Working, professional Reader Carson Reeves runs a site named “Script Shadow” — if you haven’t checked it out, you should do so now.
Script Shadow consistently publishes detailed reviews of spec scripts that have recently sold in Hollywood. Carson reads and reviews the Black List finalists (in which most of the top scoring scripts have been optioned, sold and/or put into production by the time of publication) and any spec that’s hot and garnered a six to seven figure sale or a greenlight. He also runs small contests (with the prize of a published review from him, not cash, which I like) and publishes articles about what goes into a great screenplay.
I’d like to highlight a particular post from May 2010, titled “Why Bad Scripts Sell and Why It Shouldn’t Matter To You,” which has a lot to say about bad scripts but what I love the most about it are the conclusions drawn about GOOD scripts. From the article…
So now you know Hollywood’s dirty little secret. Bad scripts do sell! But here’s the thing about all of the above examples: THEY DON’T APPLY TO YOU. You don’t have agents or managers or the luxury of pitching movies over lunch to people who can actually make them. The ONLY thing you have…is your screenplay. And that’s why YOUR screenplay DOES have to be great.
I don’t always agree with Carson’s script analyses, but when in comes to these posts about the Do’s and Don’ts of a great screenplay, I not only fully agree with him but it can be uncanny how close our lists can be (in fact, here’s my list of the most vital parts of a great script). I’m not surprised, though, as we’ve both worked as Readers in the industry, and when you read hundreds of scripts you can’t help but draw the same conclusions about the craft.
I love this quote…
The one thing that you have 100% control over in this crazy industry, is writing the best script you’re capable of writing. That’s it. Don’t get caught up in whether some shitty script sells and what that means for your writing. That doesn’t have any bearing on you whatsoever. You just need to write the BEST SCRIPT you’re capable of writing. That’s it. And if you keep doing that, over and over again, at a certain point, you just may write something amazing…that sells…to a gaffer.
The gaffer bit is a nod to how unpredictable the screenwriter’s journey can be. And how difficult. And how tenacity plays a huge role. But all the tenacity in the world that opens up every door and drops your script in every decision maker’s hand means nothing if the material is just not good enough. By the way, it also works the other way around; you can be an amazing writer but if you never show your work to the right people in the industry you’ll get nowhere. But… if I had to rate one over the other, I would say the quality of your craft wins out because you can recruit help for the marketing aspect but no one can write your script for you. (Unless, of course, you hire an awesome Script Doctor. Hey, it’s my site, I can drop a shameless plug if I want to!)
But it can’t be that easy, right? Where’s the roadmap to success, you ask? Here’s an example…
That means writing your first spec, making a million mistakes, writing another one, making half a million more, writing your third one, then entering it in contests, then sending query letters to managers who never get back to you… taking any meeting (in person or on the phone) and selling the shit out of yourself and finally getting a lousy $1500 re-rewrite on an awful independent horror film… and then getting a call from someone you don’t remember and having them explain that you sent them a script seven years ago when they were a gaffer, and now they’re a producer at Warner Brothers and they just read your script and thought it was amazing, but it’s not quite what they’re looking for, but oh by the way, do you happen to have anything in the action adventure genre? Maybe something like Indiana Jones?…………And somehow, one week later, you did it. You sold a fucking screenplay. …And for those who stick around, it’s wonderful, because you realize at some point that it was never about the spec sale in the first place. It was about your love of writing. [source]
I’d love to help you build or strengthen your story with the strongest foundation possible and ultimately to achieve your craft and career goals. If you’d like to work with me, please take a look at My Script Services and drop me a line.
Good Luck and Happy Writing!
Related: How to Write the GREAT Script!