F1_paper_man_MJ04

Carson, here– I’m currently stuck in someone’s basement.  Say no to strangers, kids.  Especially if they don’t know the secret word.  But not to worry.  Last week some of you were asking to hear from a genuine script reader.  Today I’m making those dreams come true.  Here’s Matt, who read for a couple of production companies.  He’ll tell you what kind of people you’re trying to get past, and has even offered to answer questions in the comments.  So shoot them out there after you read his article, which is damn good!   

{Note: These are my experiences having worked as a reader for two production companies. As I learned by working with two different companies, every process is slightly different. But I also learned that for the most part, they’re incredibly similar. Also note, I will not, for what should be obvious reason, be publicly naming any names.}

Okay, so what I’m going to do is a bit of a faux-interview in that nobody is actually interviewing me, but I’ll present some questions and answer them, and go into the details of my experience as a script reader, advice, etc. Some of this is probably blatantly obvious to many of you, some of it may not be. I’m just putting it all out there.

My Background

In short, I started writing when I was 17 after I watched (for the first time), Pulp Fiction, Taxi Driver, and The Departed (the latter had just come out the year prior). Before that I had maybe seen fifty films in my entire life, and none of them were like those movies. Long story short, I found this amazing website called TriggerStreet, became a member (which was against the rules since I wasn’t 18 yet), and read and reviewed at least four hundred scripts on that site over the years, and wrote many myself. I met some incredible people, and eventually moved to Los Angeles and remain good friends with many of them. I mention this because it is a wonderful site to get feedback on your scripts, as well as read others’ work (which is an invaluable learning experience unto itself). I encourage you to check it out.

How’d I get a job as a reader?

I don’t know how most people do it. I never asked them. Mine was sheer blind luck. I was 19, living in Ohio, and I ended up working on a documentary for some people that flew in from Los Angeles. The director happened to have worked for this company in the past, and he said he’d set me up with an interview. I did a phone interview and sample coverage and there you go. I was getting paid to read scripts.

The Process – What did I do?

I would get a script emailed to me. I knew nothing about the script other than the title. No logline. (this applies to both companies) They’d give me a deadline, though usually I’d do it much faster so I could get another script to read. I’d read the script, and fill out a coverage sheet. The coverage sheets vary from company to company, but all of them are essentially: a one page synopsis and then rating (scale one to ten usually) and describing the concept, story, dialogue, character, and marketability. I would also assess (obviously a guesstimate) the budget (low, medium, high). Then I’d tell them whether I recommended the script or whether it was a pass. If I recommended it, it would be kicked further up the ladder for someone else to read. If I passed, that was the end of it. And that last part is why lowly readers like myself (well, okay, there is someone even lower – the unpaid intern) are so important. If you submit an unsolicited script, you can bet that it’s going to be read by someone like me. Or, as I mentioned, an unpaid intern.

About Unpaid Interns

Unpaid interns are people who pimp themselves and their knowledge out for free in the hopes of one day securing a job. Go to Los Angeles Craigslist TV/Film jobs, and you’ll see how many unpaid internships are floating around out there. I’m generally against this type of work, for a variety of reasons. One of which is that unpaid interns write HORRIBLE coverage (no this is not universally true, but almost). When I say horrible, I mean that their coverage often lacks attention to detail and at least fifty percent of them I read indicated a significant lack in ability to form a coherent sentence. And I largely think this is because they’re unpaid! As The Joker said, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” But like I said, this isn’t universally true. I’ve read plenty of coverage from unpaid interns who took it very seriously and were incredibly diligent.

 Know Who You’re Sending Your Script To

One company I worked for would get all types of scripts, all different genres. The other company worked primarily in comedy. Don’t send your sci-fi adventure script to a company who only makes low budget dramas! Do some research about who you’re sending it to first. This will maximize your potential, waste less time, and if you’re querying a company (yes it does work sometimes), you can personalize the query.

What Kind of Scripts Did I Read?

Everything. And I mean everything. Like I said, one company dealt specifically in comedy, so I didn’t read everything there. The other company… I read low budget dramas, I read comedy, I read high-octane action scripts. The longest script I ever read was 138 pages, and the shortest was 57 pages. Yes, 57 pages, and no it was not a TV pilot. I’m not sure how or why that script was selected, but I suspect it was as a favor.

Did I Ever Recommend a Script?

Yes. For every hundred scripts, I probably recommended five of them to go up the chain. Does this mean I’m a hard-ass? Maybe, but probably not. It simply means that a majority of scripts aren’t ready for the big time. And there were times when I did not recommend a script, but I’d recommend the writer. Maybe the script would be too expensive. Maybe it wasn’t quite right for them. But the writing was excellent. So I’d recommend the writer, but not the script.

What Happened if I Recommended a Script?

Well, I’m not 100% in the know on this in terms of every single step that would happen. I never followed up on scripts, I just did my job and read them and provided feedback. But what I can say is that if I recommended it, it would get kicked up to my boss, who wasn’t the top of the ladder, but certainly had some strings they could pull and stuff might happen. From what I understood, it would get kicked up to this person, and they would read it, and if they liked it, then they would have other people read it for more feedback. This was the case not only where I worked, but many other agencies, production companies, etc. One person who has a lot of sway may like a script, but they will almost always have other people that they work with read it to get their opinions too. So once you get past the lowly reader, you (usually) have to not only impress whoever they kick it up to, but probably two or three other people as well before you’ll even hear back from them.

Essentially, you have to make quite a few people fall in love with your script before anything will happen. On the bright side, it’s incredibly rare that every single person who reads it loves it. But if six people at the company read it, and only one doesn’t like it, you have some good odds.

I do believe that I once recommended a script, and while the script was not purchased or made into a film, the company hired the writer to do some other work for them. That kind of ties into the “recommending the writer” thing, except I also recommended the script in this case.

What Did I Look for in a Script?

Great writing, of course! But more so than that, I wanted originality. I wanted scenes and characters I hadn’t seen before. And I wanted to be MOVED in some way. It doesn’t have to be to tears. A horror script might creep me out. A thriller might… thrill me. If you can make the reader feel something, you have just improved your odds of a recommendation ten fold.

What to Avoid in Your Script

None of this stuff is guaranteed to screw you if you have it in your script. It’s simply a matter of increasing your odds, and these types of things will most likely lower them.

Big budgets
If you’re writing the next Pacific Rim, it may not matter how amazingly well written it is, if the company can’t make that kind of film, they can’t make it. The chips are a bit stacked there. Sure, these films tend to be more marketable and make more money, but bang for your buck? Horror and comedy. Thrillers are also a much easier sell.  But, if your heart is set on that big-budget action film, go for it. You have to write what you love, or your script will suffer. And there ARE companies looking for that stuff. Same goes for sci-fi.

Being Too Subtle
This is incredibly tricky. All good films have their subtleties. Their subtext. All good scripts have them. But when it comes to readers, some of whom don’t put much effort in at all, there is such as a thing as being too subtle. Problem is, of course, there’s such a thing as hitting the reader over the head. It’s such a tricky, fine line to balance that I can’t possibly explain how to walk it. But simply keep in mind, you can be too on-the-nose, but you can also be too subtle, and it will completely go over the inattentive reader’s head.

Directing from the Page
Sometimes this is perfectly fine. But a lot of amateur writers completely overdo it, and it’s ANNOYING. Not only does it make for a tedious read, but if it ended up being produced, the director will do whatever the hell he wants. Use these only when ABSOLUTELY necessary, and I would say no more than three times in a script.

Music Cues
Unless the music is playing in the scene itself, don’t include it. You’re not writing a friggin’ soundtrack. Not only will they totally ignore your ideas if it was produced, but it’s really damn annoying to read. It pulls the reader out of the script, and that’s the last thing you want.

There are of course many other things to avoid, but those four in particular are important when it comes to the lowly script reader. The rest (like less black more white on the page, too many characters, etc.) are just universally good to avoid.

Myths About Readers

In my time spent on Triggerstreet and in the screenwriting world in general, I heard a lot of these (and probably more). After working as a reader, I realized how many of them were just utter bullshit. Note: this applies to readers only, not to people like development executives. It applies to the lowest people on the totem pole (which are the first people who will read your script in most cases, unless you know someone higher up and can bypass these people).

If you don’t hook them in the first ten, they’ll throw your script in the trash
No, they won’t. Not only is this the age of the Internet, where it would be the recycle bin instead, but none of that will happen. Why? These people are PAID (or sometimes not paid, but it’s still their job) to read the ENTIRE script. As I mentioned above regarding the coverage sheets I would fill out, I had to write a synopsis! You can’t do that unless you read the entire script.

Now, this is one reason I specified this applies to readers only. A development executive, for example, who isn’t paid per script and has no obligation to read an entire script, will most certainly toss your script if he doesn’t like it after ten, fifteen, twenty pages. I’ll never forget one script I got into the hands of someone who could make shit happen and their response: “gave it twenty pages, good writing, liked it, didn’t love it, thanks for sending.” But the little guy that works for someone like him who’s paid to read scripts and send the good ones up the ladder? THEY READ THE ENTIRE THING.

Grammar/Spelling/Formatting
Your script will not be discarded if you make a few grammatical, spelling, or formatting guffaws. This goes back to the “they are paid to read the entire thing.” However, if your script is rife with errors, it will give the (potentially incorrect) feeling of amateurism. So it’s not entirely a myth that this stuff can sink a script, but it is a myth that it’s guaranteed to screw you over if you have a few mistakes here and there. Nobody. Cares.

Directing From the Page
Yes, I said to avoid this. And you should. But like the grammar/spelling thing, if you do this a few times in your script, no one will care. I promise.

Dramas Won’t Get Read
Wrong. They just might not get sold. But as a reader, if I got a script and I liked it, I would recommend it. I didn’t care about the genre (and I wasn’t supposed to). But there’s a bright side: there are niche markets for low budget indie dramas. There are companies who specifically cater to this and WANT these kinds of scripts. This goes back to my “know who you’re sending your script to.” IMDb Pro is a great place to get information like this. Also, you can do as Carson suggested, and throw in a hook.

Query Letters are Pointless
Nope. They may be pointless if you’re trying to get The Weinstein Company to read your script. But there are plenty of companies out there who accept unsolicited submissions (one I worked for had a link on their page to submit to). Once again, IMDb Pro can be very helpful here. (note: don’t ever pay for those mass query services)

Only Scripts that Are 90-120 Pages Long Will Get Read
Wrong! As I mentioned above, the longest script I read was over 135 pages. The shortest was 57! Now, there is a bit of truth in this, though I would adjust it to 80-120 pages. That’s the range in which 98% of the scripts I read fell. How that 57-pager got in is beyond me. And too long can definitely be a turn off, but by and large, it’s all about your pitch and the concept. The company doesn’t care if their reader has to read an extra long script. They get paid the same amount. But like I said, it’s definitely extremely preferable to stay between 80 and 120 pages.

They Want True Originality!
Kind of. Here’s the thing, and this isn’t coming from the way I would personally assess scripts, it’s coming from the bajillions of other coverages I read. Sometimes true originality can baffle readers. They don’t know what to make of it. This is where the old adage “same but different” comes into play. And it’s a fine line. Not too much the same that they say “we’ve seen this before”, but not too different that they don’t know what to make of it. Though I also firmly believe that a great script, with a solid grasp on storytelling principles, original characters, and an original story WILL find a home.

Okay, Carson said to write about 2000 words and I’ve already exceeded that, so I’m going to wrap this up with some closing thoughts.

The single best piece of advice I can give is to love what you’re writing. Don’t write something because you think it’s more likely to sell or whatever. I’ve tried it, and I didn’t even finish the script. If you’re not 100% devoted and excited about your story, it WILL show. Believe me.

And, in true ScriptShadow fashion….

What I Learned (by being a reader): Obviously, all of the above. But beyond that, know what you’re writing about. I could tell when someone was writing about a subject that they had never researched or experienced. To write a war film, you don’t have to have been in a war, but you damn well better research that shit. Otherwise you’re just gleaning information from other films and TV and it comes off as derivative. Also, I highly suggest, unless there’s some sort of deadline, to wait two weeks after you finish your draft before sending it to anyone. Why? That kind of time gives you distance and allows you to be a bit more objective about your work. I would read some scripts that had a draft date that was a week before I received the script (which means they probably submitted it to the company the day they finished it). Don’t do this.

I hope you guys found at least something in here a bit helpful. I am more than happy to answer any further questions in the comments section (I post as “Matty” with the little George Clooney head). Those two thousand words went quickly!

Have an A-1 day!

  • Occasional Guest

    First!!

  • jaehkim

    great article matty. waiting 2 weeks before sending out a draft is great advice. I know the itch to send it out immediately can be overwhelming, but it pays to read it over and fix little things like spelling errors and such.

  • Todd Walker

    I don’t know if anyone else finds this annoying, but I hate, I mean HATE it when I see “We see”, it takes you out of the joy of the scene and the script. Anyone else feel that way? I just read a script that had Music Cues every fifteen or twenty pages, it’s not like it was a musical either.

    • Alex Palmer

      I’m with you on that. It feel redundant when it should be the protagonist (or whatever) who interacts with the world. Addressing the reader directly feels cheap.

      It feels lazy when someone writes “we hear a klaxon”. Why not “the sound of a Klaxon pierces the air”. Or even “a Klaxon”.

      • Todd Walker

        or “Ooh a Klaxon. But then he gives a “WTF is a Klaxon?!” stare” ,lol.

        or “as the sound of a Klaxon pierces the air he hears a commercial jingle: “Klaxon. Klaxoff. The Klaxer.”

    • Stank

      I agree about Music Cues, but “We see” is ok a few times for me, especially in Horror scripts where some of the scenes are dependent on where the camera would be.

      If I see it every few pages it annoys me, but a few times I’m fine with. (I’m not a professional reader)

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      It doesn’t bother me one bit, but it definitely bothers other people. So I always suggest avoiding it.

      • drifting in space

        A lot of notes I’ve seen say DON’T DO IT! Seems like just another one of those myths that someone read online once and kept passing it on.

        • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

          I mean it is – your script won’t get discarded because of it. But if some people claim it pulls them out of a script (it doesn’t for me), then that’s fair enough.

  • Alex Palmer

    Very informative article. And that 57 page script: was it, by any chance, a certain Sofia Coppola?

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      That’s way too long to be a Sofia Coppola script

  • Stank

    Matty! Thanks so much, I really appreciate it. This was a super helpful article.

    Question: Even though you wouldn’t throw a script out after 10 pages, is it safe to say that you could usually form a pretty solid opinion? I find myself always judging a script early and even if I don’t throw it out, I think these could be the most important 10 pages. The first 10 and the last 5 maybe.

    Thanks again. Great article.

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      Well yes, most definitely. Especially subconsciously, you can help but start to form an opinion about a script after ten or so pages. But there were many times where a few pages later I was shocked at how good it got.

  • jlugozjr

    Thank you for the great article Matty. Very helpful. I have a question about sending out a script. I’m sure you dealt with this as a writer. So I have a finished script, do I want to send it out to production companies or do I want to acquire an agent first? What if, by some miracle, a small production company likes it and makes me an offer to buy it. How do you accept/decline an offer unless you have an agent to discuss it with.

    WRITER
    (on the phone to his Mom)
    “They offered me $70,000.00. I took it!”

    AGENT
    (overhearing the conversation)
    I could have gotten you five times that.

    WRITER
    (about to cry)
    Mom, I gotta go.

    In other words, why would a writer send an unsolicited script to a production company? Isn’t that an agent job?

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      It’s not strictly an agent job, no. Agents just make your life much easier.

    • ArabyChic

      Many people who send it in to a production company don’t have agents. I actually got my agent through a production company that liked my script and set up meetings for me around town.

      • ArabyChic

        I don’t think most companies will – or should – talk about buying without some kind of representation there. At the very least you need an entertainment lawyer, but I’m pretty sure you also need either an agent or a manager.

  • bruckey

    fantastic article. very useful

  • theWB27

    Very helpful article. Especially about the page count, and the myth about 10 pages and out. My action/sci fi is running 98 pages and the Indie I’m about to finish may run in the low 80’s! Good to know I don’t have to add fluff to my Indie just to make count.

    I’m leaving an open invitation if anyone would like to read the sci/fi script. Feedback is great : )

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      NEVER add fluff. If you’re in the low 80s, you’re just fine.

      A fully told story is a satisfying story, whether it’s 76 minutes (The Squid and the Whale), or 216 minutes (Lawrence of Arabia).

  • BigDeskPictures

    Thanks for sharing, Matty.

    Question: As a reader for these companies, you say that you received your script reading assignment via email sans any info other than a title. So, is there an additional threshold guardian at the aforementioned companies who reads the query letters and decides if a script warrants a read or do all scripts sent in via query get read?

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      There definitely is someone who decides what scripts will get read based on the pitch. Not all scripts sent in were read by any means. Much like Amateur Friday here – they probably got a little pitch (maybe a bit describing their credentials), a logline, etc. and somebody filtered through that stuff and picked them out. Anyway, definitely not all.

  • Paul Clarke

    Good tip about the originality. You have to remember how many scripts these people have read, and realize that anything new is automatically going to be read with a more positive frame of mind.

    You only have to look at Carson’s recent favourite Monster Problems, or the likes of Killing on Carnival Row to see how creating a wonderful new story world can grab out attention (of course it still then needs to be well written.)

  • Andrew Orillion

    Great article. Really enjoyed this one. I like that you touched on “directing for the page” and how it’s okay to do it a little but don’t go over board. There is a certain unnamed podcaster who thinks directing for the page is awesome and you should totally do it. Same podcaster also spurns any sort screenwriting book or structure tool.

    What this unnamed podcaster seems to forget, is that he is a professional writer therefore some of the rules don’t apply to him. He’s’ not trying to sell a script, he’s already being paid to write it so he can do somethings that amateur writer’s can’t. Every time he brings this up, I want to punch him through my computer.

    But, I digress. I also liked that you mentioned there is some leeway with typos and grammar mistakes. I’m dyslexic so spelling errors and such are something I can’t really do much about and I’m always paranoid that a script I submit will be rejected because of a small handful of errors.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      That’s no excuse. If you can’t proof it yourself, Lauren right here at SS does proofs for a cheap price. it’s always better to have it as close to perfect as possible. It can be next to Impossible for a non dyslexic person to find and correct every error even after twenty reads. If something as minor as that is your weakness it would help to hire a professional.

      • Panos Tsapanidis

        As someone who used Lauren’s proof-reading service I must say I am very satisfied with her work and its really good price.

        • J. Lawrence Head

          Lauren is aces.

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    Loved the article.

    Question: What should writers do if they haven’t found a good title for their script yet? Should they go with “Untitled Chef Comedy Project?” or put a title even if it’s not a good one before submitting it to the world?

    For all I know, we should tread lightly.

    • J. Lawrence Head

      Your best bet is to have a logline. Even if the reader doesn’t see it, what gets you read in the first place is title and logline… or blackmail and nepoitsm. But 90% of the time it’s the title/logline combo. (this is not from my own experience, but from my friend with a dozen or so produced scripts)

      • Panos Tsapanidis

        I believe that I have a really good logline which is also short (one sentence), so I guess I can just put it under the “Untitled Project” title in the first page of the script. It would certainly looked more promising than having just the generic title.

        I could also add the “Read it… Or I’ll send you on a trip to Belize .” under the logline as you subtly mention. ;)

        Thanks J.

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      I definitely got some scripts that were “Untitled So and So.” I, personally, choose a title, even if it’s not good, but clearly it isn’t a deal breaker per se.

      If they reject your script just tell them “I am the one who knocks” and see if that fixes it.

      • Panos Tsapanidis

        LOL!
        I get what you’re saying by choosing a title (though it should not be awful).

        Maybe I should just title my script “Tread Lightly”. This way I kill two birds with one stone. And occasionally, I kill more than just birds…

        • klmn

          You kill the planet, the birds will die.

      • Panos Tsapanidis

        By the way, because of your past comments and this article, if you wrote a script and you’re looking for comments on it I’d love to help.

        Thank you for your wisdom.

        • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

          I appreciate that! I currently have like 4 scripts in the works. I don’t recommend working on that many at once ;-)

          Along with doing paid script services I also work as a cinematographer and editor, so script writing can go slowly some days.

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            Okay. Well, if you manage to finish any of them my offer will still stand.
            Four scripts are indeed a lot, Matty. Maybe a trip to Belize will help you sort things out…

          • J. Lawrence Head

            Why do i get the feeling Panos works for a travel agency?

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            J. I’m not in the travel business. I’m in the empire business.

          • J. Lawrence Head

            As in death star and tie fighters? How do you feel about he ability to destroy an entire planet? Insignificant?

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            No, no. As in Breaking Bad, man.

          • J. Lawrence Head

            Oh….

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            Watch it. The series is now obligatory material in high schools in Belize. (I need to stop speaking in Breaking Bad puns)

          • J. Lawrence Head

            I’ve tried to watch BB several times. Not my cup of tea (despite how much everyone INSISTS it is superior writing). To each their own.

            PS: A death star could destroy Belize. Pity.
            PPS: I want to stay at Coppola’s resort in Belize.

          • drifting in space

            I had to take a break between season 2 and 3 because I was starting to not feel it a little bit. Came back and watched them. Not for everyone since it still doesn’t get as many viewers as Duck Dynasty. LOL!

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            Don’t worry J. Nobody is perfect. Hahah. Kidding. Thanks for your comments on my questions, man.

          • J. Lawrence Head

            No worries. Anytime.

          • klmn

            I don’t have the patience to watch television series anymore. I prefer movies. Two hours (more or less) and finished.

  • Todd Walker

    It doesn’t make me want to stop reading the script but it can be a diversion.

  • Awescillot

    But isn’t it possible then, that some parts of your script might come across as a bit forced? I dig your sense of realism, but writing something in order to just please a certain audience of readers might backfire on you, I think.

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      Exactly. The idea – and my point – is to find a happy marriage between the two. Something that you love AND something that pleases audiences. If you just hate writing comedies and you try to do it because they’re an easy sell, it will show.

      • Panos Tsapanidis

        I got a mystery for you.

        I find it easier to come up with good loglines/movie ideas for comedies than for any other genre.

        The problem is I don’t consider my self a funny guy and the thought of writing a comedy script is terrifying! :(

        • ArabyChic

          Try it. If your ideas really are stellar comedy material it’s worth the potential embarrassment of failing. Anyway, I hate the word fail. Or rather, how people look at it. Anyone needs to fail at any given task numerous times before they get good at it. It’s the natural process of learning. So don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, go in thinking you WILL fail. You’ll probably be happily surprised.

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            Failure is the first step to success.

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            I am actually trying to write it. I even came up with the story beats for the first draft. But dammit, it’s a painful process.

            Maybe if I’ll keep working on it I might convince myself that I can do it.

            My strategy is to make the story work without the jokes and the gags and after I have that, I will try to come up with the funny moments. As Carson said, a good comedy must be able to stand on its own without the funny parts.

          • wlubake

            I’ve found the problem is that people expect “high density” comedy in the vein of the Hangover. Comedies used to be just amusing characters living out a funny story. Now they are mostly physical and visual. My favorite comedies, I’m afraid, would have trouble selling today in the post-Hangover world.

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            Wlubake, What do you mean by high-density? High number of jokes per scene ratio? Or comedies who combine elements of other genres such as mystery in the case of Hangover?

            I’m not a big fan of “jokes” that involve physical pain on a character i.e. slipping and falling from the stairs. I mainly feel sorry than laugh.

          • wlubake

            I’m talking jokes per minute. By jokes, that includes physical comedy, overly quotable lines, etc. Anything begging for a laugh. For instance, the throat punching in Identity Thief or the “Pow” thing in Step Brothers. They can be funny, but I feel like they are squeezing “funny” into every last breath of comedies these days.
            TV is kinda going the other way in some areas. Shows like Louie, Curb Your Enthusiasm, etc., are still relying on character and comedic situation more than punchline or gag. I’d love to see movies go back that way.

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            I agree 100% percent with you. Last night I watched a rom-com (The 5-year engagement). Boy where they desperately trying to get the audience to laugh. The worst thing was Emily Blunt who was so obviously fake-laughing throughout the whole movie.

          • wlubake

            I watched that a while back. The most incredibly un-funny movie I’ve seen in a while (maybe since Failure to Launch). The only saving grace was their casting of Alison Brie. At least I could look forward to her popping up every few scenes.

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            I concur at the pleasure of watching Alison Brie. But her British accent was… well… not British at all.

          • drifting in space

            That’s why Louie is up for an Emmy. You’d think people would see that success and try to replicate it? Instead we get movies chock full of fart jokes with no story or memorable characters. Blah.

          • wlubake

            I get the problem. TV can afford a smaller audience than movies. The problem is the audience wants fart jokes and unintentional face tattoos in their movies. Just like CBS has the highest rated comedies (I can’t stand 2.5 Men or Big Bang). I’m just not digging the same thing that most people do.

        • drifting in space

          If it makes you feel better, I thought I WAS a funny guy but it didn’t translate onto paper. I’m a very carefree, easy going guy with not a lot of emotion, but dramas are coming to me very natural. It’s a very weird process. Comedy just didn’t come to me naturally in a script.

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            Actually… that made me feel better. :)

      • sweetvita

        Isn’t that the truth. Not having the proper motivation to write a script always shows up on the page. Write what you’re passionate about and it will show on the page. And you can always tell if the writer spent the necessary time investing in their characters by how well they are (or not) developed.

  • Alex Palmer

    I understand your point, and its certainly not a complete deal breaker. I would argue that it does the script no favours, though. The reason people watch most films (4th wall breaking aside) is to be immersed. That’s why fiction is so popular. Even if you subscribe to the idea that a script is just a blueprint for a film rather than a valid medium on its own, shouldn’t it aspire to make you feel the same way as you would watching it on screen?

    The nature of screenplays means they already include things that slightly break the spell. I still can’t read a slugline without being slightly taken out of the story. Sam goes for a direction or aside.

  • Awescillot

    Always nice to read an insider’s view to see how a script makes its way up (or doesn’t, really).

    Thanks for sharing.

  • martin_basrawy

    Excellent article! Thank you very much for sharing.
    My questions:
    1) Regardless of the genre, would you (the paid reader) kick a script up to your boss if it contained minorities in the lead? I don’t even mean black, I mean Hispanics, Indians, etc. Have you found that, regardless of how good the script may be or whatever type of studio it is (one that leans towards indie dramas, comedies, etc.), that the people with power (your bosses) will give it a chance and green-light it for production?
    2) I’ve never sent a script to a studio yet. How do I know who within the organization to email it to? You mentioned IMDB Pro, which I’ve never used. Will it tell me that the person I’m sending my script to is a paid reader or an intern or a studio head? I just want to make sure my script is going to the right person and not just someone that works in HR or something haha.
    Thank you.

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      1) I didn’t care who was in the lead, it was all about the other elements listed above. If I wasn’t given an instruction to discard something (and minorities in the lead wasn’t one of those instructions) I wouldn’t do it

      2) Generally there’s one outlet to submit it to if it’s an unsolicited query. That goes to the person who vets out what should and should not be read. You don’t really get to choose who that person is.

      • martin_basrawy

        Thanks for responding.

        In regards to your first answer… oh no I was sure you would’ve recommended scripts despite the skin color of the lead characters. I meant more if you knew your bosses sometimes didn’t greenlight a script (one that you already recommended to them) because they felt that a minority-led script wouldn’t do well at the BO?

        • Panos Tsapanidis

          If it’s gonna make money, they’ll buy it.

        • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

          I don’t really know, but I imagine it is an unfortunate yet honest fact that such scripts are a much harder sell.

          • martin_basrawy

            yeah that’s what I figured. Thank you!

  • martin_basrawy

    Another question. And I apologize if this is not within your wheelhouse as a reader, but perhaps you have gleaned this information during all your experience.
    Let’s say an indie director raised the money him/herself (via kickstarter, indiegogo, or what-have-you), made a movie, and is looking for distribution by a studio. Should the director send the script to be read or just a DVD of their film? Do those go through the same kind of vetting process that scripts do, i.e. first someone like you reads/watches it, then higher ups do? Or is the best way to secure distribution just submitting one’s indie film to festivals and hope it gets enough buzz to interest a small/big studio?
    Thanks!

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      This is definitely not in my wheelhouse as a reader. But from other experience (like working on tons of indie films), your best shot are the festivals.

      • martin_basrawy

        Thanks Matty and klmn.

    • klmn

      I think there are agents who specialize in finding distributors. You might have better luck asking this on the Done Deal forum. (The forums are free). Good luck.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    Great article… But why is it pink?

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      A very valid question that I do not have the answer to.

      • klmn

        It’s a conspiracy.

  • JWF

    passing 5 out of 100 scripts up to your boss was actually more than I thought you’d say!

    Great article, checking out TriggerStreet now.

  • http://www.twitter.com/esporter Evan Porter

    Awesome stuff, Matt. I remember you from our Triggerstreet days. You were a rockstar over there — very few people gave better reviews than you. Not surprised you were able to land a couple of reading gigs after all that.

    I like your note about subtlety. In my opinion this is one of the toughest things to get right in screenwriting. We hear so much about subtext subtext subtext, but it can be so dangerous because every reader is different. Some people will pick up on your intentions right away, others will miss it entirely, and others will feel beaten over the head with anything even remotely on the nose. It can be pretty frustrating.

    Thanks for this! Great advice all around.

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      Thanks! I was actually doing reading while I was still over at TS. But I owe most of my writing and reading skills to the TS community. I didn’t know anything when I started out there!

      • John B

        Triggerstreet is amazing! I’ve met a lot of great people, writers, producers, agents, there. My writing career wouldn’t be where it is without TS.

  • Linkthis83

    Well done, Matty, and many thanks for an A-1 article. I do think you should’ve blown right through those 2000 words so we could’ve had Part II :) But that’s just because when it comes to this stuff I’m a greedy bastard.

    • BSBurton

      A breaking bad fan? And I agree, very helpful article!

      • Linkthis83

        Nah, just stealing a line from Matty, who was stealing a line from Breaking Bad.

  • J. Lawrence Head

    Fantastic article! Though watch out for the men in black pajamas coming out of the ceiling to cart you away. Giving you away these insider secrets! It’s a bigger scandle than the “Magic’s Biggest Secrets Revealed” series from the 90s. haha. (kidding of course) Over all bang on article and a fantastic resource for all of us.

  • ArabyChic

    I don’t think “love what you’re writing” means to write a mumblecore script with no focus or momentum. I don’t know about you, but I love a ton of movies with big box office receipts, and I would have loved to have penned them. Maybe the problem is you have met resistance writing your own scripts and think the deck is stacked against you and anyone not handing in color by numbers material. That mentality is defeatist – and I’m not judging – but will hurt you in the long run. Look back at what you have produced. Think about how you can still “love” it, but make it accessible to others, because in part, you are correct: unless you want to make material that is ONLY for you and you alone, you need other people to love what you’re writing.

  • drifting in space

    Thanks for the article, Matt. Checking out TS right now. 5 out of every 100 doesn’t seem like terrible odds.

    • J. Lawrence Head

      So if you write 100 scripts 5 will get sent up. Get writing!

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      The 5 out of 100 is a total guesstimate, I never actually counted how many I read or how many I recommended. Though I would tell my boss if it was a “barely recommend” or a straight recommend. I just made that up to make it clear to them if a script was on the fence of recommendation.

      • Linkthis83

        Hey Matt. When my co-writer and I started our current script, we had a discussion about the structure of some story elements. Our story has some past and present elements. He wanted to start the story in the past. I didn’t want to because the hook is what links us to the past.

        His point = once the movie is being made, people will know before they get to the theater which part of the past is involved.

        My point = I’m thinking from the viewpoint of whoever is reading the script. I think it would have more of an impact if the reader didn’t know before hand (based on logline – which you said you didn’t see anyway)

        My Q = does it make sense to structure the story for the purpose of being read? Not thinking about what the masses would already know once trailers exist.

        • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

          I’m a bit confused, but generally I recommend getting to the hook as quickly as possible, as soon as we have enough information to understand or care about the hook.

          KRAMER VS. KRAMER – The hook is like 2 minutes in. We don’t need any more time to empathize with the situation of a divorce.

          ROCKY – The hook is at the end of act one. We need that entire first act to get to know Rocky, so we care about that hook.

        • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

          Also, at a lot of companies, the reader may very well get a logline. I just didn’t.

          I wouldn’t think about the trailer (that’s a marketing thing anyway… even directors don’t usually have anything to do with a trailer). Just tell the story as I said below: get to the hook as soon as possible, but not so soon that we don’t have enough information to understand or care about the situation.

          • drifting in space

            How many scripts have you read where you thought, this is a great concept but executed terribly? Reading through some scripts assigned to me on various forums, I feel like a LOT of people rehash ideas, ie: detective/murder mystery, cop with a grudge, etc.

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            A LOT. So many people think because they have a great idea they can write a great script. Or because they can make a few jokes they can write a hilarious feature length script.

            And I’ve also read a lot of scripts where the concept isn’t incredibly original, but the structure, dialogue, characters, and general writing talent are extremely strong.

          • Linkthis83

            When having this discussion with my co-writer, I was emphasizing the structure be laid out for the READER. That we don’t tell any of the past story until the HOOK takes the READER there.

            If we were to start our story in the past, then I felt the hook loses impact because the READER will already know what era the HOOK is concerning.

            I hope that makes sense.

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            Unfortunately that doesn’t tell me much to give you a straight answer, so….

            For the reader to care about your hook – for them to understand it and be “hooked” by it – do you NEED to start the story in the past? If the answer is yes, then do it. If the answer is no, don’t do it. Get to the hook as soon as possible, with just enough information for us to care.

            I quote McKee re: the inciting incident (which “hooks” the audience): “[It should arrive] as soon as possible, but not until the moment is ripe… every story world and cast are different, therefore, every inciting incident is a different event located at a different point. If it arrives too soon, the audience may be confused. If it arrives too late, the audience may be bored. The Instant the audience has sufficient understanding of character and world to react fully, execute your inciting incident. Not a scene earlier, or a scene later.”

            So just ask yourself – does the audience have sufficient understanding to fully react to the hook without starting in the past? If yes, then don’t start in the past.

  • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

    Yes, there isn’t anything wrong with sending it to everyone. No one will come to your door and murder you. I simply meant if you’re personalizing every query and all that – each one takes time.

  • ThomasBrownen

    Thanks Matt! Your “interview” gave us a great perspective on the production process. And good luck to Carson getting out of that basement… Grendl’s counting on you to review his script!

  • Tschwenn

    Great article. As both a reader and a writer, Matty was pretty spot-on. I would recommend this article to any writer regardless of experience. When a writer submits a draft for review (such as to TriggerStreet), most often a reviewer spends too much time looking at formmating issues, when the most important thing is to 1) have great writing 2) tell a story 3) be consistent. I recently had a reviewer tell me that a character’s name “Lori Walter – Reporter” was too long. Which is ridiculous. I think most of us spend too much time worrying about formatting issues such as that (or scene headings), and don’t put ourselves in the place of an agent/manager/producer/actor – who really only care about story.

    Well done, Matty.

    http://trg.gr/1ePScFA

    http://trg.gr/1bWwjTA

  • Ambrose*

    Thanks very much, Matty (and Carson).
    There is much useful information in your post, including the shattering the myths section.

    How is your own script writing going?

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      It’s going well. I have about 4 scripts in the works – two of which are written, but undergoing rewrites (those are co-written scripts). One of the other two is a more commercial spec, and the other is almost the complete opposite… something I’d optimally like to direct myself (which I already did once when I was 19). Thanks for asking!

  • drifting in space

    Quick couple of questions:

    1. Your thoughts on CAPITAL words peppered throughout a script, whether it is a visual or sound cue, okay or unnecessary?

    2. Character intros. How much is too much, how little is too little? Does every character need an intro or will the reader feel bogged down with that many details?

    • Panos Tsapanidis

      I read “The equalizer” yesterday. Didn’t mind the capital words at all.

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      1) A bunch of capital words can be annoying. Capitalizing sounds, particularly very LOUD ones, isn’t a bad idea at all. But a ton of them everywhere is somewhat annoying. That’s just my opinion, every reader is different in that respect.

      2) I like when I get 3-4 sentences on major characters. The more minor the character, the less description we want.

  • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

    Glad people are finding this article to be useful and informative!

    Thank you Carson for allowing me to share my experiences :-)

    • http://www.jorgeosvaldo.com/ Jorge Osvaldo

      Awesome of you to do this, Matt. Thanks for all the inside info.

    • John B

      Thanks Matty, really great stuff!

  • Jake Gott

    Nice article, Matt. It’s very helpful stuff. I also have a question.

    1. Are (most) readers very rigid on hitting beats/plot points on certain pages? Like, “The inciting incident didn’t happen on page so-and-so,” or “The Act one break wasn’t until page 28″ and stuff like that?

    Thanks :)

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      It depends on how it impacts the script. I’m certainly not someone who says “IT WASN’T ON PAGE 25 LIKE BLAKE SNYDER SAID IT SHOULD BE.” But if it comes on page 40 in a 100 page script, more than likely that first act is going to feel really really slow.

      One of my favorite films in the past twenty years is IN THE BEDROOM. It has a fairly late first-act break, but for a good reason (imo). Though a lot of people thought that was a boring film, so what do I know? I thought it was genius.

      Anyway, some are very rigid, some aren’t. The inciting incident for example can happen on page 3 (Kramer vs. Kramer) or page 37 (In the Bedroom). It’s a case of “whatever is best for your specific story.”

      • Jake Gott

        Thanks. I feel the same way. Loved Kramer vs. Kramer, too.

  • Poe_Serling

    Hey Matty-

    What are your thoughts on using sub sluglines in scripts? For example:

    INT. CHOPPER

    The two men look at each other in silence. They get out.

    CLOSE ON

    A LARGE, MAKESHIFT FUNERAL PYRE smoldering to a close. A hastily conceived crematorium. Wood, books, furniture, tires, anything that will burn has been mixed together with the charred remains of several dogs and the body of a man.

    Curious mounds of a melted and blackened goo are heaped within
    the mess.

    A small can of gasoline lies nearby. A large oil drum not far off.

    MACREADY AND COPPER

    Their faces ashen as they take in this grotesque sight.

    MacReady turns to view the Norwegian compound. He then exchanges a look with Copper. MacReady heads back toward the chopper.

    THE CHOPPER

    MacReady unhinges the shotgun that is latched to the panel behind the seats.

    ***Personally, I really dig this style. I like how this sort of text pulls my eyes down the page and makes for a super quick read.

    • ArabyChic

      I’m a fan too – especially for action based screenplays, like thrillers, comedies and, well, action. For drama it can get a little too micro-managy.

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      I LOVE mini slugs.

    • sweetvita

      Hey Poe-Poe… I love the use of sub slug lines (secondary scene headings, or mini slugs as Matt calls them) for the reasons you mentioned, really keeps the flow and pacing rocketing.

      And Matt, good to know that you like them too.

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      I also recommend using mini slugs when moving between “sub locations,” if you will, within a larger location. A common example being rooms in a house. Once you establish you’re in a house, if you move from the LIVING ROOM to the KITCHEN, just say KITCHEN. It flows and reads much better.

      INT. PAUL’S HOUSE – LIVING ROOM – DAY

      Paul does some shit. Gets hungry. Walks into the

      KITCHEN

      Makes himself a sammich.

      etc.

      And then, such as in your example, also very useful particularly in action scripts.

  • thecoastofyemen

    This is a timely article for me, as I have just received my first ever script coverage from a reader (via the Black List site). I scored…3!!! Roll on the good times! haha.

    I’m going to take everything on board from this article and the coverage and see if my script is worth a rewrite or if I should start a fresh project (or leave the game entirely). Anyway, if anybody wants to read my script, I would be very grateful for some feedback!

    When a reality television survival expert is challenged to an on-air winner takes all “survival-off” by his younger, more virile rival, he finds himself in a race against time to get out of the Californian wilderness and back to Los Angeles with his reputation, and his life, intact.

    http://www.sendspace.com/file/6zit2c

    Thanks Matty for a great article and Carson for a great site.

    • J. Lawrence Head

      I’ve heard tell from others that one should take those numbers with a grain of salt. Who’s to say? Getting feedback from your script is like a medical diagnosis. A second opinion never hurts.

      • drifting in space

        I’ve heard this as well. I’ve read a few scripts that were 8/9/10 on Blacklist that were just awful. I was about to use the service but after reading a lot more on it, figured it wasn’t worth it. At least not yet. Seems like Zoetroppe and TS are better suited as you have to read other scripts to get yours reviewed.

        I suggest finding like minded/situation people, perhaps from this site, and just helping each other out. It’s what I’ve been trying to do and it has worked wonders. I’ve received a TON of excellent feedback from SS members.

        We’re all in the same boat, you never know who makes it big next that you’re now friends with. :)

        • J. Lawrence Head

          Exactly. It’s like if the agencies and WGA members were the show, we’re like the high minor league farm players. AA or AAA. We’re not there yet, but still play good ball (or write good scripts in our case).

          • thecoastofyemen

            No idea what you are talking about. Something about cricket, maybe?

          • J. Lawrence Head

            LOL It’s a metaphor

        • Panos Tsapanidis

          Here’s the problem with this though. As someone already posted somewhere in this thread, you need to be likable by different kind of readers to get a sale, and that means having your script liked by people that are not like-minded.

        • klmn

          Wasn’t Carson going to do something like this on this site? Called ScriptShadow Labs or something like that?

          • klmn

            I found it. From the About section of this site:

            Moving forward, Scriptshadow’s only going to get better. The Scriptshadow Lab will make its debut in early 2013, inviting 20 of the best amateur screenwriters to participate in an innovative social screenwriting experiment. From there, we’re going to build an online social screenwriting community that should change the screenwriting landscape forever. And if everything works out, I hope to be feeding amateur screenplays (possibly yours!) into the Hollywood system on a consistent basis, putting the emphasis of films back where it’s supposed to be – on the story. It’s going to be a blast and you have a chance to get in on the ground floor. So jump into the site, read reviews, submit screenplays, and start participating. I’m glad you found the site and hope you get the most out of it. ☺

          • drifting in space

            I wasn’t here early 2013. Did this actually happen?? That would be amazing.

          • klmn

            Not yet. Maybe Carson meant early 2014.

        • thecoastofyemen

          I’m up for it! Anybody want to swap reviews? I’m into comedy mainly. And maybe we should rally Carson into setting up somekind of forum on this site? It could make discussion a lot easier.

          • drifting in space

            A forum would be so baller.

        • Linkthis83

          Amen.

          • BSBurton

            Trigger Street and Kevin Spacey do a short film competition each year. It’s pretty cool.

          • Linkthis83

            I was unaware of Trigger Street as well until Matty mentioned it. Who has time to keep up with all these outlets, write and work a full time gig. No wonder writers always look a mess.

          • drifting in space

            I hear ya. I get ~4 hours of sleep a day. Sometimes less. I’ve started writing at midnight, looked up and it’s time to hop in the shower for work. My body hates me.

          • Linkthis83

            I bet. As long as your wife is supportive. And I’m always telling people – do you what you gotta do until you can do what you wanna do.

          • drifting in space

            Amen. No one gets to the top taking shortcuts. Except bankers.

          • Guest

            Sometimes you just gotta…

        • jaehkim

          you mean start our own TS like forum?

          • drifting in space

            Yeah, it would be cool for a smaller community to exchange thoughts, ideas, etc. A little less formal, perhaps? Often times the comment sections here go off topic very quickly. I’m diggin’ TS though, so glad Matt mentioned it.

          • AJ

            I’ve never heard of TS. Help?

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty
          • AJ

            Coming through in so many ways today. Much thanks Matty

          • J. Lawrence Head

            I don’t think that’s 100% necessary. No need to reinvent the wheel. Between TS and Zoetrope most of the “amateur” writing community is well represented. Several “pros” troll there as well. I can think of a few of Carson’s reviews that started out as Zoetrope reads. Nate Zoebl and Joe Marino for starters, A few others.

          • drifting in space

            I haven’t had any luck with Zoetroppe. But I’m relatively new there. Very interested in TS, which seems to be similar but more active?

          • J. Lawrence Head

            There’s a fair bit of overlap, hard to say. Its a coke/pepsi choice.

          • drifting in space

            Also, fair to say my script wasn’t ready yet. Just thought it was, itchy trigger finger.

      • thecoastofyemen

        I’m from the UK, I don’t like to have to pay again for a second diagnosis ;-) I agree getting as many eyes on the script is a good thing, and I’m going to go on TS now and see what scripts I can find to review and hopefully get a little swap going. Cheers J. Lawrence!

    • MaliboJackk

      Kinda like the logline.
      Not sure what you mean by winner take all. Take all of what?
      What are the stakes — his reputation? No one cares.
      I would delete that. (IMO)

      Up the stakes. Make the stakes a girl, an all out fight for life or both.

      • thecoastofyemen

        Good point. Thanks Malibo. I really struggled with the logline for this. The main character is a fake TV survival expert, and the stakes are him being found out and losing his show. I did have the word ‘fake’ in there at one point, but I took it out. I think I’ll put it back in.
        On another note, does anybody know the genre (if that’s the right word) for the shows like Bear Grylls and Les Stroud? Sometimes they are called reality TV, and other times documentaries. I used reality TV, but I don’t think it really matches. The review I got from the Black List said something about Survivor, which is incorrect.

        • Linkthis83

          Real world, maybe?

        • Poe_Serling

          From an article on Bear G., they referred to Man Vs. Wild as a ‘reality survival show.’

          • thecoastofyemen

            Cheers Poe! It just doesn’t sound right, I don’t think. Like, surviving reality? It’s not that important, but the reader completely mis-understood what shows I meant. Maybe I wasn’t clear in my discriptions?

        • MaliboJackk

          Survivor is what I thought you meant.

          • thecoastofyemen

            It’s a comedy. I didn’t even know what Survivor was until this morning. I need to work on my logline technique.

          • thecoastofyemen

            Thanks so much for this, I a defnitely going to work on it and use your suggestions.
            Things in Yemen are bad, which is why I am no longer there. Now I’m in Colombia. Out of the frying pan, into the fire ;-)

    • sweetvita

      My friend and I were just talking about this a couple of days ago. It’s so important to have a knowledgeable and trusted mentor (and if you have a couple then you are truly fortunate) that you can go to ferret out the cross-currant of notes that you receive from fellow screenwriters or a paid notes services.

      Wisdom is knowing which notes to pay attention to and which ones to ignore. But never let notes or opinions of others crush your spirit. Some of the best notes you can receive might be harsh, so you have to learn how to separate your emotions from that if you want to survive and live to tell another tale.

  • MaliboJackk

    Tried to reply to Poe’s post — but Mr. Disqus insisted that his post “wasn’t active” and wouldn’t let me. (Poe — You need to have a talk with Mr. D.)

    Five readers (working for different producers) were interviewed together on another site.
    All claimed to be professionals who understood fully what their bosses wanted.
    And all five said they never give a Recommend. Only a — Consider With Reservations at best.
    (They don’t want to look stupid in their bosses’ eyes.)

    • klmn

      I’ve heard the same thing, from readers who have never given a recommend, only a few considers over the course of years.

      • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

        Where I worked, there wasn’t really a pass, consider, or recommend. It was kind of just – “pass, or kick it higher up?” And sometimes I would simply note that it was barely a “kick it higher up” (recommend, if you will).

        As I said, all places are different.

  • drifting in space

    Matt, are there any paid script services you have used/recommend? The two I’ve come across are the Blacklist and SpecScout. There are a few others but they all claim the same thing. Pay for a reader and we’ll submit it up the ranks if it’s good! Thoughts?

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      Hmmm…. not really. Like there’s Scriptshark, but I don’t recommend it. The Blacklist sounds like an interesting site, but I have yet to use it.

      Sorry :-( maybe someone else has some more insight here as to good sites, if there are any.

      • drifting in space

        Yeah, I get the feeling most are not worth it but are in place because of the internet era. From reading blogs written by writers who have recently gone pro, it still seems like the way to go is finding a manager, getting it everywhere you can, as many eyes on it as possible. Then they say you HAVE TO move to LA… which, for a lot of us, might be discouraging.

        • jaehkim

          I’ve used a paid script service before (which I won’t name) and they were a waste of money. next time I might give one of carson’s readers a try.

      • mc

        Scriptshark is terrible… they’re too vague and don’t take into account marketability.

    • klmn

      I’ve used the Blacklist a few times, and I think it’s worth a shot. The highest score I received was a 7, which is 1 point below what it takes to be promoted. I may try it again when I finish my new script in 2 weeks.

      On that site, you can list multiple genres for your script. If you use that service, I suggest only listing the most fitting genre for your script until you get your paid rating(s) back. The reason: if you list three genres (for ex. scifi, comedy, and drama) your reader will come from a pool of people who have expressed an interest in any of those three genres.

      You can always add additional genres later for marketing purposes.

      • drifting in space

        What genre was your 7?

        • klmn

          Western.

          • ArabyChic

            I recently pitched some projects, two of which were westerns, and was asked, “why do all writers want to write a western?”

            To which I responded, “… I don’t know. Cuz they’re cool?” Obviously I was unprepared for that question. The guy I was pitching to came back at me with a bunch of figures about how dismal the genre fares at the Box Office and everyone’s a little trigger shy (pardon me) of any oater fare.

            I then nodded, yes, he was right. But there are a slew of exciting, ultra-violent westerns coming up, such as Jane Got a Gun and Bone Tomahawk, which might ignite some passion in similar projects.

            His response: Uh huh. (meaning no, not really)

            Anyway, I was about to shelve my various western projects. Reading this I’m kind of inspired to just say fuck it.

            Knock your western out of the park.

          • klmn

            I was moved to write a Western because I stumbled on a reference to an incident while reading Arizona Highways. I had to know more, so I researched the story and found some great stuff. Then came the hard work of hammering it into a screenplay.

            But, yeah, I wouldn’t advise anyone to write one, because of marketability.

          • thecoastofyemen

            I just read an article about Elmore Leonard which said he was influenced by Arizona Highways as well. I need to get a subscription, pronto.

    • ArabyChic

      A not so bad alternative is to apply to the Bluecat Screenplay competition, or other competitions that have legitimate readers (as well as have some gravitas). You get at least two script reviews that are pretty insightful. You have to wait for their deadlines to come around, but if you currently have a script then they are accepting for 2014 contest. Can’t beat the price.

      • klmn

        Bluecat hires their readers off of Craigslist for (IIRC) $20 a script (or is it$10?). This has been discussed on other forums.

        • ArabyChic

          Hmm. Don’t know what to tell you. A few years ago I applied and got some good notes from them. I used to be a reader, both for an independent company and for one of the largest, and have reviewed many scripts – so my sense of someone who knows story and someone who doesn’t is quite acute. I lucked out I guess.

          • klmn

            My Western quarterfinaled in Bluecat (2011) as well as Fresh Voices (2012) but no one cares about smaller contests. Placing in Austin or Nicholl would be a major selling point, but not these contests.

          • ArabyChic

            I think you’re right, to some extent. But I was a finalist, or a semi finalist, or a quarter finalist in competitions like Scriptapalooza, Zoetrope, Bluecat (by no means big competitions) and I think it helped. When you tell people that it was a finalist here, or semi-finalist there, that means something to them. It means over the majority of scripts that are unreadable, yours is of a certain quality. It’s good enough that they should give it a look. Especially in queries I’m more likely to read something if someone tells me they were chosen as one of the better scripts – even if it’s not the glorified Nichoil competition.

    • http://www.twitter.com/esporter Evan Porter

      I’ve used a few different ones. The Blacklist is for people who think their script is good to go — or maybe if you just want to see where you stand. The feedback is purposefully sparse. It doesn’t help a ton with rewriting, it’s more of an evaluation. I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the comments I got from my reader, but that’s subjectivity for you.

      I paid for notes from Carson, pre-Disciple Program, and they were really good notes. I know the price has gone up quite a bit since then so I can’t say if it’s still worth it, but I felt like he did a good job with my script at the time.

      I also used a site called Script Quack a few years back and was really impressed with them. I felt like they really got what I was trying to do and gave me a ton of insightful notes. Reasonably priced, too.

      • Panos Tsapanidis

        I am also satisfied with Carson’s notes. Has anyone ever used The Tracking Board’s coverage services?

        • drifting in space

          I’ve heard great things about Carson’s notes, they are just out of my budget. I’ve also seen good things about TB’s coverage as they post when a writer they recommended has signed. Seems to happen quite often.

  • SlevinUp

    Matt, you failed to enlighten us on the juicy nightlife details of an LA script reader!

    I mean chicks dig readers, right?….. right?

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      Yeah man, that shit totally gets you laid.

      • Panos Tsapanidis

        I’m wondering if SlevinUp is in it for the wrong reasons or for the completely right ones…

  • sweetvita

    You’re stuck in a basement? OMG! You’re not being held by the Fatties are you?

    • klmn

      Hey, he’s gotta spend his ScriptNotes money on something!

      • sweetvita

        you mean he paid them? that’s warped – chop-chop.

  • sweetvita

    Hi Matt, thanks for taking the time to share your insights. Much appreciated.

  • J. Lawrence Head

    Wow 151 comments and it’s not even noon on the west coast!

    • Poe_Serling

      Or in Carson time: an hour and 1/2 since the In and Out on Sunset Blvd. opened their doors for business. ;-)

      • J. Lawrence Head

        I wonder if the staff knows him by name….

        • J. Lawrence Head

          They should introduce a burger called the Carson. A 1/2 lb patty between two 1/4 pound patties and a bun (open, 3 acts. close)

    • drifting in space

      Highly anticipated article!

  • Kay Bryen

    “The producers of ScriptShadow would like to clarify that the views of JoetheFilmmaker regarding the “empty-headed bimbo” Beyonce do not necessarily reflect the site’s views on this highly intelligent singer, actress, entrepreneur, philanthropist and mother.”

  • sweetvita

    Hey Joe, we are talking about people who have yet to break into the industry – there’s a huge difference between paid assignments the pros write and the rest of us.

    Now having said that, I would like to add to write a story you’re passionate about and make it as commercially appealing as possible for the genre you write in.

    • tom8883

      The trick is to find a way to love writing a commercial script. It is possible to be passionate about writing commercial fare. The way to do it is to realize that the joy of screenwriting isn’t about the subject matter but about learning to love structure. Structure can be exciting when you think of it in terms of how to elegantly tell a story as concisely as possible. This is what sets screenwriting about from other mediums. You got a hundred pages. Many novels are five times that. It’s the shape of the script that matters most. Not what it’s about. It’s a mistake to think that commercial means only means subject-matter.

      • sweetvita

        A few days ago, The Writers Store offered a webinar with Corey Mandell called “How Professional Writers Structure Their Scripts”. He says it’s about form, not formula. And that formula is not authentic. Instead of using a formula as structure, he says we must write compelling cinematic conflict. Then he defines what that is. It was freeing and well worth the time and investment. His teaching resonated with me, so much so that I’ve adopted his mantra – it’s about form, not formula.

  • Linkthis83

    If the scripts you were reading all suffered from not meeting the basic requirements of a story, then how did they make it to you to be read in the first place?

    • ArabyChic

      I read scripts that have been bought that fail to meet the basic requirements of story :) I’m not talking about things like proper formatting or even 3 act structure, because I think most people understand the basic tenants of 3 act structure, I mean the basic components of a story driven by a goal, tension, and a character arc.

      Many scripts I read were given to the companies by a cold query or someone’s agent, so someone in the company, thought it showed promise, or owed someone a favor, or was a family friend, etc. and kicked it down to the little guy (ie me) to give the harsh verdict that no, it doesn’t work. All that was ever read, if anything, by the person above me was a synopsis or log line – if that – or was just told “it’s great!” by this person’s agent or manager. As a reader I was always the first step in the vetting process, so really I would get anything and everything.

      • Linkthis83

        Part of me thinks that would be really disheartening. Knowing that you are reading scripts that are already in the ‘fail to meet the basic requirements’ category. And then it’s also surprising that you said that some have been bought already.

        Do the writers get notified that their script has been read and passed on? (Thanks for responding, btw)

        • ArabyChic

          No one in the movie business likes to give bad news, so really, the only way you find out is if a) you never hear back, or b) you call or email that person’s assistant.

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            Yup

  • MaliboJackk

    Probably depends if its a good script.

  • klmn

    And for $2000 you can get your ass kicked by Urijah Faber! Maybe when Carson’s done with the fatties he can do this.

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      I think there’s definitely a point where no coverage is worth X amount of dollars. This isn’t physics where you can get a consult from a high school teacher, or Stephen Hawking. This is an inherently subjective medium; for every film out there, you can find at least one person who absolutely hates it, and one person who absolutely loves it. So it’s kind of like – yes, some people are obviously much more knowledgeable and experienced than others, but they’re still just a person with an opinion.

      Plenty of HIGHLY acclaimed directors don’t like Citizen Kane, for example. Plenty of them love movies that other people consider shit.

      Point being, you can get notes from someone, tailor your script around those notes, and then someone else might say to go in another direction. It’s not math where there’s a specific right answer. So to me, coverage is only worth so much, and beyond that you’re just wasting your money.

      That being said…. I wish I could charge $1500 for my coverage….

  • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

    It sounds like you got scripts of significantly lower quality than I did.

    I honestly don’t ever recall reading a script that made no sense.

    This could be due to the vetting process used before the scripts came to me (which I am not entirely sure how that worked). If a person had better credentials – lets say the script was a contest winner or something like that – it would be more likely to be read.

    Like I said somewhere in these 200 comments…. the “recommend” I would give is not a recommendation to make the script into a film. It’s a recommendation for someone else to read it. I only had two options – pass, or kick it up higher.

  • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

    There’s been lots of talk recently about films with female leads and box office performance (particularly when The Heat came out and blew other films away with its box office draw).

    If you want to write a female protagonist, write it. I read TONS of scripts with female protagonists, and not once was I ever told that these companies were less interested in them.

    And you’re also quite correct in that the horror genre is particularly kinder to female leads. That may not be for the best reasons on the planet (let’s be honest, nudity in horror films is a big draw these days), but it is true.

    Write it! :-)

  • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

    I like that idea. You can learn as much, if not more, from bad scripts as you can good ones.

    • Midnight Luck

      which is why my favorite screenwriting book (and the most useful) is:

      How NOT to Write a Screenplay

  • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

    I never read one in the capacity working for these companies.

    I did read some on Triggerstreet back in my days on that site. I simply don’t recommend writing them, or if you do, and it must be in a screenplay format, let the first one stand on its own. And probably don’t mention that it’s part of what you think will be a trilogy. It’s an immediate turn off.

    One example: The fantastic SOUND OF MY VOICE was intended to be the first installment of a trilogy. But that film works wonderfully on its own, and if they never made a second there wouldn’t be an issue.

    Either go that route, or adapt it into a novel and self-publish is what I’d recommend. The self-publishing ebook is becoming increasingly popular, and allows for much more content.

    • Jerry Salvaderi

      Another example would be Star Wars. Always envisioned as a trilogy, George Lucas pared it down and made Ep IV without knowing if he’d ever get the chance to tell the rest of the story. Thus, A New Hope works excellently as a standalone film and also, obviously, as the first chapter of the trilogy.

  • Avishai

    As an unpaid scriptreading intern, I found the section about interns pretty amusing.

  • klmn

    OT: CURSE OF THE EGYPTIAN TOMB BAT!

    http://keranews.org/post/deadly-middle-east-coronavirus-found-egyptian-tomb-bat

    How long until someone greenlights a movie?

  • Midnight Luck

    Wrong turn
    Nightmare on elm street
    Texas chain saw massacre (i think it has a female lead, haven’t actually seen it)
    Urban Legend
    Jack and Jill (while not a typical Horror movie, it could be)

    these are just a few off the top of my head.
    there are so many Horror movies with female leads, doesn’t seem like it should make much difference.

  • fatherdope

    Great article, Matty, thanks.
    Quick question – you mentioned some of your current work is co-written. Here’s my scenario: myself and a friend are presently working on the story elements together, just talking it out and making general outline notes It’s our initial collaboration; we’ve only been at a few weeks. I am to be the sole screenwriter, as it doesn’t interest him to do it.
    So he and I will share the “Story By” credit, while the “Screenplay By” credit is mine.
    Based on that, in your experience, if we’re lucky enough to sell something, what should the division/percentages be of the proceeds? We’d like to draw up a collaboration agreement, but we’re unsure what is a fair division of future spec earnings based on this type of partnership.

  • Midnight Luck

    I love these REAL world articles. People who have actual experience and give us the how for on what really goes on and why.

    Thank you so much Matty. This was an awesome article / interview.

    Appreciate the help, knowledge and insight.

  • Ken

    Great article!

  • IgorWasTaken

    For me, among the many interesting nuggets, the best (in it’s way) is that the script shows up to be read without the logline.

    If your script is a drama but it starts out in a way that could be a comedy, or vice-versa (just as 2 examples), you might give it a simple title and expect the logline will tip off the reader about the genre. And tipping off the reader can help prevent confusion. But without a logline, your only chance to tip off the reader is the title.

    Now you might say that “a good script” doesn’t need a tip-off. That the tone and other things should be clear from page 1. I agree. Sometimes.