Not all Script Readers are Created Equal

As writers, I think most of us would agree that it’s pretty fair to say we all tend to have a fairly well developed sense of self-worth, at least when it comes to our writing. Though our styles may vary wildly, we like our work and believe in it, otherwise we’d have given up long ago. So when we finally manage to get a script in the door at an actual reputable production house, that means we’ve finally got a chance to have our craft appreciated by people who “get it”, right?

A fellow writer just informed me that his son is now a reader for a well-respected Hollywood producer. His kid is the fabled gatekeeper we have to entertain if we hope to make it past those high walls and onto the producer’s desk. There’s just one problem. This kid is an idiot.

Now I don’t have anything against him, but his own father said as much, lamenting that a kid who doesn’t know the first thing about scriptwriting, formatting, structure, or basically anything crucial to telling a good story, is now (purely through social connections and no actual skills whatsoever) the guy who determines who makes it to round 2.

Disheartening? Well, it certainly doesn’t inspire a dance of joy, that’s for certain. Now we all know that it’s a crapshoot with readers anyway. If you’re like me, you’ve had great reviews and horrible reviews, sometimes concurrently for the same unedited piece of work, so perhaps having a neophyte rating your work doesn’t surprise you. It certainly explains those outlier reviews that leave you scratching your head, wondering, “Does this person know the first thing about moviemaking?” But having those worst suspicions confirmed is still a wee bit lamentable.

Funny enough, I posted recently on the need to write for you, to not try and tailor your work into what you think a gatekeeper wants. Everyone’s taste is different, there’s no pleasing them all, and we almost never know who is going to be reading our scripts. If, however, you happen to know your reader has a non-entertainment background such as my friend’s son (and if the gatekeeper is also the reader, this is where being friendly during phone calls can pay off ) perhaps a bit more flourish to the script to appeal to their taste might help you make a favorable impression. Personally, I’m of the belief that directors and actors should decide the beats that work for them, but then again, before they can turn our words into action we must first entertain the gate-reader enough to score that sought after “Recommend” so our scripts can make it to their desk in the first place.

Conundrum

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