I've had it up to here with shitty writers. No, you know what? I'm not even going to dignify the "work" those morons do by equating them with real working professionals. The people I'm talking about are hacks, plain and simple. They're dilettantes who think that because they have seen a lot of Jason Statham movies and pirated a copy of Final Draft that they are entitled to churn out 125 pages of garbage and expect people to read it.
There are plenty of produced writers who are favored targets of internet critics (and let's be honest, they often end up in the crosshairs of this blog too.) I'm talking about the Ehren Krugers of the world, the Friedberg/Seltzers, the Neveldine/Taylors, and whoever is to blame for G.I. Joe. Let me just say, if you think those guys are the worst the writing world has to offer, come do my job for a week. At the end of that week, you'll beg to read every draft of Friedberg/Seltzer's latest piece of crap.
What depresses me is that for every bad script I've read lately, I've not been able to banish the thought that this hack has robbed me of at least three hours of my life, once we count the time it takes to write the coverage. Usually it's longer than that, because longer scripts take greater effort to read, to follow and to write up.
What makes most of these scripts bad? Inexperience and laziness. A new writer is bound to make mistakes because they don't know any better. That's not a problem. Making mistakes is good, it's healthy, and you can learn from making mistakes. But make those mistakes in private. Don't reveal your ineptitude to an outsider. Your early scripts aren't meant to be seen by anyone. They're the training wheels.
But how do these scripts get to me, you may ask? Agents are supposed to provide one screen against that. The problem is that there are a fair number of agents who don't seem to give a shit. They'll push anything out there and give a Development Exec a hard sell on something that wouldn't survive its first round at Amazon Studios. A bad agent isn't going to be looking out for me or my boss - they're just trying to get their clients read.
I have to assume that the worst of the worst that reach me do so through some kind of personal connection the writer has to someone at my company. Some distant cousin of an production accountant just wrote a screenplay for their college screenwriting class and suddenly it falls to me to read their "heartwarming" independent film about a mute eight year-old boy who deals with the pain of an abusive home by teaching an ostrich how to fly. Or perhaps the writer managed to schmooze the right person at a party and they said, "Sure, send it to me."
If you're the hack who has that sort of contact, let me give you a nickel's worth of free advice - don't push that script out there until you know it's ready. This is where "laziness" comes in. Read, re-read, and then rewrite that screenplay to within an inch of its life. You might not get a second chance at submitting, even with the close connection in the company. In fact, when I get a whiff of the favor scripts, I sometimes come down even harder on every aspect of the screenplay. Your script will get such a strong pass that your contact will be too embarrassed to EVER bring something with your name on it into the company again.
Getting your script read is less important than getting the RIGHT script read. Before you pass on a script, pretend there's a very angry guy like me on the other end, who will seize upon every weakness and bring it to light. I'm like those cancer-causing body scanners at the airport - I see everything. So if this script is hiding a bomb in its ass, it's not going to get past me. Don't pretend that you can sneak shitty work past me or any of my colleagues.
Every moment I waste on your writing is time I could be spending on a more deserving writer. It's time that I could be spending discovering scripts worthy of attention instead of acting like some sort of sewage filter. After all my years of doing this, I don't have the time or the luxury of being polite to the worst of the worst, and frankly my bosses don't either.
2 weeks ago