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This week's question

I know you read scripts for producers and agents. What in a script would make you pass on it right away?

 Rena from Dublin

This week's Answer: 

"Speaking" of Dialogue

I'm sorry, Rena. I can't answer your question because I already passed on it before I got to the end of it.  Of course, that's not true. I was simply showing you how abrupt script readers can be as they search for a reason to not read all the way through a script and to pass on it as soon as possible. That's basically their job: find the gem script, the "Recommend", amongst all the "Pass"es.

If I had eternal time, I would read all the scripts sent to me all the way through to "Fade Out", but I  obviously don't, and so I need to make a quick decision about whether it's worth spending an hour or more reading a particular script to discover if its well-crafted and could be considered for a green light (I would include "yellow light," too, but, these days, too many drivers are running them).

So, back to your question (which I did read all the way through). The first thing I look for is if the screenwriter has my attention. The next thing I look for is if he/she's keeping my attention (no easy task for a writer). And like any skillfully scribed script (how about that alliteration, huh?), there are many story elements that need to be in place for it to work, but what makes me pass on a script right away is the dialogue.

Good dialogue depends nuance and subtext. It needs to flow and be expertly woven into the action tapestry (action tapestry -- I'm really on a roll here!) As soon as I run into stilted dialogue or characters directly telling each other how they feel or what they want or over-explaining what's going on or acting like puppets instead of real people or just giving each other information and not revealing their motivations and drives by their "hidden words" (subtext) or just speak in a flat manner, sparking no interest about who they are, that's when I will normally scroll ahead and look at several more sections of dialogue in different parts of the script. If I find the dialogue has not improved, I stop reading.

I love dialogue and always look for it and know that it's important for a script to be good.

Oh, oh. That was really bad dialogue.

Doug Herman

Script Advisor



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