Now I'm not suggesting that there are eerie similarities between dentistry and scriptwriting but I've just been to my dentist, which got me thinking (as I stared just off-centre to avoid eye-contact with the dentist) about how a freelancer's daily routine can be thrown into turmoil just by one innocuous meeting. My teeth are okay by the way. I hadn't been in about 3/4 years (unless you're teeth are falling out, I think it's all a con). My front tooth is a bit sensitive but a glob of Sensodyne every night before I go to bed seems to do the trick. You probably didn't need to know that but it's out there now, so there you go.
Anyway, back to my tenuous link between dentistry & scriptwriting. The whole morning has been wasted by this half hour trip to the dentist. It was at 11am so it didn't give me much time to do some work beforehand and now it's too near lunch to be thinking about doing anything constructive. Last year, I had a meeting with the Head of Development at Working Title. A big meeting, for me at least. It was at 11am. So the morning is spent preparing for the meeting and travelling into London. I'm prepped, I'm psyched, I'm ready to rock. The meeting lasts all of ten minutes. A kind of polite nice-to-put-a-name-to-the-face meeting (I'm one of their readers) and a friendly "we'll gladly take a look at your script" before I'm shown the door. By the time I get home, it's lunch, but my mind is fantasising about the obscene amount of cash she's going to offer for my uber-script, and I surf the net looking at Done Deal (www.scriptsales.com). My whole working day is gone because of a ten minute mid-morning meeting. Six months later, they reject my script.
To give this blog some sort of structure and appeal, I'm going to post a few of my observations about script reading in general. What I perceive to be the dos and don'ts, which differ a bit from the usual stuff you read about 'how to get past the script reader'. I'll also share how my own work is progressing, the ups and downs of what it's like to get a script optioned and then languish in development purgatory.
The first bit of advice that comes to mind is about your script's opening sequence. In a large batch of scripts I had to read once (quite possibly from the photo below), I read three scripts in a row that had the same opening sequence of: drifting through clouds, a voice-over kicks in or singing begins, and the camera glides towards the earth where the script reveals either the source of the singing or the beginning of the narrator's tale. Now I'm not standing on my Moses bush and saying 'you must not open your script in this way' but in the spec script market, you may want to consider something more original to catch the reader's eye. I think American Beauty opened with this kind of sequence ("Hello my name is Lester Burnham" as the camera glides over his neighbourhood) but at least that had the intriguing voice-over hook of "In a week, I'll be dead". Also, to avoid my own advice, I opened one of my scripts in this exact manner - or more precisely, Earth seen from space before we hurtle towards it to meet our hero and begin the story - but while it was perfectly acceptable for the tone and genre of the script, it was immediately rewritten for the next draft.
If anyone has any insider tips or questions, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.