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38 Reasons Why Your Screenplay Isn't Getting Recommended by a Script Reader

script reader passes profound_whatever reddit thumbnailThe first audience for your screenplay (besides yourself) is a reader. Certainly, this reader can be a friend, a partner, a spouse, your mom — all put-upon by your request to read your script, by the way — but eventually, your script will find its way to a professional script reader. These script readers are the gatekeepers to the agents, managers and producers who may actually be able to help a screenplay become a movie. And one of these script readers recently created an infographic listing 38 recurring problems that keep screenplays from being recommended.

You can find the complete infographic here at its high-resolution, thanks to its creator, script reader and Reddit user profound_whatever. To make it (somewhat) more readable within the confines of our NFS post, I have split the infographic into two pieces. This first side gives you the overall demographics of the 300 scripts covered by this reader. Because this reader worked for five different companies, I assume the genre numbers were most likely affected by the preferences of each of those companies. Nevertheless, 300 scripts still covers a wide variety of genres (click for larger).

38 reasons script reader passes profound_whatever reddit map

A few key data points jump out at me from the information above. First, not surprisingly, only 8 scripts out of 300 received a “Recommend,” which translates to only 2.67% of scripts read. Keep this in mind as you rewrite your current script and ask yourself if you think your script is better than 97-98% of the other scripts out there. Then make your script better than 99% of the scripts out there.

Also, female screenwriters make up only 10% of these 300 submissions, and that includes male & female writing duos. We’ve seen similar data before, but we really need to see more women writing screenplays, because these numbers are disheartening. Most likely as a result of such a male-dominated sample, a whopping two-thirds of these 300 scripts have male heroes.

More interesting to me than these demographics, however, are the recurring problems that this script reader found throughout these 300 scripts. Below are 38 problems that the script reader found repeatedly in scripts, listed in order of frequency (click for larger):

38 reasons script reader passes profound_whatever reddit problems

Let’s take a look at the 3 most common problems listed above.

The story begins too late in the script

As screenwriters, we don’t have much time or many pages to get our stories started. People don’t tend to watch movies for the setup, they watch movies for the story. The same is true for readers, a screenwriter’s first audience. Readers want to be engaged in a story from the beginning. They don’t want to wade through 50 pages before the story begins. I’m always looking for ways to work on those early pages to engage my reader in the story immediately while simultaneously laying the groundwork for what’s to come. It’s a tricky balance, for sure.

The scenes are void of meaningful conflict

This is a great way to determine if a scene needs to be included in a story. If a scene has no conflict, how are the characters challenged or changing at that particular moment of the story? Without conflict, a scene is most likely expository. One of the challenges I know I constantly face — and I imagine many other writers face, too — is weaving the exposition into a scene that is full of conflict without the audience feeling like they were just spoon-fed some exposition. Without conflict, though, a story can’t move forward.

The script has a by-the-numbers execution

This is one of the biggest reasons I am not a fan of so-called screenwriting gurus that believe all scripts have to fall into a specific formula. Yes, I agree that screenplays follow a specific structure, but hitting very specific beats on very specific pages can start to make screenplays feel like they are merely paint-by-numbers exercises. And if your script reads this way, not only is the reader bored, but the reader (and the audience) is already way ahead of your story because they have read or seen it all before.

As you can see, several other problems occur frequently among the 300 scripts covered by this reader, and I’m sure all of us screenwriters have dealt with several of these problems in our own screenplays as we rewrite them.

Thanks to Reddit contributor profound_whatever for taking the time to create and share the infographic about the 300 scripts, and for giving us permission to repost and discuss the infographic here on NFS. You can check out the original discussion thread on Reddit to hear directly from profound_whatever regarding this infographic.

Which of the 38 recurring problems listed above do you find when rewriting your own screenplays? What strategies have you developed to avoid running into these problems with your screenwriting? Share your experiences with us in the comments.




We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • These sound like descriptions of most movies that are widely released.

    • I was wondering the same thing, why dont most big hit movies get checked by these parameters?

      • A lot of movies that tank have a decent screenplay, they just get bogged down because of other factors. The director, producer, and studios can all take a good script for a movie and really trash it.

        So even if you are the 2% that gets their script chosen, your story can still become the next Battlefield Earth.

    • Robin Schmidt. put out your baby, it gets filtered through producers, directors, other writers until it’s your baby destroyed. So, that begs the question. Why destroy your baby? when you can circumvent the system and do it to your vision’s sight. Many producers don’t know the first thing about writing or filmmaking. The good ones are a dime a dozen..I maybe cynical, but there is no point in being a sacrificial lamb for an imaginary bottom line, and the work you put into something is all but destroyed for that imaginary bottom line.

      • Well, yes, you can make a movie for eff all money and you can make a good one but however you spin it, at some point, business gets in the way. Whether it’s negotiating tax breaks or just simply seeing your money back.

        The tough part is seeing the long view. Is it better to play the game early, bed in and make yourself credible to the moneymen before coming through with projects that you care about or do you just go balls out first up with the painful passion project that could leave you with no career at all.

        I can’t answer that. I went the first route and it’s still all up in the air for me. All I do know is that the first thing I did after making my first feature was launch straight into another dramatic project to work out all the frustrations from the feature shoot.

        For writers life just sucks, plain and simple, I have no idea how we can change that but I value good writing above pretty much everything else. But, and it’s a bit but, my appreciation of what that actually is really is in its infancy.

    • Studios review movies a bit different than independent producers. That is why. Also have in mind that most studio movies now are producer ideas or based on a known property.

      Also you would be surprised how much worse the scripts the readers read are. I review projects for a foreign distributor so projects that have already been thinned by the readers in production companies and still 90% of them suck badly and never see the cinemas. Also movies are expensive so the people who make decisions are not creative people while almost everyone thinks they have some grasp on story. No wonder we sometimes get Wild Wild West.

  • Daniel Pisterzi on 11.23.13 @ 10:23AM

    Great find! Thanks.

  • The by-the-numbers problem is specifically why I hate the screenwriting book “Save the Cat.” The author is absolutely pedantic about how certain things MUST MUST MUST occur on a very specific page number.

    • There is no formula to art.
      But to prove this stuff is false.
      You’d have to do the exact opposite of the book.
      And that would be a formula itself.
      A reverse formula.

      • David J. Fulde on 11.23.13 @ 11:43PM

        kind of like how being “Counter culture” Is still having pulp culture define your tastes?

        • It’s also similar to being a young teenager rebelling against your parents. Your actions are still dictated by the wishes of your parents, you’re just going against what they want rather than going along with it. The only way around it is complete indifference.

          Go along with it when it works, avoid it when it doesn’t.

    • I agree. I almost barfed the first time I read that book.

      • You almost barfed? Dear god, it’s just a book. Take it or leave it what you probably can’t stand is cronyism and stark black and white fundamental certainties because, yes, real life isn’t like that. No-one ever put a gun to our heads and said it had to be like anything but, guess what, that very infographic makes the point that there are very much rules. And we’d best be aware of them if we want to pass the dreaded script reader. So, I’ll guzzle any and all information.

        I wrote my martial arts short precisely to the save the cat beats and found it in no way restrictive or suffocating. Let’s see how it does. I could be completely deluded!

    • For people that didn’t watch Breaking Bad until the end, stop reading now ***SPOILERS***

      Look at this video:

      It shows Aaron Paul & Bryan Cranston reading the final script of Breaking Bad. Notice how the writer includes notes that enhance the atmosphere and message the writer had in mind when writing it.

      “…It’s up to us to say where he’s headed, I’d like to call it something better.”

      This is the script writer’s internal thoughts, that in no way show up on the screen… however, they are felt. They are felt because this is the feeling he wants to give the viewers. Too many courses, too many books and too many script writing contests and gurus tell us to never include anything but what happens from point A to B to C to D. Don’t write any details.

      For people that read scripts, you know that there are more script writers that do this (mostly you’d find scripts like these by people that also direct them). I can’t shake the feeling that all these “How to properly do it lists” will only keep films behind. It’s important to understand the basic structure, but never let it confine you when you feel like it’s holding you back. Saddly, if you don’t have a name for yourself, you probably have to play the game by its rules, unless you prove by your own merits you can do it otherwise.

      • /\ This.

        I’m all about knowing the rules going into writing a script, but sticking to them all the way just destroys the creative process of creating something out of nothing, imo.

        • Sonnets are about as strict a poetic form as you could wish to find but that never stopped centuries of creative writers finding ever new ways to spin their ideas. In music sonata form is another example. This notion that rules and form are somehow death to creativity is just the biggest load of bullshit.

          Do whatever you want.

          • I wasn’t talking about poetry. I was talking about films. It’s hard to surprise an audience and give them something truly special when you follow every rule to a t. It just gets repetitive and predictable, now that we’re over a century into cinema. I didn’t say rules are bad, just that following ALL of them religiously is a foil to creativity. “Do whatever you want” is more what I was trying to get to lol.

          • If every poem that ever existed was a sonnet, then poetry would be nothing close to the art form that it is. No poet or poetry teacher or “guru” would ever tell someone that a sonnet is the only acceptable form. So to take such an approach to screenwriting would be the real load of bullshit. Yet, that is what the common approach is in American cinema, and it’s a huge hindrance to the advancement of the art form.

  • A late great football coach Bill Walsh once said with regards to the NFL draft, “Find me a player for the things he can do for me rather ignore him for the things he can’t”. I think these readers are looking for things to turn the script/writer down rather than to find perhaps an unconventional gem. Additionally, some of the criteria are completely open to an individual bias, if a certain standard is to be compared against. As an example, there was a recent, very expensive action movie whose screenplay can be found online. Its writers are currently hot and the script reads well … up to about the 50th page. Then it falls apart and everything stops making sense. Even worse, when rereading the opening 50 pages, one realizes that they don’t make sense either. Yet, a studio spent $120M on it, hired a major star and actually made money off it. (it does have a pretty low rating on Rotten Tomatoes, however).
    Now, there are two different goals for these readers. Someone who reads for an agency with a Feature/TV Lit Department should look for different things than someone reading scripts for a producer. If you’re working for an agency, you’re looking for talent. hat’s why they called talent agencies. You’re looking for the “things this writer can do for you” in the long term. If a reader is working for a producer, there’s no long term. The quality has to be there immediately. In football terms again, this is akin to drafting someone based on his current skills AND potential quality vs. signing a free agent who’s ready to step onto the field right away.
    PS. If my comments sound like sour grapes, they are. (but they are tasty sour grapes) I had my scripts read and turned down for what I thought to be absurd reasons. One of my script was a rewrite of an old/er film and the characters, the premise and the resolution were very close to the original film, albeit slightly reset in time and place. The film itself is considered a classic (in certain parts of the world) with its characters and story line. I felt I adhered to the story’s most poignant moments, deleted the outdated ones and added a very clever twist on the ending. Once again, I was rewriting/updating a very popular film that currently has a very high IMDB rating. The reader failed me on the premise, the plot and the location of the events! Now, one can argue on the dialog – where I would also disagree – but the rest were in adherence to the successful and revered original! Fail me, fail the original author, who’s also deemed a major talent (in some parts of the world where he was successful).
    So, there’s your story line. May work as a comedy of sorts. But a tragedy for me.

    • There are a lot of stories like that. I had heard from a friend about their friend being a reader for a studio. If they referred a script and the producer didn’t like it, they were fired. So, right out of the gate – the gods are against you. Then, the reader is usually a fellow writer who is jaded. Again, the gods are against you. I had heard one talent agency would actually break out a ruler and see if the formatting was proper within the screenplay. If it wasn’t, then the trash bin. Did you use two brackets or three to bind your screenplay? You used three? The trash. Finally, taste is subjective. You will most often see very generic coverage on screenplays. If you have the opportunity to see the coverage, one will often scratch their head wondering if the reader even read the script. The truth is, many readers read the first 10-15 pages and skip to the last 20-30 pages. The readers get paid per script (~$70). Also, certain genres are hot and sometimes not – nearly cyclical. There is no way a screenplay like Memento would make it past a reader. And, Lawrence of Arabia? Zzzzzzzz. At least Shane Black makes his screenplays amusing to read.

  • VinceGortho on 11.23.13 @ 2:45PM

    HAHA Checklist. Gurus. Focus on being entertaining. Like Woody Allen said about comedy. Either you’re funny or you’re not.

  • My script coverage company reads hundreds of scripts per year, and I can testify to the accuracy of the infographic, especially with regards to the percentage of Recommends, Considers, and Passes. Absolutlely spot on.

  • Viewers will watch a film that has “by-the-numbers execution”, but the other two are deal breakers.

    • The Hollywood Reporter has an interview with some of the top current scribes (Heslov/Clooney, Strong, Delpy, et al.) and one of the question posed to the panel was about the rewrites. John Ridley admitted to “3 Kings” being rewritten by someone else. Most scripts are. Now why is that?

      • And yet a large number of movies out there are making their ways into theaters that are “by-the-numbers execution” and still making money.

        I know we’re all creators here, and therefore, have higher tastes than the average plebeian movie-goer, but let’s be real.

        • My assertion was that a different set of eyes spots a different set of dirt specks. It’s yet to be seen if all rewrites are better than the writer submitted drafts but I have read a few originals that varied greatly from what was seen at the end on the screen. Yet, they were deemed sufficient to be “recommended”.
          PS. A friend of a friend once worked on a very successful sitcom as a mid-level writer/producer. During his first year on the show, he wrote one script … which he didn’t recognize once it aired because it was almost entirely rewritten by the executive producer/show runner/creator. I’ve spoken to other sitcom writers who weren’t thrilled that their drafts were nothing but a starting point of the whole process. Of course, when the show-runners serve as gate keepers, it’s one thing. When the authority gets delegated way down the ladder, however ….

          • TV and film are two different animals. Furthermore, script changes on the film side can be made for a whole slew of reasons.

      • Why are most scripts rewritten by other writers?

        Many times producers or development execs will have hired guns that they bring in to ‘punch up’, ‘tweak, etc etc, a script… In other words, they have bought the script from the original writer and own it lock stock and barrel, so they take it to Mr. Joe Buddy-Guy that they know will give them what they want in less than 2 weeks.

        “Joe Buddy-Guy. Yeah. It’s me. Jimmy Studio-Moneybags. Take this script and gimme’ tits and ass, take out the subplot, add in a dog for the hero and throw in a role for ______ since we got them on pay or play.”
        “Okay. See you in two weeks.”

        /End convo/

        Writers are rewritten 9/10 on feature films. It’s the easiest way to massage a script into ‘shape’ (shape not necessarily meaning ‘fit’, but ‘to the shape of said person in power’).

        • I recommend William Goldman’s “Adventures in the Screenwriting Trade” to everyone. One of the bits I recall from it were his dealings with Robert Redford while in the development for “All the President’s Men”. Back then, the script pages were sent by a fax machine and it took a lot of rewrites for Goldman to gain Redford’s approval.
          Anyway, I think my major beef with “readers” is that they serve as a proxy for an agent or producer, who himself serves as a proxy for the audience, which itself often has no idea which end is up. And the further you get from the core of the decision makers (which are the consumers with money), the more errors you introduce in the process. To use my NFL draft example : up to the 1960′s, as I recall, it was done without true scouting. Coaches or GM’s often depended on mass publications – newspapers and magazines – to find anything about the player. That process contained a huge systemic error, which was subsequently eliminated by the introduction of professional scouts who drove around the college campuses and observed future draft prospects in person. A while later, objective measuring criteria – size, speed, weight, strength, agility – were introduced. Top scouts were promoted to the various in-house player personnel jobs and the best ones turned into competent GM’s. To me, these script readers are not quite at the level of the scouts because, while the objective measuring criteria in sports are essentially infallible, the standards set for the screenplay evaluation are entire subjective. Unrelated vignettes? Thin story? Cartoonish villains? There are a lot of successful films that have all of the above! I say, just read the script and give an overall grade the way it’s done on IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes. “The script I just read was crap. But I loved it!”

  • Insightful list that’s a helpful reference BUT he mixes problems with basic story telling plot devices and there’s probably not a single classic script, blockbuster, or heck, even script in production, that doesn’t fall into one of the recurring problems list.

  • We need “38 reasons your screenplay is getting recommended”

    1. Imagine the trailer. Is the concept marketable?
    2. Is the premise naturally intriguing – or just average?
    3. Who is the target audience? Would your parents go to see it? Would your children?
    4. Does your story deal with the most important events in the lives of your characters?
    5. If the story is a fantasy-come-true, does it quickly turn into a nightmare-that-wont-end?
    6. Has a strong ‘need to know’ hook been built into the story early on?
    7. Is the concept original?
    8. Is there a goal? Is there pacing? Does it build?
    9. Begin with a punch; end with a flurry.
    10. It is funny, scary, or thrilling? All three?
    11. What does the story have that the audience can’t get from real life?
    12. What is at stake? Life and death situations are the most dramatic. Does the concept create the potential for the characters’ lives to be changed dramatically?
    13. What are the obstacles? Is there a sufficient challenge for our heroes’ weaknesses?
    14. What is the screenplay trying to say and is it worth trying to say it? In other words, does it have a theme?
    15. Does the story transport the audience?
    16. Is the screenplay predictable? There should be surprises and reversals within the major plot and also within individual scenes and subplots.
    17. Once the parameters (otherwise known as a story bubble) of the films reality are established, they must not be violated (burst). Limitations call for interesting solutions.
    18. Is there a decisive, inevitable ending that nonetheless turns out unexpectedly? (This is not easy to do and is vital to generate interest!)
    19. Is it believable (even if not realistic)?
    20. Is there strong emotion – heart – at the centre of the story? Avoid mean-spirited story lines.
    21. Does the second act drag? This may mean a lack of a well thought-out central character and how his/her flaws relate to the antagonist.

    22. Is it properly formatted?
    23. Proper spelling and punctuation? Phrases instead of sentences are okay.
    24. Is there a discernible three-act structure?
    25. Are all scenes needed? No scenes off the spine, they will die on screen.
    26. Do screenplay descriptions direct the reader’s mind’s eye rather than the director’s camera?
    27. Begin the screenplay as far into the story as possible.
    28. Begin each scene as late a possible; end it as early as possible. A screenplay is like a piece of string that you can cut up and tie together – the trick is to tell the entire story using as little string as possible.
    29. In other words: use cuts.
    30. Visual, Aural, verbal – in that order. The expression of someone who has just been shot is best; the sound of the bullet slamming into him is second best; the person saying ‘I’ve been shot’ is the least effective.
    31. What is the hook, the inciting incident? You have ten pages (or ten minutes) to grab an audience. With some people in the business, even less.
    32. Does the screenplay allude to the essential points in the story two or even three times and hit the key point very hard? It shouldn’t be obtuse.
    33. Repetition of locale. It helps to establish the atmosphere of the film and allows audiences to ‘get comfortable’. Saves money during the production.
    34. Repetition and echoes can be used to tag secondary characters. Dangerous technique to use with leads.
    35. Not all scenes have to run to five pages of dialogue and/or action. In a good screenplay, there are many two-inch scenes. Sequences build pace.
    36. Small details add credibility. Has the subject matter been thoroughly researched?
    37. Every line in the script must either advance the plot, get a laugh, reveal a trait, or do a combination of two – or in the best case, all three – at once.
    38. No false plot points; no backtracking. It’s dangerous to mislead an audience; they will feel cheated if important actions are taken based on information that has not been provided or turns out to be false.
    39. Silent solution; tell your story with pictures.
    40. No more than 125 pages, no less than 110… or the first impression will be of a script that ‘needs to be cut’ or ‘needs to be fleshed out’.
    41. Don’t number the scenes of a selling script. More’s and CONTINUEDs are optional.

    42. Are the parts castable? Does the film have roles that stars will want to play?
    43. Action and humour should emanate from the characters and not just be thrown in for the sake of a laugh. Comedy that violates the integrity of the characters or oversteps the reality-world of the film may get a laugh, but it will ultimately unravel the picture. Very rarely used, for good reason.
    44. Are the characters people who care deeply about something – especially other characters?
    45. Is there one scene where the emotional conflict of the main character comes to a crisis point? This is especially important and should relate to both their inner and outer conflict. In other words, the hero has an internal problem that is hidden from him. Then the second act brings it out and then in the third the hero has to act (resolve the plot) to resolve both the inner and outer conflicts.
    46. A character’s entrance should be indicative of that character’s traits. First impression of a character is most important.
    47. Lead characters must be sympathetic – people we care about and want to root for.
    48. What are the characters’ wants and needs? What is the lead character’s dramatic need? Needs should be strong, definite and clearly communicated to the audience. Read 45 again.
    49. What does the audience want for the characters? It’s all right to be either for or against a particular character – the only unacceptable emotion is indifference.
    50. Concerning characters and action: a person is what he does, not necessarily what he says.
    51. On character faults: characters should be ‘this but also that’, i.e. complex. Characters with doubts and faults are more believable and more interesting. Heroes who have done wrong and villains with noble motives are better than characters who are straight black and white.
    52. Characters can be easily understood by audiences in terms of ‘what is their greatest fear?’ Gittes, in Chinatown is afraid of being played for the fool. In Splash the Tom Hanks character is afraid he can never fall in love. In Body Heat Racine is afraid he’ll never make his big score.
    53. Character traits should be independent of the character’s role. A banker who fiddles with his gold watch is memorable, but cliched; a banker who breeds dogs is somehow a more acceptable detail.
    54. All character conflicts should be both internal and external. Characters should struggle with themselves and with others.
    55. Character ‘points of view’ need to be distinctive within an individual screenplay. Characters should not all think the same. Each character needs to have a definite point of view in order to act and not just react.
    56. Distinguish characters by their speech patterns, vocabulary, sentence structure, revealed backgrou0nd, level of intelligence.
    57. ‘Character superior’ sequences (where the character acts on information the audience does not have) usually don’t work for very long – the audience gets lost. On the other hand, when the audience is in a ‘superior’ position – the audience knows something the characters do not – it almost always works. (NOTE: This does not mean the audience should be able to predict the plot!)
    58. Run each character through as many emotions as possible – love, hatred, laughter, despair, grief, revenge…
    59. Characters must change. What is the character’s arc? Read 45 AGAIN!
    60. The credibility of the screenplay world is defined by what the reader knows of it, and the reader gains that knowledge from the characters. Unbelievable character actions imply an unrealistic world; fully-designed characters convey the sense of a believable world.
    61. Is the lead involved with the story throughout? Does he/she control the outcome of the story?

  • The above is a checklist that circulates the studios and their readers, real world checklist.

    • Thanks for sharing that, all ammunition gratefully received

    • Yes, it’s a fairly known list, more appropriate for studios than for agents. And here’s an opposing POV – “When asked if Hollywood’s response to a lack of original ideas is to rely on remakes, the Three Amigos director replied: “There are no original ideas. What there is — and this is something no one understands — is that it is never about the idea, it is about the execution of the idea.”
      John makes some interesting points in there but I would certainly agree with the above sentiment. “Trading Places” was essentially a remake of “The Prince and the Pauper” (whose author never wrote a decent screenplay to save his life) set in the 1980′s Philadelphia. Still a fun film and arguably his second best ever.

  • I think it’s hilarious that they’d pass on a movie that lacks substance, yet they’d take a meaninful story and suck all the life out of it.

  • What are some screenwriting tips/guidelines when you have extensive use of geography either by actual travel or mere discussion? I suspect this is a bigger issue when dealing with spec scripts.

  • The biggest problem for writers is that what they hand over isn’t the final product. It’s so hard to get your work produced and see it live as a real film that it’s no wonder good writing is hard to come by. So much writing goes on through production and into the edit and often writers play no part in that. So perverse

    • With the exception of the TV, where the showrunners all come from the writing background. It wasn’t like that in the past. In the 1930′s, many of the studio executive positions were held by accomplished screenwriters, whose job was to guide the script from the writers drafts and into the directors hands. The directors, obviously, had their own ideas but these execs pulled a lot of weight too. Since the 1950′s, big budget film making has mostly become a director’s led project. Unless a writer had ambitions to direct too, his contribution ended at an earlier stage. The coherent story telling suffered as a result.
      By the way, off that “Breaking Bad” clip, Gilligan’s action lines would have been deemed excessive until recently.

  • AWomanWriter on 11.28.13 @ 1:41AM

    Here’s the thing about women writing scripts:
    Film schools are divided EVENLY. 50% of attendees are women, and 50% are men. So – the problem is not in women WANTING to write scripts or even in them WRITING scripts. What’s happening is that men are disproportionately getting REPRESENTATION. If this person is working at the studio/production company level, he/she is receiving scripts from agents and managers – NOT from individual writers. And, as in every area of the industry, women are disproportionately shut out from representation.

    Opening the doors to more women writers means opening doors at all levels of the industry.

  • Here’s a word from the Peanut Gallery. Think of me as a member of The Audience. As a mom of teens and 20-somethings I feel that too many movies are lame and unengaging these day if not trite. I particularly loathe films which “tug at the heartstrings” or justify violence by setting up a horrific situation so the Hero can do the nasty. In those cases, I feel that the writer/producer is snerking up his sleeve and patting himself on the back for pandering to the masses. Well, honey, I do hate feeling manipulated. Because of this, we do not watch “sweet,” “meaningful,” or “crude American low-brow humor.” If I want the latter, there are sufficient knuckle scuffers about to entertain me for free.

    If you want me in the cinema, give me more – and sometimes you do. Avatar was great fun. We saw it 3 times, once in each type of IMAX (we’re geeky about that). Iron Man #1 was a hit in our household for action, plotting, the stars. I fell asleep during Twilight as did The Rabid Fan. The consensus here was that the latest Thor was not good. The Hobbit #1 needed drastic editing and could have been one film, but we have hope for The Desolation though I’m not sure if we’ll get Action Elves in Love. In contrast, Ender’s Game should have been 2 films. Hunger Games was better than the novel.

    Back in the 90’s, I recall reading how films/tv shows with action mantras were favored especially for international distribution because you don’t need translation when two guys fight and fall through a plate glass window. Having lived abroad, I’ve seen how America’s image has suffered from this mindset. Bad action films are the reason the “average” American male is seen as a stone-faced, violence loving crook or lunatic military fanatic who is accompanied by an oversexed amoral woman.

    Yes, we will go in and see a film – typically for a $5 matinee and action/adventure scifi with actual plots though our 18-year-old will see anything with Horror so that she can hang onto her boyfriend and scream. But I miss the old days, the feeling you had after leaving the theater, how the ideas stayed with you. How you felt a certain universality. Maybe it’s because I’m older and jaded, but for me, a lot of the movie magic is gone. The Force, the wonder, we shivered with as kids is no longer with us. And so, we’ve gotten a Netflix subscription, finally. Some of the wonder is back. The majority of what we watch there aren’t movies. We watch serials – BBC or high quality shows with actual plots and character definition – exactly what you don’t get in today’s movies.

  • MARK GEORGEFF on 11.29.13 @ 11:51AM

    I take what I can use from this REDDIT deal. Majority of these BAD points are indeed in many movies.

    So…that tells you right there how much of this info is worthy of even considering, let alone derailing you from your career.

    I’ll tell you right now, a history of Oscar-winning screenplays probably has a good 40 percent of these BAD

    There’s not a problem with a lot of the info from these so called, “guru” STRUCTURES.

    The problem is a lot of wanna be screenwriters haven’t put in the time reading tons of scripts and breaking them down; watching tons of movies and breaking them down; and simply — WRITE, REWRITE, WRITE, REWRITE. And because they haven’t put the work in, when writing itself, is the cheapest way to break in the HWD industry…it tells you…those wanna be writers are simply lazy.

    They want a weekend seminar or a screenwriting book to show them exactly how to lazy their way into HWD success. It’s as bad as an actress getting on the floor of a producer’s office for the lead slot in a movie;
    a crew member running to get drugs for his crew boss or the star on the set.

    What a lot of folks reading this REDDIT swamp forget is that:

    1) Readers are an entry-level job. They will say NO to even a good script if there’s a chance it will make them look good in their boss’s eyes, so these gatekeepers can get promoted. Sorry, but that’s what I learned — hands down — interning at various prodcos while in graduate film school. I had no inclination to work at these place after film school…so I was completely honest in my reading. Fellow Readers who had bills to pay…could truly care less about the scripts and their many times raw potential. They simply do their job to say, “no” and look good. And guess what? Get promoted.

    2) Many Readers don’t like reading to begin with; don’t have a fiction-literature “criticism” background,
    so they really have no idea how to break down a narrative. And yes…when screenplays are written correctly…they are strong story narratives. Growing up with a fanatical hunger for literature — story — TRULY makes you a better script Reader. And disagreeing with this point…just so you can say you have an opinion is horse shit. This is a point that is just not debatable. You need to understand…WHY and HOW the auds, love story. You get that early on from…reading books before watching movies and reading scripts.

    3) Many gatekeeping, entry-level, boss-loving Readers want to climb the ladder. They want to be producers. They want to make tons of money. They want big paychecks up front. In their mindset…they can’t do it with failures. None. At all. These are not the “Wein. Bros.” – type of producers who went to genre out of the gate; continue to mix gambling choices with guarantee-possible successes and many Oscar winners.


    These are the type of producers who truly believe that success is about saying NO to almost every script that comes across their desk. This is how they get their paychecks, over and over again.

    I won’t even get into the grey areas of taxes- financial accounting, double sets of books, etc.,
    where many times, NOT MAKING ANY MOVIE as a prodco., gives you a profit.

    What saves us all now?

    Belief, that in this digital age indie filmers, screenwriters and producers are finding ways for direct distribution to the GLOBAL auds — and not just LA and BYC; and great, low cost, digital equipment where,
    if time is well served in pre production…you can actually make a 800 k – 1 mill. dollar budget genre
    into a very successful profitable production.

    You just have to do it very differently than the past-current HWD standard.

    The minute you believe in saying , ” That’s not the way it’s done in Hollywood…”
    you’re done. And Hollywood has the last laugh.

  • Thanks! I liked the read! Nice to know that there are 38 reasons my scripts could or should be recommended! ;) Well, sometimes there are only 37 reasons for that, because of the scripts that, in my opinion, must resemble a spec script, at least to a certain degree, for otherwise you couldn’t depict your science fiction and/or artistic vision faithfully. What do you think?

  • Once again, like I mentioned in another article comment, just film the movie yourself.

  • I understand the paint by numbers structure. What I don’t understand is the constant conflict. If ART imitates life there must be some period of mellow flow. If no mellow flow constant conflict will breàk you down. There must be peace after the conflict because YOU have to heal at some point to go on.

  • Would you mind if I posted this blog on my site and Fb page? It is a great article. Thanks, Jay

  • As someone who is yet to write their first feature script, this is all very useful information. However, my only problem with this is that, as someone at the beginning of the journey, there aren’t indicators of what the desire is from scripts. For example, should the answer to all of the JPS’s questions be ‘yes’ (I realise that some are more obvious than others). Also, if the most popular/most produced genre is horror, should we be writing horror films or are you saying we should break the mould and make the less produced genre, a western, to get noticed and to be different?
    Either way, a very interesting read, thanks all.

    • I would say write whatever idea is currently occupying your brain. Make an outline. Use the 3 Act Structure. The perfect, script, imho, is basically Mamet speak (Dialogue wise, because it has an organic feeling to it).

      …and the prose of William Goldman. Instructors will tell you to only write what you “see” or “hear.” The truth, is that there’s a bit of flair to it. Like a voice. For instance, in an action script that I read ages ago a later extended shot car chase was simply worded: “Two cars exchange paint down a busy freeway.” That’s it.

      Examine Goldman’s prose in the following:

      FADE IN ON:


      The game is in progress. As a sick coughing sound is heard.

      CUT TO:

      THIS KID

      lying in bed, coughing. Pale, one sick cookie. Maybe he’s
      seven or eight or nine. He holds a remote in one hand,
      presses it, and the video game moves a little bit. Then he’s
      hit by another spasm of coughing, puts the remote down.

      His room is monochromatic, greys and blues, mildly high-tech.
      We’re in the present day and this is a middle class house,
      somewhere in the suburbs.


      THE COURTROOM as without warning, it quiets. There is suddenly
      a tremendous air of expectancy, you can feel it. Now we see
      why as five men in dark business suits are led in; they’ve
      been stripped of belts, ties, and shoelaces. McCord is taller
      than the others. They stand, facing the JUDGE, backs to the

      WOODWARD sits watching as the proceedings start, but it’s
      hard to hear. He concentrates as the JUDGE starts speaking.

      Will you please state your

      The five men do not move or reply. Then, after a long pause,
      Barker says–


  • Hi, great article. Does anyone have any advice or handy links for how to get your script to readers? I’ve found most studios/ production companies do not accept unsolicited screenplays. I’m aware of feedback services for a fee and competitions, am I missing something? Thanks.

  • Thanks, this is helpful and eye opening. I am a woman writer and was kinda shocked honestly when I saw how few of us there are out there. I do think more women should be writing due to the fact we have a completely different perspective to offer than men do, not to discount a man’s perspective either. Good article.

  • Biggest money are made not with writing scripts, but making bussines with them.

  • liaqat baltee on 06.28.14 @ 7:08PM

    What is film genre and sub genre i need complete and easy description, Secondly how i write a film treatment???

  • Here’s your screenplay structure:

    Now, get to writing.

  • Fantastic article! Proud to be another female getting involved in the world of screenwriting :)

  • This is very interesting, but I don’t see any mention of the lenses and cameras used to write these screenplays, or whether they were written in standard or anamorphic page margins.


    I.E Writer has not made a profitable film, ie independent, major studio release!!!

    The rest are just side issues.

  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really
    appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write
    ups thank you once again.