Screenwriting : Reading Scripts by Liam Lacy

Liam Lacy

Reading Scripts

I'm curious to know how regularly the writers here read produced (or unproduced) screenplays. As well as that, what was your favourite? Mine would probably be Almost Famous, I love Cameron Crowe's style.

Craig D Griffiths

I have read a few scripts in full, like Aliens. But I'll read parts of scripts to see how someone executed something. First few pages of The Princess Bride for instance.

Sean Frost

I like David Rosiak. Clean, sharp, good momentum, good energy, vivid descriptions.

Dan MaxXx

i read the black list top 10 scripts, nicholls winners, Tracking Board finalists. it's good intel on the competition.

Desiree Argentina

I try to read one a week

Liam Lacy

One a week is my target, and I'm loving it so far. I did used to be the same Dene, but have found I'm far more engaged when I read them in hard copy, so now I either print them out or hire the scripts in book form from the library.

Jeff Reyes

I like reading pilot scripts after actually watching the aired pilots. It helps me understand how much detail (actions, dialogue) the writer writes on the script that make it to air.

Dan Guardino

I read them when I first started but have no reason to do so now so I haven't read one in years.

Liam Lacy

That's interesting Dan, because I'd have thought that at any stage of your writing career, even if you were Gaghan, there were always things you could learn from reading other people's work. Even if it's just to know what else is out there at the moment.

Allen Johnson

I typically read scripts in the genre or style of whatever assignment I'm currently on. I haven't done much pleasure reading recently because of the work load, but that's a good thing. I've been writing for a while with about 6 sales and two produced credits at the moment and I still constantly not only read scripts, but read books on writing. I don't feel I'll ever "know it all" and feel that there's always something I can learn. I STRIVE to be a lifetime student of the craft. I'll agree with you on Almost Famous. Such a beautiful film.

Stephen Foster

I suggest actors read one script a week.

Tamim Almousa

If I'm writing, I'm reading (or rereading) scripts that share a similar feel to what I'm trying to accomplish.

Dan Guardino

Liam. I understand why some people read them. I don't read them because I already know how to write screenplays and I am not interested in what other people out there are writing because I am not writing spec screenplays.

Mikhail Zislis

Sometimes it's two scripts a day. Sometimes none for a week or longer. There are pearls out there, especially in unproduced work. Scripts by giants that never reached the silver screen. You learn a ****ton. Including the fact that even a great script by an industry professional doesn't make a movie.

Anthony Cawood

I tend to read a feature per month and a bunch of shorts too, recent recommends are Locke and The Martian.

Doug Nelson

I occasionally read a script or two for for a couple of Agents but I don't download scripts to read for myself. I'm sortta like Dan on that. Over the years I've developed my own rather staccato style that works for me – an my Agent seems to like ('cause he can sell it.)

Anthony Cawood

Congrats on the sale(s) Doug, how did you get an agent in the first place and what have they managed to sell for you so far? Great to get insight from someone with experience, Andy of the scripts online to read?

Doug Nelson

I really don't know how I got my first Agent. I submitted a 'Rhoda' script to MTM back in '76?' and a few weeks later some guy named Danny called me to say he sold it to CBS and he was gonna take 15% of the sale price ($2,000). I didn't know how/why he was entitled to any of 'my money', but frankly I was glad to get the cash (I didn't do the polish.) Turns out that he was a guy I had gone to high school with – I didn't know him, but he knew me. Within a few years a couple of head-hunter and other agents found me so I managed to snag a few stints in the writer's room on a few sit-coms. I worked on location when I was a starving student pretty much for food (Oh the glory of tuna fish with sand on white bread and warm coke in the Sonora Desert.) That's what you all now call the 'good old days'. Remember, Agents need you to earn their living by selling your work. They are beating the bushes looking for marketable product – and there's very little of it out there. So go where Agents hang out – film festivals, seminars... Be personable, rub shoulders, shake hands, belly up to the bar... make personal connections and one day some Agent will suggest you send your work to his office. He'll say “ya, I'd like to read your stuff, send it to my office.” I write 'spec scripts' only so none (I don't think) are on line as spec scripts but I know of a couple that are on line after having been rewritten as shooting scripts. If you check IMDB, you'll find me listed as a 'line producer' but not as writer. As long as the checks don't bounce, I don't care (although my quarterly royalty checks are barely enough to keep me in beer nowadays.)

Fiona Faith Ross

I try to read scripts, but sometimes a writing project takes over and everything else gets pushed aside. The most memorable scripts for me during this last year have been The Bling Ring, Nightcrawler, Chinatown and The Conjuring. I also spend a lot of time on "how to" of five screenwriting sites, that I visit regularly.

Desiree Middleton

I read screenplays everyday. I dissect them-figuring out what works and what doesn't and why.

Chanel Ashley

Love reading scripts, one of my favourites is one of the first I ever read - CHINATOWN.

Desiree Argentina

@Chanel Ashley, I am reading that one now!

Doug Nelson

A word to the wise: (You old-timers know this) but for those of you who are up-starts in the screenwriting world, you must understand/realize that the scripts you pull down off the internet are Production (maybe not polished) scripts. They are NOT spec scripts! While they are of some learning value, they are a far cry from the “spec” script format that you are trying to learn and have been heavily rewritten. As an example; You'll see that the scenes have been numbered – so 'no big deal' you say. Often you'll see something like '50 omitted' or 50b INT... What that means is that you don't have access to the original script that got the Producer's/Director's attention in the first place – and isn't that what you're trying to learn?

Dan Guardino

Like Doug said.

Chanel Ashley

Doug, I know where you're coming from, but there's also a thing called reading for enjoyment - these scripts to a degree also demonstrate how high the bar can be set and the level we should aspire to achieve - we also witness a glimpse of the "style of writing" some of the great scriptwriters provide - just an observation, cheers.

Chanel Ashley

Curious to know your thoughts re Chinatown, Desiree, I read it a while back, but always one of my favourites.

Dan Guardino

I thought Chinatown was a good script. I agree with Doug that people need to know the difference between a production script and a spec screenplay. They are two different animals.

Linda Hullinger

I'm glad that Dan and Doug brought that up because I can't seem to find what to do in regard to TV pilots. When a TV pilot is pitched, should it be written like a spec screenplay? Or should it look like the example pilot scripts that are posted on sites like Simply Scripts and LA Screenwriter where all the scene descriptions are in caps and the scene headings are underlined?

Dan MaxXx

Linda Everything you need-outlines, pitches, treatments, full pilot scripts- from a Pro.

Linda Hullinger

Thanks for the link, Dan. I'll check it out. :-)

Lin Jusan

"Atonement" By Christopher Hampton, based on a Novel By Ian McEwan

Doug Nelson

I've never seen the Chinatown 'spec' script but the publicly available version is a very good/strong script that was made into a very good film. It's a 'fun' script to read, but my question is; why are you reading it? It's not like it's a good 'spec' script from which to learn the craft of screenwriting so maybe you're reading it for it's 'style'. Be careful there. Try not to imitate others – allow your own to develop. It will over time and then others will tell you what your writing style is. People tell me that I write in a very concise, staccato – almost abbreviated – style with a Judd Apatow slant. (I don't know what that means.)

Dan Guardino

Like Doug said. I don't want to read scripts to imitate others. Just another reason why I don't read scripts.

Roxanne Paukner

Thanks, Dan MaxX - I went there and read some interesting and helpful things.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Liam: Almost famous is a wonderful script and film. I read several unproduced scripts a months sent to me by other writers.

Dawn Foden

I think it's important to read screenplays especially in the genre (s) that you want to write in for your first or next screenplay. a good exercise is to spend 30 mins a day writing out the screenplay. it may take you a few weeks to complete but it's a good way to learn structure.

Bikash Biswas

Script reading should be a regular habit of every aspiring script writer Liam! But these days who really does this ? Script reading is a very important learning process. And one should enjoy that process. At least one should read scripts of one's favorite movies. I also wonder how many of us really read novels or stories these days! Thanks for your post.

Jorge J Prieto

Great question, Liam. I read from time to time, produced scripts and a few from fellow screenwriters here on Stage 32. Last produce script I read was "Spotlight" It was a subject matter close to home. Peace buddy.

Dan Guardino

Like I said earlier I don't read screenplays but I agree new screenwriters really should read them because screenplays have a certain cadence to them that can only be learned by reading them. At least that's my opinion which probably doesn't mean a whole lot.

Nancy Newbauer

Absolutely love reading scripts ... and novels. I think "Whiplash" was an amazing script. Right now I'm trying to get my hands on the script for "The Story of Your Life" (aka "Arrival") - have heard wonderful things about it!

Kay Luke

I've read hundreds of scripts including a few dozen while they were being shopped in the Studio System including There Will Be Blood and Inglorious Basterds. I like Gone With the Wind (although it's archaic in many ways), but there was one written by David S Ward (The Sting) that was an excellent romcom (a genre I don't usually go for) that has yet to be produced although it was flawless ( I don't think I should mention the title). For anyone interested, a photo copy of most produced screenplays (and many TV shows) can be had from Larry Edmunds Bookstore on Hollywood Blvd. They'll ship.

Michael Faunce-Brown

Try my Slave Children

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