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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 (often with a humorous eye) 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: 

How do you handle a situation when your friend gives you a screenplay and you don't like it.  What do you do?

Maurice in Marseilles 

This week's answer: 

Loved It

Avoid your friend for the rest of your life.  

No, not really.  That's not an effective solution.  (Besides, he'll eventually find you and corner you at a party and want to know if you liked his screenplay.)

So, what to do, what to do?  (I repeated "what to do?" in order to create an effect of deeply pondering the question -- which I really didn't do.)

Never read his screenplay, and continually come up with excuses why you haven't gotten to it:

1.)  "I tried to read your screenplay last night, but it kept falling off the table.")  

2.)  "I wanted to read your screenplay, but the wind kept turning the page when I didn't want it to."  

3.)  "My dog ate my homework, then your screenplay."  

4.)  "I was just about to read your screenplay, when I was robbed at gunpoint and the thief absconded with my cell-phone, my wallet, and your screenplay."

You could lie and tell your friend that you absolutely love his script.  But that won't work.  He'll just write another one and want your opinion on that one, too -- and you'll be back where you started, with your original question.

But don't despair.  Unless you want to.  In fact, if you despair enough, you could send yourself into such a low state that you could use that as an excuse for not reading your friend's screenplay  "I'd love to read your screenplay, friend, but I'm far too depressed."  Actually, that might work quite well.  

But, in case you don't want to spiral (or directly drop) down into a steady of deadly and horrific misery, there may be another solution:  Welcome your friend; embrace him and his query as he seeks to know your reaction to his screenplay.  Keep smiling as you listen to the proverbial question, "So, what did you think?" or "Did you like it?"  

You could use the Zen answer of answering a question with a question:  "What's not to like?" or "How could I not like it?"  

But, if you want to be a little more direct, you could go in the direction of gratitude:  "Thanks so much for letting me read your script.  I really appreciated your writing and how you wrote your story." 

Or, you could employ a cryptic approach:  "Your script was so... I can't even describe my reaction to it.  I'm still processing the experience of reading such a screenplay.  I'm truly blown away and an not sure how long it's going to take to recover." (You can make it 40 or 50 years.)  

Or you could take an opposite approach and be so truthful that the screenwriter will assume that you're being sarcastic:  "Hated it."

He'll decode those two words and, after he realizes that you couldn't have hated it (which you did) and, thus, must be being sarcastic, he will believe that you LOVED it.  Just remember to keep smiling as you tell him.

And a lot of erudite nodding helps, too.


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