Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My thoughts on "Why Producers Will Not Read Your Script"

Before I dive in with today's post, I want to mention I've got an article over at Film School Rejects talking about the possibility of a Black Widow movie.  There are some fans that took issue with the fact that she hasn't headlined her own film yet and cry "sexism" that her importance is "reduced" to that of being a supporting character in Captain America's film.  I discuss not only why I'd rather her be in The Winter Soldier than in her own solo film, and point out that if there were to be a Black Widow standalone, there's no better time to launch that movie than now.

Elsewhere on the internet, you've probably already seen this blog post entitled, "Why Producers Will Not Read Your Script."  It's a posting of an email exchange between a producer and a writer trying to get him to consider his script.  I've seen other sites cover this and focus on the fact that the writer responds terribly to the original Pass, but that overlooks that fact that his initial email is pretty terrible as well.

His introduction is at least twice as long as it needs to be and he one-page outlines for each of three projects he claims are "ready to go."  First thing, strike "ready to go" from your queries.  Every writer I've dealt with who's promised me multiple "ready to go" scripts (and they ALWAYS are fixated on pushing multiple scripts) has been a hack.  Pitch ONE project.  I don't care how many scripts you have. I care about your best script.  I want to know which one you think is right for me.

After that, the mystery writer totally refuses to take the polite pass for what it is and keeps antagonizing the producer.  On what planet is it a good idea to antagonize someone you're trying to get a favor from?!  Manners will get you a long way in personal interaction because if there's one thing that people in this business have a long memory for, it's pricks.

This is one of the writer's responses, with my editorializing in brackets:

I’ve got to say my first inclination was that you didn’t read it yourself, but passed it on to someone else to read on your behalf, because what you say in you’re email makes no sense? 

[First, it's "your," jackass.  Second, if this producer passed the script on to someone else to read, it's someone whose judgement he trusts.  Not only is that pretty common in this business, but calling him out like it's some sort of "gotcha!" is a real dick move.  But by all means, insult away. That's sure to get results.]

To say it doesn’t deliver as I promised, or that you found it pretty derivative and not fully convincing is completely unfounded and quite frankly, insulting?

[You oversold it and this guy was doing you a favor by being as blunt as he was.  To say it's unfounded is bullshit. You're never going to talk someone out of their opinion of a script.  Also, why does this sentence end with a question mark?]

It delivers high originality, powerfully and cinematically, it would make an absolutely fantastic and highly marketable film. 

[In your opinion.  This producer also has an opinion. And it's his right to have it because he's the guy who'd pay for this passion project of yours.]

If it is ‘pretty derivative’ as you say, please name the films, the content or subject matter that it is ripped off from? Or, even similar too? Name them and email them back to me? 

[Again, what are you trying to prove here?  One guy passed on your script. It's not his thing. You accept that and move on to the next guy.  What satisfaction do you get from this debate over whether or not your script is derivative.]

I’ll tell you the answer now. Nothing. Absolutely, nothing. It’s not an imitation of anything that’s ever been made. Why? Because it’s from my own mind, my own writing skills and none other. Unlike, a lot of the tosh regurgitated round and round by unskilled interns with a penchant for writing and real derivative writing at that. 

[And this is pretty much the point where - if I was in this producer's shoes - I'd be forwarding on this email to anyone I knew in development and warn them that answering any query from you is more trouble than it's worth.  Putting that aside, movie-making involves a lot of collaboration.  You're going to need to demonstrate you can take notes.  This paragraph alone shows me you are incapable of accepting even the slightest amount of criticism.  I would not want to work with someone who is this much of a pain to deal with.]

Sorry XXXXX, but if you accuse me of something like that, you really should back it up. Because you’re judgement is so out of whack, I don’t think you read it.

 [If this producer's judgement is "so out of whack" then you should not want to work with him at all. So count yourself lucky he revealed this to you.]

I want to unpack that last point a bit more.  It's amazing how there are some writers who beg and butter me up to get me to read their scripts, and then the instant I give them the slightest criticism, they come back with, "Your (sic) an idiot. You don't know nothing!"  Great. Then what do you care what an idiot thinks?  If I had given superficial praise, would that have made me a genius?

This lone psychopath is hardly alone.  Everyone in my line of work or in development in general has dealt with dozens of these guys.  The reason it's so hard for you to get any consideration is that we have gotten burned by so many of these guys that blind favors almost always prove to be more trouble than they're worth.

I've talked a lot in the past about queries.  If you're confused, dig into some of those old posts.  Here are some other old posts worth checking out:

Never include a PDF of your script with your initial query - this is basic stuff.

How NOT to make a good impression - an encounter I had not too dissimilar to the one addressed above.

Why he shouldn't HAVE to read your fucking screenplay - My thoughts on Josh Olson's "I will not read your fucking screenplay."  Read this so you can understand why asking someone to read your work is a pretty big imposition on them.

And finally, a pair of video posts that might help with your own queries.  This one focuses on the Worst Query Submission I ever received, while this one navigates the politics of asking for a read.


  1. Wow. What a totally delusional guy. Terrible query letter, nasty personality. Not to mention the many cringe-worthy elements of his writing (misspellings, misplaced question marks, run-on sentences) suggest that his script must be a real pain to read. Something tells me he's going nowhere fast. Thanks for sharing this with us, BSR; regardless of our chances in this biz, we know we're all better off than him.

    BTW - just noticed your post "Why he shouldn't HAVE to read your F*ing Screenplay!" still refers to "Scott" instead of Josh. Just a reminder to edit it since more people will be visiting the re-posted link.

  2. I feel for both of you, actually.

    True, this writer showed a lot of poor judgment. He's still a long way off from being ready.

    With that being said, I don't think anyone is ever truly ready for success, and there are more hurdles and obstacles being erected every day. It really is hard to be taken seriously, and being met with skepticism all the time can be very demoralizing.

    We should recognize that, no matter where we are on the ladder, we got there because of some amount of blind, stupid luck, and eventually, we have to pay that forward, or else the whole system will bog down.

    Stated in other terms: if we waited for everyone to earn their success, then no one would be employed. :)

    But I totally agree with tBSR that this guy is a clown, and he burned his bridges here.

    Better luck next time!

  3. P.S. I meant to say I feel for both of the original correspondents in the exchange...

  4. I read this a while back. I'm still confused why damn near every sentence by the writer ends in a Question Mark. If you needed a clearer sign of a hack, there it is.