Screenwriting : Re: Why it's difficult to get Producers to read your scripts by Doug Nelson

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Doug Nelson

Re: Why it's difficult to get Producers to read your scripts

A week or so a go, someone posted the question regarding the difficulties of getting their scripts read by producers whereupon I volunteered to read some of your scripts – I naively assumed that would be a good thing. Boy, was I wrong! So I'll try a different tact. I'll still try to help but I'll try to show you by example. (I'm confident that the same vitriol infused souls will be just as outraged – unfortunate.) I've posted a logline, synopsis and a short script for your contemplation. Let's hear what you've got to say about it in the spirit of learning/teaching. (I use it when teaching screenwriting and directing.) Let's make it public to help all. So why aren't producers falling all over themselves reading your scripts? Over the past few years I've read hundreds of so called “scripts”. I haven't found a good one yet. Almost none of them are in any industry recognized format, They're packed with typos and misspellings. Now, we all have fat fingers which occasionally strike a neighboring key there are certain words that we have difficulty spelling (I tend to put to many 'e's in words). We have spell checker software that catch most of it but it can be hard to edit your own work. I tend to be a little more lenient than some readers. The vast majority of them have no story at all and don't even measure up as a first draft. But there are millions of them floating around out there – who has the time? So I suggest that if you want your script read that you at least write it in an industry recognized format. It's not that hard. Check it out on my profile and let's discuss formatting (don't talk about the story line – it done well in a few script contests.)

Dan MaxXx

Looks like a script. Dont think u need to add (O.C.) or (CONTD) next to character's names

Jeff Lyons

This why God created readers. Or, maybe Satan did it. Whoever.

George Pierson

I found a web site called http://www.scriptbuddy.com. Unfortunately, it has done me little good since I have never written a script before. I also use my word processor to write stuff out so I can check it for spelling and grammar. I usually lose any contractions doing that, so, the character ends up speaking what is concidered proper grammar.

Doug Nelson

Dan, you're correct, I don't need the O.C or V.O., O.S. But this is a “training” script for newbie filmmaker/Directors and I could easily replace the INSERT with a simple action line (but I don't in this example.) I'm stuck with the CONT'Ds in FD 9 – I had it shut off in FD 8. Jeff, I don't understand your comment – please clarify. George, the reason I posted this script is to provide an example of the industry recognized format. There are several software packages available that will help you format a script. The industry leans toward Final Draft but there is Celtx, Movie magic and a few other formatting packages available for free to under $200.

Jeff Lyons

To clarify: readers=gatekeepers... so producers don't have to read any of the horrible dreck that comes on over the transom. The Satan part was a joke... I'm here till Thursday.

Dan Guardino

Doug I have a rewrite that I have to get out asap so I just skimmed the short screenplay you wrote. I don’t write short screenplays so I really don’t know if they are written differently so some of the things I notice might not apply to shorts. I think it is well-written. But since this is supposed to be a discussion about writing and formatting I pointed out a few things I would probably have done differently. Page 1. The first thing I noticed is “nightgown” and “nightstand” and T-shirt were misspelled. Outside the apartment complex should have the time of DAY. I am not sure why you felt you needed to dressing Stan and Mrs. Blanton in their character descriptions but maybe that had something to do with the story. Page 2. Why use an actor ‘s direction like (hesitantly)? The actor should be able to figure out how to say that line without any help from the screenwriter. This happened a lot throughout the script. Most actors find that sort of thing annoying. Also a lot of producers find it too many unnecessary actor’s directions amateurish so people writing spec screenplays should avoid using too many actor's directions. Why use INSERT PACKAGE? An INSERT is a shot that focuses on a specific detail. You didn’t show any details at all so you wouldn’t use INSERT. Since you all capped SLAM you don’t need (O.C.) Throughout the script you use scene heading like EXT. APARTMENT UNIT and LIVING ROOM and script would be easier to follow if you said whose apartment unit and living room the scenes are taking place in. “LEE, now a spiffed-up willow…” You already introduced Lee so you would not ALL CAP Lee again. Also you don’t need to say “now”. “Drapes her sweater over a chair.” This happens at the beginning of the scene so you should let people know who “her” is. “Lee interrupts her inspection” but you don’t show how. Page 4 INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY You already established it is DAY in your master scene heading so you don’t need to say DAY again. “She moves to the coffee table” Since this is a new scene you should use the person’s name instead of just saying “She” so we know right away how “she” is. Page 5 I don’t know why you used the actor’s directions (trailing off) and late (boldly) I think most actors would be able to figure out how to say those lines. Page 6 (sarcastically) same as above. The only time you would normally use an actor’s direction is if the actor could not figure out how to say their line from what is happening around them in the scene. “She goes to the kitchen, returns with a kitchen knife, returns, plops on the sofa, mopes” you say she “returns” twice and she only returns once. Page 7 INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY You need to show Stan entering the room. He speaks before we even see him. All we see is the door close. Page 8 (glaring) should go in the action line. You don’t need (frosty) actor’s direction. You don’t need (angrily) actor’s direction especially when Lee say, “Oh! You make me mad!” I think the actor would know how to say that line without help. Page 9 STAN (O.C.) I am not sure why you decided not to show him anywhere in this scene if he talks in it.

David Taylor

Transom..."Grab your coat and get your hat son. There's a nut down on the corner, giving dollar bills away. So I laid around a bit, and I had another hit..." (Dr. Hook).

Kevin John Parsons

Dear Doug, I am a Film, Theatre and Music Producer, Screenwriter, Playwright, Ghostwriter, Author of book and eBook publications’ and a book Publisher. That said; I’m in the process of procuring financing and securing distribution agreements’ prior to shooting my feature film (budget: 100 MM US Dollars). In closing, I’m well versed with the issues intrinsical in the aforesaid, and all the obligatory elements that need to be in place. Moreover, I have sent you a request to join my network, to no avail… Well, why don’t you show me how you can step to the plate… I’m currently in negotiations with the Agents’ of A-Listed Actors’ to feature in my film. Why don’t we have a chat via Skype and optically discern how and if we can work together… Best regards, Kevin

Dan MaxXx

Lol $100MM US dollars. Doug, it's raining money.

Kevin John Parsons

Dan Max xXx: If you cannot take the HEAT get out of the KITCHEN!!!!!!!!!!! :) Why don't you tell everyone what YOU KNOW ABOUT the following, HOT SHOT!! 1. Equity Financing 2. Bridge Financing 3. Bank Financing 4. Gap Financing 5. Super Gap Financing 6. Senior Debt 7. Crowd Funding ... just getting started... And ready for YOU!!!

Al Hibbert

Doug, I would have sent ours to you but it's a pilot for an hour long TV show.

Dan MaxXx

I know bullshit

Kevin John Parsons

Dan MaxXx: Wake Up!! It’s time you learnt something… One of them is collaborating with influential and affluent individuals’!!!!! Oh sorry, I suppose that’s also bullshit???

Ernie Lijoi Sr.

Mr Nelson, I wish I had known that you were reading scripts and log lines. It would have been interesting to find out what your opinions where of one of my scripts. I certainly would have been educational for me. being in my 70's and writing about my career as a Deep operative was a lot of fun. With 10 books published, two Movie scripts done and one TV show ready to go , your opinion would have been very beneficial. If you ever do that again, please let me know. I would love your opinion (input) of my (work) fun, thanks, Ernie Lijoi Sr.

Jody Ellis

I also skimmed the script and saw the same issues as Dan G, as well as the unnecessary contds, etc that Dan M noted. If you are using this script as a "teaching tool", shouldn't it be error free? You say you teach screenwriting and are a professional in the industry, but showcase a screenplay with quite a few errors as a sample? I don't mean this disrespectfully, but I'm just not seeing this script as being leaps and bounds ahead of the beginner scripts I've read from others on this site.

Dan Guardino

Kevin. What movies have you produced? Who is your director on this project an what A-list actors do you have attached?

Kevin John Parsons

Dan Guardino: What’s up with the questions? If it is an attempt to belittle me, you should try selling crazy somewhere else. Alternatively, you can befriend me and perhaps we can work together…

Doug Nelson

Dan, thank you for taking the time to skim through my short script and provide your incite – it's greatly appreciated. The spellings I used on page 1 comes from Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary - maybe it's outdated. I thought I mentioned that this is a script I use in teaching which means that the students are all new to the film-making world. The parenthetical direction is used because all in my Actor's pool are new to the field. Dressing my characters provides an up-front visual to the reader and helps define their individual personalities (Mrs. B dresses to attract and her Cougar self comes to the surface, Stan is a serious student...) I mentioned that I don't need the INSERT (a single action line would suffice), but remember this is a “teaching” script.

Doug Nelson

David, I don't understand your comment, if you're referring to me as a “nut” - you're probably correct but what I'm giving away for free is what every first year screen writer should already know. If it's an insult – it's to subtle for me, you need to be more direct.

Doug Nelson

Ernie LiJoi Sr. I thought I made that clear the first time – but because of all the vitriol and personal abuse I was subjected to, I'll not do it again.

Kevin John Parsons

Dear Doug Nelson, I trust you are well. I would appreciate it; if we can chat via Skype. My Skype email: parsons.kevinj@ymail.com and Name: kevinjparsons2. Best regards, Kevin

Doug Nelson

Kevin, thanx for your comments, but Johannesburg, S.A. Is a little beyond my network boundaries. All the best wishes on your negotiations. Doug

Al Hibbert

insight- sometimes we incite more than we share insight.

Kevin John Parsons

Dear Doug Nelson, Thanks for your best wishes!! Although I am a South African, my new feature film project titled "Navy Gold," will be produced in the US and five other countries. In point of fact, I have no interest in the film industry in South Africa or throughout Africa for that matter! I have several film and television projects’ in the making! Don’t assume things… Best, Kevin

Ernie Lijoi Sr.

Mr. Nelson, thank you anyway. It would have been a pleasure to have someone like yourself critique (maybe more) my true crime scripts. Again, thanks anyway. If you get a chance , take a look at www.thepreyers.com of of several.

George Pierson

In keeping with what Dan Guardino was saying, I do have a question. I cannot recall how I heard this or when, but I do recall seeing or hearing somewhere that back in the day, an actor or actress might ask, presumably the director, "So, what is my motivation for ...?." What I would like to know is if an actor or actress would ask that?

George Pierson

Kevin John Parsons, you forgot to add that you're an all around nice guy, and very humble about that getting out. :)

George Pierson

Kevin John Parsons, I am trying to write my first novel. I want to find someone that I can work with by the end of the month. I am willing to discuss what I want to do. I also have an ad in the jobs section.

Kevin John Parsons

Hi George Pierson, if you wish you can Skype with me now! Best, Kevin

Dan Guardino

@ Kevin.Believe me I have much better things to do than try to belittle someone here. I am a producer and I asked the questions for a reason. You obviously weren’t interested in answering my questions. That is fine and I wish you luck. with your project.

Doug Nelson

Jody, I'm pleased that you took the time to skim my little script – thank you, your comments are greatly appreciated. As to the “contds” you note; that's a default in FD 9, I had it shut off in FD 8. The errors you speak of are not what I think of as errors when you realize that all I have available to work with are newbie actors, writers and directors. My over-use of parentheticals I feel is quite justifiable in this case. FYI: I have original scripts going all the way back into the late fifties including a James Stewart autographed copy of Anatomy of a Murder (by Wendell Mayes), Sudden Impact (by Joseph C. Stinson, who told Clint how to deliver some of those iconic lines), Driving Miss Daisy (by Alfred Uhry) along with some of my own television scripts (back in the days of “Rhoda”) and copies of some of Tom Sawyer's scripts (Murder She Wrote). Screenwriting styles have certainly changed over the years with brevity being the present watchword. The original Juno script (by Diablo Cody) was somewhat over 200 pages but the production revised yellow is 102 pages and uses parentheticals sparsely. My point being that what you think of as wrong or in error today may be a reflection screenwriting evolution. This short is not a production script. It's a teaching script used to show new Directors how to line a script, define master shots, develop a shot list and to block screens. It shows new writers how to correctly use parentheticals when they are needed and demonstrates a fundamentally “proper” format. (I think it was a finalist in the Blue Cat contest a few years back). Thank you for your comments – you've taught me much, Doug

Kevin John Parsons

Dear Dan Guardino, Hmmm... What part of my last sentence did you not understand? :)

Doug Nelson

George Pierson, in response to what an Actor might ask of a Director: Many Actors do ask the Director about how a line should be delivered (specifically the talented “A” list Actors who understand the significance minor inflections impart). The Director goes to the script (writers are not always on set.)

Deenur E Gill

@Doug I used to be a first reader for a UK company that did games/film crossovers. I was supposed to read the script and give a 1 page synop on the appeal, problems and viability for a crossover. I was shocked at what some people thought was "professional" quality material. Cliche dialog, over-used plots and tropes. Ugh. I found one script all the months I was doing it that I gave a 9/10 rating. Some scripts I couldnt even finish. But! All in all it made me a much better writer to see all the "what not to do" stuff.

Doug Nelson

Jim - very true. The way this thread is going, incite may be the better choice, Some folk can only pump themselves up by tearing others down - sad but true.

Greg Groovie

I'm new here, but I think the story itself has to grab you. The typos can be fixed. I mean, this isn't English class.

Al Hibbert

Greg, you're right about the story, but, when it's all said and done, the importance of 'English class' can't be underestimated.

Deenur E Gill

If you don't care enough to fix typos before you send it out, I think that speaks to the commitment level a person displays.

Greg Groovie

Points are well taken. So a script written by Stephen King came your way, & you knew it was Stephen King. It had horrible grammatical errors because he broke both his hands in a car accident, but he still managed to type it up. You guys would turn the script down?

Jamal Washington

I agree with Greg Groovie. If the person made a name for himself, you would do it without hesitation. I agree that grammatical errors are a "no-no" especially if you're trying to impress them enough to give you a chance, but you can also can the attitude towards those who are trying. You'll never know what challenges they had to face prior to getting that script done.

Greg Groovie

Great response, Jamal, straight from the heart.

Al Hibbert

Too many grammar errors and they're probably not going to take you seriously as a writer.

Doug Nelson

To all – a script is not (repeat not) a high school English class essay. (Mrs. Snow – rest her soul – would crack me with a ruler if I ever turned anything written like a script; she was fond of Dickens).

Doug Nelson

Obviously a compelling story is critical in the making of a film but the point of this thread is to educate many of you as to why Producers won't read your scripts. The simple answer is that what what the vast majority of new writers submit doesn't even look like a script. If you won't/can't submit something that at least looks like a script – they won't read it to see if you have a compelling story or not.

Dan Guardino

I agree with Doug. If a script isn't up to industry standards it has no chance whatsoever. If it looks like a script the writer has a slight chance but not very good. It has to glow in the dark among the competition to have any realistic chance. This is why only about one in 5,000 will ever see a dime for their efforts.

Jody Ellis

In regards to formatting, or seeing scripts that don't "look like scripts" what kind of software are people using??? I know FD is expensive but there are other programs that are less expensive or free. I can't imagine anyone trying to write a script without it. Although I did see a woman once trying to write a script as a word document. It was a mess. Small note on the continued's in the script; to my understanding you can turn them off in FD9 just as you do in FD8. That is the very first thing I do when I start a new script, as it is not automatic. We don't have FD9 yet but will be getting it soon, I'm assuming that basic function will be the same as FD8.

George Pierson

Here is a free script writing program that I had found. http://www.scriptbuddy.com

Deenur E Gill

@Greg. What a troll question- you are not Stephen King. And that's the point. Once someone has a name, the rules loosen up. They shouldn't, but do. But the question is what are YOU going to do?

Deenur E Gill

@Jamal, you don't get paid for trying, you get paid for doing. Its a tough, tough business and there are no "participation" awards. If the person had tough circumstances before hand well sorry about that but we all face pain/challenges/difficulty. I don't want anyone knowing if I beat cancer for example, and I also don't want special consideration if I did.

Dan Guardino

Jody. You heard right. You can turn off the continued's FD9. I do use Cont'd when a character speaks two times in row. There is nothing wrong with that so it is up to the screenwriter. Jim is right about people that write long-winded narrative. I don't give a rat's rectum about white space but the long narrative will throw the page count off. That along with bizarre cheap and free software programs can be a real problem. I am currently rewriting a screenplay a newer screenwriter wrote. He used some cheap software program and had a lot of extra narrative. I am sure this wouldn't be an issue in a short screenplay but this is a $25M feature film script and what was 107 page script is now just 81 pages and I'm losing pages everyday and I'm only about half done.

George Pierson

What is FD9?

Greg Groovie

@Deenur, oh, is that the point? I didn't know you have telepathy & can read minds. Did you look at my comment as a personal attack on you? And as far as what am I going to do? Since you have telepathy you should know that, shouldn't you? By the way, there are people that believe beating cancer is a major triumph, like my Dad & myself. Why don't you work on softening your tone a little bit. It might help you.

Doug Nelson

George, FD9 is short for a screenwriting software known as Final Draft, version 9.

Doug Nelson

Dan, yes you can turn off the more's & continued's in FD9. I updated from FD8 and have just been to lazy to do it – it doesn't really bother me all that much. You're right about some of the software out there. When trying to create a PDF file, the margins and line spacing go all screwy. Excessive exposition and long winded narration is a real turn-off and a waste of good space in both short and FL scripts. A tightly written script has between 190 and 195 words per page. Save your script as a rich text file and let Word do the counting for you. A well written FL script will contain something less than 20,000 words.

George Pierson

Doug Nelson , oh, OK.

Doug Nelson

Lyse, thank you for your comments. Most/all the professional writers I know do submit “properly” formatted scripts and being one of the few surviving members of the 5th Army Mounted Calvary (Black Horse, troop A) I understand your comment. The fact that it's well formatted and an easy read is the point. Whether you like/dislike the story is of no matter at this point. The basic question remains – why won't Producers read my script? The plain and simple answer is because your script doesn't look like this. Download the script, hold it at arm's length, fan through tr pages ; does your script look look like this? If not, there's a good reason that your script goes to the circular file. There's no debate, People can/will nit-pick it all to hell – but the simple fact is that my scripts get read, a few are produced (A Midsummer Night by Merrit Films) but most are not. I'm okay with that (the option money keeps me in beer).

Patricia Poulos

Dear Doug Thank you. I presumed that all screenwriters against whom I have to compete use a program. I currently use Final Draft 9. I spell-check, format check and renumber my scenes prior to submitting my scripts. I have achieved 'Finalist' and have won an award for one of my scripts. For me, I guess you have given me confidence that the competition is narrower than I expected it to be.

Doug Nelson

Patricia – your real competition is much narrower than you might think as long as you reasonably format your script. We'll get to story line later.

Dan MaxXx

I read an insider draft of Boogie Nights by Paul Anderson. From what i remember (era before Internet, hard copy scripts), there were plenty of "amatuerish" format issues, spelling, grammar, etc. Didnt matter. The characters, story and his "voice" were unique

Doug Nelson

Lyse, proper/traditional format is only the first hurdle the new screenwriter faces; there are many more but I'm only trying to get new screenwriters to understand the basic first step at this point. If it don't look like a script – it ain't gonna get read and if no one reads it, then no one knows how wonderful your story is.

Dan MaxXx

From what i noticed writer/directors can get away with formats, clunky description, etc because they are directing. Was reading LOST pilot by JJ Abrams. His style of writing works because he is directing.

Deenur E Gill

Dear Greg, I would not hire you. Thank you.

Dan Guardino

Dan M. I don't think writer/directors are trying to get away with anything. They are writing with a different purpose in mind.

Craig D Griffiths

Hi everyone, Lets look at the maths involved here. If someone works six days a week, ten hours a day they only have 3000 hours available. If it takes two hours to read and gauge a script they would only get to 1500 scripts a year if they did nothing else. No production at all, just reading. So they engage methods to short list the scripts they have to read. After all reading scripts is the one activity which can never make them money. It may lead them to an activity that will make them money, but the read itself can never be monetised. So if you want a producer to read your script you must discover what methods they employ to limit the number of scripts they read. Here is what I would do and what I intend to do now that I think of it. 1) Find a producer that I believe would be interested in producing my script. 2) Go and look at the movies they have made and find the writers. 3) Contact the writers and ask them how they made contact with the producer. 4) Contact as many writers as you can to get the preferred business practice of the producer. You may find that a script has to come from a particular agent of director. You may find that your target director only takes on projects with talent attached. Basically in the Intelligence world we call it modelling. You model a persons behaviour and you will be able to (predict) make inferences about the likelihood of future behaviour. From the point of view of contacting a producer, you will be able to infer what methods of doing business makes them comfortable, and therefore happy to read your script.

Greg Groovie

Hi Deenur: This question is for you. I apologize to others if you read it. Deenur, are you a sociopath, a psychopath, or a narcissist? I'm leaning towards narcissist, but I'll let you answer. The floor is yours.

David Ward

This comment is for Doug Nelson. You did not explain why 'Boy, was I wrong.' Is it that you were inundated with scripts or I would guess from your other comments the quality was not good, or the response from writers not liking what sounds like legitimate criticism. I have recently been in a scriptwriting competition and was amazed at what some people thought was polished enough to enter. Although I do not have any scripts to be assessed, I do know somebody with a very good mini series script that he cannot get anybody to take seriously because he has no track record. It's almost good enough to compare it to 'Breaking bad'. This is my first post so hi to everyone.

Elisabeth Meier

Back to this script teaching Doug wanted to share I first would like to thank Dan Guardino for taking the time. I thought about doing this as well, but then thought it's not worth it. Hence, kudos Dan. So, to all real beginners who have never seen a screenplay in the right formatting (I doubt that here are such beginners, but anyway): Please, look for professional screenplays online first. Just search for them in google and you will find several places where you can download the scripts of Academy Award Winners. Please learn from that, learn from the best people you can find. Download a few of these scripts, print them and watch the films with the script on your knees. This is actually really the best way to learn how to write a screenplay as you learn by doing. Further, Final Draft is indeed the most used program for screenwriting and it offers the latest version for $169,- from time to time, stay tuned by signing in for their newsletter. If you have a program you then will know and learn in an instant how to write a proper formatted script who's format will be accepted in the film industry world wide. I must say I have no idea of any other screenwriting programs, but I assume they are not wrong either they just work a little different. For any help feel free to ask here in the screenwriter's lounge - we all love to share our experiences and difficulties and how we solves problems. So far just my thoughts. All the best for all your projects! #love

David Taylor

Whoosh.

Regina Lee

Hi David Ward, For your friend who wrote a mini-series, if his script is indeed great, I hope he finds the right team for it. For what it's worth, please tell him that it's probably not in his favor to compare it to "Breaking Bad," since BB is an ongoing series. Mini-series are a different form with different market expectations. Secondly, here's a post I wrote a while back on writing contests that do a good job marketing their winners. I hope your friend might find some value in checking out this post. Best of luck! https://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting/Screenwriting-Contests-that...

Ernie Lijoi Sr.

I get a kick out of some of you so called experts, especially when you say polished enough, or a few words spelled wrong so I didn't read it. You all speak of proper procedure, spelling setup, etc, eyt.. No one spoke of Content and story. All the fixes can be made. It's the story itself that can not be replaced. If a person has a great story and a lousy ability to spell or inability to afford Final Draft or some other program, you push that story aside....That sounds a bit crazy to me....Very Crazy....Anyone agree with me on these points or am I totally wrong????

Dan MaxXx

Ernie Story will always be king. Format, grammar, writers, producers, Executives are all replaceable.

Doug Nelson

David – Hi and welcome aboard. Re: “Boy, was I wrong.” My intent was to answer the wide-spread question new screenwriters have about why their scripts don't get read by Producers. As a really small time Producer, I thought it might be helpful to all to see the the common errors and for us all to help the writer in the spirit of generosity. I was immediately accused of some scheme to steal others scripts or publicly humiliate the writers - one even requested money from me for the pleasure of reading his script. Offering to help others was not received well; so “Boy, was I wrong.” So I thought it would be helpful if I posted a modest little script that at least looked like a script (it has been produced and is used as a teaching script at two Universities and two Comm Colleges.) That didn't go so well either. Right off – some fellow skimmed my script to gleefully point out the many rule violations and erroneousness, followed by a couple of “ditto heads”. Fortunately I have a thick skin and can laugh the foolishness off but it does make it difficult to help those who want to learn with all that static on the line. I'll not offer to help others again. And that's why “Boy, was I wrong.”

Jody Ellis

Story is king, but if it isn't formatted properly and if the writer can't be bothered to do something as simple as proof for spelling or grammatical errors, it's unlikely anyone is going to read it.

Ray Crites

When producers, readers, or just plain anyone that you've coerced, cajoled, or even strong-armed, into reading your script finds an error, it generally shows that the writer needs to spend a little more time with the script, but most importantly, spelling mistakes, format errors, all those type things, really have one thing in common. They have a tendency to take the reader OUT of the story! That's why they get rejected. Is your story, really that good, if a simple mistake like a spelling error, can take your reader from the world you've created and get them to switch into editing mode, or is your story so freaking compelling that they have to keep reading, anyway? My first writing mentor told me in the beginning, if you can't spell worth a sh!t, you'd better, damn well, write worth a sh!t until you figure it out.

Ernie Lijoi Sr.

Interesting that people still want perfect language when in reality there is no such thing. Some slang is appropriate depending on the circumstance of the script. Then we have the one who want perfect spelling. one person said something about English class. Some of us were not enthusiastic enough to pay attention in school as kids. More worried about getting to work and making my 50 cents an our at nine years old. LOL....I have ten true crime (Fact Based) books published (www.thepreyers.com) and each book was looked at by the publisher and recommendations were made as to repairs. I don't see why that can't be done with scripts. I do not consider myself an expert,but I do white a good story and a great script. For one reason only, I write for me. My problem is finding investors....just like everyone else. Not everyone wants to invest in True crime movies and TV shows, too much truth involved I guess. Sorry just thought coming out....

Regina Lee

Hi Ernie, a script should have its own voice. To use your words, "perfect language" is not an expectation. But a writer should be able to demonstrate that he's great with his chosen instrument. That instrument is his/her command of well, writing - which is comprised of words, meaning, language, emotion, clarity, focus, text, subtext, context, etc. There's a big difference between a script with a few harmless, inconsequential typos, and a script that doesn't show the writer is in strong command of his instrument/tool/weapon. If a reader can't see past harmless typos, that's his/her own narrow-mindedness and it's his/her own loss! If a reader sees that the writer hasn't mastered his own chosen instrument, that's a different scenario. No one expects a uniform "perfect language" (Ernie's words, not mine). Having a voice in your writing is a part of the pie!

Regina Lee

No one wants to cut slang out of screenwriting. Frankly, that's absurd. I have to defend my fellow "Hollywood" types. We are not idiots who are trying to omit slang, voice, authenticity in content. Look at the movies and shows released today. Most all of them use slang! We aren't idiots.

Dan Guardino

Doug, you do not have thick skin. A week ago nobody accused you or trying to steal screenplays. Some people did suggest that you might be trying to get new people to sign up for one of your classes or a seminar or something. That wasn’t me because I don’t know what you do. Plus, if that is what you were doing I wouldn’t see anything wrong with it unless it violated a Stage 32 rules. This week you posted “a short script for your contemplation. Let's hear what you've got to say about it in the spirit of learning/teaching” and “Check it out on my profile and let's discuss formatting…” In the spirit of those two statement I did read the script and responded think it would lead to more discussions about formatting. If you don’t remember me I was and I quote you “the fellow skimmed my script to gleefully point out the many rule violations and erroneousness…” You thanked me at the time but now you are basically calling me a jerk for taking the time to read your short script and commenting. You are right the script did look like a screenplay but it was barely up to industry standards and certainly was not really professionally written. I just thought if as a person holds himself out as an expert and teaches screenwriting would have posted something better than this to demonstrated how a script should be formatted. Maybe it is a good thing that you decided not to try and help anyone here again.

Ernie Lijoi Sr.

Hi Regina, thanks for your input. You make several good points. My main point was somewhat over looked. There should be a source for people with scripts, to get them reviewed, without changing the character of the script or costing tons of money. I know it was hard for me, I'm 73 years old and it was not easy to start in this area at age 66, after i retired from DEEP COVER. I had to teach myself everything that I know (that's not much) about this area of expertise. I just think it would be nice if we could help the younger set. When it comes to stories, I could write a hundred books, but that doesn't help out those that can not spell or don't know what FD is. I'm simply making a suggestion that maybe we can pass on our experiences like we do with out books. Maybe I'm wrong???? or maybe I'm looking at it wrong???

Jody Ellis

@Ernie I don't see where anyone said they want "perfect language" or to remove slang. But it would be nice if writers had a grasp on basic spelling, Engish and grammar. Bad spelling, along with improper formatting, distract the reader, no matter how good the story is.

Doug Nelson

Ernie – you raise a couple of interesting points; first is the spelling issue. The spelling in the script I posted is in accordance with Merriam-Webster's reference so when I use “tee shirt” rather than “T-shirt”... well, I'll go with ole Merriam-Webster's (maybe he has a higher authority). I don't mind being called out on an error (I learn from my errors), but please make sure it a righteous call-out otherwise you mislead me and/or others. The other point is financing – I think you're the first to even mention it. Most entry-level filmmakers function in a no/low budget environment. The Gramma Ott script is written to showcase a filmmaker's local craft brewery (I just happen to like beer) by incorporating product placement. You may/may not get some financing from your local craft brewer but you'll surely get some good free beer for your cast & crew.

Doug Nelson

Dan, you are absolutely correct in everything you say. Unfortunately, trying to help others is one of my more egregious character flaws but I'll do my best to hold it in check from now on. We're having a pizza oven day up here, so pardon me while I go lay in the hammock by the river and quaff a cold brew.

Alan Knittel

Doug, I absolutely agree with you. I'll go one step further. If you can't afford a good screenwriting application, whatever it is, you need to re-think all the costs on the road ahead facing you that will DWARF the cost of a Final Draft, Celtx, Trelby, etc. Cover fees, contest entries, submission fees, travel to film festivals, pitching training and fees. Those will all add up to campaign your screenplay. Consider simple continuity as well. No editing application will help you with that. Hiring a good editor may. Not having a storyline is ridiculous. Many feature films are getting bad press these days due to hardly any storyline. Readers have a very difficult job. I can only imagine that the best indication that a reader has to even CONSIDER reading a script is a well-written logline and synopsis that may indicate the worthiness of the script.

Ernie Lijoi Sr.

Doug Nelson, I was not referring to you in any way, shape or form. If you get that impression, I apologize. With regards to making errors; I , like you, learn from my errors and those that people point out. I take the fact that they take the time to point it out as a compliment. With all due respect to financing projects, mine are not small because of the "A" list talent that have shown interest. The smallest one is 30 million USD, Not easy to raise. I want to bring in new, young, up and coming actors to my projects, but you do need the "A" list actors to (as we say) put the asses in the seats. That way the younger actors get noticed and move on. I am very much in favor of helping the younger generations. I wish I knew more so that I could. Maybe one day. When I was on the job, I would take younger men out with me on operations and investigations to teach them what it is like to hang out with organized crime, drug dealers, gun runners and much more. I tried to move my knowledge forward to the younger man and in a couple of cases it worked., in most they decided it was not for them. I don't blame them, it's not an easy job.

Doug Nelson

Back for another brew - it's hot out there for us Oregon Ducks! Alan, I don't know where you're going, but I will say that entering into any profession can be costly. Lyse - I hoped to open a positive educational thread but it didn't go that way (so I won't do that again - learning from your mistakes.) Ernie - that never even crossed my mind. I'm on my way back to the hammock - I sense a nap attack coming on.

Ernie Lijoi Sr.

Doug, have good rest.....

Deenur E Gill

Why would you spend the time to develop a well structured and meaningful story and then not wrap it in the best presentation package possible? Grammar, spelling and format matter.

Dan Guardino

Ernie. I think the reason people did talk about the content and story was because Doug specifically asked people not to comment on those that. I agree all fixes can be made and most producers don’t care if a script has some formatting, grammar or spelling issues. However, producers often hire readers to analyze screenplays to see if they are good enough for further development or production as they stand. If a script has some of those issues the script will have to work twice as hard to convince the reader they should kick it up to the next level. Also, most screenwriters trying to break in are using their screenplays to show people in the industry that they know the business and how to write for it so maybe someone will hire them to write a screenplay for their company. FWIW that is actually how most people do break in. For that to happen a screenplay has to be written as well as humanly possible which means it has to be properly formatted and structured to industry standards with very few spelling a grammar errors. Maybe I am wrong but that has always my goal.

Ernie Lijoi Sr.

Dan Guardino, I know that you are correct in your statement. However, I believe that there are ways to help those that don't have the skills, but have the stories. How? I'm not sure. If i were younger I'd find the answer. I don't believe in problems only solutions. Grazie per la risposta buona fortuna nel tuo cugino di sforzi.

Ernie Lijoi Sr.

Deenur, in answer to your question: Possibly for lack of knowledge....Not everyone knows what is the correct way to do something, if there is a correct way.

Dan MaxXx

Ernie The answer is $$$$. this is show business. Not show fun. People, pros, want to be paid to write. Dont know your financial situation but if u have $$, there are plenty of ghostwriters for hire. Best of Luck. Story is king. Everything else can be fixed later.

Dan Guardino

Ernie. I am not great at grammar or spelling. When I started out my wife read my screenplays and help make them halfway readable. Now I have an editor that proofreads my screenplays before they go out. So I agree there is always a way. I have a friend that got an English teacher to proofread his stuff. It seems you don’t have any trouble writing so are you just talking about screenplays or are you just talking about people in general that may have this sor of an issue?

Dan Guardino

Doug. You went up a couple of notches in my book.

Deenur E Gill

@Ernie If you can get on the internet, you can find/learn proper format. You can set up that format in any word processing program. I do not use screen writing software and have had 4 different screenplays read by actors, directors and producers.

Patricia Poulos

Doug, What a pity. What a loss. As all screenwriters (me included), it hurts to hear criticism of one's work and sweat especially when one submits it with pride and joy. I am an Australian so a lot of words spelled correctly in the English language are not necessarily correct in US. So spell-checking is imperative. So is the formatting. For, the reader will never get to read how great a script is, unless he/she is able to find his way through it. On another note, I was recently requested to collaborate on a novel. However, it was not from a 'famous' person, therefore marketability of the finished product even if great, would be hard to sell. The co-author had no knowledge of the formatting which could lead to a successfully composed product, and there was no money. To ask someone to put your desires and enthusiasms into a marketable product without pay, is a big ask.

Cherie Grant

Wow lots of crazy here. Sorry Doug that people couldn't understand the spirit of your post nor read it properly. Don't know how people can't understand what a teaching aide is. Amazing how many, so called, writers don't know how to read and understand what they're reading. PAY ATTENTION PEOPLE!

Doug Nelson

Ernie, I'm not good at the language so I hope I'm not insulting you when I say; vi ringrazio per la vostre partecipazione... I doubt that his cousin cares. Have a good laugh.

Al Hibbert

Don't give up Doug. It turned out to be an interesting thread.

Doug Nelson

Hopefully one of you will begin a thread on what makes a compelling story, how to identify and write to your intended audience. Maybe one of you will start a thread on developing character arcs and/or how to blend your “A” story/sub story matrix. Maybe one of you will share the the “secrets” of getting your script into the hands of a willing agent... It won't be me.

Al Hibbert

Still can't figure out exactly what you're pissed about. A couple folks connected and a couple others got into a minor pissing contest. Not sure what you're mad about?

Al Hibbert

Let it out! don't let someone get under ur skin like that!!

Doug Nelson

Al – I don't know who you're talking to – if it's me, rest assured that I'm not pissed at all and no one has gotten under my skin. Mostly I'm just extremely disappointed and saddened. Please excuse me but I have a 6:00 am crew call in the morning (I hate this hot weather!)

D Marcus

I'm sorry that you are disappointed and saddened, Doug. I've been covering scripts for several producers, prodCo's and studios for many years. Very few are any good.

Dan Guardino

If someone does begin a thread on what makes a compelling story I will make sure I avoid it.

David E. Gates

I think Doug's initial "offer" of help was poorly constructed, much like most scripts he's read are. I like what you have to say here Doug. I find it curious that so many scripts are not written to an industry standard. There's no way I would submit anything without having had it proof-read by someone else, to catch those occasional spelling and grammatical errors that can be overlooked when you're reviewing your work for the 100th time. It gives me confidence, because I know my script is written to the standard and is proof-read, of getting a bit higher up the pile. The story I have is pretty good too! :-)

Ernie Lijoi Sr.

Doug, LOL...You are correct, your not good with Italian...LOL

Patty Ray

Hi Doug, I'm very interested in any information you can give. I would love to read your script, logline, synopsis, and any other examples you are willing to offer. I'm not sure if I'm just missing it but I don't see it. Can you please tell me where I can find these? Thank you for your time, Patty :)

Ernie Lijoi Sr.

Dan Guardino, I write a story (Book) read it over twice, make corrections. Then I give it to me wife, she does the same, at that point I make the final corrections and send it to my publisher. He looks it over and then sends me a preliminary copy, which I read, my wife reads and we still find errors. Correct them and send it in for final distribution. So far so good. With Scripts there are no publishers involved, but the process is the same for me...Even the computer makes errors in grammar and spelling. For most of you this i a job. For me, being retired, this is fun. I relive my past life in my books and have fun doing it. There are maybe a dozen people in the world that did what I did, so its nice to be alive and able to do this. By the way, I really enjoy this thread (I think you call it). It interesting what you learn by what it both saidd and not said. Thanks all.

Laurie Ashbourne

Hi Doug, I didn't read every reply so excuse me if this was covered. You can turn off cont'ds in FD9 and 10. For both page breaks and dialogue breaks and character dialogue cont'd.

Dan Guardino

On the "documents" button you in the drop down list you click on the "Mores and Continues" to change the settings. Some times I use continues and sometimes I don't so I change the setting quite often.

Doug Nelson

Before I drift off, I just want to thank you all (mostly) for your support and willingness to pursue your way along the learning curve. For those dozen or so who sent me network requests this morning, I thank you for your confidence & support but sadly I must decline because you are all out of my network range. I hope you understand. Next time I do this, I'll bring my own willow switch to my caining. On a brighter note, we got a good solid four pages in the can this morning – so to my cast & crew, steaks are ready for the barbie and the beer's on ice C-ya about 2:00.

James Michael Tweedie

I have to agree with Dan Maxxx on the comment about Writers who Direct. If you are going to direct your own film you can get away with way more mistakes because you already know the Vision of the film. If you are writing and entering your script in a contest try to reach out to former winners of that contest so you can hopefully network and see how they formatted their scripts. I've always found that if you want to be good at something network with the ones that have already done it.

David Ward

Hi Doug, Thanks for explaining what caused all the hassle between the enormous egos of your critics. I am new to the script writing side of writing and am amazed at the arrogance displayed by some people attracted to this side of the scribbling art. Perhaps this is the difference scriptwriting attracts wolves with an eye to business. All in all a very un-attractive display, I am sure you had the best of intentions and it is a shame you have come away disappointed and saddened, like you I am always looking to learn and when possible help impart any knowledge I have acquired to others. Hope you are not to bruised, shame I could not have benefitted from your knowledge and experience.

Dan Guardino

David. If Doug just wanted to help people he wouldn't tell them he would accept submissions then turn away people because "they are all out of his network range." He is a screenwriter teacher in Eugene Oregon. This business does attract wolves you just have to learn how to recognize them and hold onto your wallet.

Jody Ellis

@Dan, agree wholeheartedly. And David, you may have missed the initial post in which Doug made this "offer" while also threatening to openly humiliate any writers who "wasted his time".

Dan MaxXx

maybe I misread but Doug was offering his experience/equipment/filmmaking knowledge for free. I dont believe he was 'serious' about charging $$$. I wish I knew Doug when I was in college/film school; would've saved $$$ tuition. Old school mentors dont BS; they tell it like it is. Do the work or stay home.

Laurie Ashbourne

I have no idea what knicker twisting has transpired, and reading the original post it is unclear what the offer was. No matter who you are and what you are offering or presenting, be it free or otherwise, clarity is key. If a script is put up as a challenge to see if mistakes can be found, then say that and follow up with the replies If a request is sent out for material, whether it’s to offer advice or fill a job opening, submit only if the requirements are made clear and you have what is being asked for Clarity untwists knickers – always If someone is genuinely doing a disservice or is being an ass they will not go far, so there’s no need to try and block their way (unless of course they are making personal attacks). It’s a small world, be honest, but be kind.

Doug Nelson

Laurie – I'm thoroughly confused also, I thought I was doing a good thing. I made an assumption that new screenwriters would appreciate seeing why producers are reluctant to read their submissions – boy, was I wrong! My intention was heart-felt and true and I'll never, EVER humiliate others – that's just not part of the teaching ideal and is certainly counter to my being. Lurking in the bushes to pounce on some unsuspecting innocent is just not who I am.

Doug Nelson

Dan – you got it right. I was serous when I made the offer, free and clear of any commitment. I keep my network fairly small because I invite folks in it to participate in short film production as directors, actors, DP's, whatever (again all for free) and I have access to a modest cable tv network on which I'm able to broadcast filmmaker's works – all for free to the filmmakers. I'm sorry that upsets some, but that's just the kind of guy I am . For those of you who jump to erroneous conclusions and think I'm promoting something – I'M NOT! I am only the host at a screenwriter's retreat sponsored by a sizable West Coast International Festival. I'll ask the owner if he wants me to promote it here – if he agrees, I'll post it on the My Stage Forum. For the rest of you - take me at my word or don't take me at all - I don't care.

Patricia Poulos

Dear Doug, Once again, thanks for trying to do something from which I am sure all these writers (and I) could have benefited. As it is for all those who try to do good, there are those who for whatever reason, try to put them down so that they won't raise their heads again. Please forgive them.

Beth Fox Heisinger

If I may, this whole thing has been infused with misunderstandings and misinterpretations—from all sides. Doug, the way that you phrased things on that first post... You may have meant it in jest, but unfortunately it didn't translate that way, or rather many members took your words literally. Therefore your "heart-felt" intentions were unclear. Anyway, let's please give each other the benefit of the doubt. We all want roughly the same thing: to write screenplays, to create, to be successful (whatever that means to each of us), to share information, to gain knowledge and to encourage. As Laurie said, "It’s a small world, be honest, but be kind." Thanks for all the comments everyone. ;)

Laurie Ashbourne

and... Clarity untwists knickers – always. (Just as important) ;-)

Dan Guardino

Doug. I will take your word for it. I agree with Beth. I misunderstood your intentions twice and you misunderstood my intention when I gave you feedback. I thought you wanted to discuss the script so people here could learn from it. I was trying to kick off some discussions which backfired. I never tried belittle you or anyone else or try to pretend that I was a better screenwriter. I always say and do consider myself a self-taught hack because that's what I am. Honestly I don't even really enjoy screenwriting anymore. I have written over 29 screenplays and I hope I never write another one and my wife seconds that. Anyway, I am sorry if I caused you any heartache because that certainly was not my intent.

Al Hibbert

Somehow I missed the first 'post' which contained the lesson that is being discussed. That's what's funny about this post. All that I've seen was Dan's 'critique', which I didn't think was abusive in any way. It'was a very easy going analysis of Doug's lesson. which whether it had a few 'flaws' or not was apparently irrelevant to what he was trying to say. Just goes to show that you can't ever assume anything. The brilliance of the post is that this could go on forever with everyone trying to figure out what it is we're talking about. I can see a thousand comments. Hope I didn't jinx it.

Doug Nelson

Dan, I'm glad that you're willing to agree with Beth – my intentions were nothing but good but I doubt that an educational discussion can be established at this point, so maybe I'll start another thread. I must say that every screenwriter needs to understand that conflict is what makes it (anything) interesting and we've certainly made it interesting with over 135 comments in four days – good for the forum. The that the use of wrylies has a long history in screenwriting and are presently used more often in television scripting, their extensive use in FL film has diminished but hey are often utilized in short scripts as a means of reducing the volume of action text. They must be used sparingly. As I sit here in my studio, I count eleven binders on a shelf; each contains a script that has won, placed or at least been a finalist in one contest or another and I have two more “in progress”. I love screenwriting and will continue until I die. I can't seem to quash my desire to help new screenwriters any way I can- it what keep me young. No heartache Dan, just a good laugh.

Dan Guardino

Doug. We are definitely traveling down different paths which sometimes causes conflict as well. It is never personal. I do admire those people that write for the love of it and are willing to help new screenwriter.

Doug Nelson

Yes Dan, we follow different pathways. Believe me when I say that it's nothing personal – ever. But you have to admit that a little conflict is great for stimulating interest (every story-teller knows you need a little conflict). Look at the responses to this thread.

Dan Guardino

I and this thread actually helped me to stay awake while grueling over another rewrite. I have about twenty pages left so hopefully I will be done by tomorrow night.

Anthony Moore

Doug, after reading your posts I've completed a 5pg short. Would you be willing to look it over?

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