Thursday, October 14, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: Why the Heat, But No Takers?

Today I read a spec comedy script that has gotten several requests. 

The catchy logline made me curious: It's a "What Women Want" with a frat boy twist.

Would the script live up to the promise?

I read.

I scratched my head.

The good news:  The writer can write.  He has a consistent voice & tone, and made sure the characters do arc.  There's a strong antagonist that puts the antagonist in real jeopardy.

The bad news: I wondered who would want to see this movie. 

This is a comedy (It is a comedy, right?  Or is it a rom-com?  No, comedy. I think it's a comedy.  But it could be a rom-com b/c there are sacrifices for love.)

It's aimed at ...well...it's a nightmare.

Maybe guys because of the half that is the frat boy part?  Maybe women b/c the other half is a rom-com?

The problem is that the script tries to mesh the wrong ends of two genres, which left me dissatisfied.

I can see guys will complain there's not enough guy jokes.  Then women will complain the romance is sacrificed for guy jokes.

This script is good as a sample, because it shows the writer can set up a very broad comedy. 

However, I'd want to see more scripts from the writer.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Even if you write a good script that attracts attention, it might not get past the slush pile. 

Your script must be technically great, deliver emotion, AND ALSO meet the audience's expectations for the genre. 

[This is what is often known as a "marketable" script.]

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

QUESTION FOR THE READER: When They're Lookin' at YOU

A blog reader asked, "What do production companies look for when they're evaluating a script for the writing ability?"

Excellent question!

When a production company evaluates the CONCEPT, they're thinking about
-budget
-marketability
-whether there are similar films in production elsewhere
-whether it adds to the genre or is a repeat

When a production company evaluates a script for WRITING ABILITY, it's slightly different.

Technical skills? Check.

Unique voice? Check.

But what will set you apart is whether you can DELIVER THE EMOTIONAL GOODS.

If it's a father-son drama, does it cause men to weep & call their fathers?

If it's a family Christmas comedy, does it make the reader bust a gut & break out the eggnog even though it's July?

If it's a rom-com, does it hit that romantic chord of love nearly lost?

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I might not like your script. I might not be in the mood to laugh/cry/shout.

But your script makes me feel & puts me RIGHT THERE with your characters. I'm so swept away that for a moment, it feels real.

ex. A friend told me her daughter finished reading Harry Potter, & was so angry that she couldn't go to Hogwarts in real life.

Now THAT is delivering the emotional goods. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: Four Words

Famous crime novelist Michael Connelly was a police reporter before he started writing. 

In yesterday's USA Today, an article about Connelly spoke of his admiration for legendary Miami Herald police reporter Edna Buchanan. 

"Buchanan added to her fame in his eyes with a lead about a would-be gunman shot dead at a fast-food counter: 'Gary Robinson died hungry.'"

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: May we all be this succinct. 

In four words, this reporter tells us:
- the protagonist of the story
- what happened to him
- with some humor

There's no fat on that sentence, yet it has a very distinctive voice.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: Does My Arc Look Flat?

Everyone knows there's no good answer if a woman asks "Do I look fat?"

Same thing applies if someone asks me, "Does my arc look flat?"

[OK, no one has ever asked me if his/her story arc is flat.]

[OK, no one really thinks about the arcs at all.]

But this week I had a heavy duty dose of arc work on a couple scripts. 

So here's what has been on my mind.

 - When you don't know what is wrong with your script, I'm almost 90% sure the arc is flat.

- Think of a rainbow arc.  The character arc is the layer upon layer of colors.  The story arc is how it stretches from left to right.

- The best scripts are when the character arc and the story arc parallel each other.  Both should escalate. (Escalate = more conflict.)

- Script problems pop up when all we see is a kaleidoscope of colors (plenty of character) but no story.  Or a single color (great plot & story) but no character.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The answer is yes, it looks flat.