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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

Dear, DCH... I've really been burned by another script reader, who, frankly, was very mean and rude to me when he wrote his analysis.  What should I do with this coverage and how much should I take it to heart?

Manuel from Florida

This week's Answer: 

Recovering From "Coverages"

Manuel, I'm so glad you took the time to write to me about your run-in with a COVERAGE FROM HELL!!!!!  I've heard about these reports from other writers; I've seen themselves from supposed professional story analysts, and I must say that it deeply pains me when certain individuals don't have the decency to submit their viewpoints with at least a modicum of eloquence, grace, kindness, and support that is sorely needed in this business.

Here are my answers to your specific questions:

1.)  What should you do with the coverage?

Personally, I'd throw it away.  Although, before you discard it, you might want to burn it in a ritualistic ceremony of purgation and purification (and maybe, while you're at it, you might want to stick pins in a little doll that happens to have the name of the person who wrote it to you.  That's always a nice touch.)

2.)  How much should you take the coverage to heart?

Any words that you detect are mean spirited immediately ignore.  There are many of these mean-spirited folks in the business, usually wannabe's, jealous of others' natural screenwriting talents, who get a sick thrill out of tearing down screenwriters.  They have a poison in them that they love to foist upon others.  Refuse to drink it.

Now, even with one of these venomous submissions, you may be able to wade in with shield, HAZMAT uniform, lazar protection field, etc., and still be able to glean some kind of truth therein, some ideas that could actually assist you in improving your script.  Let us not forget that unforgettable saying:  "Even in the depths of quicksand can lie something worth reaching for:  more quicksand."  No, that's not it.  Anyway, if you have the stomach for it and are feeling courageous, you can view such a report from an aloof and secure perspective and, as they say in 12-Step parlance, "take what you need and leave the rest."  (Yes, that's a more applicable quote.)  Of course, be ready to leave a lot of "rest" when it comes to these types of "script reports."  

If you get the feeling from reading the coverages or script notes from these readers that they are prosaic, lack vision, are ineloquent, don't know how to substantiate their flailing (and filleting) opinions, and probably haven't seen as many films or read as many screenplays as you... you're probably right on all counts.  Try not to be too hard on them.  They're probably underpaid (if they're paid at all) and overworked.  Think how'd you feel if you had a pile of scripts in front of you, knowing that they constitute so many hours of detailed work that they will not be adequately compensated for.  Not a pretty picture. 

Manuel, you said you were burned by one of these so-called script readers.  I feel for you.  It "burns" me to see screenwriters be treated in such a denigrating fashion.  You deserve better.  Much better.  Much, much better.  (I have a truckload of "much's," but I'll move on for now.  I am of a mind that the only reason to submit your precious work to somebody is if you trust that somebody will handle it with kid gloves (which works well if it's a child's story or a coming-of-age caper) and with a respect and high consideration, that they have your best interests in heart when it comes to your screenplay, and that they are there to assist you in improving your script.  Too many times, story analysts and script consultants seem to be living the mission statement:  "I will do all I can to focus on what is wrong with your script,"  leaving out the most essential aspect, which is "to focus on how to help you make it better."  I think Paul McCartney had the right idea when he was singing to Jude.  That's what these aforementioned script readers ought to do when they read and comment on scripts submitted to them:  play a CD, tape, or even record of that part of "Hey Jude" that goes, "... to make it better, better, better, better... Nah -- Nah -- Nah -- Nah-nah-nah-nah..." (sorry; got carried away).

So, my advice to those out there giving advice to burgeoning screenwriters:  Help them make it better.

Sorry, but I've got to go.  I've got a towering pile of scripts to get to.  I can't stand it when these writers put in an extra brad.  That really rubs me the wrong way.  And who do they think they are, writing more than 100 pages?!  Don't they realize how much more of my precious time I have to put in to read those pages?!  And another thing...



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