The latest in a series of interviews with script readers and consultants who would be worth your while to work with if you want to get your script in shape. Today’s spotlight is on Sidney Stephens of Sidney Scripts Consulting.
1. What’s the last thing you read/watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?
One of my favorite things is when a novel is adapted to the big screen. That’s when the writer in me really comes out to play. I’ll first read the book, then the screenplay, and eventually I’ll get around to seeing the film. I did this about a year ago with the hit TV series “Under the Dome” by Stephen King (only read the pilot script, however), and I also did this with “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. It’s very interesting to see how the story changes from one medium to the next. I enjoyed both of these the most of my recent reads.
2. How’d you get your start reading scripts?
While getting my Master’s degree in Creative Writing years ago, I read numerous scripts, mostly for my classmates, friends and co-writers, and mostly as a pay-it-forward kind of thing. Over a year ago, a friend of mine asked if I would like to start up a script consulting business together. I’d done so much ‘freelance’ work that it made sense. Three months later, my friend backed out of the whole thing. I, on the other hand, rarely back out of anything. So here I am, sole owner of Sidney Scripts Consulting.
3. Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?
Absolutely. Part of learning to write a good screenplay is learning to recognize what that means. And there’s no better way to do that than to read tons of screenplays. Breaking them down into what makes them good and what makes them great. The real trick to recognizing a good screenplay is not finding one that reads smoothly and is error free, its finding one that reads smoothly, is error free, and will translate all its intended emotion to the screen in a way that will captivate its targeted audience.
4. What are the components of a good script?
Believable characters and natural dialogue are two very important components of any decent script. Good characters are what draw the audience into the situation; they are what the audience relates to. If they aren’t believable or their dialogue isn’t natural or strong, it will leave the audience asking themselves why they even care to finish the script/film. Yes, settings are awesome and a twisty plot is always a great way to ramp up a screenplay, but without relatable, believable characters, its not enough to make a good script great.
5. What are some of the most common mistakes you see?
Some writers, mostly new writers, try to dictate every inch of how the story will play out on film. With tons of camera angles, actor cues, and scene transitions it is hard to stay in the story. It’s important for the writer to know their part of the process and to do just that. Let the actors do their jobs, allow the directors and cameramen do their job, and just stick to writing a great story. Always remember to show, not tell.
6. What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?
End of the world stories are really starting to wear me out. I think I’ve read every possible way the earth could end, blow up, shatter, freeze, burn, etc. and yet, the surrounding stories are all the same. Man saves family only to stay behind and sacrifice himself for the future of the world. The entire movie is watching them attempt to stop the inevitable only to fail miserably. Until finally, at the last possible moment, the guy saves the planet and is reunited once again with his loved ones. Yawn.
7. What are the 3 most important rules every writer should know?
- Writing is rewriting. No matter how great you think your draft is, it needs a rewrite. Deal with it.
- Have a target audience and know exactly what it takes to reach them.
- Write what you know.
8. Have you ever read a script that was an absolute, without-a-doubt “recommend”? If so, could you give the logline?
I’ve definitely read some worthy scripts in my days as a consultant. However, it is only after working closely with the writer on rewrites and such and knowing what producers were looking for at that particular time. I think finding any script that is “without a doubt” anything is a rare find that all consultants want that next script on their desk to be.
9. How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?
Screenwriting contests are a great way to get your screenplay read and possibly receive some fairly descent feedback. However, using these contests to “break into the business” or as a way of earning thousands on their scripts, they better be something spectacular. The reality is, hundreds of thousands of writers enter screenwriting competitions every year, and only a handful make it past the volunteer readers in the initial read. Can it be your screenplay? Of course. It is worth it? Well, that depends on the writer.
10. How can people get in touch with you to find out more about the services you provide?
My website: www.SidneyScriptsConsulting.com
My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sidney.stephens.9465
Email me with any questions: SidneyScriptsConsulting@gmail.com
11. Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?
Sorry, I’m a brownie girl!*
(*Editor’s note: The blasphemy of this statement will not be held against Ms. Stephens.)