Monday, November 30, 2009

Reader questions: Day 2 - Percentage of good scripts

I've got two questions that are basically asking the same thing. First, Trevor asked:

With what percentage of scripts is the quality of formatting and screenwriting craft sufficient enough that you can just settle in and review the story on its own merits?

Hard to say in terms of percentage, but I'd say that maybe at least 75% of the scripts I read fall into this category. There are a lot with formatting errors, but usually by ten pages I've accepted the formatting flaws and managed to commit to reading the story without getting angered anew on each page.

Then Grant wrote:

Out of all the scripts you read, what percent are: Great? Good? Mediocre? Bad?Downright Awful?

As far as "Professional submissions" (i.e. from agents, managers, other industry pros) the numbers break down like this, more or less:

Great - less than 5%
Good - maybe 20%
Mediocre - 50%
Bad - 20%
Awful - 5%

If you add slush pile submissions to this, the bad/awful percentages increase at the expense of Good/Great.

Things That Can F Themselves asked:

what do you think of devoting energy to bypass the script reader entirely? is it worthwhile?

see, i don't trust script readers, b/c i was one. i worked alongside them discussing the mostly horrible scripts we were forced to read, and i just didn't trust the taste of these young kids doing the reading (FYI i am also a young buck). more than recognizing what was bad, they didn't know what was actually GOOD. this isn't to say that my material is awesome, b/c it isn't (one day!), but some of what these kids actually liked, i thought was utter crap. you would think i'd view having them read my mediocre script be a good thing, lower standards and all, but i don't see it that way.

i just don't think most readers are qualified to judge what is or isn't, mr. script reader, i ask you this: how do i avoid you? (not YOU you. you're cool) how do i get someone who's opinion is 'valid,' for lack of a better word, to read my stuff? should i stalk producers/writers/directors' assistants? bribe them with offers of free lunch and sexual favors? should i bother trying to avoid you?

If you have a way to submit directly to someone higher up than the reader, it's always valuable. Now, don't forget that unless you have a VERY close connection with that person, odds are that they will toss the script down the ladder to the reader so that they'll know it's worth their time to read it.

So in that case, I'd say that your most solid bet for doing an end run against a guy like me is to get a very personal connection with someone in power - someone indebted to you enough to take the time to read your submission personally. Those favors are hard to come by - people in power have many demands on their time, and many people clamoring for their attention.

My only real success with this has been by taking advantage of work connections. I've gotten development VPs for whom I have read to take the time to read my stuff, and I've gotten story editors who I came up with to look at my stuff. Agents tend to kick that stuff back down the ladder.

So is it worth your time? Well, it's always worth pursuing new contacts and new relationships. But, if you're sitting on a strong spec and it looks like you might have to wait a year or more for a particular executive to trust you enough to give your script a look-see, you might decide that it's worth the risk to submit your script to that company after about three months and then roll the dice that the reader likes it.

(My experience suggests that unless you're specifically invited otherwise, you should probably wait 4-6 months into the relationship before even THINKING about passing your script to someone at a company you work for.)

But as I said, if you see a chance to sneak one past a guy like me - take it. I'm not sure there's a clear strategy for doing so beyond just reading your contacts and knowing their sense of protocol.

Anyone have any success stories of getting past readers?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for for answering our questions and the insightful article! I definitely need to work on not getting "angered anew" on each page. :)