Ask an Out-of-this-world Script Consultant!

Brian O'Malley

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 Brian O’Malley of Screenplay Readers.

Brian O’Malley (Not an actual astronaut. Yet.) has written, produced, and directed five feature films and countless shorts and music videos, and is a founding partner of Sundance favorite, Brooklyn Reptyle Films and The Double Aught Brewing Concern Film Company. He started his film career reading and covering scripts for legendary B-movie maverick Roger Corman (Little Shop of Horrors, Death Race 2000, Rock and Roll High School), and in 1999 assembled a team of script development experts to launch SCREENPLAY READERS.

1. What’s the last thing you read/watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?

Well-written: Whiplash, Birdman, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Incredibly well-written: Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and the In-N-Out Burger menu. All three of these are simple, yet emotionally engaging and easy to understand.

2. How’d you get your start reading scripts?

I interned for Media Artists Group in 1994 and answered phones and provided script coverage, and in 1997 started doing script coverage for Roger Corman (Little Shop of Horrors, Death Race 2000) and Frances Doel at Concord-New Horizons.

3. Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?

Recognizing good writing: easy to learn. Good writing: years of hard work and self-immolation.

4. What are the components of a good script?

A “good” script pushes the art of screenwriting forward, allows me to revel in a unique voice, and surprises me, categorically. A “good enough” script is one that you can read without throwing it or your laptop across the room.

5. What are some of the most common mistakes you see?


-Not writing enough.

-Comparing yourself to the other horses in the race.

-Joining nearly any Satanic coven.

6. What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?

I don’t get tired of tropes. Spaying and neutering them is what I do for a living.

7. What are the 3 most important rules every writer should know?

Every line on every page of your screenplay must emotionally move or engage human beings enough to fork over their hard-earned money for a ticket.

There’s no 2 or 3.

8. Have you ever read a script that was an absolute, without-a-doubt “recommend”? If so, could you give the logline?

No rating I’ve ever given, good or bad, and no script I’ve ever written, and no film I’ve ever made, has ever come without doubts. That being said, here’s a logline: “A doctor crashes on a desert island and has to operate on himself. With coconuts.”

9. How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?

I used to feel contests were okay, but I’ve done a ton of research on a slew of script contests, and have interviewed scores of contest owners and contestants and producers. My takeaway now is that nearly all script contests are just massive money pits for aspiring screenwriters.
Nicholl, Page, Austin — these three might prick up a producer’s ears a little, but most producers and filmmakers I’ve surveyed on this subject said the same thing over and over:
1) Don’t spend money on script contests unless it’s Nicholl, Page, or Austin, and 2) Don’t list any other contests (or how you placed in them) on your resume because producers don’t care about any contests except maybe those three, and know how scammy most script contests are.

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?

Every second spent eating pie is a second that could be spent writing screenplays.