Today, I was pondering one of the great mysteries of the universe: Why do I care so much—yes, on a personal, passionate level-- when your script is really good?
This weekend, I read a screenplay that was excellent, and gave it a rare “recommend." As usual when that happens, I was all excited. I was so excited that I ditched my weekend plans to go out and take photographs of the giraffes at the zoo-- and used my time instead to think about how I could help the writer. Taking photos of giraffes at the zoo may not sound like a big deal to you. But it’s one of my favorite things to do in the wintertime.
I’ve been a professional script reader for decades-- since way back before Lady Gaga was born (or hatched out of her… egg). I’ve read thousands of screenplays. So why do I still get so happy and excited every time I find a really great script, and give it a boost? Aren’t I supposed to have a heart the size of a nanoparticle, and get perverse joy out of your suffering if I give your script a “pass," instead?
Do I get paid more if I find a great script and bring it to the attention of people who can help the writer get his film made? No.
Do I get any fame or acclaim? No.
Does anyone thank me? Sometimes, and that’s very nice when it happens. But, often, a writer has no idea which reader gave his script the “recommend” that launched his career.
So, why do I care if your script is really great? What’s in it for me?
I may not have all the answers to that question. But I’ve identified a few.
--I care because I genuinely believe I have a moral obligation to help writers like you who have talent. Yeah, I know it’s corny. But, heck, I grew up watching Frank Capra movies. I really believe in doing the right thing. People helped me when I was starting out (yes, even director Frank Capra himself once gave me some good advice), and now it’s my turn to “pay it forward."
--I care because if you wrote a great script, I can learn something from you. I learn new things to teach the screenwriters who consult me about what makes a great script great. It also helps keep my analytical skills sharp. Your excellent script makes me a better script analyst and teacher, and even a better writer.
--I care because I feel a sense of personal pride that I was the one who “discovered” your talent. It’s kind of like finding the Hope Diamond or King Tut’s Tomb... without the curse that goes with it.
--I care because, on some level, every script I read that is great is unique and some kind of miracle, and I enjoy figuring out: How did you do that, and how can my clients and I do the same? How did you break one of the cardinal “rules” of screenwriting and still write a great script? How did you take such a simple, unflashy idea and turn it into a superb screenplay? (Note: Simple is good.). When it comes to screenplays, I’m like a watchmaker. If something works, I want to take it apart and see what makes it tick.
--I care because I feel vindicated. When I find a great script, and others in the business subsequently agree with me that it’s a gem, I know that I’m still good at what I do. And on those occasions when I'm reading for a film producer, a contest, or for Script, when I find good material it tells my boss I'm on the ball.
And there’s something else you should know. Most script analysts who have been doing this job awhile feel the same way I do. We love finding great scripts. Yes, we really do.
Keep pitching. See you next month.