So I had my script reviewed last week. I would have written about it sooner… but I was confined to a straight jacket, and placed on suicide watch.
Actually, it wasn’t that bad. Also, it wasn’t that great.
I remember a few days before, talking to my girlfriend and saying it was curious that many commentators (not just at NYCSC, where my script was reviewed, but generally) who seem to have great feedback on other people’s scripts somehow still manage to write bad stuff. Why can’t they have the same insight into their own scripts?
I was arrogant enough to say that, still considering myself someone who knew what they were talking about. But it’s been awhile since I wrote any long-form script.
In other words, I’ve slacked. And the clearest thing I got from hearing my script reviewed.. is that I don’t have much clarity in the script – namely…
1) series engine – the thing that drives the entire story. By the end of the pilot, the audience should know exactly what to expect to see in every episode. Not specific plot points/jokes/dialogue, but thematically – for example, in Breaking Bad you know “Walter White is going to sell meth.”
2) lead – what is the motivation/aspiration/goal for the main character. What does he/she desire to achieve when the whole thing is said and done?
Based on the audience, no one could answer either question. Additionally, it occurred to me that I had two scenes that weren’t really necessary… in a 35 page script, that’s ridiculous.
And finally, at some point in the writing/rewriting process, both my girlfriend and the moderator at NYCSC said “use your imagination”… That is the sorest point of all.
When I was in college, everyone wrote stories that were clearly based on themselves or their friends. For an amateur, that’s fine, but I’m supposed to be past that.
In this case, I’m writing about something I’m close to emotionally, and in the initial draft, wrote emotionally. And so I couldn’t break out of what I had really experienced, or, wanted to convey, based on my personal take on the situations.
Anyway, I’ve had a week to think about and, in fact, have completely restructured the story.
I feel good about the new structure because, at the very least, I addressed the 4 charges I’ve lain upon myself, namely…
1 – Is it CLEAR what the series engine is?
2 – Do we KNOW the lead – where he’s from, why he’s there, what he wants?
3 – Did I use my imagination – in other words, MAKE STUFF UP that didn’t actually happen to me, personally.
4 – Is every scene NECESSARY and does it either, a) move the story forward or b) reveal important information about the character.
When I got home Sunday night, after the review, I couldn’t sleep, so stayed up very late watching several pilot episodes I found on Netflix. Among them “Breaking Bad”, “Scrubs”, “West Wing”, “Narcos”, “Parks and Recreation”, and “The Office” – yes, I was up quite late.
Scrubs was my favorite pilot for a lot of reasons. It was funniest – introduced all the main characters and made their personality traits clear – clearly illustrated the ‘world’ and series conventions the show would use, for example, the VO and imaginary situations – and finally, the series engine was obvious. “JD wants to be a good doctor.”
In other words, it excelled in the 4 problems I, personally, had in my script.
At any rate, there are a few more take-aways from the experience, but first, I want/need to get a solid re-write of the script so I can move onto the next step…. pre-production…
So stay tuned for the next episode… Reality Check!
Here’s a video mocking very bad screenwriting. I did this on purpose; let’s hope I don’t do it again, by accident.
The Worst Movie Trailer Ever