhumane dog-beater — even though the dog won the struggle in my version of the story (I dared to change the short novel's unhappy ending).

                  That didn't matter to the second reviewer, apparently, whose personal vitriol against the practice of animal abuse was suffused throughout his or her notes on the screenplay. At notes' end, the reviewer felt that the screenplay would find no audience because my descriptions of the dog's abuse were so graphic. The second reviewer gave me an overall score of 4.

                  Even though I received a low score from the second reviewer, I took some satisfaction in the unintended left-handed compliment they'd delivered in their review summary by practically telling me my writing had turned their gut.

                  The second review also made me consider the audience factor. I allowed the reviewer's comments to dissuade me from my belief that the story and screenplay had merit, so I set aside that screenplay. I determined to try to reduce the violent dog abuse without watering down the story altogether too much.

                  To date, much like the author of the original short novel, I haven't found a better way to make the story work than to leave in the animal cruelty (it worked well for the original author, after all).

                  Also, as Time marches on, it seems to me that more violent and more graphic screenplays have been written and produced that far exceed the levels depicted in my adaptation screenplay. Many a movie depicts cruel and inhumane abuse between people that are far worse than what I've written in the adaptation screenplay.

                  Thanks to the impetus of this thread, however, I'm reviving that screenplay once again. Why ought I allow that second reviewer's pejorative comments sway me about a subject that is distasteful to them?

                  In my opinion, the screenplay would make a fine showing on HBO or Showtime, or any of the other cable and streaming outlets for production nowadays. It has inexpensive sets and few locations, only two main characters — one of whom is a dog — and a supporting cast who appear infrequently (or once) and who serve only to move the story forward.

                  Also, in my opinion, the second reviewer allowed their personal dislike to taint their review perhaps more than they ought to have done. This, in turn, tainted my perception of my work. As a neophyte screenwriter, I was easily influenced by others who I believed held their position through experience. The first reviewer saw great merit and potential. Why not take the pains now to rewrite the adaptation using those guidelines?

                  In conclusion, if one screenwriter is going to read the work of another screenwriter, then it's of necessity that the first screenwriter must adopt a mantle of objectivity in order to better assist the second screenwriter.

                  Otherwise, it's just a trade between them of personal likes and dislikes, something that can be found in any screenwriting forum.
                  Last edited by TigerFang; 08-25-2017, 04:08 AM.
                  "Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.- - Ray Bradbury

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                  • #10
                    Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

                    Great post, TigerFang. I won't turn this into another thread ragging on Black List readers but it certainly feels like the second reader missed the point. If it were exploitative violence for the sake of it then he might have a point but that really isn't the impression I get from that story. You can't have a script where a character, in this case a dog, overcome suffering without the audience having to experience that suffering too. In trying to write about the evil of animal abuse some people will miss the mark and say you're pro animal abuse. I have dealt with similar things in the past and it's maddening but you're intelligent enough to know that this story won't be for everyone. I commend you for picking the script back up with that knowledge in mind. It takes guts to write something that people could love or detest.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

                      Originally posted by TheConnorNoden View Post
                      Great post, TigerFang. I won't turn this into another thread ragging on Black List readers but it certainly feels like the second reader missed the point. If it were exploitative violence for the sake of it then he might have a point but that really isn't the impression I get from that story. You can't have a script where a character, in this case a dog, overcome suffering without the audience having to experience that suffering too. In trying to write about the evil of animal abuse some people will miss the mark and say you're pro animal abuse. I have dealt with similar things in the past and it's maddening but you're intelligent enough to know that this story won't be for everyone. I commend you for picking the script back up with that knowledge in mind. It takes guts to write something that people could love or detest.
                      Guts I do have in abundant supply. Thank you for the encouraging words!

                      As far as the OP's original post query goes about “dark” scripts getting into his reader's Inbox, I might add to my admonishment of adopting objectivity that it's helpful to see the screenplay as a device that carries first a premise, and then from which it develops a theme. Are those things present? Did the screenplay achieve its story goals of delivering a satisfying story that leaves the reader/audience with an overarching theme to consider?

                      The other advice to the OP would be to trade loglines before accepting the “dark” material. Just tell 'em you write Mouse House tales.

                      As far as the popularity of evil incarnate in today's modern screenplays, I agree that the writing of dark stories does seem to be a trend, and for me, it's from younger screenwriters.

                      Astonishingly, the “Sleeping Prophet” Edgar Cayce spoke of this very trend of dark and evil storylines in the entertainment industry on Atlantis. In his trance-like state of “connection” with another dimension, Cayce simply stated it was not good (the implication being it was not good for society as a whole). The Atlantis entertainment industry, apparently, had technologically advanced means of broadcasting their fare but was one whose images and imagery had grown violent and perverse in the final days before the four destructive subductions of that Mid-Atlantic continent. This alone was not what caused the destruction of Atlantis, but was a contributing factor. In order to receive more and better communications on all levels, both entertainment and official, the demand for power from the vibrations of crystals were elevated to the point that it created the earthquakes and volcanic activity that rent Atlantis asunder. This vibrating crystal effect would be much like Nikola Tesla's much smaller device, the electromagnetic oscillator, one which nearly took down the building it was in when it malfunctioned one day in 1898 and almost couldn't be turned off.

                      When I was a kid, the big news way back then was that the San Andreas fault was going to cause all of Hollywood to slide into the sea. Perhaps it will do just that after we've gone to vibrating crystals as a power source.

                      Yet, I digress.
                      Last edited by TigerFang; 08-26-2017, 03:52 AM.
                      "Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.- - Ray Bradbury

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                      • #12
                        Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

                        Originally posted by TigerFang View Post
                        In conclusion, if one screenwriter is going to read the work of another screenwriter, then it's of necessity that the first screenwriter must adopt a mantle of objectivity in order to better assist the second screenwriter.
                        Which is exactly why I wouldn't read something I found odious. I know I couldn't be objective about it. (I don't even want to be.)

                        As for the script about the dog abuse ... if it's graphic cruelty, I have to agree with the second reviewer, there's not going to be a market for it. People simply have trouble watching helpless creatures, dogs or children especially, being hurt. The closest you can come to making this work is if the story starts with the results of the cruelty (not the graphic display of it) and works towards healing.
                        STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

                          Originally posted by Centos View Post
                          As for the script about the dog abuse ... if it's graphic cruelty, I have to agree with the second reviewer, there's not going to be a market for it. People simply have trouble watching helpless creatures, dogs or children especially, being hurt. The closest you can come to making this work is if the story starts with the results of the cruelty (not the graphic display of it) and works towards healing.
                          Nah. Not buyin' it. You don't know enough of the story or its setting to make that call. The dog is anything but helpless. Me? I'm going with the first reviewer's comments. Later.
                          "Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.- - Ray Bradbury

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                          • #14
                            Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

                            Originally posted by TigerFang View Post
                            Nah. Not buyin' it. You don't know enough of the story or its setting to make that call. The dog is anything but helpless. Me? I'm going with the first reviewer's comments. Later.
                            That's fine, everyone has a different opinion. You're right about one thing at least -- I don't know enough about your script. I was just going by how you described it. I still don't think anyone wants to watch graphic scenes with dogs (or children) being hurt -- and if that's what happens here, I seriously doubt you'll find a market.
                            STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Problem Reading Dark Scripts

                              Originally posted by Centos View Post
                              That's fine, everyone has a different opinion. You're right about one thing at least -- I don't know enough about your script. I was just going by how you described it. I still don't think anyone wants to watch graphic scenes with dogs (or children) being hurt -- and if that's what happens here, I seriously doubt you'll find a market.
                              I know I'm in the minority around here on this issue but finding a "market" for every story isn't the way to go about things. I know the ultimate goal is to be able to live off writing but sometimes you have to tell the story you want to tell regardless of whatever everyone else might think. You start by writing something YOU want to see. Good or bad at least you have a story at the end that you can be proud of.

                              EDIT: It's just...how many people here are writing for the joy of it? Isn't that what should come first?
                              Last edited by TheConnorNoden; 08-27-2017, 01:36 AM.

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