Screenwriter On Why He Won’t Read New Writer’s Scripts

Prunefaced asshole

Prunefaced asshole

I came across an article online at Village Voice.com and saw a very potent discussion of it by a number of screenwriters both there and at Deadline.com, the excellent website started by famed Hollywood reporter Nikki Finke. The links in this paragraph point to the article and conversations on those pages.

The article is important because it was written by an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Josh Olson, and has a lot to say about different people’s  attitudes towards novices trying to break into screenwriting.

The point the author makes that sticks most with me is simply that if you’re going to ask for feedback, be ready to receive it. He argues that the careful feedback he gave wasn’t appreciated by the new writer. The writer seemed to be looking for a pat on the back or some other form of affirmation more so than true honest feedback. My first entry in this blog was called “Develop a Thick Skin.” That is true of all aspects of life in Hollywood. Hollywood judges artistic creativity on a daily basis. Whether someone is shooting holes in your perfect story, or yelling “Next” as soon as you flash your brilliant smile, rejection and criticism is part of the game.

But there’s another point the comments make that’s worth remembering as well. Josh spoke authoritatively on his own convictions about  reading screenplays. Those are his opinions. If you read the comments, you’ll notice a lot of people agree–they hate reading scripts too.  But hundreds of other writers disagree, including a number who’ve written their own blogs in response such as Franzine Kafka, and the screenwriter over at Hollywood Roaster. Once again the law of averages is in play. The simple truth is if you keep knocking on enough doors eventually one will open.  Josh may not read your script, but there are tons of producers, writers, directors and agents who will.

Posted in For Writers, Hollywood Dreams and tagged , .

11 Comments

  1. A critical thing to remember about the movie business is the importance of making connections. Carolyn See suggests that you write a “charming note” once a day to someone you admire or respect in the business. Not asking for anything, mind you, just expressing how their work and/or actions affected you. Preferably you would want to submit a handwritten note on stationary complimentary to you and your style. You may want to say a sentence or two about you, thank them, and sign it.

    These “charming notes” go a long way in building rapport with those decent enough to read them. I found this to be excellent advise for writers looking to make it.

    I have really enjoyed the positive energy so apparent on your website and in your tweets. Good luck on the newest WIK writing journey!

    • Thank you, Brian. Great insight. I appreciate your reading and commenting.
      TRL

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Screenwriter On Why He Won’t Read New Writer’s Scripts | T. R. Locke Online -- Topsy.com

  3. TR,
    I feel where this is coming from. I rarely go to parties to chill. I’m always looking to connect and I’m not sure I even have to. There are people above me and below me in this business. I try to connect with the ones above me. It only makes sense that there’s lots of people who want to connect with me. Usually it’s some guy who wrote something they think I’d like or something like something I wrote–an urban drama or cop story. I remember what it took for me to approach people. I think it takes a lot of courage. No I don’t always like how they do it, but I’ll let him pitch me. If his pitch works for me, I might ask him to send it to me. If it’s just okay, I’ll have him send it over to my agent. He gets it covered. If the coverage is cool, I might read it or have the coverage sent over to the guy. It’s not that hard. I know I appreciated the guys who did that for me.

    But hey, to each his own.

    • Thanks for commenting, D.

      Exactly. Great point. I’m glad you see it like me. That’s what A.F. told me years ago, when I met him after a screening, back before I had my first agent. He said he was developing his own stuff in house, but he said he’d have his agent take a look at it. I called his agent the next day. He had me send it over. It’s really simple shit, right? A.F. isn’t an asshole for doing that.

  4. James Robertson

    Did you even read Olsen’s piece? It’s about one thing, and only one thing, and you missed it entirely. Not only that, you’re encouraging the kind of rudeness Olsen decries in his piece. It’s well and good for you to tell every stranger who comes across you that you’ll read their script, but it’s another to tell whatever readers you have that harassing professionals they don’t know is an acceptable way to go about being discovered. It just isn’t, and it’s really screwed up of you to be pushing that message.

    But here’s the worst part. It’s not just that you’re wrong, it’s that you didn’t even read the piece. You say, “If you read the comments, you’ll notice a lot of people agree–they hate reading scripts too.”

    Nowhere in the entire piece does Olsen ever say he hates reading scripts, and neither does anyone else. He also doesn’t say he won’t read scripts by new writers, or help them out. He’s simply addressing the incredibly rude behavior of neophytes who think nothing of cornering you at a party and putting you on the spot to give them the benefit of your professional expertise.

    More absurd, you state that hundreds of other screenwriters disagree with Olsen, then link to two sites to back up your assertion. The problem is that the first is the blog of a woman who’s still struggling to become a pro, and the second is a piece of satire by an anonymous poster.

    You need to wise up and do right. The behavior Olsen rails against in his article is something virtually everyone who works in show business hates, and for you to be posting as an authority, and encouraging people to behave that way is inexcusable. It’s not that you’re saying bad things about someone who’s trying to right a wrong. It’s that you’re giving out terrible advice and information to people who need to know better.

    • Yes, I read the piece. Of course I did. I also managed to understand it. And what’s more, I know exactly how he feels. The person who “cornered” Josh was a casual acquaintance who was dating someone he knew. His article wasn’t about being accosted by strangers; it was about being bothered, period. He said, “I simply have no interest in reading your fucking screenplay. None whatsoever.” The point of my blog is simply that, whether he helps people or not is his business, there are plenty of writers and others who will.

      There were a number of people who agreed with him, but a slightly greater number that hated him. Obviously you agree with him. Good for you. Yay. No one is asking anyone to bother you (whether people actually bother you or not), and no one is promoting bothering professional writers either. But I do believe that anyone who takes the time and puts forth the effort to write a screenplay should feel free to seek advice/criticism on that script and feel free to seek to sell that script. All my blog says is that, if you ask for criticism, be willing to take it when it comes. Even Josh conceded in his article that, had his criticism been received well, it would have made a difference in his feeling.

      If someone asks you to read a script and you can’t (or just don’t want to), what’s wrong with saying “no?”
      Or what’s wrong with making up a lie, as a number of other people suggested, and saying that you can’t?

      I will concede that I interpreted the title, “I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script” to mean he hated reading scripts. Maybe I was wrong? Perhaps I didn’t elaborate that he was only referencing “Neophytes” scripts? The fact that he said he had two stacks he hadn’t read, but which he “Had” to read for his agent (professional scripts) and friends (perhaps neophyte or other pro writers seeking feedback) came across to me that he hated reading scripts. Or maybe it was just the fact that he went on this rant over being asked to read a 2-page synopsis?

      Further, I certainly hope you don’t expect me to post the name of professional writers who want people to send them scripts. If I did that, I’d actually be doing what you accuse me in your comments. This is about running into people at parties, not mass mailing members of the WGA.

      Finally, here’s something to consider… No one’s asking for him to doctor the script. No one is asking for full on coverage. They are asking him to read their shit. It is the nature of creativity to desire to be appreciated. Josh writes a film, he wants people to read the script, make the film and go see it. I write a book, I want people to buy it, read it, and gain benefit from it, right?

      People don’t slave over scripts for months and years to only have it ignored. So what if someone’s script is not wonderful? So what if it’s not perfect, flawless or beautiful? So fucking what? It’s that person’s creativity. If you don’t want to read it–just say “no.” But don’t get mad at the guy for asking. And don’t get mad at him not rejoicing in your rejection.

      TRL

  5. I like your attitude, T. Some of these muthafuckas are just too damn full of themselves. He should tell em to send it to his agent if he doesn’t want to be bothered.

  6. Great point. Either do it or just say no.

  7. Quarter Life Crisis

    Thanks for the link to my blog. Obviously, I agree with you – as long as you have a good product, keep knocking on enough doors and something will work out. Not sure whether James Robertson read my piece, considering that, yes I am still an emerging writer, but the point I made in my post was that I got my first break writing for many talented and famous comedians through a friend of a friend, in a manner such as Olson outlined as to be so hateful. And no, not all of us writers who seek connections are idiots challenged in the use of basic grammar. Some of us were high school valedictorians who just haven’t had everything align to “make it” such as he has. I find it hard to believe that Olson caved in on his rule of not reading only to find out he had done so for someone he deemed practically illiterate.

    • @QLCrisis :Excellent point. I appreciate the comment and keep it up on the blog. I find it truly shortsighted when people feel someone’s experience is invalid just because it hasn’t lead to great success yet. I also find it very shortsighted to assume that just because Josh currently has success he will continue to. In my book, I talk about people who “used to be” big who struggle with not only getting back on top, but getting back in the game. It’s all part of day-to-life in Hollywood. A certain dose of humility is not only wiser, it’s appropriate.

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