Friday, January 25, 2008

Why I don't read scripts

I'm all for perusing the growing stash of filmed scripts that can be found all over the net nowadays - particularly recent films. Sometimes I'll rush back from the cinema to google up the script and take a look. I even scribble things down in the cinema especially when it seems that there's some kind of a message I could use. Today after watching 'Talk To Me' I scribbled down Dewey Hughes' early advice to DJ Petey Greene (N.B. this is general gist not word for word)

Know more than your audience
Whatever bullshit you talk, make sure you can back it up
Don't underestimate me

Anyhow it already looks like I've contradicted myself in the title of this post but what I mean is that as a general rule, I don't go out of my way to read other writers' scripts unless I suspect they might be good. The more I read writers' scripts, the more my admiration for script reader /writers grows. It's a great job you do.

I mentioned elsewhere on this blog that I don't have the temperament or sensitivity for script reading. I hope this doesn't sound facetious but I suppose it is because I don't think a scriptwriter's creativity is best served by imbibing too many scripts that aren't working. I prefer to be inspired. On a couple of occasions I've read scripts that happen to be magnificent (and remain unmade) but on the whole I end up grunting and groaning as I force myself through the pages. [Quite possibly there's folk out there doing the same with mine..]

If I had to choose a job tied to scriptwriting - it would be teaching rather than script reading. With teaching, at least you can try and deflect or off-set the wholesale generic borrowing that saturates scripts. But then what do I know huh? - I dont read scripts (other than favours returned) Or at least I try not to until people force me to.

This week I succumbed. So of course I first send out a disclaimer "I'm a harsh critic" just in case the recipient is likely to be of a delicate disposition (I'm a harsh critic of my own work too - saves a lot of trouble in the long run)

Anyway aside from the litany of crafting elements that can usually be improved in all scripts - (and I couldn't give a blue banana about incorrect format - so long as there's original story) ultimately with any 'competent' script - it all boils down to (reader) subjectivity / taste and familiarity. Meat or poison. Fly or flail (fail).
Ambivalence is not good. It is better that people either violently hate or passionately love a (competent) script than feel ambivalent about it. Ambivalence doesn't work and will not get anyone anywhere.

'Love' or 'hate' at least provide a coat-hanger for the script reader who can then question or explore the writer's intent or their need to tell the story.

Cor this turned into a long ramble innit? Must be the pinot grigio...



JD said...

It is better that people either violently hate or passionately love a (competent) script than feel ambivalent about it.

Then I'm on the road to starville!

People either tell me I'm a no talent scum bag devil, or that I'm god on paper. Nobody has ever said, "meh" when speaking on one of my screenplays.

potdoll said...

i have a mate who used to teach acting and he said the most depressing thing was having to teach pupils for three years, knowing only about three from each year had any talent. i reckon it would be the same thing with screenwriting.

far away said...

Hi JD - yes good to provoke a response ;)

Pot I don't know. I'd say probably everyone has an interesting story to tell - but they're not always the best person to tell it (in script form)..

pillock said...

You'd make an excellent screenwriting teacher.

far away said...

Ta P!