Notes on Reading

The year of the Lion & the Gazelle is upon us. Well it’s a upon me. And as such, I’m wearing my writer’s hat these days and already neck-deep in the script (re)writing process. Unlike anything I’ve done previously, what this means is my drafts will be going out to a bunch of people who will all likely have an impactful opinion on it. My writing is good - I know, because I write it - so I’m not worried about opinions. Unfortunately however, this protective arrogance cannot shield me from the lack of control I have over one thing: How people read my script.

Getting someone to read your script is a pretty big deal, whether it’s a producer or your best friend. I think first-time writers have a false sense of how hard this is to do. Sure, your mom wants to read your script, but all those people who say “oh, you’re a writer? Cool, I’d love to read your script!” they don’t actually want to read your script. They just don’t know it yet. Your script is long, it’s formatted in a way that they don’t understand, Dancing With the Stars is on at 9… So believe me, getting someone to read your script is pretty tough. And getting someone to read your script properly is next to impossible.

I haven’t been doing this long, granted, but I’ve been doing it long enough to know that if I’m getting odd questions about continuity or lack of foreshadowing (that I know is there) from a reader there’s usually one reason for it: They didn’t read the script properly.

Properly, to moi, means the following:

You have to read a script the same way you watch a film: In one sitting. It’s not a Popular Mechanics article, you can’t just pick it up every time you sit down on the bowl. It’s not a novel, layered with detail and deep internal character building that you can ingest in little morsels every night before bed. It is the blueprint to a movie. Therefore, I declare!: That a screenplay must be read when you are fully awake, preferably in the morning. It must be read from a comfortable chair in a room no warmer than 21 degrees Celsius. All phones must be turned off. If you must eat or drink during the reading this food and beverage must be prepared in advance and be non-alcoholic. For best results you must only read a maximum of two scripts a day. Also, in this fantasy the sky is orange and people ride flying carpets to work.

All I’m saying is the entertainment industry completely sucks the instinctive artistry out of creative writing through the application of a regimented drafting process wrought with two-centsing notes from everybody and their dog so… The very least the lowly writer can demand in return is that a standard for reading be applied to their scripts.

Flying carpets to work…

Thanks for reading.

2 Responses to “Notes on Reading”

  1. Godheval Says:

    Any hints on what this new project might be? As a fan of Minushi, I’m looking forward to whatever it might be. Animation? Live action?

    Anyway, as another writer, I can totally relate to what you’re saying here - about how you can’t count on anyone to read your work the way you intend for them to receive it. Of course they’re going to miss a lot of your symbolism, your nuance, the very things that make it unique. That is, if they really read it at all, and aren’t just serving up platitudes.

    I admire your confidence. I used to feel the same way until a couple of MFA programs handed my ass to me and made me think that maybe I wasn’t a good writer after all. I hope to get back to that point where I’m sure that if the writing doesn’t resonate with the reader, then it’s the reader, not me. =)

  2. Tyler Says:

    Whoa! Sorry I missed this comment until today, Godheval! I’m not sure what happened there.

    Hints about Lion & Gazelle… I can confirm to you that it is a live-action. I’ll also put some emphasis on the “action” portion of that phrase. It will be the biggest feature I’ve attempted so far and I’m super excited about it.

    As far as having one’s ass handed to them on the critiquing front, years of art school is a good primer to be able to handle anything someone throws at you. That said, try to remember this: In general, if someone’s really ripping your work apart with notes, that’s still much better than if they don’t say anything at all. Someone who wants to help you reach the next level in your writing will do what they can for you even if it’s hard for you to hear. Someone who thinks you’re hopeless won’t even try.

    Barring the jerks who just like the sound of their own voice of course.