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Don’t Do It: 13 Warnings From The People Who Read Your Screenplay

#1 Warnings From Real-Life Script Readers  

There’s lots of warnings on this site, because I spend a lot of time demystifying the spec pile. It’s why one of my most popular articles series is the Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make.

I think Bang2writers like writing warnings so much is because as everyone knows, there’s no ‘right’ way to write a story … but reading scripts, day after day, has taught me there are multiple WRONG ways.

But hey, don’t take my word for it. Check out these warnings from other script readers that aren’t me. Be sure to click on their links and check out their profiles and pages too. Ready?? Let’s go!

1) Buy Final Draft & Keep It Visual

“One: Buy Final Draft. There are some great free software available out there to get your script down. But ultimately, Final Draft is the industry standard all script editors work with. It also helps the crew as an FD file can be transferred directly into their department breakdowns.

Two: Keep in mind this is a visual medium. Consider what the audience is seeing and hearing. It can be tempting to put steers into the script for the reader, but think about how it will all translate onto screen.”

BIO: Ruth Trippitt is a Script Editor and Writer, with credits on ITV, Channel 4, Netflix, BBC and Sky. Find her as @ruthtrippitt on Instagram and Twitter.

2) Don’t Get Busted On Script Format

“Writers would massively benefit from researching correct format before submitting scripts to readers. I’ve even read poems in the past that have mistakenly been submitted as scripts.

When the format is accurate, polished and everything is where it’s supposed to be on the page it gives much better clarity to the plot. Story is something that can pick up through plot seeds and hooks throughout, whereas a reader knows that if the formatting isn’t to a good standard to start with, it’s likely to remain that way for the duration of the script!

Reading other scripts beforehand or looking for online masterclasses can help provide really useful insight to correct formatting, or programmes such as Final Draft pretty much do the formatting for the writer!”

BIO: Kelsey Cromwell is a script reader for Stage32. She is also experienced in writing for Film/TV, Radio and Stage with a First-Class BA Hons degree in Screenwriting. Follow her as @kelseycromwell1 on Twitter & @kelseycromwellx on instagram.

3) Understand How A Screenplay Reads …

“Formatting is so important but there’s tools that will cover that for you. A good screenwriter understands it’s deeper than look. A reader can get a sense of pace by how the words are laid out on the page, where they need to go in on more detail and where the audience will have enough shorthand to understand. And the quicker we can read and engage with the pace of the story, the quicker we can focus on what you’re trying to say with the text.”

BIO: Ed Foster is a writer and script reader who’s worked for BAFTA and The Bruntwood Prize as well as independent production companies” feel free to link my LinkedIn. Follow him on twitter @edwardfoster428.

4) … AND Read Your Own Script Aloud!

“I would advise reading your dialogue out loud. We all know the advice about avoiding exposition, keeping it natural, making it distinct to each character etc. But even if we achieve that, plus it looks good on the page, and reads well … it’s still always worth hearing it. Table reads are great for this, but just reading it out loud to yourself does just as good a job. It can be surprising to see how odd something might sound to the ear, and what inadvertent tongue-twisters creep in!”

BIO: Patty Papageorgiou is the Coverage Service Manager at Shore Scripts. Alongside her work with Shore scripts, Patty is a writer and script analyst. She has two short stories published in anthologies and a number of accolades for her short scripts, recently winning Best Unproduced Screenplay and Runner-up for Best Micro-Short. She has a wealth of diverse production experience, including with Miramax, the Brothers Quay, the BBC, Channel 4, and independent film. 

5) Don’t ‘Hide’ The Good Stuff!

“Please don’t write lengthy paragraphs of scene description and hide all the juicy story bits in there, especially not on page one! Precision use of blank space helps to guide the reader and make sure crucial information sings out and isn’t lost.”

BIO: Jackie Thornton is a freelance script editor, consultant and educator who works across genres with established and emerging writers. She’s currently working on some horror features but also loves comedy, crime and historically set film and TV. Her popular short course, Introduction to Script Editing, is running at the National Film and TV School Leeds on 3rd/4th June. For more details follow the link.  Follow her as @Coffeeaddictjt and on LinkedIn.

6) If You Fail To Plan, You Plan To Fail

“I read so many scripts where writers attempt a script with little to no planning around their protagonists and the narratives and plots around them than often means even the best scripts read well superficially but lack the substance to engage the audience emotionally. Or otherwise, they are an incoherent mess of directionless ideas. Writers should intimately know their protagonists and their stories before marking a single blank page of script.”

BIO: Ryan Hooker a season script reader and analyst specialising in protagonist flaw-based narratives. Ryan is currently seeking out new writers to assist in developing their great script ideas into great scripts. He can most easily be reached on Fiverr HERE.

7) You Never Know Who Will Read Your Script

“Be extra careful with material dealing with sensitive subjects. You never know whose hands your script will end up in, or how certain material will read when you’re not in the room to explain it. Your gag about ‘certified ADHD loons’ might not seem that funny to a script reader with ADHD (and yes, I’m speaking from direct experience).”

BIO: After completing her script editing training through their Duly Noted scheme, Annie Lockhart now works inhouse as part of the development team at Eleven Film. She also continues to work as a freelance reader for the BBC and BFI.

8) Don’t Tick Boxes Or Withhold Important Plot Information For The Sake Of It

“Try to avoid feigning diversity and inclusion in your story. It’s often obvious to the reader that you’re trying to tick boxes and not really interested in the authenticity of the characters.

Also, try not to withhold too many key pieces of information in the story set up that result in the plot being difficult to follow. If this information is withheld for too long, the eventual reveal often isn’t as impactful, suspenseful or groundbreaking as might be intended.”

BIO: Erick Kwashie is a British Ghanaian Script Consultant with a background in production. He is particularly passionate about working with writers from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds and developing their unique and untold stories. Check him out on IMDB, HERE.

9) Don’t Forget To Use Your Character’s Identifying Label

“Remember, you are absolutely allowed (and it is not on-the-nose nor expositional) to describe a character with their queer label (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, aromantic, agender, 2 spirit, pansexual, non-binary).

Show don’t tell, sure, but it’s not always easy to show queerness in some stories. Don’t want to do it in description? Most real life lgbtq+ people are proud of their label, so let your character use it.”

BIO: Drew Hubbard is the founder of Pride Reads, a sensitivity reading services for screenwriters and authors. He also writes a monthly newsletter on writing authentic lgbtq+ characters. Twitter: @druzif. Tiktkok: @pride_reads. Check out the Pride Reads website, HERE.

10) Beware of the Block of Text!

“A producer, who shall go unnamed, once told me if he’d open a script and it started with a large block of text –  it’d be in the bin. So often I see writers not maximising the visual language and dynamism of film and television. Instead, I see a lot of scripts that resemble a play. Each scene is top-heavy with action and bottom-heavy with dialogue. My warning to writers would be: remember you are writing in a visual medium, that the dialogue, image and action are constantly interacting.”

BIO: Finlay J. Spencer cut his teeth as a critic before providing script coverage for production companies such as Hurricane Films and Illustrious Media. Honing his craft under the tutelage of Colin McKeown (Ordinary Lives, Good Vibrations), Spencer has worked directly with writers like Vincent O’Connell (I.D., I.D2: Shadwell Army) formatting, proofreading and providing script notes. Check out his website, HERE.

11) Don’t Write What You *Think* Others Want

“My #1 warning: I don’t want to read what you think a commissioner wants you to write. I want to read what you want to write.”

BIO: Maria Odufuye is a Script Editor & Consultant. Her credits include Sex Education, EastEnders, Your Christmas Or Mine and Playing Nice. Currently working on the new Sky show Iris. Maria offers ‘Intro to Script Editing’ workshops, reading and mentoring & development services too. Check out her website, HERE.

12) Make The Ending Count!

“Make sure that the screenplay resonates at the end. Even if it’s not perfect throughout, there is nothing worse for the script consultant to have a ‘yeah, so what?’ feeling at the end. It seems like two hours wasted, and if there is no emotional connection and meaning in your story, your screenplay is very unlikely to be added to the ‘To consider’ pile.”

BIO: Kamila Stopyra is an awarded screenwriter and London Film School MA Screenwriting graduate. Her reading experience spans many companies, including Amazon Studios, Protagonist Pictures, Wild Bunch, and Altitude. You can find more information on her website HERE.

And lastly … 

13) Actually Read Scripts!

“There are scripts all over the internet, in the UK, BBC Writers is a goldmine, elsewhere there’s Simply Scripts, imsdb.com, etc (you get the picture). This will help writers be better. It teaches technical skills – like using Courier PT12, formatting – it teaches style and form, how to craft story, and characterisation. You “borrow” the bits you like, ignore the rest, and apply them to your own work accordingly.”

BIO: Alex Grasham is a script editor with 20 years of industry experience, having script edited Silent WitnessThe Woman in the Wall and EastEnders, currently working at BBC Studios Drama.

Want even MORE script reading secrets?

How do IMy sell-out course, BREAKING INTO SCRIPT READING is back in June 2024!

If you’re interested in becoming a script reader, or finding out more how script readers may assess YOUR own writing – or both! – then this is the course for you.

Tickets are on sale now. GET THEM HERE, or click the pic on the left. See you there!

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