Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reader mail: PDFs, workload, bloggers and technology in screenplays

Jason wrote in with a lot of submission questions:

How do you deliver a script when it's requested by a manager, agent, producer, etc.? Have you used a service such as, or a local Hollywood printing shop? Or do you do all the printing/binding/sending yourself? Along those same lines, are .pdf files becoming more acceptable as submissions, and how long until they become the norm do you think? Also, when you read and do coverage on a screenplay is it more commonly in .pdf format or hardcopy?

When I've had my work requested I've always sent it via email as a PDF. I don't think I've ever submitted a hard copy. In fact, these days I get most of my submissions for coverage via PDF. Hard copies are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. I've never used any of those services, though. I don't see a need for them.

Being a reader gives you some obvious advantages in a career as a screenwriter, but what are the disadvantages? Do you find that being immersed in scripts and under constant deadlines hurts your creativity and slows your own writing? Do you think it does so more or less than a non-creative/non-writing job?

The coverage workload is absolutely a big disadvantage. Even though I usually have the freedom to set my own schedule, I often read a lot of scripts a week. Especially when I'm working on a first draft, I often have to block out several days where I'm ONLY going to work on my own writing. I find that makes the writing come a lot easier than trying to squeeze in a few hours of writing after nine or so hours of reading and doing coverage.

So it definitely slows me down, but it's hard to say if a less creative job would be any less problematic.

Can you give some examples of successful screenwriters who began as readers, and maybe how long they were readers before they sold a screenplay? What about reader/bloggers or just screenwriting bloggers who have gone on to sell a screenplay and/or get work screenwriting? (not including Diablo Cody who wasn't really blogging about screenwriting or people who started blogging after becoming a successful screenwriter as I assume John August and Scott Meyer did).

John August is the only one who immediately leaps to mind as a reader who became a writer, but I'm sure a lot of pro screenwriters started this way. I'm struggling to think of someone who started as a blogger and then crossed over into being a sold and produced screenwriter. I'm sure it's happened, though.

What are your thoughts on using contemporary technology in a script? For example, referencing particular website or software such as blogging or viral video sites, 3G cellphones, HD camcorders, Online video games, etc. Is it too much of a risk of becoming dated to deal with subjects like that in a spec screenplay? Is there a way to write stories involving contemporary technology that will better stand the test of time?

I don't see anything wrong with it. Odds are that you'll have to change the names of YouTube and Facebook type pages due to clearance issues so that'll likely prevent the "MySpace is so 2006, YouFace is the 'in' thing now" problem. Yeah, stuff like that might date the screenplay, but odds are it's an easy fix.

Even if you were somehow foolish enough to state that your character uses a VCR, odds are there's nothing in the script that would preclude that from being changed to a Blu-Ray player. (Now if your plot hangs on the VCR "eating" a crucial tape, then you might have problems.) I'd wager that most of the tech that you have to worry about will be incidental to the story anyway. If your lead character has a Razor instead of an iPhone, will it really make that much difference?


  1. I had one instance when I needed a hard copy script to deliver. It threw me for a loop since I have no idea what the contemporary preferences are for printed submissions, plus Kinko's are a bunch of assholes.

    ScriptCopier has a service for 15 bucks where they'll print it, bind it, shove it in an envelope and send it wherever you need it delivered. I went with that and they were really professional and fast. It's something to think about if you're lazy like me and would rather just eat the cost and have it all taken care of.

  2. Michael Arndt and Juliet Snowden worked as readers.