Sunday, July 22, 2012

Five Things I Learned Reading Scripts

At one point in my life I was rolling Jamaican style and working three jobs. I was slanging porn, working at Petco, and reading scripts. It was a cool job where I learned a lot about what not to do when writing. Then I turned around and broke every one of those rules. I love writing and say that I am good at writing but that’s just my god complex driven opinion which makes every thought I have and write suspect. Script reading is a job that puts you in the position to dictate others future.

You write something, send it to an agency, and hopefully they like it and buy it and turn it into a film of TV show. Or likely it ends up in the hands of someone paid to read for a living and they are easily bored and toss it aside after a few pages. This happens. I read every script I was given from beginning to end good or bad because that was a luxury I could afford. I read fast and it pains me to not finish a story. Most scripts are good for the first fifteen pages and then peter out until the end. Here’s some things I learned while having that job.

1. It Will Be Rewritten

No matter how great you think what you wrote is, there is going to be room for improvement. Some people would send a cover letter with their script with actual demands on it that I just laughed at and read their shitty script. The idea that you can produce something that cant be improved upon is a level of conceit not seen since the Greek gods. Everything can be made better. Bacon was made better which means anything is possible.

Once you sell a script people can do whatever the hell they want with it. Read that again and let it sink in. That original comedy you wrote about a guy who has the ability to put himself in all his ex girlfriends bodies just to ruin their current relationships starring Anne Hathaway and Ryan Gosling is now a drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Peter Sarsgaard where a man uses his ability to relate to women to become a motivational speaker. Yes, I totally just made that nonsense up.

2. There Will Be Typos

I am good at spotting every typo that is not written by me. Even as I sit here I see those goddamn red squiggles screaming in my face letting me know that even after over three decades on this planet I still manage to spell basic words improperly. Sometimes there are words that don’t show up as incorrect and I’ll post something and after reading it three times I spot it or a friend does.

Let other people who have an attention span read your shit. I would get scripts where it seemed like people wrote them in the middle of a fever dream. Story would start one place, jump to another, end at a place, and roll back to the beginning like Quentin Tarantino on crack. All the while words are spelled wrong with no effort to fix it because fuck you I’m an artist and I don’t have time to fix my artistic vision! Seriously. Check your shit. Have a friend check your shit. Better yet, have two or three friends check your shit. Speaking of friends…

3. Your Friends Will Lie To You

At one point I had nine blogs plus the stories I post on Facebook and the ones I post nowhere. I don’t know any friend of mine that has read everything I have posted because the shit is impossible and if one of them did I would fuck them for being so awesome. I also have people that tell me that I should be a writer just because I have the ability to form words that can be read. Writing doesn’t make me a writer just like running for the bus doesn’t mean I can call myself a runner. Yet people who have read a blog or two of mine have told me that I should be a writer.

If you have asked a friend or acquaintance to read something you wrote chances are they flipped through a few pages, maybe checked out the middle, and jumped to the end. You asked them what they thought and you got a vague ass answer like “I liked it” or “You should sell this!” I have read stories for friends and gave detailed critiques and/or praise because you should not tell people who create things that they are good when you don’t believe they truly are. You cause more harm than good.

4. Be Prepared For Failure

It happens. Not everything you put out to the world will be met with blowjobs and pats on the back. Be ready for someone to let you know that what you did sucks or if you get to the point where the world can see it that it wont sell. Failing sucks and is one of the reasons my “I Don’t Care” switch is on most of the time. I don’t need you telling me how much I suck but when I am told that something I did can be fixed I love hearing why because its shit I never would’ve thought of.

There is always something to learn from failure. This isn’t the same as when assholes say that everything happens for a reason and that you need to hurt to know pleasure. If you write something and later find out it was too much action and not enough story, then you can change that. What you cant change is suck. I don’t believe that everyone can be taught to write or tell a good story. Some are better speakers that stink at putting thought down on paper.

5. Let It Go

Once you are done with a story give yourself a sign that you are done. With my art once I sign it I cant touch it up or do anything to change it. Its done! No more! With a lot of scripts I read, and you can see this in movies, you get to a point and you think “This is the end and its good…wait. There’s like thirty more pages?! Fuck!

Know when to wrap shit up and be ready to start something else. That’s like number 5 ½. When you finish one story you absolutely have to have something else lined up. Having one story is a great way to break every single thing written above because you will nurse that thing like a baby bird. Write, put it out there, and let that fucker go.

Click here to read more Five Things I Learned.


Hoozle said...

This is cool, I always wondered how scripts got turned into TV shows and so on. Thanks for posting this.

I've always felt you could be a very successful writer but I've said that before and won't go all Annie Wilkes on you. One of the characteristics you have which I think could make you a successful professional though is your consistency -no matter what mood you're in, you seem to write. I have other friends who are quite talented aspiring writers -and one or two who are untalented aspiring writers- but none of them write regularly. I think this is a great strength of yours should you ever decide to try to go commercial.

Dante said...

Thanks, H. I just try not to suck and write things that I would want to if I were not me. That makes no sense really. Plus it is fun to go back and read my old blogs and see what I gave a damn about at the time.

I write because I enjoy it. I wish I had started sooner. Blogs or whatever. It just feels good to sit here, write something up, and share it with people. Plus, I hate hearing people say they write and have nothing to show for it or are afraid to let you see it. My art I dont like to share but my writing is for everyone if they want.