I know you’ve all met the jerk at the counter of the video store who hands you the movie you just paid to rent and says cynically, “He dies in the end.” You stare in disbelief thinking, “Is this guy’s entire life such an empty hole that he has to ruin my two hours of entertainment I’ve been looking forward to for months? Or is he just oblivious because he was raised in a locked basement?” Well, I don’t judge Carson Reeves from ScriptShadow quite that harshly, but let’s just say, they’re playing the same sport.
Peter Hanson writes a very important article, “Rushing the Reveal,” in the May/June edition of Script, in which he profiles the blog ScriptShadow, where Carson Reeves posts online reviews of scripts that range from big Hollywood movies about to be released, to even spec scripts that are circulating and haven’t been sold yet. I won’t repeat Hanson’s entire article, but Reeve’s so boldly goes to reveal the twists in many of the movies about to come out. Obviously, with the power of the Internet these days, those twists can make their way into mainstream American pretty damn fast. Bottom line, if I were that writer/director/producer, and you revealed my twist on an industry blog before my movie hit theaters, I would be working to blacklist you with all of my big Hollywood might. Not the best way to make friends and become the “aspiring screenwriter” you claim to be, Reeves.
Reeves gets way off track when he gets into his justifications for the blog, and he starts talking about studio test-screening, a controversial topic to say the least among writers. Nonetheless, he goes so far as to say we should begin “test-screening” screenplays – having market audiences read them to see if they’re any good. I’m reading this, livid, steam pouring out of my ears. Should we have them “test-screen” the storyboards to make sure the cinematography is going to work? How about the costumes? And the actors to make sure they’re marketable?
Movies are entertainment. But screenplays are one part of the bigger blueprint that turns a bunch of different elements into a movie. It takes years of perfecting craft (yes, mixed with natural talent) to even understand how to interpret a screenplay and make sure it translates. That doesn’t mean audiences don’t know what they want – it just means that they don’t know how to build the rollercoaster ride that we’re going to send them on. It’s like saying someone will know if a song’s going to be good because they hear the melody before the instruments and vocals are added in.
Apparently, Reeves has some fans from within the industry. And apparently, he’s backed off on revealing too many details and slamming scripts too badly. But it doesn’t change the fact that he’s posting unreleased, and often, unsold scripts against the writer’s will. I looked on his site today, and this month he’s accepting submissions from un-produced writers who want reviews. That sounds more like a legitimate website that could be useful to writers. If you head in that direction, Reeves, bravo. Otherwise, I think for the betterment of writers, and on principle, you should be shut down.
What does everyone else think?