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 Dimitri Davis of ScreenwritingU.com.
1. What’s the last thing you read/watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?
G.B.F. wins on best/most recent. So many laughs, such excellent pacing and quality characterization. One of the best high school movies I’ve ever seen.
2. How’d you get your start reading scripts?
Being the assistant at ScreenwritingU. Back when they were in the business of pitching reality TV, I read a lot of scripts, and then for research and preparing class materials, I read a lot more scripts, and whenever projects were in the works, I’d read more scripts. Between that and the classes and interviews I was reviewing all the time, it eventually dovetailed into professional-level coverage.
3. Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?
Of course it can. Learning the techniques of good writing and plenty about the industry/marketing makes it fairly clear when writing is good or bad. Which has the side effect of making you talk at TV and movies, and inform your viewing companions what’s going to happen or how that was a pretty mediocre choice in scene, dialogue, etc.
4. What are the components of a good script?
A good script or a great script? A ton goes into it, but great scripts have great concepts, are page-turners, solid actor-bait, and leave you walking away feeling amazed (and/or punched). Beyond that, it depends on the particular story/genre/etc.
5. What are some of the most common mistakes you see?
The most common and worst mistakes I see are:
– Script/story focuses on the least interesting elements of the concept.
– Characters are underwhelming/underdeveloped, and thus make for mediocre dialogue & action choices (and fail to attract quality actors).
-Script/story fails to exploit great opportunities for drama/conflict/humor again and again, whether the opportunities arise from the characters, setting, plot or concept.
6. What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?
Obligatory sex scenes and throw-away romances. How excited do you think an actor is to see a thin-as-paper relationship in their scenes? How much do you think the audience will care when there’s no poignancy or quality drama behind the relationship?
7. What are the 3 most important rules every writer should know?
There’s really only one rule, which should inform all of your screenwriting decisions: Don’t waste anyone’s time.
You waste your own time by send out a script that isn’t awesome, or is cliche or tired. You waste people’s time by sending Comedy scripts to Horror production companies. You waste everyone’s time when your quick pitches are several paragraphs of details and aren’t laden with hooks. You waste your writing time when you embark on a script without figuring out a great concept, great characters, and a great story first. You waste everyone’s time when you make your tiny Indie script have million-dollar action sequences.
And so on and so forth. Hollywood has no attention span or respect for time-wasting. Your life has a limited amount of time. Why waste it?
8. Have you ever read a script that was an absolute, without-a-doubt “recommend”? If so, could you give the logline?
Yes and no, because such things are confidential. But of the few RECOMMENDS I have read, they all had great concepts and stories, and very good writing.
9. How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?
It depends on the contest and the script. If the script isn’t ready, it’s typically a waste of money and time (getting anything less than Winner or Finalist for anything but the Nicholl is a waste).
If the contest doesn’t yield some really tangible benefit, like great prize money, or industry contacts and referrals, or career prestige, then it’s a waste of time and money. You could be working on selling scripts and getting writing assignments instead of entering contests.
But there are contests that do those things, and you should definitely enter them with great scripts if you don’t have any industry contacts yet, or are working on elevating your career. Go for the great options out there.
10. How can people get in touch with you to find out more about the services you provide?
My coverage services are generally for ScreenwritingU alumni currently, but you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
11. Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?