Monday, May 10, 2010

An open letter to agents

Dear agents,

Hi, I'm the Bitter Script Reader. Of course, that's not my real name. I used to be just "The Script Reader" until I had to deal with the shit you people shovel every day. Look, I get it. We're all just trying to make a living here and obviously not every screenplay is going to be genius. I get that most of you are decent guys - well, those of you not at a particular agency known by three letters that don't include either a A or an C. But here's the thing - is it too much to ask that you use some fucking common sense before sending out the latest turd from your hip pocket client?

I'll grant that there's a fair amount of what you send out that isn't going to appeal to everybody. Different buyers, different needs... I get that. I also get that taste is subjective. One person's favorite script might be another person's bore.

But here's the thing - I estimate that at least 20% of what you guys shovel is absolute drivel which you KNOW no one is going to be interested in. Half the time I think you guys lie just to get a story editor to take your submission, and the other half I think you just don't care. Within this 20% are screenplays so poorly constructed that they wouldn't make it out of the first round of a Screenwriting 101 class. Plots that go NOWHERE for 45 pages and then get resolved in trite fashions.

You know what several of these submissions I've read from you clowns this year has included?

1) A spoof movie of several films already further out of date than the most recent spoof movies to hit theatres. There wasn't a single original joke in there - aside from the fact you submitted it to a boss who doesn't make comedies!

2) A screenplay offensive on multiple levels, where the plot was mainly an exercise in having racist characters make racist remarks to the only black person they ever met. This was a comedy - but it's hard to figure out who the real butt of the joke was supposed to be: the ignorant bigots, their African-American victim, or the poor reader stuck spending 3 hours with this excrement.

3) A boring relationship story with no arc except that the main characters break up and get back together in alternating scenes.

4) A Misery rip-off that was devoted to inflicting as much psychological and sexual damage as possible on its female victim. Sure, the genre has worked before, but this was just vile. In Misery, there was an actual character arc and a point for all the torture that James Caan's character endured. Here, the script went with an edgy "downer" ending where the victim truly suffers a fate worse than death, and included acts and language that would repulse all but the most nihilistic of viewers.

5) Another nihilistic thriller about a morally conflicted hitman who takes a wrong turn after scamming his boss. I really shouldn't say too much about this one except to describe it as "Pulp Fiction meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre." I know - it sounds cool when you say it like that. Trust me, it's not.

There are a few of you chuckleheads who are so devoid of any taste when it comes to scripts that I now cringe when I see you submitted it. I'm not sure which is worse, those of you who send boring scripts with mundane premises, or those of you who seem be representing cannibalistic human-trafficking assassins who revel in writing their own autobiographies.

You do realize that at some point, someone is going to read this shit, right? Just getting some poor sap to say, "Send me the script" isn't a victory in and of itself. If you throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks all that'll do is convince people on my end that you have no idea what makes a good script different from a bad one. So wake up and do your overpaid jobs rather than screaming at your assistant for daring to nod his head in agreement when someone suggests that the agency could treat its underlings better.

Warm regards,

The Bitter Script Reader

dictated but not read


  1. Bitter: are there any agencies who you can count on to send decent stuff? Or are all of them guilty of what you describe in this post?

  2. I'd just like to say kudos to you, sir, for using "chuckleheads." It's such an underappreciated and underused word. :)

  3. David - all agencies are guilty of it to varying degrees. The further down the status ladder, the more common it is. Basically, the less known they are, the more likely they are to shovel shit. That doesn't necessarily mean the big boys don't do this either, but they send out so many more scripts that these duds make up a smaller percentage of their releases.

    For probably at least a year and a half now I've been getting most of my submissions as PDFs via email.

    This unfortunately has removed what used to be one of the more fun parts when I was dealing with an agency-submitted hard copy. After a while, you learned to associate the agency colors and covers with the level of quality their projects had. It was a great way to sort a pile of scripts quickly based on how painful the read was likely to be.

  4. love how you closed it with dbnr.

    love it!

  5. Like books, scripts aren't meant to be read in PDF form; they just lose what little soul they have left when reading them on a computer screen.

    I -could- see where using an ipad/e-ink reader could work, but even then I still think that scripts should be read on paper, even if the end result is going to be a bunch of


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  7. Interesting stuff, Bitter. Great blog.

  8. Bitter, how many scripts come into a studio in a week?

    And would you be able to show us some examples of your coverage on a script?

  9. JabberWocky - As to your first question, I don't really know. It's not my department.

    As to the second, I really can't. Legally I don't own my coverage. It's the property of the companies I work for. Aside from that, any example I show you would obviously be a critique of some other writer's work and it wouldn't really be fair to post it without their permission.

  10. But scriptshadow does it... *ducking for cover*

  11. Great post, BSR. You must feel like you're constantly under a state of siege.