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This week's question: 

What do you look for in a good script?

Charles P. from Minnesota

This week's Answer: 

The Perfect Moment

Sometimes my money, Charles.   That is, when I use a dollar bill as a bookmarker (or scriptmarker, as it were).  I guess you could say that, at that time, I actually have money in my own script.  Truthfully, I have discovered that, after reading and evaluating so many screenplays, one has a tendency to develop a personal technique, an approach, if you will.  (And I hope you will.)  I’ll tell you what usually happens when I’m handed a screenplay.  (If it’s a messenger, I talk about the weather very rapidly so that he’ll forget about the tip.)  The first thing I find myself doing (after searching for any possible dollar bills) is flipping through it and scanning the dialogue.  It’s the first telltale signifier whether the script will be well written.  I’ll go to various pages and just take in a few lines here and there.  If the dialogue seems to be flowing and intriguing even out of context, then there is a very good chance that the script will appeal to me and, in my opinion (which is the only opinion I’ve got), has merit.  For me, a script (and a film) works when the author has “craftily crafted” a story that absorbs me emotionally (whether it be a romantic comedy, thriller, biopic, whatever genre) and gives me a perfectly-timed catharsis.  (Yes, I actually like to cry in movies and while I read.  It can be a problem, though.  Many a screenwriter has called, complaining of how wrinkled and watermarked their script is after I get through with it.  Between you and me, I never let on that I’m that sensitive and merely mention that there must have been a local shower and a wannabe screenwriter-postman got a little curious.)  

It takes skill to choreograph everything to that Perfect Moment.  We all know it.  My first Perfect Moment happened, I believe, when Old Yeller had to be shot.  The floodgates opened; it was tragically euphoric; and I’ve been searching for that moment again all my life.  (Sounds a lot like pubescent sexual exploration to me.  Ergo, I became a script consultant.  It was either that or a raving sex addict.)  That Perfect Moment usually comes in the third act (It normally depends upon enough story building and character development.)  I have found that that moment is enhanced when there is an emotional release and resolution (external and/or internal) for the protagonist (and, very importantly, us) while, at the same time, there is comparable thematic resolution.  At that moment, everything comes together.  It’s the end of the main character’s rainbow. (Everybody in Hollywood calls it his or her arc, but I think it should have lots of colors.  Which works quite well when you recall that a character’s persona needs a lot of colors.  Maybe I’ll coin a new phrase, “character rainbow,” for Variety and Hollywood Reporter!  But they’ll have to pay me excessively for my cleverness.  I know.  I’ll demand that they send me scripts with dollar bills in them.)


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