Screenwriting : When your read request goes nowhere. by Jody Ellis

Jody Ellis

When your read request goes nowhere.

Occasionally I'll look through the site and read some of the screenplays posted by members. Today I started one, found four misspellings/typos on the first page as well as some heavy overwriting. (i.e.; Bob a 42 and a half year old man with blonde hair, a red striped shirt, gray green eyes, wearing blue shoes and carrying a briefcase....) and I ended up not reading further. I realized that this is probably what most agents, managers, producers do on a daily basis. They see the glaring errors right off the bat and lose interest. I've been guilty of this too, and I know scripts I've sent out in the past haven't been 100 percent. But it was a bit of an "ah-ha" moment for me today, to think of how many hundreds of scripts an agent must try to read, and how quickly one will discard a script that's got errors right from the get-go. Anyway, just thinking aloud about it and ruminating on the importance of putting your best work out there!

Anne-Cecile Ville

I completely agree with you, Jody! :)

Pierre Langenegger

Yeah, I tend to think of them as lost novelists, they need to realise there's a big difference between writing novels and writing screenplays.

Jody Ellis

@Pierre, what?! Isn't it exactly the same? ;-) The first script I ever submitted for feedback received notes that said "this is beautifully written but it reads like a NOVEL, not a screenplay". I like to think I've learned a lot since then, lol. Much left to learn of course, but getting better!

Bill Costantini

You really have to take your time with checking for punctuation, word and grammar errors. You can trust Spell-Check to a point, but not for homophones/wrong words. I've scene tones of weeds that were knot the write weed after Spell-Checking. Bee patent and cheque your tails sloe and rite - you mite sea a slough of them! Heh-heh.

Pierre Langenegger

Good to see you've learned the difference, Jody, we were all there in the early days. Keep up the good work .

Izzibella Beau

Scriptwriting is a different kind of beast compared to writing a novel. Whereas a reader wants to know every minute detail of what someone is wearing, that they look like, how the room is set-up, etc all in a 250 page book...the producer wants little detail, get to the point of what's needed to know, and snuggly fit it all into a 100 page script...Bill, I don't think your spell-check is working properly...LOL

Jody Ellis

@izzibella my point was, as writers we need to make sure we are submitting our best work. Because a script with typos or one that is overwritten is probably not going to be read past page five, much less that magical "first 10"

Beth Fox Heisinger

Yes, the more scripts you read from a variety of writers (professional and amateur) the more attuned you become to what makes a great, well-executed screenplay. It's an effective way to study the craft. :)

Aray Brown

I'm guilty of that Jody, I read a screenplay that was completely overwritten and wasn't formatted properly and felt like the story was dragging and just didn't hook me. I couldn't get read the whole thing. I gave her some sage advice (story structure, showing not telling, less is more, suggested that she read some produced scripts like I did so she can get a feel for it) I help in any way I can but in order for me to read a script all the way through, it has to hook me. The story has to go somewhere. I'm not a professional writer, yet. I just know what I like.

Jody Ellis

Lol Jim, nobody ever gets back to me, at least it feels that way sometimes.

Izzibella Beau

@Jody I agree that writers need to submit their best work...BUT...you have to remember that there are some people out there that truly believe what they are submitting IS their best work. Maybe they don't have the resources to properly format, grammatically correct, etc...You're correct, this type of work will be tossed aside after the first page. This may be the reason why producers are hesitant to take work from just anyone, most want an agent to submit that signals that the submitting party is worthy of attention. We, those who have written published novels and screenplays, know that it takes many days, weeks, months, and sometimes years to get the final product. As a writer, only the best will get you pushed further ahead. If one cannot strive to put 110% into their work, then maybe they are in the wrong business.

Jorge J Prieto

Jody: Lol. I was also told years ago that my screenplay was more like a novel. This must be contagious among writers on their first screenplay.

David Levy

Some writers who are just beginning believe what they put out is their best work while someone more experienced will think otherwise. Sometimes you need to be patient with a new writer. Others times just be honest. I've sent scripts to people I know and never heard back. Not even sure if they looked at one page. I received such great feedback on some of my first works that helped me see such obvious mistakes and on the nose writing I was doing. From that point I made sure I took care of all typos, increase subtext, and over stuffed dialogue. Thanks again Beth! Now I have people wanting to see what I come up with.

Beth Fox Heisinger

That's great to hear, David! You're such an inspiration and have such potential. Really, it's just a matter of time. ;)

David Levy

From your lips to a producer, manager, or agents ears! Thank you so much for the kind words. I hear I am an inspiration a lot. Not sure why! lol. I just do what I have to do in life to keep writing and succeed. If that means I am an inspiration to others, then I am humbled.

Linda Perkins

I've rewritten my 'launcher' countless times and I'm still waiting for that 'REQUEST' moment. In the meantime, I keep writing until...

Dan Guardino

David is right. A screenwriters that reads a script to give feedback should try to remember what it was like when they first started. Almost every new screenwriters starts out making the same mistakes when they first start out. Even people with three or four screenplays that think they know what they are doing will often make the same mistakes that someone else with the same number of scripts under their belt will make. That is because a lot of what we are supposed to do comes from practice which is why most people get better the more screenplays they write. That is probably why people that succeed normally had quite a few screenplay under their belt when they catch that first break.

Jody Ellis

I was simply making a commentary on why we often hear nothing from agents, managers or producers we query, not talking about feedback. My point was, if I lose interest in a script because it's full of typos and overwritten, those in the industry who have to slog through hundreds of scripts are likely to be even less interested in a screenplay that isn't polished.

Bill Costantini

Jody - wood yule reed won of mind? It mite knot bee two sailable rite now, and could you's the touche of a prose.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Yes, those types of issues test a reader's patience and may cause loss of interest—any reader. All readers want to be entertained and enjoy a script. :)

Dan Guardino

@ Jody. I got what you said was why producers and agents don't bother reading an entire screenplay. They read the first few pages and if the scripts it too wordy they will often figure that the writers is inexperienced and reading the entire script would probably be a waste of their time. However as a fellow screenwriter it might have been helpful if you told the person that wrote the script why you couldn't read past their first few pages and that someone in the business would probably discard their script too if they didn't fix their screenplay so it read more like a well-written screenplay should. However there is a very good chance that the screenwriter would just get pissed off which happens sometimes and is why I never read other people screenplays anymore.

Jody Ellis

@Dan, I don't bother anymore unless I have something positive to say. I'll comment on scripts posted here if I read and like them. If I start to read one and can't get through the first 10 pages, I just move on. Seems like a lot of people get insulted or pissed off at anything resembling criticism. And I figure who am I to critique their work anyway?

Rick Mowat

This is very true. In fact most people who have to read scripts are begging for basics to be bad so they can quickly toss it. The one you read would probably be chucked by the end of the first page! Good idea to hire someone to proof your script.

Pierre Langenegger

I agree Rick, not wanting to toot my own horn (but I will), hire a proofreader/editor before you send your script out to the world.

Jorge J Prieto

I gotta say, I've been lucky here. Had a screenplay of mine read and by a professional, working writer, who even proofread it for me and gave me excellent notes on how to improve it, all for nada. I have pay it forward and have read two members screenplays, working on a third one. One thing I emphasize when I'm asked is, I'm only giving suggestions that I feel will improve their story, but the writer has the final say, not me. They can take my suggestions or leave it. I must say, I've learned alot by reading and analyzing fellow S32 members work, so thanks for your trust, you know who you are, I'm grateful.

Dan Guardino

@ Jody. I understand that. I have have told people what they were doing wrong and never heard from them again or they wasted my time explaining why they were justified in doing what they were doing. After a while I quit trying to help new screenwriters one on one because it isn't worth my time. So you are probably better off not telling them they are screwed up and let them do what they do until they eventually quit. FWIW that is what happens to about 3999 out of 4000 that try -- they give up.

Esther Farin

My whole thing with the error catching is that you're human and sometimes you're so focused on the story that type-o's slip in. I really put my heart into my work and it would be unfortunate if an excellent script was tossed aside because of an extra comma ;)

Jody Ellis

@Esther an extra comma might not get noticed. Misspelled words, typos, overwritten character descriptions are very likely to get noticed and it won't matter how great the story is, because most industry readers won't go any further.

Esther Farin

thanks @jody that's good to know! :)

Dan Guardino

A reader is supposed to read a script from an audience point of view and ignore misspelled words and formatting errors. However they are only human so that isn't how it always works. Overwriting is probably probably one of the biggest script killers there is because it screams amateur! That is sort of ironic though because professional screenwriters often overwrite as well. It really is a stupid business.

Jody Ellis

@Dan I know I'm guilty of over-writing, even now when I know not to do it! I think the issue I have with misspellings, typos, etc. is it makes me question what kind of grasp the writer has on basic grammar. How can one write a decent story if they don't know the difference between your and you're. Or the dreaded their, there and they're.

Jack Middleton

Jody. Feel free to read my work in progress "Amanda's Homecoming" and let me know all the bad bits that are there. I am working through this one, so I still need lots of work, but I would like comments at this stage of the game too. Of course it is uploaded to my log-line section.

Jorge J Prieto

Jody:Guilty as charged. Your, you're. There, they're. There you go.

Chanel Ashley

Jody, we've all read those scripts, grammar and spelling errors abound, but it's also an opportunity to respond to the writer and help him/her make the appropriate corrections - if you couldn't continue reading, or worse, remained silent, then how can that writer learn and grow - while it doesn't always endear me to the writer, I usually point out what I deem to be errors in their script and make suggestions, a mini review, don't most of us crave a review, mini or otherwise?

Jack Middleton

@Chanel. The only way to get better is to learn the faults and strive to improve. I was in a screenwriters group a few years ago and, although hard to take sometimes, the critique made me better. Any comments are welcome as far as I'm concerned. ;-)

Jody Ellis

No Chanel, most people don't want a review. They want to hear how great their script is, lol. And I don't feel any great need to butt in with my "helpful tips" when they aren't being requested by the writer. And as I said earlier, who am I to critique their work anyway? If they want my opinion, they will ask, otherwise I am not really a fan of offering unsolicited advice.

Christopher Binder

It's all about that flow.

Jack Middleton

@Jody. Hi. I would like your opinion. I am new and eager to learn from others' experience and training. ;-D

Jody Ellis

@jack I would be happy to, just keep in mind I wouldn't call myself experienced, lol. I'll review and comment in your logline section.

Jack Middleton

@Jody. I appreciate your opinion and your time. (You may be more experienced than you think)

Beth Fox Heisinger

Jody, that has not been my experience; most would like some feedback/review/help. But, it is often best when your thoughts about a script are specifically requested, or you have an open dialogue with that person and are more aware of their creative intent and what they wish to achieve. :)

Jody Ellis

@Beth, I think the "specifically requested" part is key

Beth Fox Heisinger

Yup, as I said. :)

Chanel Ashley

Sorry ladies, but I'm inclined to disagree - if someone has uploaded a screenplay, then they are "inviting" to be read and "comments", otherwise what the hell is the point of uploading a script - I have 7 screenplays uploaded here, quite a few downloads which is flattering, but barely a comment - how does that help/assist me? If my scripts sucked and no one wanted to "hurt" my feelings, what good does that do me? I have very thick skin, I hail from Triggerstreet where most acquire a thick skin, but I personally would have loved a comment, good, bad, any comment, otherwise how can I improve?

Beth Fox Heisinger

I don't disagree with you, Chanel. If a script is posted, it is available for review and commentary. I'm only stating that in order to be more helpful and constructive, it's beneficial to know more about the writer and what they are trying to achieve.

Chanel Ashley

I know where you're coming from, Beth, and you're right - but I usually do a mini in the sense I'll comment on grammar and spelling, requires diluting, perhaps comment on a lack of dramatic tension re the initial stages - I'm not cruel, but I'm very honest, then they can agree or disagree - usually, but not always, they respond in a positive and appreciative manner and ask for further feedback - anyway, that's been my experience - and Jody's correct, some people ONLY want to hear how great their script was and will not tolerate anything deemed remotely critical - I'd love to name one New Yorker here who will not abide anything negative re his scripts, none of which are written in standard format, he has his "own" style and refers to his buddy Woody Allen, lol, but he shall remain nameless, the twit - cheers.

Pierre Langenegger

Agreed Chanel. When you look at the ratio of comments against the number of views, it's astounding. What S32 needs to implement is a system to encourage people to leave feedback when they exit a view of a script. Even if it's a simple radio button rating and the option to leave a lengthier comment.

Pierre Langenegger

Hmm, will fix my typos when I get to a computer. Perhaps while they're at it, IT can implement an edit capability for the app.

Dan Guardino

Unfortunately there are two kinds of people that want feedback. Those that want to learn and make their screenplays better and those that just want to hear how great they are. Also there are two types of people that like to give feedback. Those that want to help their fellow screenwriters and those that just want to show people how knowledgeable they are. It is just the risk you take when asking for feedback or giving it. However it can be beneficial for both sides when someone can help another screenwriter and when someone gets the help they were looking for. However when giving feedback one should critique the screenplay but never critique the screenwriter. And keep in mind we all started out making the same mistakes.

Chanel Ashley

Always like it when you post, Pierre, remember the good ol' days of Triggerstreet - some great characters there, talk about the wild west, lol - BUT, some great scripts and reviews, so much outstanding talent to help and assist, loved Bill the mod.

Chanel Ashley

Dan, you're on the money - I don't think it matters which "type" you strike, part of the process is being able to discern between all types and then make your own conclusions - even in a bad review, one quite often can glean some insight that is of benefit, and I've had a few of those, lol - mm, your last sentence is difficult, I would never be cruel to any new writer just starting out, but when I read profiles of how good the writer may be, won this award, success here, blah, blah, then their script better be of a certain standard, otherwise I'm VERY honest and that's when I get into trouble, hehe, can't help myself, sorry.

Pierre Langenegger

Yeah, I'm still having trouble coping without TS. Bill's still around, more prominent on fb though.

Michael Eddy

Jody, I can't disagree with anything you said at the top, nor with Dan's remarks about "types" of readers - but your post sounds less like asking a question and more like you suddenly having a fog lift on how it's done. Things have been posted on various threads before about needing to kill it in your script - and do it from the jump. Typos are a turnoff (looks unprofessional) - so is the sort of over-writing you described. It comes down to what you said about agents and execs going home with PILES of weekend reading material - and if you give them ANY reason - large or small - in the first 10 pages - NOT to preceed further - than you're toast. It goes in the reject pile and they're on to the next writer in the on deck circle (my homage to Opening Day for MLB). The whole script needs to be terrific - but those first 10 pages need to be as close to perfect as you can get. You want the reader to be grabbed and unable to stop reading.

Conrad Ekeke

Yes Jody, it's best to take out all our time to write what's best. I totally agree with your experience

Guillermo Ramon

The reality is that typos and misspellings are a terrible enemy for the writer. I check the script thoroughly multiple times, have it professionally edited, and still, some times, there are a couple of mistakes left. Once, Someone told me that the script was plagued by misspellings. I could not find them. I sent it to an editor. She found FOUR. Four misspellings in the first ten pages, not any more after that. And two wrong prepositions. Since English is my second language, I do make mistakes with prepositions. English has so many of them, and they tend to be defined by usage. Prepositions are quite difficult to grasp. That is actually the main reason I use an editor. I understand how important presentation is. I frequently hire people in my money making job. I used to call for resumes and would get a few hundred, with cover letters and other attachments. This was always overwhelming. Soon, I realizing that as I opened a resume, I was immediately seeking a reason to drop it. Consequently, I ended up hiring the best presented people, rather than the best. I switched to hiring by referral only. I think that must also happen to producers and readers. Presentation makes the reader's life easier. Presentation makes the reader feel that he or she is dealing with a true professional. I am sure that producers and readers do not chose the best scripts, since so many bad movies are made. I would think that after reading so many scripts, they will have the same problem I had to hire people. That is why I started entering contests. If the judges in a contest liked your work, there is a better chance that people will look at it in a positive manner.

Rick Mowat

Very well said Guillermo. And spot on!

Michael Eddy

Guillermo - "plagued" by FOUR words spelled incorrectly. Had they been sprinkled throughout 115 pages of script - no biggie. But you said that all four were in the first ten pages - which is my point exactly about how crucial those first ten pages are. The story is the story - and someone will react positively or not - but you have to give yourself a fighting chance and make those first ten - in terms of spelling, grammar, formatting - as letter perfect as possible. As to your comment about producers not choosing the best scripts - which is why so many bad movies are made - trust me - with what it costs to make a movie - even something "low budget" these days - no one sets out to make anything bad. There are myriad reasons that it may ultimately turn out that way - but no one starts out to write a lousy script, nor does anyone set out to make a bad movie. This isn't Zero Mostel in "The Producers".

Other topics in Screenwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In