Frequently Asked Questions
February 6th, 2014
The most frequent question fired my way is if there is a particular genre that I prefer to read. My answer is always a resounding NO. Are there films that I prefer to watch over others? Sure. If you looked at all the ticket stubs that litter my wallet, dresser, and handbag, you’ll find that nine times out of ten, I’m spending my money on dramas. But watching and reading are two very different things.
But how can you read something if you aren’t passionate about the genre?
Easy. While it’s clear that I spend most of my hard earned money on dramas, I still spend time and money on action, horror, sci-fi, comedy, animation… but also, because when I’m reading I negate the genre altogether and focus on the heart of the script: does it have a clear and cohesive premise that is sustained through effective conflict, are the characters strong and complete, is dialogue supported and used properly? All these questions are just a spattering of the things that go through my head while reading. Never, ever, do I think, ‘wow this script sucks because it’s such and such and I’d much rather read a drama.’ In fact, one of the best scripts I have ever read happens to be a futuristic sci-fi. But what I’m trying to get at is that, it doesn’t matter! I want you to write something that you love, something that interests you, and trust me, when you do, that’s when the best work shines through.
I also hate when people ask me about genre because I feel as though they are trying to write to the audience. This leads me to pet peeve number 1 (of many that will come): WRITING FOR AN OSCAR! So often I’m met with scripts where the writers are clearly trying to write for some type of award. STOP! STOP THIS NOW! If you are writing for accolades, you are writing for all the wrong reasons. And it shows. God does it show. These scripts often lack passion and as a reader, I hate you.
It is these scripts that make me want to throw my computer out the window and give up all together. Characters are usually under developed, arcs are not complete, conflict is generally stagnant or weak, and tone is never really understood. And why is this? Typically because the writer is trying to do something that they aren’t prepared for, or they are writing beyond what they know. You can’t create something effective if you aren’t passionate about it—something that I’m sure most everyone will agree with. If you want to write about a three legged greyhound to wants to compete in a race, do it! If you want to write about a man who loses everything in a bet and has one chance to get it all back, DO IT! Don’t waste your time and energy writing about something you don’t want to, that kind of work only lends to passable (at best) and while it might be enough do you really want to send passable work out for critique? If you have one chance, you want to put your best foot forward, don’t waste your time writing what you THINK people will want. If it’s good because you effectively convey premise, conflict and character, chances are, the rest of the world will see that too and THAT is where success begins.
Look at Nick Pizzolatto. If anyone follows me on twitter, you know I’m OBSESSED with “True Detective,” and it’s probably something that I’m going to reference in the future when I talk about dialogue. But I think, in an interview he did with The Daily Beast he said it most effectively, and this is paraphrased mind you: when you write something pure and perfect to you and the audience doesn’t connect, it’s heartbreaking but at least it is still something you can be passionate about, but when you write something that doesn’t feel the way you wanted it to and people still don’t connect, it’s even worse. Don’t fall victim to the later. Create. And create something for YOU and something that, regardless of success or fail, you are proud of and always will be.
About the Author
I read scripts and provide coverage and notes. This is my chance to hopefully offer some helpful advice, and relay some war stories as we go as well.