Last week I pledged to read at least the first fifteen pages of four scripts, selected from several dozen submissions. This was the latest run at an offer I've made twice before. Last time, I read scripts and ended up praising three of them. Though two of those three turned out to be from writers with representation, a third, CHAMBERS, attracted the attention of screenwriter F. Scott Frazier and manager Brian McCurley of DMG Entertainment, who have been representing the script since soon after I posted my review.
The writer, Stan Himes, wrote me to say, "I want to note that I didn't sign any official representation contract.
They're simply representing the script and trying to make a sale. And
as a guy in snowy Iowa, it's great to have someone in LA championing my
work, so I appreciate their efforts, your kind review and the mere
existence of the Black List site."
So did any of the four selections this time make the grade?
The promise was to read at least fifteen pages. Two of the scripts got me just about to the halfway mark. The other two got me the distance. In fact, I ended up reading one of them twice. After the first read, I liked it, but I wasn't quite feeling the passion for it I was hoping to find. I liked the premise and a lot of the early stuff, but this read was also coming near the end of a long day, so I allowed for the possibility that something was affecting the read. The only fair thing to do was give it a fresh read under better circumstances.
But while I felt it was good, I couldn't shake the feeling that it could be better. I ended up contacting the writer and explaining this all to him and in the course of our email conversation, he mentioned a couple ideas for a subsequent draft that immediately clicked for me. "Go write THAT!" I wanted to tell him. By the end of our discussion, I definitely felt it would be better for the script if it didn't get a big push until it was in a stronger state. And I have such faith in the writer that I've invited him to send me a subsequent draft when he feels it's ready.
I think you only get one chance to make a big impression with your script. That's especially true when you're pushing it out via the internet, where that paper trail lives forever. I don't want to write a review that makes you think the script is pretty good. I want a review that convinces you the script will be great.
None of the scripts were quite there - some might have been close, about at the level of "Consider With Reservations." In fact, in general the scripts were pretty good. None of them had any of the really common amateur errors. True, I bailed on two of the scripts halfway through, but that had more to do with me knowing they weren't likely to end up as strong as I needed them to be for a full-throated endorsement. I could have bailed after 15 pages, but I saw enough initial promise that I figured it would be worth it to see things through.
I absolutely feel that all of these writers whose work I read this past week could be really great if they keep at it. I recognized one writing team - Jeffrey and Susan Bridges - as a team who submitted to my first open offer just over a year ago. I saw a lot of improvement in their work just in that time. The writing flowed better, everything about it seemed more natural, and I daresay there was a confidence that wasn't there before.
To all of you - not just the writers of the four scripts, but everyone who submitted to my offer - keep writing. Keep improving. One bad reaction will never be the end of the world. In fact, it could even motivate you to push yourself further.
Inevitably, I know some of you are going to ask if I plan on reading any of the runner-up scripts. I make no promises, but there are a couple loglines I'm curious about. If time permits, I might look over a couple in the next few weeks. I wouldn't suggest keeping your script uploaded only on the off-chance I read it, though. If some of you were planning on terminating your hosting, don't renew just on my account.
So this didn't end quite the way I hoped, but I don't regret any of my selections. Good luck to all of you.