SELL YOUR SCREENPLAY (Got Guts? Rate Your Script.)
by Dov S-S Simens on July 8, 2018
YOUR SCREENPLAY: It is Either GREAT or It SUCKS
Your script is the key to opening the doors… And, let’s cut-to-the-chase.
For a first-timer you only have one shot, don’t waste it and your script better be GREAT… Nothing short of great will do.
Always remember, “Hollywood can get away with mediocrity but first-timers, someone like you, good is not good enough and only GREAT will do”.
(Your script is either Great or it Sucks… there ain’t no middle ground)
Now let’s see if your script is great.
Never expect polite phrases from the person that’s just read your screenplay like, “Your script is very good… (pause) it just needs“, or “Love your concept…(pause) Act II is a little weak”, or “Congratulations, it’s a solid story… (pause) needs just a little more depth” or “Great idea… (pause) the characters just need a little fleshing out”.
These responses, although appearing positive, are not (I repeat… “are not”) what you might call good feedback.
Because you didn’t sell it, which is all you truly desire, and any variation “very good” or “definitely like it” or “solid writing” is not what you want to hear.
What you desire to hear is nothing short of… “It’s Great… Fuckin’ Wonderful… I Couldn’t Put It Down” and the reader takes immediate action, talks money, to own (aka: obtain the right) this hot property by either (A) buying it, (B) funding it, (C) developing it or (D) optioning it and money (did you read that M-O-N-E-Y) comes your way.
Now here’s the bottom-line: If you don’t receive any cash for any of the above A-D responses then your script is the second type which is “It Sucks.”
Now, no one will every say “It Sucks“, but will respond with a rah-rah phrase like “very good”, “definitely like the idea”, “solid writing”… and then proceed with “Act II is a little weak” (Hollywoodeese for “It Sucks”) and “some of your characters need a little more fleshing out” and the meeting/conversation ends with “Very excited to see your next draft”…
However, they will likely never return another phone call from you.
You got one shot… better make it great… and remember there are only two types of responses.
The first being you receive money with a purchase, an option or a re-write payment.
The second being, you receive NO money, but get a very polite positive feedback…
Bottomline: Your script is either (A) Great, and you receive money, or (B) it Sucks and you receive polite praise.
So let’s see if your script is great.
YOUR SCRIPT BETTER BE GREAT (1st-Timers Have only 1 Shot)
Upon writing (Treatment Beat Sheet & 2 Drafts), registering (WGA @ $25) and copywriting (LOC @ $65) your script it is time to send it out.
Again, you only have 1 shot with each person you send it to, for if it isn’t great, then forget about ever having that person read another script from you… Thus, what you send better be great.
Therefore, take the below SCREENPLAY TEST (see below) to determine if it is GREAT.
FYI: Please realize that your script is something that you always fall in love with. It is your first child, your first born and you are sure it is perfect… Be careful.
Every parent believes their child is perfect but to others this kid might be just another “poop machine” so before you send it out, hopefully this quiz, makes you “Step Back”, “See the Forest From the Trees” and do that little extra step to make-it-great.
YOUR GREAT SCREENPLAY TEST
Take this 7 question 2-minute script test.
(Your script when typed using proper software (Final Draft, Celtx, Movie Magic, Writer’s Duet, etc) or app will look like a screenplay but is-it-great or is it merely proper formatted typing that “sucks”?)
SCRIPT TEST RULES:
- Answer these 7 simple Questions… “Be honest!”
- EYE QUIZ
- GRABBER QUIZ
- 1st PAGE QUIZ
- 10 PAGE QUIZ
- STORY QUIZ
- CHARACTER QUIZ
- DIALOGUE QUIZ
- Score each Question (1 to 10) with either a…
- “Poor” (1-3)
- “Adequate” (4-6)
- “Good” (7-8)
- “Very Good” (9)
- “Excellent” (10)
ONE: “THE EYE QUIZ”:
When reading your script do your eyes flow down the page (repeat; down-the-page), instead of movie left to right, line-by-line?
If your eyes go left-to-right, while reading, then you, the reader, are bored… For when you are reading, and am enjoying what you’re reading your eyes flow from one-page-to-another (aka: page turning). If however, you’re writing much to much exposition and, in essence, are writing a novel in screenplay form your eyes go from left-to-right..
Please keep your exposition to a minimum. This is not a novel. Stop overly describing every scene.
Readers & Development Execs will always say “We want to see a lot of white space”.
Duh. Then give them white space and write down the page with 2-3 people talking to move your story along.
Keep the line after the Slug-Line (INT or EXT, DAY or NIGHT) to one line or maybe two at the most, but not three to six, so that the page physically looks like a bunch of Ts (Single exposition line, with half to to two-thirds the page of dialogue)…
Does your script have a lot of white space?
SCORE (1-10) _______________
TWO: “THE GRABBER # 7-9 QUIZ”:
You must hook reader/viewer in the first 15-20 seconds. These are people with short attention spans that have read 500-1,000 scripts and have no desire to read yours. Thus, you better grab-the-reader super quick.
Super quick means… Does something shocking happen in your script by Line 7-9 of Page 1 to grab-the-reader? Or are you taking 3-5 pages to allegedly “establish” your characters and believing your setting everything up.
Grab-The-Reader instantly. I cannot impress on how important this is.
Do you have a Grabber around Line 7-9 of Page 1?
SCORE (1-10) ___________________
THREE: “1st PAGE QUIZ”:
Make the Reader want to Turn-The-Page: Does something happen, a 2nd Grabber, at the bottom of Page one (one minute into the film) to hold the tv viewer through the commercials or grab the reader, who really doesn’t want to read another bloody scrip, to want to see what happens on Page two?
Do you have a 2nd Grabber on the bottom of Page 1?
Do you, when reading your own script, actually want to turn Page 1 excited about discovering what is on Page 2?
SCORE (1-10) ___________________
(Yes, nothing is written… it’s re-written. You’ll likely sell your 4th script. But to do this you must write your 3rd script. To do this you must write your 2nd script… got it)
FOUR: “THE 10-PAGE QUIZ”:
Yes, it is correct most readers only read 10 pages… that is assuming they get past Page 1.
Let’s be positive and assume your Page 1 is great (2 Grabbers) and the reader turns-the-page to Page 2.
Now, do the next 9 pages, your first ten pages, make the reader want more?
SCORE (1-10) __________________
FIVE: STORY (ACT II) QUIZ:
Do you have a solid 50-60 scenes, with 3 sub-plots that manipulate your reader, every 10-14 pages, with expecting something to happen, and then throw in a sudden twist/detour/obstacle?
This is accomplished by crafting, after you write/register your Treatment, a proper Step Outline (aka: Beat Sheet, a script writers blueprint) prior to commencing your 1st Draft.
Is your script loaded 50-60 scenes, with a roller-coaster ride (5 Uh-Ohs, 5 Oh-Shits and 1 OMG), demonstrating a solid Act II, of emotions and plot twists, that resolves itself satisfactorily just before scene 50 or 60?
SCORE (1-10) ____________________
SIX: CHARACTER QUIZ:
Can you sit down and outline three reasons why each character is unique?
Make sure your characters are not simple 1-dimensional stick figures thus when you introduce each of them, within the story, and did you establish a backstory to their desires, dreams or motivations and give that character some depth?
Again, give every character depth.
Everyone is not either Black (evil) or White (good). We are all some shade of grey.
Now, do each of your characters have backstories that give them depth?
SCORE (1-10) ___________________
SEVEN: DIALOGUE QUIZ:
This is a toughie and the key to great writers.
Pick any page in your script. Put your thumb over the character’s name above a line of dialogue.
Now, can you tell from just the dialogue which character is speaking?
Can you even tell if the character is a man or a woman just by the dialogue?
Every character, again, must be unique and this is displayed by the manner in which they speak.
Everyone has great ideas. Everyone can buy a script format software. Everyone can plot out 50-60 scenes.
However, the key to a great script, assuming the above, always comes down to how great is you dialogue.
Tarantino and Sorkin have what we call “A good ear”… which means they know how people in conflict truly talk and they write great dialogue that defines their character while pushing the story.
Is oyur dialogue great?
SCORE (1-10) _________________
(Quentin launched his great career with great scripts. If your script has great dialogue, with unique characters, even if you don’t sell the script you should get hired by other producers and, at least, get an agent to set up “pitch meetings”)
Now add up the score. It will be between 7-70.
What did you come up with? 33? 48? 67? 68?
If your score is anything but “70”, yes perfect, your script sucks.
50-60 is horrendous.
65-67 isn’t good.
68 is close but not there.
69 still isn’t perfect.
70 is perfect…
If it isn’t 70… then back to the drawing board for a re-write.
If it is 70…now let’s find a reader (aka; Development Executive) who thinks like you.
Remember, you are a first-timer and you have to be perfect.
My first paying jobs ($25-35), as a Script Reader doing Coverage had me reading 1,000-1,500 scripts during 3-4 years as a Story Analyst in the ’80s and I guarantee you that a reader will only put forward a script to have his boss to read…. If-It-Is-Perfect.
Only perfect will do.
Thus, I guess it’s time to write another totally new script, and then, a year or two later, go back to your first script, that didn’t get a “70” score and try one more re-write.
“Nothing is written… It’s re-written”… and remember “you only have one shot”.
Welcome to Hollywood
Dov S-S Simens
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