So I looked at the guy’s script.
I will be as diplomatic and tactful as I can. Let’s say he’s got his work cut out for him. No matter what aspect you can think of with a screenplay, he had it, well, wrong. Formatting, wide margins, dialogue, characters. The list goes on and on.
If he’s taking a screenwriting course at the local junior college, then somebody needs to fire that instructor’s ass immediately.
Now, in his defense, English is not his primary language. Based on the handful of phone conversations we’ve had, I’d go with German, or something from that region.
My usual way of editing/proofreading is to go through the document with a pen and make marks according to what needs to be fixed.
I got halfway through page 2 (out of eight) and gave up. There was simply too much wrong.
So, once again being diplomatic and tactful, I dug deep into my brain’s storage of the basic rules of screenwriting and began explaining what was wrong and how it could be fixed. At no point did I say “Oh my God this is awful! Give up! Give up now!” Because that would be wrong.
I stayed closer to the ‘maybe you should try it THIS way’ and ‘something you might want to consider’ lines. Honestly, it was something I would have loved to have received when I was starting out.
That’s something else I kept coming back to while I was writing this: when I started writing screenplays, I had one book (Syd Field’s SCREENPLAY), a 4th-generation copy of the first draft of something I got back at a book sale in college (ROGER RABBIT, I recall. Based on the original book), and a simple program K got me for my birthday the year before (which took years to find because not one software store in the Bay Area had ever heard of such a thing.)
I only had a vague idea of what to do. The internet was still in its infancy, so contacting writers and agents was limited to phone calls and mailing query letters. Not being in LA was a definite hindrance.
But I worked at it. And even when I thought I was making progress, which I was, someone with more knowledge than I had showed me my mistakes. After getting over the initial “what do you mean my first draft isn’t a work of genius?” mode of thought, I worked more.
I wanted to learn how to do it right. I went to the workshops and seminars, joined the writing group, wrote whenever I could, tested ideas out on the ever-patient K.
Even after I got back a draft covered in notes from my friend’s dreaded red pen, I buckled down and kept going.
I like to think that this is part of what has helped me continue to this day. I’ll be the first one to admit I don’t know everything about screenwriting. But I won’t hesitate to say I know what I’m doing.
I give out the first draft and get comments back. Some constructive, some oblivious. I take the ones I think work, rather than just the ones I like, and make the appropriate changes. I keep going until it’s good enough for me. And sometimes that’s still not enough.
But I’m not giving up. Not by a longshot.
I hope my advice to this guy helps steer him in the right direction. I don’t know if what I said will help him or discourage him. It’s up to him now.
He’s supposed to get back to me after the weekend, so for now, I wait.
No matter what happens, like I say to everybody who I offer to help and am told thanks but no thanks, I wish him the best of luck.
I’ve done what I could.
No Movie of the Moment tonight. Sorry.