Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reader question - Better know a bitter script reader

Daniel asks several questions:

Hello Bitter, I'm sure you've covered some of this before on your blog, but please refresh our memories.

On average, how many scripts do you read per week?

It varies with submission volume. There were about two or three years when I was covering at least 12 scripts a week, and often as many as 15 or 16. These days, unfortunately, it's been less. I try to get at least ten a week, but it's not unusual for me to fall a bit short of that.

Do you find time to work on your own scripts in between reading, and is it distracting/frustrating/tiresome reading other people's work all the time?

It is both frustrating and tiresome. I won't lie about that. After a full week of reading scripts, often the last thing I can make myself do is sit down and write my own script. Once I've gotten some momentum going (usually after I've gotten the first act done) it's a bit easier to keep the words coming. It's also less taxing to get motivated to do rewrites than it is to finish that first draft.

I've pretty much found that when I'm ready to move to the script stage with a project, I need to pick 3-4 days where I can just focus on getting started. That means putitng reading on hold and either reading a lot ahead of time and banking money, or putting stuff aside and catching up later.

I've also learned that the creative part of my brain is far more active at night, which is no doubt a learned process from when I'd stay up until 3 or 4am in college. Once I get a project going, I can sometimes work and write in the same day, provided I finish work around seven, take two or three hours to veg, and then dive into the writing for three or four hours.

How many scripts have you written? In what genres?

As far as specs that I'd be willing to show an agent or producer? Let's see... probably four, maybe five feature specs. Those include a comedy, a comedy/thriller, a fantasy/action film, a legal thriller/superhero film and a thriller. Looking at my list of unwritten projects, I see a lot of comedy and thriller ideas, as well as a few genre-mixers so I guess you could call that my wheelhouse.

I also have one thriller TV pilot that I need to rewrite with a writing partner, a half-hour comedy pilot I'm currently writing, and a spec script for Law & Order: SVU that I wouldn't dare show around town.

That's not all I've written though. I've got two completed screenplays that I wrote with different partners. One's a horror, one's a romantic comedy. I'm not especially happy with how either of those turned out, so they'll probably never see the light of day. I've also got a few completed short films and some unproduced scripts for a few webseries.

As I assume the case is with most writers, there's a pretty big chunk of my writing portfolio that isn't strong enough for me to ever consider showing to someone. I learned plenty from the experience of writing those scripts, but they're not worth the effort to go back and revive. I'd rather just move forward.

What made you want to be a writer?

I've always enjoyed reading and telling stories, so I think it was a given that I'd end up as a writer. In school, I always worked on the school paper, often was the editor of the paper, and frequently got praised for my writing.

I even discovered that some of my English teachers were holding onto some of my papers and giving them out to subsequent classes as examples of what their writing should look like. My younger brother was rather dismayed when his 9th grade English teacher gave his whole class a copy of my character study of The Scarlet Letter's Roger Chillingworth, as it meant he would not be able to copy my work without being caught.

But if I had to guess, I'd say that being a winner in a national writing contest when I was in fourth grade was probably the moment that my creative impulses were really stoked. My teacher that year was very big into creative writing. Unfortunately, few of my subsequent teachers were as encouraging of the practice until I got to high school.

With my interest in film, it was only natural that I'd look to screenwriting as a career

What are some of your favorite scripts? Favorite movies?

My mind goes blank when I try to think of favorite scripts. I think it's a defense mechanism because I read so much. Last week, I got an email from a producer responding to coverage I'd sent him less than two days earlier and it took me a full five minutes to recall the particulars of that screenplay. (And that was a Consider!)

As far as favorite films: Superman, Jaws, the Star Wars trilogy, the Indiana Jones trilogy, the Back to the Future trilogy, Scream, Ghostbusters, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Terminator 2, That Thing You Do, Dumb & Dumber, The Silence of the Lambs, Jurassic Park, True Lies. Those all pretty much fit the bill of a film I can turn on at any point and just sit there and watch, no matter how many times I've seen it.

Also, assume that for every film I listed, there were at least two or three that I forgot.


  1. With the exception of Scream and True lies...I'm down with the movie choices....I'd replace those 2 w/ Shawshank Redemption and It's a wonderful life.

  2. off-topic, but cool....

  3. True Lies is a great movie!

    I have one more question for you, keeping in mind your reading/writing schedule, do you have time and interest at all in reading books? What are/were your favorite novels?