Unfortunately for writers, the process of vetting scripts has been the same for longer than I’ve been alive. Hollywood demands that a reader grade elements of your story and give it an overall score. Anything less than an 80 or four stars usually doesn’t get a second look. Recently, a story analyst talked about the importance of white space in a script. That all professionals look for it. Let’s be honest. If you’re checking the blank space then you’re not so eager to read my script.
When you see a movie in a theater, the lights go down and childlike curiosity takes over. We shut down our busy minds and let the filmmakers entertain us. You don’t leave the theater and give the concept an 85 but the dialogue a seventy. A script may not be a movie yet, but you have to pretend that it is. You need to use your imagination. If you don’t, your inner critic will spot every typo, every format error, every block of description and why do those characters keep talking all the time. What was meant to be entertainment becomes a job. And jobs are no fun.
Remember getting that tattered copy of The Catcher in the Rye in high school. The first thing you did is turn to the back to see how many pages you will be forced to read. Don’t lie. You did it too. Even if you love reading, you love your freedom more. Being a good script reader is about making it a choice. Then stop thinking so much and get ready for some fun…
I prefer not knowing anything about a script before I turn to page one. This way my inner critic doesn’t judge the concept or develop expectations that can be dashed. I get excited, just like I am going to see a movie. I prepare my creative mind because I know it will have to fill in the gaps. It’s impossible for a writer to give us all the details. In fact, the script Gods demand we don’t. That would be directing.
Actually, script reading isn’t so different than the writing process. Our best material comes when we’re in “the zone”. When hours go by in what feels like minutes. You look at the clock and you don’t know where those twenty pages came from. So how do you get into that zone?
Remove outside distractions. No phone. No television. No internet. No crying babies. Why do you think we watch films in a dark and quiet room. If Amazon delivers your package and you use it as an excuse to take a break, that’s a good sign that the creative mind is not in the driver’s seat. You probably resent that script for taking up your valuable time.
I wish Cher could slap you right now. Snap out of it! Someone put their heart and soul into this story. Give it the respect it deserves. Yes, we are know it all’s and our brains want to show off what we have learned about story. In that case, crack open Final Draft and start writing your own script. Otherwise, turn the lights down in your mind and watch the movie. Give it a try. You might surprise yourself.
Next time I’ll talk about giving feedback.