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 John Lovett.
After leaving the military in 1992, John went to work as an associate producer for a small production company that produced movies for Cinemax. In 1996, he started The Hollywood Military Advisor and L & M Productions to provide military technical advice to the motion picture industry and produce military documentaries. THMA contributed to numerous military movies and documentaries including BAND OF BROTHERS, PEARL HARBOR, and several military video games. Now based in the Pacific Northwest, John teaches screenwriting and creativity at a local college, works with emerging and veteran screenwriters as a career coach, and is heavily involved in the local film making community. John is also the screenwriter behind two produced films: CATHY MORGAN, a science fiction drama, and TWO WEEKS, a tween comedy.
1. What’s the last thing you read/watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?
Akiva Goldman’s ‘Winter’s Tale’, from the book by Mark Helprin. Regardless of the changes from the book, the movie read and played well. The quality of Goldman’s writing came through in how the actors executed against a fantasy/reality setting.
2. How’d you get your start reading scripts?
I worked for a small production company starting in the early 1990’s and had to learn all the aspects of movie production from lighting to camera work, which included being able to read and evaluate scripts for the producer/owner. Also, I took a script reading class from Pilar Allesandra and independently read for various studios for many years.
3. Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?
Yes, but with a caveat that while the characteristics of good writing can be taught and instilled, the skills of recognizing good writing are learned by reading, reading, and reading more. In addition, mentoring by experienced readers and writers helps considerably.
4. What are the components of a good script?
Besides following the rules regarding script appearance; structure, structure, and structure.
5. What are some of the most common mistakes you see?
Mechanically, the most common mistakes are misspellings, word misuse, and grammar errors. And yes, all of that is important to good writing.
Artistically, the most common mistakes are not having a consistent through-line, long-winded exposition, and on-the-nose dialogue.
6. What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?
I look for the heart of a story. If the story is well written, I can look through the genre or internal tropes. To that end, I have seen some B-films that went DTV or direct to Netflix that told effective and emotionally engaging stories whilst the core genre or trope had been significantly overdone. Were I to pick one trope, it would be the ex-GI who witnesses some evil deed and becomes a ‘super soldier’ who knows how to handle every weapon and every karate move.
7. What are the 3 most important rules every writer should know?
-If you are writing, stay off the ‘Angry Birds’ and Facecrack.
-Develop business and writing goals and stick to them. As you write and continue to improve your writing, you will modify and update your goals, but at least have a starting point.
-A writer should also know what life is about. Copying over tired ‘Transformer’ or ‘Twilight’ scripts is not going to lead you to new writing truths. Living a life is. Get out from behind the computer and join the Peace Corps or the Army, travel, get a job scraping boats in Florida. Do something, anything, that is not directly writing but is a life experience.
8. Have you ever read a script that was an absolute, without-a-doubt “recommend”? If so, could you give the logline?
While I was a reader for a small production company specializing in DTV material, I wrote a “recommend” for ‘Dark Secrets’ written by S. Tymon. The logline was “An aspiring young reporter becomes involved with the subject of her investigation; a millionaire businessman who runs an underground SM club and is rumored to be involved in the murder of a fashion model.” For the intended audience, the movie turned out okay.
9. How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?
I don’t participate in screenwriting contests. I figure if you’re going to be a writer, then write and sell your work. Contests are great and you get lots of compliments, mostly. The truth of the matter is that we’re writers because we love to write, but we still need to pay the mortgage, buy diapers, and put food on the table. So, write your material well enough to sell, and not win contests.
10. How can people get in touch with you to find out more about the services you provide?
11. Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?