BREAKING IN: Frankly, My Dear, I DO Give a Damn

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.

6 thoughts on “BREAKING IN: Frankly, My Dear, I DO Give a Damn

  1. Michael FerrisMichael Ferris

    Staton,

    Great article! It completely encapsulates how I feel when I read a good script. There’s a few more reasons I would add:

    1. The flood of warmth you get from helping that writer launch their career. It’s an amazing feeling to help a writer, who has dreamed about selling their first script for years, and seeing the excitement in their eyes when you actually help them do that.

    2. The amazing friendships that grow with those same writers – who are incredible people – and who become a part of your “family”.

    On a much less personal side note, I think writers should know that any reader – whether they are a consultant or assistant or intern – is always HOPING, ROOTING FOR, and WISHING every script they crack open will be the Next Great Script because if they find it, it can help them advance in the industry. It can result in promotions, or credits, etc. So if you come even close to writing a good script, chances are you’ll get a shot, at the very least, of getting contacted by industry people and/or getting an option.

  2. Praveen Kumar

    I second Tim’s comment. I am not good at expressing my feelings but that’s exactly how I felt after reading your article. Wish you lots of happiness Staton:) Many many thanks for being there and still caring:)

  3. Bradford Richardson

    Staton, TERRIFIC article! I’ve always wondered how it’s even possible for Development VP’s to maintain a sense of optimism when opening a new script. Now maybe I can stop taping dollars to my script pages : )

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