A lot of people wonder why script readers are often “too harsh” and cynical towards the scripts they read. Whether it’s because they’ve read sooooooo many terrible scripts or because they’re not happy with their life, readers are the gatekeepers that keep you from the hands of producers, agents, and managers. So what makes them decide that all those months or years of work are not deserving of any praise, at least for effort?
I’ve been a reader for a couple years. Read for two major contests and a couple of independent producers, and only recently have I taken a serious try at writing. I started sending my script that I wrote with my co-writer to various contests desperately hoping that it’ll be chosen as, THE ONE!
If it gets chosen, we’ll have all our dreams come true! But the reality is this: it’s probably is not what you expect. The connections I have directly to producers will probably get me some kind of promising future rather than another file-in-the-pile contest but it’s worth a try for the media coverage alone, that is unless we actually option it without winning any contest whatsoever.
I’ve known one contest winner. She won a very famous and well acknowledge contest but she ended up as the script coord or supervision on a show. Previous to that, she worked on a show she wrote the spec script on, I think. So how’d she win? There are no tricks, she was very smart and well trained by one of the big agencies so she was always business focused. She said that the contest she won guaranteed her a job, training, and the chance to be staffed on a show for that network along with the few other winners for that fellowship. The thing was that the shows from that network want nothing to do with that fellowship and genuinely find it burdensome to deal with. She ended up coming to our show as a scripty when she realized something well known in Hollywood, THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES.
Another thing I realized after I hired a script consultant is: your script will be read subjectively.
That is correct. I realized that about myself as a reader and about other readers and consultants as well. The approval of your script ultimately depends on the personal taste of the readers. Let’s assume 70% of scripts are actually terrible. 20% are average and probably subpar stereotypes of whatever is popular. That leaves 10% for scripts that could be good. I guarantee that half of that will be good scripts that the reader doesn’t realize is good or have the same vision as the reader. That leaves 5% hypothetically being something that could possibly be recommended. It’s probably less than that cause most contests select finalists at about less than 1% (big contests have ~2000 entries, finalists are often top 50 or top 10).
I’ve had two consultations on my scripts. One script with a generic Bob’s Burgers ripoff, some kind of adult animation aimed for Adult Swim or Fox Animation. I could tell with the first coverage sent that the reader didn’t watch any adult animation, therefore found my script very confusing. He questioned basic tropes of the genre, jokes I’ve probably ripped from similar shows, and even stereotypical storylines that you would usually see in adult animation. This was not his fault, he just probably wasn’t familiar with the genre as I saw quite plainly from his comments.
The second consultant I thought was a sure thing. They gave detailed notes down to the punctuation but what my cowriter and I noticed was that they did not have the same vision for the show as we did. When a reader starts your script they may come with a mindset and expectations that really have nothing to do with your script. They may expect Breaking Bad when you were writing something closer to Weeds. This difference in expectations is what probably makes good scripts get bad reviews, and honestly, that is nobody’s fault.
Script readers read your script blind. We pick up what we can from the title, the first few pages, and any logline we receive. If it sounds like a comedy when it’s really a tragedy, there’s going to be problems whether or not the script is actually good.
This is soooooo important to remember because it’s a lot easier to pitch and sell a script to a producer you’ve met, an agent’s assistant you know, or a meeting that was set up for you because you can take questions, guide the audience to the vision you’ve imagined, and respond to any inconsistencies that detract from the quality of the script.
You say your script is Big Bang Theory meets Mom, you’ve given your logline that it’s about single moms who are also nerds trying to raise kids in the inner city, and you’ve pitched the type of jokes you throw around at comedy clubs stand up hours. That’s a meeting, not a contest submission, and you can see where the opportunity lies and why so many scripts written in Hollywood are picked up in Hollywood.
TL;DR: So in sum, readers are not @$$holes, they just read your script blind.