BAD NEWS: Christopher Lockhart, story editor at William Morris/Endeavor, states the real truth in his blog:
"Because I’ve read tens of thousands of screenplays, quite a few similar to the one you’re pitching, I’m going to have lots of questions (based on previous scripts I’ve read). I might ask a question about character motivation or story logic. My question might be rooted in various elements that undermined those other screenplays to see how your story avoids the trappings.
Know your story. Have the answers."
GOOD NEWS: I think Billy Mernit has a great explanation of how to know your story & have answers.
"Tip #5: Selling screenplays exude the confidence of knowing what they're about."
"Many times I've seen a student rush to market with a draft that I knew was only half-cooked - that didn't really pulse with a clearly understood subtext. The specs that sell have a peculiar, distinctive feeling and energy - a unique kind of confidence in their storytelling - that tells a reader in no uncertain terms, "I've gone beyond the surface of this story and broken through to what it's really about.""
Does it really happen this way? Yup - I saw it before my eyes this week, both the good & bad.
Script A was about a historical event. I rifled through the catalogue in my brain and remembered turning down a very similar script like it because the character arc was incomplete. I scrutinzed Script A's character arc to see if it was a problem, and unfortunately, it was.
Script B was a vampire script that didn't follow the usual vampire conventions. But the writer nailed the subtext between the male and female leads. I was pleased to see this was not an ordinary tale about the supernatural, but the selfish human side.
WHAT I LEARNED: As a writer, I might not have the catalogue of an exec in my head, but I do have the control to master my script with complete confidence.
*Lockhart blog: http://twoadverbs.blogspot.com/2009/12/some-advice-on-pitching.html
*Mernit blog: http://www.livingromcom.typepad.com/