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How to Get Your Script Read By Someone Other Than Your Mom

Okay, more detail may be required than that last post.

Here’s what DJ actually asked:

Can you describe how the process went with the writer reading your script? Did you ask or did he offer? How well did you know him? How long did it take for him to get back to you? Did he offer you notes? Were you hoping for an agent referral?

Essentially, the main task is to not go in expecting anyone to read your script.  These guys have scripts thrown at them all the time.  Remember, reading scripts is part of their job.  Would you like it if someone came into your office and was like, “Hey, DJ?  You know that thing you get paid to do all day?  Could you do it for me on the weekend?  And for free?”

You should really just try to make friends.  For one thing, writers are great people to hang around with.  They’re funny, and tell great stories, and are neurotically anti-social, and  have the most misanthropic view of humanity in general and you in particular, and, wait a sec…

Okay, so they’re not always fun to hang around with, but if you’re an aspiring writer, I’m sure you’re not a big bowl of ponies and rainbows, either.

Besides that, it’s always a good idea to have friends in high places.  They may not be able to do you a favor now, but they might down the road.

Plus, they’ve been around a while.  They know what it’s like to be a struggling, aspiring writer, like yourself. Learn from their wisdom and experience.  Ask them for advice about a specific problem in one of your scripts.  Or just ask them about their own breaking-in story.

(There’s a writing team, on my current show, who’ve been partners since before I was born.  There’s a lot to learn from people like that.)

Once you’re feeling comfortable with them (and assuming they actually remember your name), go ahead and ask them to read your script.  Alex Epstein suggests waiting for the producer/writer to make the offer themselves, but I’m not convinced.

My feeling is, as long as you’re polite, it never hurts to ask.  Make sure you acknowledge that you know they’re busy, and emphasize there’s no rush.  Keep it as low-pressure as possible, and certainly don’t bug them after you’ve handed it over.  Give them a few weeks, or even months.  Producing a TV show is a time-consuming task.

In this case, I knew the producer two months.  We spent a lot of time talking about his career, what movies we liked, politics, and so on.  Eventually, I described the ending of my pilot, and explained that others in my writing group didn’t like it.  He offered a suggestion (a good one, too).  Once I changed the script, only then did I ask him if he’d have time to read it.

I’ve done the same thing three or four times, on a couple of different shows.  Maybe others have different experiences, and, of course, use your own good judgment.

As for the purpose of asking to be read, don’t expect anything more than notes.  Short notes, at that.  Maybe they’ll show it to their agent, maybe they’ll suggest you to a showrunner friend of theirs, maybe they’ll hire you two years from now, when they have a show of their own.

But all of that is extra.  My thinking is, I just want the script to be better.  Having an experienced producer look it over can be invaluable.  They might think you’re a genius, or they might think you’re illiterate, but what you’ll probably get is, “You’re on the right track, but…”

And that ellipsis is what you should be looking for.

– – –

Also, I’d like to point you guys to Final Girl, another blog by an overly verbose PA. Her title comes from one of my favorite past times, over-analyzing horror movies.

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6 Responses

  1. Thanks for the link, anonymous. I have so many PA stories they’re coming out my ears, but unlike you I am not anonymous, and thereby can’t state them on the interwebs. You have a luxury my friend.

  2. I went Seattle a few weeks ago with my fiance to the wedding of a high school friend of hers. There was a karaoke party the night before and one of their guests enters the bar in a Panavision t-shirt. Not the kind of thing I’ve ever seen at Hot Topic. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him then. The next day at the wedding I waited for him to be alone (which isn’t easy) and had the groom introduce us and asked him about the shirt. He’s a writer for some kids shows on Nickleodeon which means he has an agent and knows more people than I do. I told him I’d been doing some writing and we talked for a few minutes and he gave me his card and offered to read anything I had.

    At best, he likes what he sees and passes it on to someone else, the producer of the show, an agent, whatever. At worse, he tells me I suck and I’m back to where I was programming databases.

    The moral to the story? Weddings aren’t so bad.

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