How I know Your Screenplay Sucks!
THE CRUEL AND SHALLOW MONEY TRENCH saccharine free advice for aspiring screenwriters
January 23rd, 2014
by COLLIN FRIESEN
Any good reader will tell you that they can tell within ten pages if the script they're looking at is any good at all.
They can usually tell in one.
(Frankly, I can sometimes figure it out just by the cover page. If the font is anything but Courier, if there's an illustration of any sort, if there's a WGA registration number or some note that you've sent your work to the Library of Congress, I can almost guarantee your script is not worth cracking the first page. Now I'm not saying don't do these registration things if you want to throw cash down the toilet, fine I'm just saying if I see that crap on the cover, I know I'm headed to rookie town, and my next hour or so will be a cavalcade of frustrations until I can come up with an excuse to toss someone's life's work into the blue box.)
Sorry, where was we? Right, page one
You all know this is the most important part of a script. Without a kick-ass opening, all your subtle plot twists, snappy dialogue and sublime turns of phrase will be lost to the rejection bin. If the reader doesn't get past page one, you'll never make the sale. If he's so miserable after slogging through your opening prose that he doesn't give you a fighting chance, it's back to Starbucks for you. If you are dumb enough to give her any excuse to stop reading, well then oh you get the point,its important, don't mess it up.
So how do you know if your page one is any good? Behold, a short list:
A) Did you spell check it?
Spell check it, then spell check it again, then give it to someone who's completely anal and have them give it a go. Yes, this applies to your whole script, but page one is where they need to start. An error on page one means you haven't put in the effort, so why should I?
B) Can I trust you?
You need to convince the reader that you know what you're doing. If things are not clear, the writing not clean and concise, the characters have names that all sound slightly the same, it's off. (Okay, on the name thing, if I'm a flunky in some producer's office, I'm going to read dozens of scripts this week, and if John and James and Jenny are your leads, I'm gonna get confused, then annoyed, then recommend a "pass" on your material.)
We know your script won't be perfect, and our job is to find the flaws
Sell me on your ability to write like a professional. Remember, I want your script to be awesome almost as much as you do.
C) Did you format properly?
And by that I mean did you use Final Draft or some other reputable script formatting software? Word templates aren't gonna do it. They always look weird and make your work feel amateurish. Spend the money. You'llbe happier in the long run, and I might get past your first ten pages.
D) Keep it on your pants!
I know you want to excite the reader, but I need to know what's going on more than I need to be tickled by your location description of "Somewhere between Hell and nowhere." Typing "FADE IN" is how you start a script. "No Lock and Load" or "Buckle Up."
These flourishes are the seasoning, not the meal. Use them sparingly and they will jump out more and I will not hate you.
So there ya have it, four simple tips to get me to page two.
Good luck, and keep writing or just do us all a favor and give up so there's more work for everyone else.