Screenwriting Confidential – Inside the Dark World of the Script Reader with Deepthroat
Have you ever really wanted to know what goes on behind the scenes at Hollywood’s major production companies and studios? How do new screenplays get read, approved and pass on by the script reader? What are the politics behind the scenes that make it almost impossible for a screenplay to make it through the Hollywood System?
Today on the show we have a former development executive, current script coverage reader and professional screenwriter. In order for him to be completely honest, he asked to remain anonymous so I just refer to him as Deepthroat. Yes, I know that’s a bit on the nose but we both thought the Cloak and Dagger angle would be funny. He is a screenwriter that has worked in both television and features, a sought-after script doctor (he’s worked on some MAJOR studio films), and a script coverage specialist.
Deepthroat spills the beans on the inner workings of some of the biggest studios in Hollywood. He discusses how an idea he presented his boss years ago was once stolen from him within the system and was turned into a successful property and shares tips on how to impress those studio readers that are the gatekeepers to getting your screenplay sold and produced.
He is one of the amazing script coverage specialists I have working at Bulletproof Script Coverage. Deepthroat agreed to do this interview in order to help screenwriters trying to break into the business. He’s tired of seeing so many talented writers get eaten up by the system.
The information in this interview is raw, real and will give you a much clearer idea of what happens behind the scenes in Hollywood. If you enjoy this episode, please share it with as many screenwriters and filmmakers as you can. We need to get this information out there.
Enjoy my revealing conversation with DEEPTHROAT.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Bulletproof Screenplay Script Coverage Service – Get Your Screenplay Covered by Industry Pros
- Masterclass Screenwriting Course (FREE 7 Day Trial)
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Screenwriting Audio Book)
- IFH Masters Circle Filmmaking Community
- IFH’s Online Film School
- Six Secrets to get into Film Festivals for FREE!
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Thank you, Scott, for a great interview!!!
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Welcome to the bulletproof screenplay podcast episode number 24. I guess people used to think deep throat was a criminal but now they think he’s a hero. W Mark felt the real deep throat broadcasting from a dark windowless room in Hollywood when we really should be working on that next draft. It’s the bulletproof screenplay podcast showing you the craft and business of screenwriting all teaching you how to make your screenplay bulletproof.
And here’s your host Alex Ferrari. Welcome to a very special cloak-and-dagger edition of the bulletproof screenplay podcast. I am your humble host Alex for. Now Today’s Show is sponsored by bulletproof script coverage now unlike other script coverage Services bulletproof script coverage actually focuses on the kind of project you are in the goals of the project you are so we actually break it down by three categories micro-budget indie film market and Studio film.
There’s no reason to get coverage from a reader that used to reading Temple movies when your movies going to be done. For $100,000 and we wanted to focus on that at bulletproof script coverage. Our readers have worked with Marvel Studios CAA WME NBC HBO Disney scot-free Warner Brothers, The Black List and many many more.
So if you need your screenplay or TV script covered by professional readers. Head on over to www.covermyscreenplay.com. Now I’ve been wanting to do a show like this for a long time. And I finally have found a brave soul to do it. I always wanted to know what was the inside scoop the behind-the-scenes kind of politics that go on at Studios with script readers and development Executives.
And what are the politics? What are the reasons why scripts go through and they. Don’t go through what are some tips for screenwriters to get those screenplays through those first gatekeeping script readers and I got that guy today. We will refer to him as deep throat. Now. I know calling him deep throat is a bit on the nose.
But you know in order for him to be completely honest completely truthful and share with us all the dark kind of Secrets behind the scenes. You wanted to remain anonymous and both of us agree that that would be the best way to get this information out into the world now deep throat is a working screenwriter.
He has worked in major Studios on television and in feature films. He is a sought-after script Doctor Who has worked on some big Studio releases Temple stuff that you might know and he happens to be one of my amazing script coverage specialist working at Bulletproof. Script coverage. Now the information you’re about to hear is very unique.
I have not heard a lot of the stuff that we talked about in this interview. He was completely honest fully transparent fully truthful about. His experience behind the scenes working in Hollywood and it is an eye-opening interview to say the least. So without any further Ado, please enjoy my revealing conversation with deep throat.
I’d like to welcome you to a very special episode of the bulletproof screenplay podcast today because today we have. An unknown script write a script reader by the name of deep throat. I wanted to bring in deep throat to give him complete and femininity to say whatever he is that that’s that I say that something like that something like that something like that.
So I think that’s my second language. So I want to have someone to come on and be free to talk about everything that goes on behind the scenes. In regards to script coverage script reading working with the Studio’s development all that kind of stuff and deep throat is definitely that guy so welcome to the show deep throat.
Thank you. It’s awesome to be here. The freedom of that I have right now is dangerous and exciting. I love it. It’s yes it is. I am very excited to give you all the dirt on anything that you’d like to thank you, sir. I appreciate that. So our first of all how did you and again all these questions you have will have to watch ourselves.
But how did you get started in the business as much as you can say so people can find out a little bit about your background. Okay, cool, so I back in the day Once Upon a Time no 90s your right eye so I went to college for creative writing loved it while I was there I wrote a script that ended up winning actually I wrote two scripts that place first and second and a writing competition I ended up selling those two scripts to a no-name producer husband-wife couple in Florida.
Have a manager didn’t have an agent didn’t understand what wga minimum Basics were at all. So they basically wrote me a check and say goodbye and I said thank you very much and instead of going to law school. I packed my car full of my crap put my dog in the front seat and drove to Los Angeles where I use that money to get an apartment and eat for like four months because it wasn’t a whole lot of money and always expensive and I manage then to intern at as many places as I could using my free time.
Talent agencies production companies you name it that was before they you had to like claim school credits. Like people were looking for free work, wherever your they could take it. So I got my foot in the door at a lot of these places mostly mom and pop shops, but also like big agencies as well.
So I was on the front lines of like and they all knew that I was creative writing and I’ll like I’d read a script and I give them feedback on it whether it was for an actor or for a producer for director, whatever whatever. I was able to give them notes and they were like this kid actually knows what he’s talking about.
So, let’s give him more work and eventually that led to me going into development and eventually that led to me producing getting my own work out there and some capacity and then. You know reading for production companies and Studios giving them notes on their scripts doing rewrites etcetera. So that’s kind of where we’re at now and I also got involved with a couple of covered Services.
Can I say those names that would say no, let’s hold those off. Let’s keep the names off. But you are working with other coverage you working with you work with covered Services. Yes, and the goal there is to discover Talent. You know what I mean? Like I have some pretty solid relationships in town now and when I see these.
Riders coming in who don’t who, you know living for example purposes Anchorage Alaska and they’ve got no idea what the film business is like but they’ve got some writing Talent we own that a little bit. You know, I’ve got one client I worked with for a year and a half and she’s you know last year.
She was a semifinalist in the Nichols competition. You know, what I made in she didn’t have any writing experience her first draft looked like a transcript of a show, you know what I mean or train, you know, how you can download those train. Yeah, like that’s what she was going off of and that’s what she thought it was supposed to look like and then you know a year and a half later.
She’s now, you know in the process of being wrapped and she’s talking to producers about her script and it’s wonderful to see so and you also work the development a bit. Yes. Yes. I did. What’s that process like? So I worked inside in that’s a great question. So I worked at several different levels right intern assistant development coordinator Etc.
And I’d actually at one point started my own production company with a couple buddies and we were I was active CEO of that company so and we acquired a couple of scripts and it was good and then we. Had Creative differences as can be expected and we went our ways no way. I know right? It’s very difficult to hear that everyone works.
So well together here in Hollywood. Everybody does everybody wants to be so friendly and just we just want to get stuff made, you know, nothing about did it with you. Yeah, and money has only to do it either exactly. So yeah, so this is the process was when I was an intern it was like here’s some scripts from riders that we already represent or movies that we’ve already purchased.
Like here’s let me give you why don’t you write up some coverage on me in this latest draft and we’ll see where that goes. So that would be basically what it was right? So I’d write coverages for scripts that they had already acquired that they were currently developing meaning like they were taking it they wanted to make this movie.
They had either a pitch that went well. They had an internal idea that they then went and hired a writer for and this Riders now writing the script and it’s like their various stages, you know, you get x amount of drafts. And then the ideal thing is you make the movie, right? All right, so so from an intern standpoint, it was like, okay.
I don’t know what the purpose of this is, but sure I’ll read it. I’ll give you notes and then eventually I found out that the purpose was like if they were testing me right like. Do your notes match up with my notes do we think alike, you know, do you have an understanding of what structure and character development and pacing and dialogue?
Like do you understand the concepts of what actual screenwriting is and what actual development work entails and finally when I had written enough coverages they. Hire me as a development assistant in which case I was paired with a specific producer who found my notes especially useful and then that went from here’s project that we’ve already acquired two projects that we potentially could acquire or here’s a book that we’re thinking about that’s going to be released in two months like read the book.
Is there a movie there? If so, what kind of movie what do you think you pitch it so that then we can pitch it to a writer’s and open assignment, right? So that happened a couple times and then when we when I started working as a development. Later, it’s like okay now we have a list of projects and development and it’s like this one’s for this along.
So now we’re acquiring Talent or we’re looking for a director of the scripts out for investment opportunity blah blah blah. So there’s. When you get to the coordinator, it’s sort of more like project management status, right you’re giving notes on projects you are but it’s more of like let’s keep things on track for where they’re supposed to be at x amount of time right?
Because as we know time is money and every time we do a draft, it’s that cost money. We got to take time to wrap the project Etc. So then when you get to the sea level it’s now it’s about what do we want to be as a company? Do we want to specialize in. Sub 1.2 million. Do we want to go the low-budget route?
We want to go medium budget route where we co-produce, you know, which would look, you know to to 12 million depending on who he co-produced it with and then pass that it’s like do we want to be somebody who gets a first-look deal with the studio. We’re making studio quality movies whether that be in the or you know, the suicide squads the world, you know, yes good good example.
So that’s that’s sort of the spectrum of the development ladder and I’m sure that there are people out there with different experiences. I’ve did not just speaking from my own and if there’s one thing that I want to tell other people who are aspiring to be developers or readers or whatever there it’s done several different ways at several different companies.
That’s why they’re different companies. You know what I mean? That’s why there are different companies that make better movies than others or there’s why some people specialize in making. B horror movies as opposed to the Black Panthers of the world, you know, I mean that’s two different styles of readers that’s two different styles of writing and that’s two different styles of development.
So. Each one I will say to that though that I’ve sat down at multiple companies as an intern. Like I said when I first got out there I did everything I possibly could right. There were a number of of and I’m not promoting this book by any means but there were a number of companies that basically slap down the book save the cat and they were like go read this and then we can talk and it’s like, okay, I don’t need to read it again.
But like that’s why I feel like a lot of these movies nowadays are so formulaic, right, but that it’s paint. Numbers almost, you know, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy and that people do it well, but there is I mean you can watch pretty much any movie in the inciting incident going to have between 10 and 15 minutes in the First Act breaks going to happen between 25 and 30 minutes of the movie.
It’s just that’s how movies are made audiences have been conditioned to view like that. So you kind of have to write and develop a movie that speaks to that, you know at that budget at those huge Studio levels absolute horse. Yes, even when you’re in the Indie world, even those even some of the most successful in these follow.
Any way shape or form and into it like the Indie market? Like that’s where the art is made. You know what I mean? Like let’s not kid ourselves like like yes, we see a lot of these huge budget budget movies that are that are really well done and really great movies and they gross a lot of money, but a lot of it has to do with spectacle and a lot of it and, you know story often and art often become secondary to.
Revenue and profit and and you know other things that you know, that tent pole movies are sort of built on you know what I mean? So when you so when you were doing the when you were in development, can you tell me a story that you were just like, I can’t believe I am witnessing this. As far as as much as you can give away without actually giving everything away.
You can mean a little bit brought about it really good cautionary tale because it I’m still sore about it and I can tell I can hear it in your voice. So this is this is going to be funny and I have another one too so go for it. I’ll start with the one that’s not about me. How about that? So I read this book, right?
I read this book. I was a development assisting I was like, I was in the office everyday like 7:30 my Boston show up till 10:30 and I was sitting there reading when he got there even calling it a he I hope that doesn’t like reveal me idea sure anyway, so I read this book and he always told me he was like if you see something that we could acquire like make sure you tell me about it like make sure you bring it to my attention.
I’m like, okay sweet like for sure. So I’m about 30 pages into this 900-page book. I want I run into his office and I’m like dude we’ve there’s there’s so much here. It’s Harry Potter, isn’t it? Just tell me what’s in your pockets Harry Potter’s her pot. I just covered Harry Potter. So we. He was like a great like I finish it right up the coverage.
I’m like now you should probably start reading this now. He’s like, yeah cool and I was like, dude, you told me if there’s something on the line not to wait and he was like, okay, you know, all right. Well, I’ll see what you got. So I spent hours and hours. I read this book. I didn’t sleep for three days getting through this book.
I wrote up 11 pages of coverage which obviously young obnoxious too long did not read type of shit, right? So so I send it to him and I’m like. Boom, I was like two days later three days later. I’m Amy, and I’m like, all right, I sent it to you like and he’s like, okay cool. Cool. I’ll read it over the weekend.
So we goes by don’t hear a damn thing. Another week goes by what happens that Van Owen Friday. The book was option for 1.7 million dollars by Warner Brothers and it was currently be be being adapted by a writer who had just come off an Oscar win, and I’m like. I told you I was like I thought it all the dude wrote me back was good instincts period that’s it.
That’s all they acknowledge when I got ah. And I was like, you’ve got to be kidding me like so all these guy all these production companies are out there looking for like the Next Great Piece of material. No, but it’s also worth understanding to from a writer standpoint. Like they’re just inundated, you know, I mean like he he had scripts that were towering, you know, seven eight Stacks that were taller than I was that he had yet to read, you know, and it’s just like good project slip through the cracks taste is often an issue art is subjective.
So. Like if you get 1500 knows all you need is one. Yes, you know what I mean? Like you could be that diamond in the rough. It’s just a matter of somebody. Seeing it, you know what? I mean? It was just disappointing that that could have been like hey this guy found this great project and you know, we’re going to make a whole bunch of money off of it and good for him.
Now, let’s promote him. Now. Let’s give him a producer credit and blah blah blah blah blah that ever happened. I’m curious to know what my path would have been like had he been like oh, yeah, I’m gonna read that tomorrow reads it and is like, oh dang like this kid. He’s right, you know, I mean, like let’s go by this let’s go and they didn’t have a 1.7 million dollars.
But hey if they’ve gotten and presumably had, you know, it’s not like that deal happen overnight, you know what I mean? And they’re now in hindsight. It’s like that deal was probably being negotiated. Well before I was even given the book so you have to take that into account too, but it’s just a matter of like things.
It’s like. Sit around and wait and then Sprint and then sit around and wait and then Sprint and that’s kind of like the business, you know, I mean and it’s very much a hurry up and wait kind of kind of deal. So, you know, I would say a lot of these Young Riders like be patient in an amine because when it happens it’s going to happen really freaking fast it was and what’s the second story?
So the second story is different company different company bigger company. It was a manager / production company, right? So I will they wrapped Riders they wrapped actors. They did a lot of packaging house. They got a lot of movies made and they rep some pretty awesome people. So I felt blessed to work that right and they had this really cool thing where they would bring us all in we get to talk to the executives for lunch and like they really made it so that like we met people you know what I means we got to know the people that we were working with and working for which is really cool.
One of them happened to be a manager. That I really liked and we bonded over fantasy football actually obvious. And my script that I wrote it was a it was a pilot. It was like I was like, hey, this is It’s a sports-related drama. He like sports. So I was like, hey, let me would you be interested in reading this and I was like hell, yeah, I’ll read it Baba and he actually did which was awesome.
You know what I mean after he read it. He came back the next week and he was like, hey, man, I’m gonna need you to sign the submission of like our submission agreement because it’s technically unsolicited material and you know blah blah blah and I was all right. Yeah, cool. Like what’s the worst they can do.
I mean I work here right well. Ever so then I sign it and I don’t think anything of it and then I can see where this is going. Yeah, it’s a heartbreaker dude, and let’s just say my script ended up being the companies. That they then shifted so that there wasn’t any legal issues to a different sport in a different.
It was a one-hour drama and they put it into not a one-hour drama and let’s just say it’s a it’s it made it and it was just sorry. It was my store. So okay. So there’s that. There’s a lot of look there’s a lot of people out there that always are concerned. Especially Young Riders about they’re going to steal my idea.
They’re going to steal my story and then I’ve always heard that like look professionals. Don’t worry about these kind of things because you’ll get sued but you that’s a perfect example of them taking it twisting it a bit and all of a sudden they’ve got it. So so in your opinion is thievery a major issue, You know, I think it was one guy who I trusted when I maybe shouldn’t have I’ll say this to he no longer works there shocker.
I’m sure that’s not the first sleazy thing that he’s done. So it’s a person-by-person basis. Right? Right. Are you a good judge of town? Are you a good judge of character of those are the two things that really come up in this business, you know what I mean? So because there’s a lot of sleazy people out there.
Yes, but I would say that it’s a one in a thousand chance that somebody’s going to steal your project. So I would say in the big scheme of things register it if you want to spend the extra money get the copyright from the Library of Congress 35 bucks. Yeah, but but you know, what, don’t worry about it as much as like, I’m the exception not the rule, you know what I mean?
So while I do have some horror stories, right? It also gave me the fact that like. It was a learning, you know, it was my script wouldn’t have gotten made. You know what I mean? Like I’ll say that right now, they turned it into what it needed to be. I just wish they would have done it with me as opposed to which is which is again, I had written the script largely on company computers with company resources.
It was theirs, you know what I mean because of those laws and it’s just like having an understanding of what intellectual property law is is different than writing a spec script in your basement and sending it out to people like it’s completely different. You know what? I mean, like don’t worry about submitting your script to contest that somebody’s going to rip you off.
It’s not going to happen. You know what I mean? And if so you have you have your receipt you have the person probably who read it. If it becomes that at least the company does I would just say that it’s again on the exception not the rule and while that is a terrible story. It’s rare if ever happens, you know, and it’s just my luck that happened to me.
So right and that’s where I would end it, you know what I mean? Well, but I also heard the mythical story of how when Tim Burton was working at Disney. He drew Jack skeleton and a bunch of the characters from Nightmare Before Christmas and threw them away. In the trash can someone picked it up and said these are great and these are great and he put them away.
And from that point on it was owned by Disney because he signed the contract that said anything that creates while there on company time is there’s the same thing works at so where I work now is the same situation, right? So, And I don’t know should I even say what I do now? Okay, that’s fine. So it’s the same way, right?
So if I develop something on like I’m even scared because of that process to like bring my personal computer in and use the Wi-Fi, you know what I mean? Because they could even though I’m doing it on my computer. I may not even be working. At that time but I’m still using technically their resources because they’re the ones paying for life.
You know what I mean? So it’s like I don’t even think it’s that crazy. You know what I mean? So it’s like if you’re gonna be working at a company like a production company and you’re going to be one of these low-level employees with thoughts of like I’m going to get my work out there just be cautious just understand the game.
You know what I mean? Don’t do it on your company computer, which at this point sounds like common sense, right? It didn’t five seven years ago, you know. So I wasn’t even thinking that that would be a thing but it was a learning process and I’ve since sold other things and I’m not you know, it’s not like I’m my dreams were shattered.
My my swan song that I was getting out there. It’s like well one thing I find fascinating about your story in general. Is that your script you also do obviously script writing a script reading and script coverage, which we’re going to get into but you’re also a. A successful screenwriter, you actually sold material you’ve developed material year not just ask read a script reader or a script or script someone who descript coverage which I think is an assumption that a lot of people especially screenwriters young screenwriters think that descript coverage guys are all you know 18.
Yeah, you know, and there is some truth to that there is there is. So again on the exception to the rule, right? So I’m actually I’ve actually been in talks with you know, actually, we’ll talk about that when we will talk about that when you and I sure. But you know, so there are sites out there.
You know what I mean that do have working writers, but to be perfectly honest with you. You don’t want to get the coverage notes that you’re going to get from a working writer necessarily all the time because those aren’t the people that are going to be reading your material at the production companies.
And I mean, the first line of defense in any production company is the interns is a development assistance. So if you’re writing for the people who are actual writers. You’re going to get a vastly different perspective on what the material should be versus what the 18 to 24 year old fresh out of college doesn’t have a weapon clue about what it could writing is and it’s just hoping to maybe become a producer at the or a low-level employee at this.
Company that they’re working for. Those are the people that are reading scripts can only so let’s go through the process. So let’s go real quick. Let’s back it up for a second. Let’s go through the process of getting coverage. Like can you explain to the audience what the process is completely from Soup To Nuts so they can get a better idea.
Yeah, so are we talking from like a coverage site or we talking coverage from a development company? I’m gonna go development company because I mean when you go to a coverage site like like, you know my coverage site or something like that you’re working with readers and they’re just you’re getting notes from your you know, and trying to help the writer move forward with their process and one way shape or form.
Is that accurate? Yeah, okay, but now when you’re sending it to a development company production company, I would rather get that workflow involved because I think that’s a little bit more behind the curtains. Yeah. Yeah. It’s yeah, I agree with you. So the big hurdle that you have to get over is right is getting it there in the first place.
Yeah. Because a lot of these companies it’s not like you can call them up and be like, hey, I have this script or you want to read it because they’re not even gonna answer your call. You’re gonna get past the gatekeeper. If you send them to like the info at production company.com email address.
It’s going to go straight to the trash. You’re going to get a note that says, hey, we don’t accept unsolicited material. By the way, please sign this your script is not going to be read your blah blah. You ended up in the trash so get it. So how do you the question should be first? How do you get there, right.
And you get there by having a friend who possibly works there. You know what I mean? Which means you know, there’s a lot of writers out there like, oh, I don’t have to live in LA. If you’re an aspiring writer chances. Are you do have to go out there at some point? You know, I mean you have to you have to do your time you have to do here.
Everybody has to you know what? I mean? Go live go get coffee go grind it out. That’s why I interned, you know what I mean? Because I got to know these people. Who could then get my script into places without me needing representation. Now, the other side of that is if you have a manager or you have an agent that can say pick up the phone and be like, hey Steven Spielberg.
Do you want to read the script? Oh, yeah. Thanks John Rabe and then he gave it right. So there’s that side of the coin to the for people who are looking to get you know to break into the industry. That one’s more rare than the other side of the coin, right? So my. To pull the curtain back a little bit.
You have to understand the level of fear that these development concerns and assistance have will generally the business in general is fearful. Oh, yeah. Oh, and yes, absolutely and I think. The higher you get up the higher the stakes are but those people already making presumably a decent amount of money.
You know what I mean? It’s the people who are making $450 a week who are there from seven o’clock til ten o’clock at night reading scripts who are want to put their neck out there because they want to get noticed and appreciated and and promoted Etc. They want to get to that next level, but that’s like you.
Just like you would get one chance to submit your script and impress a producer. It’s the same with being an intern or an assistant. If you bring them garbage, they’re going to think of you as a person who enjoys garbage, you know what I mean? So the level of fear at these places and this is why you get 1500 nose is because you have to have you have to find the person who’s got the stones or you know, the the guts I shall holidays cojones right to to.
Be like, hey boss person. I think I found a really good script and I think you should read it. You know what I mean? Like because they got one shot so as much as the writer has the One-Shot the script reader has the One-Shot exactly exactly as I think as writers, we forget that. You know what? I mean, especially aspiring writers because it’s not just your career that’s in Jeopardy here.
It’s it you start at the entry level you your entry level script goes the entry level person. Now, do you think Jonathan Nolan scripts go to the entry level person? You gotta be out of your damn mind. All he has to do is pick up the phone and say. Hey, it’s Jonathan Nolan. Yeah, it’s kind of you want to read my script and it’s like oh well by it, you know like page one title.
Okay, great. It’s got a title page. Let’s go. This is probably gold. That’s why you know, I mean, right it was like so that’s a completely different scenario, but the people who aren’t on the people who aren’t Jonathan the ones of the world and the people who maybe are like second and third tier Jonathan no one’s even they go straight to the development assistance first, you know, and I think that that is.
Something to understand is level of fear and hesitation there. So they’re always looking to find what’s wrong with your script. They’re looking I work for a boss ones who told me to read a script till its third mistake and then throw it in the trash. So that could have been grammar that could have been spelling the could have been formatting which is a big one because of you don’t know how to format a script.
You don’t know you don’t understand what the script is. You know what I mean? So it was like read the script and the third mistake and if it’s in the first 10 pages throw it away, you know, I mean if you get past 30 and then you get it and it’s like you’re already invested in the story at that point you might as well just finish it, you know, but if they make three mistakes in the first three pages of the first 10 pages like.
People always say like, it’s your first 10 pages that cell. You know what I mean? If nobody’s going to watch if you’re not hooked in the first 10 pages of a book or of a of a play or a film or descript like it’s dying, you know what I mean? The same goes for us aspiring screenwriters. So it’s like you.
Have to be sure that that at least your first 30 pages are absolutely Flawless, you know what I mean? And I’m not just talking story on talking formatting spelling done talking you talk a little bit about that because that is something that is unknown to sign because I’ve read so many scripts that I’m like dude spellcheck man, right like just your Mammy its final draft you can format.
This is not difficult anymore guys, you know what it is. Honestly, it’s a pride in one’s work. And if you’re asking somebody to take an hour to three hours out of their day to read your script, you better give them something that’s looks like you put a lot of effort into it. You know what I mean?
Because if you’re trying to get somebody to buy your stuff, but you have you can’t spell the name of your main character, right? Four or five times? Why should we you obviously didn’t care. Why should we you know what I mean? And I think that’s another thing that goes missed on people. So it’s like as as when you pull back the curtain.
Those are the things that first and outright the first thing that anybody’s going to do when they read your script as well as an assistant is flip to the back page and see how long it is. Yep. They’re going to say this is going to take me so if you’re submitting an hundred and thirty page script, they’re going to put that on the bottom of the pile and go to the 90-page script that because the in their eyes, it’s like, oh I can go tell my boss that I read for scripts today.
So I’m going to do the short ones first and save the long one for the weekend. You know what I mean? So again something to acknowledge right now, but also I also heard that sometimes you can lie and change the number count inside. So if you’re like at a hundred and one you could put you could just omit numbers in the middle of the script to make it look like it’s a 90 page script when it’s actually really I’ve never heard of that.
You’ve never heard. I’ve seen that happen. That’s hilarious. Grifter, I was just flying through it so fast, I didn’t realize that there was that for page for they just skip a page and you just forget about it and all but that way it’s I’m not suggesting anyone does that but I’ve heard of it so I don’t know if you’ve ever cooked apparently works because you’ve never seen what yeah, right exactly which is which is an interesting thing.
But also it’s like I it’s pretty easy to tell when you’ve got a 90 page script sitting next to a hundred and thirty page script. Well, then if there’s yeah there’s only a handful of pages you could cut off with that technique. It’s like five six pages shipshape like 101 the one not. Oh nine is gonna break you you know, that’s if you’re really hiding Pages at that point like yikes.
Like I think you’ve got bigger problems. You know, you’re absolutely right. If you’re exactly if you can’t shave eight pages off or 10 pages off your script, you’re too close, you know, and that’s the thing. So my manager and my agents are very good about allowing me, especially my early drafts to write what I want to write.
But then, you know when we’re about to go to market. They’re very good about being like listen, you’re at a hundred and Seventeen right now, which is fine. But like go through the script again take a couple days off get drunk, you know, maybe smoke a joint like do do whatever it is that you need to do to get out of the rider mine frame and get into the reader mind frame and think to yourself like.
This is your final draft sure, but what absolutely doesn’t have to be there and undoubtedly, I end up cutting four or five scenes which brings it from a 117 to a 108 or 104. You know what I mean? It’s because it’s so it ends up being like no. Yes, I love this. And what was Ernest Hemingway that says like go back through delete all your good lines.
See if the story still works or something like that. Yeah, something like that. It’s like it’s so true. You know what I mean? Because we as writers, we like get attached to the certain things that. As writers we love but as like readers, it’s like okay. This is just more for them to get through to get to the next point.
You know, I mean, I hate to say that because that’s where a lot of the art comes in. You know what I mean? Well, no, is it I thought it was Hemingway or Mammoth that said writing is easy. All you have to do is sit at a typewriter and bleed. That’s a yeah, that was a Hemingway class. I’m sure yeah, that’s yeah.
Yeah, exactly and it’s so true, you know what I mean? And it’s even bleed even more because he’s also saying writing after all is rewriting. You know, it means so he’s a big proponent of like sure bleed but then go back and cut yourself up in a few more times every paper cuts shaking and when it when you don’t die, that’s that’s the script of the story you’ve got.
Here it is it is it’s quite brutal. Sometimes be really diligent because those are the types of things that is. Woman assistance if you go through and they they see that you’ve got like eight scenes that don’t necessarily if you’ve got a Savvy reader, you know, you’re lucky but you’re also in a spot where it’s like you better be on.
Yeah, you keep your script better be on because this guy’s gonna be or this girl’s going to be you know what I mean? So it’s like she’s got a great perspective of what a good script is. So you’re better. You better fit the mold, you know what I mean? And in realize too that like when you pull back the curtain this is I think I speak for every development or reader person regardless of your hand, you know of major Studio or a small production company you’re looking for reasons to say.
No, you know what I mean, like from from from the title page the end of the script you’re looking for reasons to say no. And protect your little area of comfortability that you’ve built it your internship or your development assistant jobs or what up? Yeah, you know what? I mean? So it’s like you’re looking for reasons to say no because no doesn’t put you at risk, you know, yes is immediately when you like roll the dice at the craps table, you know what I mean?
So I think from and dude, I got to tell you I read some fantastic Scripts. As well that like didn’t fit in line with what our production companies mandate was at that time. You know what I mean? So even though we had we maybe had won an Oscar for a drama movie. We were focusing on low-budget comedy.
So while I’ve got this great script that I would love to recommend because yeah when you look at our. Or IMDb page of scripts that we’ve done. It’s like yeah, that would definitely fit into the mold but not our current mandate, you know what I mean? So like understanding what a production company’s current mandate is an understanding that that’s fluid and changing whereas like, you know, most production companies if your horror your whore, you know what I mean, like your blue house your blue Mouse you could sort of have a mandate.
It’s like we’re looking for female-led whores or were looking for. You know paranormal type of stuff or you know Purge just did really great. Can we find our own Purge? You know what I mean? It’s like they think like that, you know what I mean, like whatever Trend followers writers like to think of themselves as trendsetters.
Where do you find the balance of fitting into what these production companies? Are trying to do moving forward in the future. And the truth. Is that a lot of them don’t have a clue what they want. What is it? Do you agree? Right now? How many production companies around town are looking for the next crazy Rich Asians?
Oh, I think I think every you’re going to everyone right everyone right now is looking for that. But three years ago whenever when that was going out to Market. No, dude. Nobody would have Cricket idea that crickets, you know, I mean, it’s the same way the stranger things. I don’t know their story.
You’re wrong. I I’ve only heard it secondhand but they got like reject everybody every Network in town everybody split and they’re like, we don’t understand the tone. We don’t understand the tone. Like why are these kids like swearing and stuff like that? Like I would just don’t is this adult adult show is kid show its fantasy.
It’s me out could what is deal with it? Did you just couldn’t deal with it? They could wrap their heads around and now guess what they’re doing. Everybody wants their own stranger things. You know, I mean, of course so like if you think if these companies like if you live in LA and you meet a producer at a bar and you’re getting drunk next to the pool or something like that, he’s like, oh, yeah, you know, we’re looking for a female lead crime Thrillers that are four quadrant and you’re like, yes.
Okay. I’ve got one of those you know what I mean? Like say yes, obviously, you know what? I mean, right even if it doesn’t fit all those bills because they’re not they don’t know what they want. They know what they think they want and you have to convince them that what they think they want is actually what you have, you know what I mean, but isn’t it?
It’s just there’s just so many hurdles that you have to get through. You know and it but there are those few. Those are those few producers and companies who are ahead of the curve and I think 99% of the rest of the town is chasing the casing. Yeah, I agree. I agree 100% because those are because the ones the first ones through the wall are always bloodied.
Yeah, exactly. And and and I think too that like it’s a great observation to make because. Those are also the companies who may not be around in five years, you know what I mean? Correct because because they were willing to take chances and I think it goes back to what we were talking about before which is like, why do we why are we risking our comfortable ball here to potentially be out of business in five years because we went and bought three scripts that we’re not going to be able to get cast or Finance or packaged or in front of screens, you know in front of viewers, you know what I mean?
So it’s like. Everybody wants to call himself a producer. You know what? I mean? Oh everyone’s a producer and everyone. Yeah, and it’s just like, you know, it it comes back to what my first story which is are you a good judge of character? Are you a good judge of talent? Pair yourself up with the people that you trust that you work with that, you know, and before you start slinging your script around to like everybody and their mother trying to get in front of as many people.
It’s not about getting it’s not about a numbers game. It’s about the right people because if you get in front of the right people like I’ve got a buddy that works. He’s a very successful aging and he works at a very successful company he. He came out a couple years after I did I knew him through a friend.
We’ve sent become great friends, even though he read some of my he he actually read that script that I was talking about. He was one of the guys that read it and he was like dude. This is a fucking great script. Like I want you to change this that and the other and then all that shit went down and it was like dude.
Don’t worry about it. Work on your next one and he was very good about like keeping it. He wasn’t even my agent and he was really good about like keeping me more like focused, you know, right he says and he was like dude, it’s not going to be the only good thing you ever right? You know, it’s just the first thing first good thing you ever wrote.
So keep writing and just know that this door is always open and even if I say, no, even if it’s not for me, I’m not closing the door on you. And that’s the type of people that slider should look for you know what I mean? Because you build the bond first. I didn’t meet this guy knowing that he was going to become this great agent.
I met this guy because again, ironically we bonded over football. He went to a big football school. I went to a big football school my buddy who I knew from high school went to that school. We were Rivals. We were at a we were at shit with Barney’s Beanery watching college football. I get my I get introduced this guy who’s a low-level intern at the point at that point and I’m like dude.
I like you. Let’s hang out. Let’s get beers and we became friends and as he climbed the ladder, so did I and even to this day if I wanted to fire my current agent? I’d know that I had an open door at his. I know that I could send him stuff and that’s the type of people that you need to be looking for.
It’s not the it’s not the numbers. It’s the quality. It’s quality not quantity. So make the relationships with people. Keep those relationships up. I think if you come out here looking for money and looking on the network and meet as many people as you possibly can to help you you’re going in with the wrong mentality.
You know what I mean? Uh-huh. Go in knowing that like you want to make this place a home. You want to make this business a home you want to make these people your friends and that’s so rare to find in LA and that’s why so many people turn tail and run after five six years because they can’t afford it and they know that their yoga job isn’t going to make them enough money to survive and raise kids, you know.
The Uber job every time I get into an Uber. I always go. How’s the script? I’ve actually done that a few times and they go how did you know, you know, are you a producer? I’m like no, I’m not a produces. Not not sorry, but I guarantee you they said if you said that you were they’d be like, oh, well, do you mind if I get your email address?
It’s like that’s not a relationship built on trust and integrity has a relationship built on wants and needs and unrealistic expectations. That’s cool. Just a great great and that’s a great way to put it it really is because I always tell people. If you if you met someone at a party, you wouldn’t just Jam your script in their face.
Yeah, you would meet them you introduce yourself. If you’re if you’re a human if you introduce yourself and go. Hey, how are you? And I always tell people you always ask them what you can do. What can I do for you? How can I be of service to you? And that’s a great way to start a relationship and start building truly is and you know, and even like so even outside of that, you know, I mean where it’s like.
It’s like hey you we have something on Common Ground to bond over. You know what I mean? Maybe they’re excited about going to see crazy Rich Asians. And so are you it’s like dude, let’s go together. You know what? I mean? Let’s go together. Let’s go talk about you know what? I mean, like build a relationship up from the ground just like you would if you were moving to, you know, Podunk Ville, Wherever yeah, but I mean it’s like how are you going to mean people?
You know what? I mean, you’re going to get involved in the community you’re going to do things that the community likes to do. You’re going to find common ground and maybe I have a different perspective because I moved around a lot as a kid. So whenever I go is like when I was. Going to a new place.
It was like sports. It was clubs. It was it was, you know Community, you know meetings whether it be churches or whatever. You know what I mean? Like that’s how our family integrated in the community and you have to go out with a mentality of like I’m going to integrate in the community first and you’re going to find that like if you go out there with genuine intentions to like meet people.
Instead of meet people that are going to help you the perspective is it may not seem like it but the perspective is drastically different and so are the results and amen preacher preach
now as going back to being a script reader. What is the biggest mistake you see screenwriters make so every I met a woman. Change my life change my perspective really on what it meant to be a writer and a granted at this point. I’d already sold two scripts blah blah blah add, you know got my my creative writing degree.
I got my MFA in screenwriting. I got all this stuff. Right and I we went to the wga in this woman. I’m not going to say her name. She was giving a talk there super successful and she was like Hey, you know, everybody around town is kind of come up with the next great idea. When they should be coming up with the next great character and that really spoke volumes, that’s because that’s deep but yet simple it’s so simple, right and it’s like I’m sitting there in the audience and I listen it’s like light bulbs going off and like I’m getting tingly feelings in my feet and my toes and I’m like, oh my God, like she’s so right.
I mean you think about it like like. Madman, great great great show but is a great character Breaking Bad Breaking Bad. Soprano what Walter White Sopranos? Like all of these great shows all of the even movies like like look at Little Miss Sunshine Olive is a great character. You know, I mean that is filled with great characters William Wallace in Braveheart.
Braveheart wouldn’t be brave heart without. That character in I mean and I think Indiana Jones, of course, Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones like it it complete and that’s the that’s the biggest thing that I feel like writers don’t understand is that they’re trying to write for the spectacle and not for the.
The character, you know what I mean and you can you can I mean I was about to say structure because they don’t understand structure. And and and I think that’s one of the most important things to learn right but really when you come down to it when you approach the premise or the idea that your structure comes later right from Simply from an idea standpoint.
Like if I don’t care about your character, or I don’t know what they want or what they’re after you could have the most structured story in the world. It’s not going to make sense because I need to know exactly who this character is motivations. Right what their goals are why they’re working towards it and subconsciously.
Why do I give a shit? You know what I mean? And that that I think is a lot of what you know, a lot of these scripts that I cover don’t seem to understand because I’ve given the note. I mean I could probably give this note on every single script that I see coming in from a first-time Rider which is decent story it functions.
But like why do I care? You know and I’m going to care when I care about the character when you when you created a good enough well-rounded character and I mean that Carriage could exist in a temple movie. It could exist in a micro budget hundred thousand dollar film. I don’t care that no applies to every single budget and genre that there is if you don’t care about the characters if they’re not making so I call it the ChaCha’s of Storytelling right?
It’s a character that is approach with challenges. And then in the end they change, you know what I mean? It’s like those three simple things the Cha-cha-cha character challenges changes, if their script isn’t built on those three simple things. It’s just not I’m not going to care, you know. And I think crafting a really solid character with clear motivations and a clear flaw that we can both sympathize with and root for that.
That’s when the magic starts to happen structure it. Anyway, you want that point because at this point I care about the character I’ll spend 20 pages in their normal world because I’m interested. You know what I mean? I mean look, I mean I watched I watched the last Indiana Jones film purely because of Indiana Jones descript was formed right and you make these good characters and it does it creates its own franchise.
You know what I mean? Like if they call it. What is it the Spielberg and way of crafting a character or introducing a character like he does it so wonderfully, you know what I mean? Yeah Paul Thomas Anderson. What am I mean? I want to clarify. It’s not that you have to like the main character.
Baited by the main character. So like There Will Be Blood is a great example of that first seven minutes of that movie both. I mean the script is a little less right? And if you look at the final draft of the script like it’s a little it’s different than what you see in the movie. But the premise of it is the same right?
This is guy who is Relentless and. Unbelievably motivated to get rich, you know what I mean to the point where he drags himself leg broken and all to go turn in the little chunk of silver that he has to start his takeover of the world where I basically yeah, and I didn’t like I’m and I knew from like the instant that this guy was on screen.
I was like this guy is a maniac but I can’t take my eyes off of him. You know what I mean? And Daniel Day-Lewis did a great job. But even on the screen when you are even in the script when he read it on the page, it’s like. This is a such a well-crafted character. You know what I mean? And another nation that I don’t want to spoil it or anything to know what that person goes through.
You have the script. It’s like you don’t have to like him to care about the movie. You know what I mean to care about what happens so right Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. I mean, seriously, he’s a psychopath but whether you like you cannot take your eyes off of him or Jack Nicholson in The Departed, you just can’t take your eyes off of it.
Yep, I mean and that and that to me is like when I enter into a script like I get really excited when I read a shitty script with a fantastic character because like they’re Miles and Miles Ahead of somebody who’s got a good script with a bad character. You know what I mean? Yes. Yes like this. I mean you can sell you can sell a bad script with a great character.
You can’t sell. A decent functional script with a bad character. She’s not going to happen. Right and I just actually just started watching the Americans for the first if you guys seen that should have you seen the show. Graham Yost is probably my favourite writer ever him and I really love Taylor shared.
I’m really into Taylor Sheridan right now, but like but this I mean I just we’re literally in season 1 my wife and I cuz it’s a summer and we do our shows haven’t started yet and I’m like, this is so well written the characters are the sewer so. Well crafted you hate you love they go back and they go forth and like we’re six seven episodes and I’m like, there’s six seasons of this.
I can’t wait. Yeah. It’s so well done when you but but it begins with character it always began with carry at least with this show. And with most of the shows that are great. It’s always character and you’re right you can you if you have a good character with a bad script you could turn. A bad script into a good script with some other work with it.
I can work but to create a good character is much much more difficult like so we just watch Justified. Yeah, my wife and I’d seen it before she had again a great character it right like it’s it’s say what you want about the show. I mean, I think it’s a great show. But like if you read Elmore Leonard’s.
Short story that is based off of that is all about character. You know what I mean that that translated well into the actual show and obviously character is more. What do you say like, it’s put on a higher pedestal when you’re watching a TV show because it’s built on characters, right like the stories whatever it’s you’re not supposed to end is stories and television all about keeping it going right.
Where is a film like let’s end it properly. Right, right. So the reason we keep coming back, especially like procedural shows like NCIS, for example, it’s like we keep coming back because we love these dinozzo’s these Eva’s these you know, like we just love these people and it’s like it’s it’s it’s pretty outstanding and.
Yeah, I guess you are camping spot in my world. No, no, absolutely without Crimea character and structure. I think both of those to those are the two things characters their first and then you got to get that structure. You have to have you have to have a good good clothes to put on the character if you.
Yeah, and I actually made a mistake earlier. The Americans is not by Graham Yost, but no it isn’t it enough for guys Dutch. It’s Joe eyes. Yes. Yes, yes, but they’re very similar. You know, I mean, it was specially in the way that they create they portray their characters and I. I feel bad that I messed that up.
But it’s all good. It’s no one knows who you are. So it’s fine.
Sorry Graham. Sorry so in general. Well, first of all, can you give us any tips on what get that what would catch the attention of a script reader for that low level? I think we kind of touched on it. But is there any specific thing besides having a great care? So and I feel like a lot of is just to make the readers job easy, you know what I mean?
So it’s like in when you’re reading a novel like you can spend six pages describing the color of the lamp. You know what I mean? Yes in a script you just say the lamp is yellow and if it doesn’t matter to the scene of the lambdas yellow and get it the F out of there, you know, I mean, it’s like so one of the first things that I’ll see on page one, which is like.
If it doesn’t have to be there, it shouldn’t be and I can tell right away whether or not the reader or the writer is going to be showing us is going to be showing us the thing the information rather than telling us, you know, and leaving enough room and acknowledging the fact that this is a collaborative Endeavor.
You know what I mean? Like you shouldn’t direct the scene. You shouldn’t have, you know close up here like really good Scripts. Describe those moments in a way that they don’t have to sit there and tell you that you’re reading a script it on a dolly shot in yeah, like take that out. You know what I mean?
Like in you can tell right away so that would be one thing about let’s say it’s like don’t direct the script. Don’t direct the Riders understand formatting grammar spelling take pride in your work and then do a good job of making us care about your character in the first three pages. You know what I mean, or at least make it interesting.
Enough or fascinating enough to where we can’t take our eyes off the script and there’s a trick that my manager actually taught me which is a you know, it’s not just about hooking them into the first couple pages, right if you can hook them to the point where. You believe something at the bottom of page 9 that makes them turn to the page top of page 10 and then leaving something at paid the bottom of page 10 that forces them to turn the page.
It’s super hard, right, but it once you start getting into the final drafts of your script, like it should flow like that. You know what I mean to where it’s like they can’t stop turning the page, you know, but it’s super. It’s very very difficult to get on that microscopic level. But if you’re submitting a script to a production company, you should have thought about those microscopic things and very easy to tell when a writer has or hasn’t as simply you know, grammar spelling formatting.
You know what I means would make sure that those are those are the things that right off the bat and if you got a hundred and thirty page script, like I hope it comes with a two-page treatment or something like that because they’re going to get. To long did not read. Well the hell let’s Tarantino’s name was on it.
Sorry what LS Tarantino’s name is on it. Yeah, exactly. I mean Jonathan Nolan’s Dark Knight was like what like hundred and fifty two pages or something like that, but it’s Jonathan Nolan and crystalline and it’s okay and I get that a lot with new writers and they’re like but so-and-so did it this way?
It’s like yeah, but so and so made a shitload of money in the last and so it’s like you’re not you’re not sewing sound if you’re given is it fair to say that you’re given a lot of leeway in this business one? You start making a lot of money a hundred percent and that’s why I tell you I’ll tell Young Riders to it’s like go read scripts.
Right and it’s like but I’m going to tell you right now don’t describe characters. Like they do don’t format. Like they do don’t do that kind of stuff because they’ve earned the right to misspell their characters named they’ve earned the right to have formatting errors. You know what I mean?
They’ve earned that right so you haven’t so you have to play by those rules before you. Either a or too lazy to break them or to care or you are established enough to where you can break them and break them. Well, you know, so yeah, I mean that’s that’s another thing. It’s like. Don’t compare yourself to successful writers just yet.
Oh God. I know I get that all the time. Like I don’t like, okay good Lord. I also hate when people use the word we in script. I know a lot of people do it, especially professional writers and especially writer-director types. It’s just like it just reminds you that you’re reading a script, you know, we see this we see that.
Yeah, and at the very basic level what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to absorb the reader, especially a reader who doesn’t really have a clue about screenwriting or storytelling like you’re supposed to absorb them into the story as much as possible. So your imprint on the script should be as minuscule and invisible as possible when you start bringing in.
We we know you’re a real person. We know this is written by somebody. It’s not just a story that we’re swimming around and it’s it’s a it’s a script and I think if you can make like right delfield does a really good job. Of making you forget that you’re reading a script. Have you read any of his grace?
I have not read any script. Can you tell the audience who he is and what he’s done? Yeah. He just had a movie coming out called the babysitter. Okay? Oh, yeah, the one by McGee. Yeah. Yeah, he has a key. So Brian Duffield, I think somebody told me this I don’t quote me on it. Don’t don’t tell me if it’s right or wrong.
I don’t even really want to know but I like telling the story that he sold more spec scripts or had more time. He’s one of the more successful spec Riders over the last like five or ten years. I think Esther I think esterhaus has that. Yeah that correct it but it’s like it’s like you read their script.
It’s you can find it online go time. In fact, I’m gonna do it right now the babysitter. It’s like it’s it’s okay. There it is. It’s 93 Pages. Hmm. The first line is interior nurse’s office day call is 12 years old and losing his mind. That’s the first line. That’s a good way to start. You know what I mean?
Yeah, and it’s like you don’t have to overthink it you don’t have to over describe it and I love Brian Duffy loves riding because he lets the he lets you make the picture in your own head just as if like your I had a I had a writer once tell me that what you’re writing is actor bait, you know what I mean?
Uh-huh, and it’s so true, right, but it’s also director bae. You know what? I mean? So if you’re over describing your scenes that just takes away from the creative side that a director can the creative imprint that a director could put onto this to the script, right? So it’s like the less you can tell the more leeway.
You can give to those other creative elements that are brought on to make to bring your script to life like do it, you know what I mean? So. Like I think less is always always always always more and it’s so difficult to like get that to come across some people because they’re like, what does that mean?
And it’s like if it doesn’t absolutely have to be there don’t let it be there in the field is so good at it and he’s. He’s always properly formatting stuff. And even though he’s an established ready. You can tell like he doesn’t shortchange the other like two pages down. There’s another wonderful description Cole’s waiting for the school bus besides Melanie another 12 year old also as a neighbor also definitely not a potential love interest for coal.
So whoever told you that is an idiot and a liar and a loser and it interrupts the conversation with her dialogue. So it’s like it’s like you’ve seen it happen. You know what I mean? You has a voice, you know what I mean like. I don’t know like go Rebrand of field trips. Like he’s a fantastic writer as well.
The guy deserves a lot more credit. No, then we ask you also. Can we please just put out there in the universe to people stop using $0.75 words and script and screenplay? Is that is that a big is that a big No-No they want to prove to you that they have a they have a complete grasp of the English language and want to prove to you how smart they are by using words that no one has ever used in.
You again it comes back to life. Yes short answer your question. Absolutely again comes out to knowing who’s reading your script, right? If you have to send a 19 year-old out to go get a dictionary. You’re not going to shoot. You know, I mean, it’s like have you ever read the alien? Yeah, well, I haven’t loved the script while to Hell Walter held amazing interior engine room.
Empty cavernous. That’s it straight up. That’s that’s it. Like jam with instruments all of them idle Consul chairs for to empty. It’s like yes, that’s what you need to be doing. Like paint the picture build it up. There’s a the patina of the walls can be smelled and like no dude. No, that’s that’s a book.
That’s a book exactly. That’s a bonobo your medium. In and then like a lot of writers ic2 especially Young Writers and I see a lot of this with writers who and this always gets me where it right where it’s like on the title page. It’ll say written by, you know, John Stevens based on a book by John Stevens.
I’m like, oh God, this is gonna be rough because I’ve heard hi. It’s John from still literary background, you know, I mean a prose writing background. How is that going to translate and sometimes I’ve been surprised there have been a couple Riders who have surprised me. But for the vast majority, it’s like yikes, you know what I mean?
Like you’re basically copying and pasting certain elements of description from your book Into The Script format and dialogue Etc. Like there was one writer who I could tell was copying pasting dialogue directly from like his Microsoft Word document into the final draft document because a lot of the dialogue like he forgot to delete the quotation marks like Parts.
Oh, this is brutal. It would be like said eagerly. At the end of the dialogue dude, man alive. I’m okay. So know that I’ll say about that is like. If you can’t see it on the screen that shouldn’t be in the script and there are exceptions to that especially when like describing a character. For instance.
Like I feel like you can do a little bit of editorializing in those moments that to give a bigger shape to like who that person is, you know, or like Shane black had a really good one rose like somebody’s always really good at describing things. Right, but he also has a voice and at this point he was Shane black.
So he wrote something. I can’t remember what it was. It was like it was like. Huge penthouse the pipe I’m going to own this fucking movie sauce. Yeah, he does. Yes, that is so shameful act seduce yourself. Like if you can if you can inject yourself into the script in that way that’s different than what we were talking about earlier, which is like.
Do you know what I mean? Yeah, I mean, yeah, there’s I have heard of God. I’ve heard of screenwriters. I’ve read screenplays that have that kind of stuff like the put a little note like and this is for the script reader and blah blah blah like those but they’re at an established point there and establish point they can play.
With the medium a little bit, but Shane black is a perfect example. You read Lethal Weapon you each kiss me. I wasn’t gone. Kiss me long kiss. Goodnight. Yeah any of those I’m dying to see Predator at the Predator. I can’t write I can’t wait to see that but he’s amazing and the way he writes you’re like, okay I get it.
But he is that kind of writer. You’re absolutely right. It’s like the penthouse like after I saw the script directly. Yeah. He’s got a voice. You know what? I mean? He’s got a voice that doesn’t. Interfere with the story and in fact, it does the opposite where it’s like I want to see what else this guy’s got to say shit, you know what I mean?
Because if you have the balls if you have the balls to do that and again, I wouldn’t suggest of now it’s time to screen until you go out right like Shane back black for sure are you know, it’s been done. It’s been tried many times before and it failed. It’s like when people try to look after Pulp Fiction came out forget everybody was trying to write Packers everybody’s writing chapters.
Everybody was writing chapters. Everybody was trying to be yeah, that was that was that movie that came out of the how to die in. Enver what to do in Denver when you’re dead and there was like a bunch of ripoff Pulp Fiction movies right afterwards Pulp Fiction course, there’s going to be a whole bunch of crazy Rich Asians movies that are but you can’t write like Tarantino.
Well, we stop people like you can’t direct like Fincher. You can’t direct like Nolan or Kubrick you could be inspired absolutely, but at the end of the day they’re going to do them much better than you could ever do. One of my one of my best friend’s is a very very talented writer and he doesn’t write he does write scripts, but he mostly rights Pros published The Works, you know, I mean and he was like when I first started out writing he was like I was trying to I would read a book by somebody that would really impress me and then I would go and try to write like them and he was like it took me years to get something published because I wasn’t writing.
For who I am or what? I want to say. I was writing what I thought people wanted to read. And I think that that is a you know what I mean, it goes back to like. Don’t don’t think that you are submitting writing that somebody else absolutely wants to read like don’t go don’t approach it like that approach.
If you’re starting from that place, you’re already making mistakes, you know what I mean on it’s going to take you a long long time to figure out that you’re making mistakes and hopefully like you have a really stable job at Starbucks because you’re going to need it, you know, no and that advice goes exactly for directors as well.
Because I mean I made those mistakes I have my Robert. Quentin Tarantino film that I try to make that look just like theirs and tried it and show everybody how I look how cool I am and it didn’t work out because I wasn’t using my own voice. I didn’t find I didn’t I didn’t know who I was yet, and I know that sounds pretentious as fuck but it’s true take it doesn’t though it doesn’t because it makes so much sense for those for those of us out there who actually did that, you know who who tried to write like the people that inspired us only to find out like.
Like okay, maybe certain elements of them work for me, but I’m not going to be successful until I find my own and it Riders out there. It’s going to take you years to figure that out. Don’t do it is to keep writing and for you directors. The only way to do it is to keep directing the garbage so that you can figure out what you like to do.
You know what I mean? You can figure out your inner Spielberg. Without having Spielberg attached to it. You know what? I mean? I mean JJ JJ Abrams, who is this? Probably close to Spielberg as you pass today. But JJ movie is a JJ movie. Yep. There’s no question. I mean you can smell the that you can smile even when he did Super 8, which is Super 8 was like a homage.
It was literally just like if Spielberg was reincarnated. Yep, but it’s still had his. In flavor, absolutely. It was not a ripoff. It was not a rip off at all. So that’s why those movies are successful now before before we finish because I mean we could talk for hours. I can say I know right and I appreciate your time.
I appreciate your time deep throat, you know, you’ve dropped a lot of stuff mean honestly this this podcast I am going to recommend any time. I meet a screenwriter. I’m like you’re going to need to listen to deep throat screen writing about the body. No, no, it’s not. It’s because you’re showing you have given.
I mean a lot of the stuff I knew from being in the business, but you don’t talk about it, but I definitely don’t have your perspective because you’ve walked you walked in places. I haven’t walked so it’s fascinating to see the inside story about other things that I didn’t have access. I didn’t know about.
And it’s the truth and you have a completely liberated to say whatever the hell you want to say. I know we need when you told me we’re just going to do it Anonymous. I was like that completely changes my Approach right now, which is so sweet because it’s like now I get to actually talk about the stuff that matters.
You know what I mean? Like I get to tell these Young Riders are even established writers who are kind of hitting like a lull, you know to me because that happens to happens to me. I think it’s super important to just understand and be reminded of what you’re up. And you know what, I mean and and and knowing that it’s a fluid process, you know what I mean?
Like the and another thing to keep in mind too is like the turnover at these places is insane. God is insane. So like you could submit a draft to an assistant who. Put it up, but then that assistant could go on to work at another company who then it does work or the new assistant is hired and you can resubmit to that person.
We have inside knowledge of like okay the turnovers happening like or or you know, who what was it like Legendary Legendary like revamp their entire Executives. You know what I mean when I had a script in there that they had passed on and I didn’t even get an acknowledgement of. The first around they have the turnover my agents resubmitted it and they were like, oh, let’s get a meeting.
You know what I mean? It’s like it’s like the new regime is willing to meet me, but the old regime thinks I’m garbage. It’s a lot of it’s a lot of so much politicking and it is and it’s just it’s a it’s a game of. Of it’s a human game of what personalities and psychological effects psychology. It’s it’s so more complex than what people think it is.
Like, oh you just committed to a company and so it doesn’t get in you don’t get in. No, this is a game. It’s chess basic. Yep. Yep, and I think there are certain ways and we talked about this already there certain ways to go about it that make you seem more genuine. And I think if you can find if you’re more genuine, you’re going to be you’re going to find people that are more genuine and then you have to worry about anything else.
You know, I mean those doors are going to be open for you. You can write a script that isn’t that great. But like the genuine nature of that relationship is going to leave that door open, you know what I mean? And that’s what I feel like a lot of writers are going to be surprised I think to here.
Hmm because because I think even when I was coming up, I was told by people that it’s like you have one shot with these people and while there’s a lot of Truth to that. There’s also the truth. It’s like yes with the people that you don’t know, you know what I mean, but a lot of what you need to do when you come out here and you should come out here.
Like just go out and meet people and be genuine like be yourself. Don’t be. Oh I’m the aspiring writer and but go like tell myself that like, I’m the writer that’s going to be the next big thing. It’s like no dude go talk to somebody about your fantasy football team. That’s what’s going to get you in the door.
You know what the funny thing is though. When you say that you have to remember that it is so difficult. To be yourself at every stage of growth in your life. That’s true. And only because you know both you and I are in similar vintages as far as age is concerned. We take it for granted now because I don’t I just I am who I am and if you don’t like it go after yourself, I just don’t care.
Yeah exact but it took 20 years to get to this place in my life and a lot of it was the last what 10:15. I want to say the last go through all of that to figure out that okay. This is how it’s done, you know, and then and then the second I did side it to finally just be myself all the door swung open.
Yep. Everything’s first looking everything starts clicking the second you are yourself and you’re comfortable with in your own skin, which is has less to do with the craft of screenwriting and more about your own personal development, but it is part of the equation. Yeah. Yeah, and it’s funny that you say that because one of my best friend’s successful writer really see.
I mean do this kids Got Talent out the ass, right? Like he’s such a talented Rider has has like a stack of scripts that I think anybody would love to buy right but he can’t sell them for the life of him because he is not personal. Yeah, like he’s great at making these characters personal but you put him into a pitch room and done to guy just shuts down like he’s like the most dry person to like, I mean, if you could if you could like split a bottle of whiskey over a pitch meeting like he would be good to go.
You know what I mean? Like. And I feel so bad for him because like honestly, he’s brought me into his pitch meetings being like dude. I’ll put your name on The Script if you help me Pitch it it’s like all right. It’s just like a lot of it has to do with like putting yourself out there and confidence level and like those are all things that like are ancillary, you know what I mean to writing.
It’s all you’re all safe and sound when you’re in your darkroom and you’re typing in in the glow of your computer and everything, like that’s all great. Right, but the true reality is. That is the human business, you know, it’s and you have to make human connections with people and to and you can’t be a robot trying to sell your script and and realize too that when you go out and meet these people at the bars, they’re used to people being like, oh this person only wants to talk to me because they know I can help them get something right.
We could talk for hours about this for hours. Now. How do you like your question? No, I do have one more question because we were talking about this before we started recording and I said stop stop. I want I want to put this in you have done rewrites on some major Studio tentpole things that and I want you just to give a little bit of a glimpse behind the scenes of those Studio movies those writers.
That first draft that final draft conversation we had sure sure so a lot and you’ll see this a lot when you work in development right where it’s like will have acquired the script. It’s from a talented writer. You get the first draft of it. It’s absolute trash. You know what I mean? And I think why did I buy it?
But why do they buy it is it because of the concept is good. Yeah, then I mean sometimes it’s. Assignment right. So it’s like the production company itself will be like we want a movie that is about a guy that finds a girl in the trunk of his rental car. And that’s the premise of the movie. That’s all we’ve got come and Pitch us on your take on that right and then it’ll bring in like four or five writers.
And one of them will be hired to write the script because they came in and they did a good pitch. You know what I mean? Like. That’s that’s one way and then they go out and they rush through the draft because they have a deadline of like three weeks and I guarantee you they didn’t start until four days before because that’s what we do, you know, and and then it’s like then a then who reads the first draft.
It’s like first it’s the development assistant. Let’s get your take on it. How’s the story function? We’ve trained you to do this. We understand that you have good notes like you read a first while I read it and if you have a really cool boss like will compare. You know what I mean? The other the other side of the coin is like.
Okay, we’ve hired this Rider or we bought the script hoping that this guy would like or this girl will be able to rewrite it. You know, we paid them for every right, you know, but realize that the wga standards have certain fees for rewriting and in the contract you’re guaranteed certain aspects and the reality is if like if you don’t deliver in that amount of time, they own the property so they can go out and they or they’ve option to the property so they can go out and hire their own writers to rewrite your stuff for the wga.
If that writer then changes more than 50% of the script or something like that and I don’t know the rules. I’m sure there’s probably somebody out there. That’s like that’s not entirely true. Yes, but the concept was significant changes to the actual piece of property that was optioned or acquired then your name gets puts on is like a you know, whatever and most of my rewrites have been about like.
You know restructuring story or punching up jokes or something like that right where it’s like I’ll do a past that the purely comedy based where it’s like, okay, we’ve got the story now, but we’re struggling to find the areas of Comedy like we need to bring in somebody who’s not as close to us to see where those opportunities lie, you know, so that’s when they bring in a sort of an outside resource like myself or like many many other people out there who make a living off of rewriting as opposed to selling their own stuff.
I’m in the lulz, right? So it’s like you go in and you’ll punch up like a good bit of the jokes or maybe like change the perspective of one characters voice and it ends up working out and then it goes to script and you get to nudge your girlfriend or your wife and be like, hey, that one was mine.
Look everybody’s laughing at it and you know, and it’s super fun and you get to you know, you get to buy you get to you know, make your car payments for a little while and buy a nice steak dinner. And that’s about it. I mean. If you’re Aaron Sorkin your brought on to do a dialogue punch up and you make half a million dollars.
I’m not Aaron Sorkin so I don’t get that kind of right but at the same time it’s like you see a wide variety. Quality wide quality of scripts, right? So like if you’re brought in to rewrite a second draft that the writer, you know was hired to write their idea didn’t pan out. They’ve got two cracks at it.
And now this is this is you’re bringing on somebody else, you know, I mean, like sometimes those scripts are are painful to read a lot of it I think is because and I think I speak for a lot of riders that get to the level of where they’re being called into these meetings. It’s like or pitching for open assignments.
It’s like a. Writers actually hate the physical act of writing. You know what I mean? Like, oh, it’s a brutal and tell stories. They love to craft characters but like to sit down and actually do the work is like excruciating sometimes, you know what I mean, especially when it’s somebody else’s idea and not your own you have to sometimes find the passion and it happens a lot on TV shows a lot on TV shows because you’re all hired to write something that somebody else created and especially if it’s an early season.
It’s like you’re trying to figure out what the show is and people bring in stuff that. You know, they’re given a week right you like you go off the script and you come back and it’s like one week later and it’s like now we have to spend the next month punching the script up as a group. You know what I mean?
Like that’s kind of how it works and to the level of quality that you see from like these professional riders with big names submit these drafts and when you’re brought in is a rewriter do it the quality is variable. Sometimes it’s a really great script and you’re like God, I can’t believe that they weren’t.
That they weren’t on board with this like this is a great take but again, you got to think about their mandate where they’re going where they want to go what they expect to see who maybe they have somebody attached who doesn’t like it. You know what I mean? There are a lot of auxiliary issues that could be there.
Whereas if you just brought onto the scripting phase with no attachments and this is just an open assignment that they wanted and you come in and it’s like you can tell that this writer put together a pitch like. 48 hours before they got the meeting and it’s like okay thus you can tell that in the script because they didn’t really have they may have had the hour-long pitch thought out but they didn’t have the the actual story fleshed out and not even like, you know, two or three months or six months or if 40 days whatever it was to write the script.
You can tell that it’s suffered. You know what I mean? Because it’s even hard for us professional Riders to go in and be like, okay, I completely understand what this is like it’s a process for us to you know. And I think that again a lot of these Young Riders probably don’t understand that that’s the case.
They’re like, oh I’m going to sell my script of this production company and it’s going to go straight to principal photography and it’s gonna go straight to theaters. It’s going to have my name on it. It’s going to be exactly how I did it and you have to be out of your mind. If you think that’s going to be exactly how it works.
Like you’re going to sell the script you make if you’re lucky you get a crack at the rewrite. If not, they’re going to bring in somebody who is an Aaron Sorkin or is. In XYZ, you know that they can afford and that fits with the genre or whatever. They’re gonna do the pawn shops. If they rewrite more than you they’re going to be the ones that get the credit.
You may be lucky enough to get a producer credit or a story by if it’s in your contract if you had a good manager and agent whatever right and then at the end of the day. You may go to the theater to watch the movie that you set out to write and it be completely different than your pitch that guy actually got you the job in the first place.
That’s how it works. It’s like it’s like when you make a product for it’s like apple updates like you get a new Apple updated every three days. You know what I mean? Like they’re Apple updating scripts every three days, you know what I mean? And I think that as a rewriters as writers in general like understanding that that’s the name of the game is critical and I’ve seen I’ve seen some I’ve seen let’s say that I’ve seen some scripts that will never ever see the light of day because they were good and I’ve seen really bad scripts get made because of those auxiliary factors, you know, I’m an actor gets an actual wants to do it.
That’s the end of it. Yeah. Yep, whether or not the original writer who pitched it is good, you know and a lot of it’s done in house. If you get hired by a management / production company, they have a team of writers and the team of directors and a team of actors. Like they have all of that stuff and how so they can go in and package it and then sell it.
You know what I mean right as a package which is a lot of how movies get sold these days, you know at the beginning the book Studio stuff. Yeah without question. Yeah, and it’s like if you if you have a shitty draft that. Matt Damon is like yeah, I’ll do that movie. That sounds like a cool movie.
I’ll do it. Like let me read the script and then you get like an attachment letter and there’s a big PR release and look it’s a variety and all this stuff Matt Damon signs on a blah blah blah that movie could never get made sure but it’s going to end up in the trades because they want. Buzz and they want to keep the momentum flowing but honestly it all it all comes back to is the script going to function is descript going to be good.
Is this going to be ready? You can have all the elements attached in the world and even then Guillermo del Toro will tell you it’s not doesn’t mean it’s going to hurt Terry Gilliam. I mean, it’s going to be like, okay I’ve had what is it Don Quixote? No, turn around for 25 years. You know what I mean?
Yeah. And you know, it just it’s exactly what happens. All right, man, you’ve been so freaking amazing deep throat that deep throat that you’ve dropped some major bombs on knowledge bombs on the on the tribe men to thank you so much. I have a few questions. I ask all of my guests. So that’s kind of Rapid Fire.
What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today? Cross your
fingers, very very uplifting. She confronts extremely uplifting sir. Thank you. Can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career? Harry Potter? Okay. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?
It’s a great question. I would say being genuine in owning who I am as opposed to what I think other people want me to be. That’s a great lesson to learn. It’s a possible business and life man. I don’t absolutely now what are three of your favorite films of all time three of my favorite films of all time.
Okay off the top of my head, I would say. Braveheart, okay, excellent film The Movie Network another amazing do both very well written. Uh-huh. Yeah, and. Lord of War I love learning more really you like what do I know? I thought I wanted to throw you a curveball something that like maybe wasn’t you know, really Lord, but I love that movie.
I mean say what you want about the story and the writing and my wife hates the ending but like I love that movie so much. I love how it starts. I love how finishes I love the character. I like Can’t Take My Eyes Off of him. I love the midpoint reversal and the best part of that movie. That’s tough for me.
The best part of that movie was the opening title sequence. I mean that’s I mean opening title sequence. It’s so good and it’s like for those I’m not gonna ruin anything for those who haven’t seen the spoiler alerts here, right? Because go out and watch it. I think it’s awesome and say what you want about the writing and say what you want about the characters like that movie kept me entertained I cared about whether or not and I love like movies where it’s like there’s an antihero, you know what I mean?
Like I drew I’m rooting for the guy who’s the bad guy? You know what I mean? I love that and I was like one of the first times where and I could have said the Matrix I could have sent you. The car can I mean the first Shaq washing my real life in my in my life first movie I ever saw was Land Before Time genius film.
My mom took me as a first movie I ever saw in the theater and I was like blown away. I was like, oh my God movies are great and I’ve been obsessed ever since and. Yeah, Harry Potter was what convinced me that I wanted to write Matrix changed my entire perspective of the world and of filmmaking and but my favorite movies are Braveheart Network and Lord of War because I wanted to put something in that you probably have heard before.
That’s never been on the show on any of my podcast ever been on the show. So you like at this point. They’re probably in feel like I wasted an hour and a half. Listen to this dude in his favorite movies Lord of War. This guy knows nothing but then again because we don’t know who you are. It doesn’t matter.
So you can be free be with you. Maybe I wrote thought about maybe you did. You don’t know I definitely did it was Andrew niccol. I think yes, it was. It was now the the dishes the part of the show where I generally ask where we can find you but you will now go back into the into the darkness of the market the parking lot maybe in a future episode.
You can drop my name as being like Oh, if you guys are looking for somebody who can help you develop your script, you know, check this guy out and we. It’ll just never know who it was, but maybe we could do something like that if you like, but now you can go back into the Shadows of the parking garage, sir.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you man so much for being so candid and and really I think I think we helped the hopefully helped a lot of people listening because there were some great great practical. Industry advice in this without question and you didn’t expose yourself to much sir. Now, I mean, we only have this three I had to edit out one part just one part.
That’s it. Thanks again man little seed there for the people listening to be like, oh, I wonder what that was exactly. Thank you. Thank you for your time. And I appreciate it. Thanks for having me as promised deepthroat brought the mega knowledge bombs this episode and I want to thank deep throat for.
On and just being so candid and sharing so much about his experience his behind the scenes point of view of being a script reader being a development executive and all the juicy juicy details and morsels that he gave us in this episode. I really hope you guys got something out of it. I know I did there’s a ton of stuff that I had no idea about.
And I’m really really grateful that he was able to come on and share his knowledge with you guys. So. This is a point of the episode where I say, if you want to go to the show notes and get links to everything we talked about just head over to indie film hustle.com /b p s 0 24 but there will be no links to him because obviously is deep throat.
He is now back living in a parking garage somewhere in the shadows reading a script or writing one. I’m sure. Now if you want to get deep throat to actually read one of your scripts, you can submit your screen place. The bulletproof descript coverage service at cover my screenplay.com. Thank you for listening guys and truly if you found this episode informative and it helped you in any way, please share this episode with as many friends screen writers filmmakers, as you know, I want this information out there to help as many people as possible.
So, please. Share share share and if you haven’t subscribe to the podcast already, please head over to screenwriting podcast.com. Thank you for listening. And as always keep on writing no matter what I’ll talk to you next time.