How do you know when your script is good?

You’ve finished the script (or as close as it’s going to get) and it’s ready to be filmed.

Or is it?

How do you actually know what you’ve written is any good?

I’m not asking if you’re a good writer – that’s a different thing. Good writers occasionally write bad scripts because … well, they just do. Even geniuses aren’t geniuses all the time.

Primarily because there’s no such thing. Some writers are merely very, very good. Usually.

So how do you know your script is good? Whose opinion can you trust?

You can’t trust your own, obviously. Because if you didn’t think it was good you wouldn’t be handing it over. Probably.

Unless, of course, it’s one of those drafts.

You know, one of the ones where the producer has asked for an extra female role so he can try and sleep with someone. Or the director has insisted you make the lead character a talking sock because it’ll look cool. Or you know this piece of shit is never going to be filmed anyway and just want the money.

A ‘give ’em what they want’ draft because you know they don’t know they don’t want what they think they want until you’ve given it to them.

But apart from those drafts, you should always be happy with what you’ve done and you should always think it’s good.

Doesn’t mean you’re right though. Let’s face it, how many times have you listened to a writer bang on about theme and what certain scenes represent and the motivations of the characters … only to read the script and realise in all this depth they’ve forgotten to include a surface. Stories should be interesting and coherent first and foremost, deep and subtle is a bonus. Sometimes we just don’t get it.

Who else can you trust? Not family or friends, not even if they’re writers themselves, because they will lie to spare your feelings. I do. I try not to, I write pages and pages slagging people’s work off and then follow up with something like “Apart from that, it’s not bad!”

It is. It is bad. I’m lying to spare your feelings and, in the process, failing both of us.

The producer? It is technically his film, surely you can trust the producer?

You fucking idiot! Never, ever trust a producer! Ever.

I recently heard a director describe a trustworthy producer as “someone who wouldn’t steal more than 10% of the budget.”

Okay, so producers come in all shapes and smells and they’re all differently competent at their jobs. Focussing on the story is your job, they have different thought processes like:

“Fuck me! How much will that cost!”

or

“Maybe I can buy the location using the budget and then sell it afterwards for a profit?”

or

“Maybe if I give the lead actress more lines she’ll sleep with me?”

They don’t know good writing, if they did, they’d write it themselves. Plus, producers read a lot of scripts. A lot.

Think of a number.

Double it.

They read more than that.

Some of them anyway. A lot of them don’t and just pretend they do.

And of all these scripts, every single one of them is an astounding pile of shit. Bad writing abounds and most scripts are plain fucking awful. When you hand in a mediocre one it’s like someone’s shit rainbows into their eyes and pissed honeydew over their tongue. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King. In the land of the producer, the retarded dyslexic is still in the top ten percent of writers. If he can spell his name right he makes the top five percent.

So they haven’t got a clue – they’re just grateful if they can read to the end without falling asleep.

Directors? You can trust their opinion, right?

Nope.

Directors tend to think in pretty pictures without stopping to think if the pictures make any fucking sense whatsoever. If your script has room for some cool camera moves and shit blowing up, they’re happy.

Actors. Come on! You’ve got some great actors onboard – they must think the script’s good, surely? Trust the actors’ opinions.

Or don’t.

Actors, unless they’re Hollywood A list, are permanently unemployed. As soon as one shoot finishes, they’re desperately looking for the next because coke and hookers cost money. Even the ones in demand have to face the tidal wave of shitty scripts which wash up on the shore of their self-infatuation. Again, with so many bad scripts out there they’ll cling to a mediocre one like a rat to a turd.

If your mediocre script has one decent part in it, one character who’s even vaguely different to the roles they normally get offered with at least one good scene, then they’ll fall over their ego to do it.

Other reasons an actor might say your script is good:

  • It’s a day’s work for a few grand. Why not? Beats staying at home with that whore/wimp they married.
  • It gets them out of the country until that whole pregnant teenager/drug bust/animal felching thing blows over.
  • They owe someone a favour.
  • They like the director and want to work with him again.
  • The producer has a different script and they want to star in that one.
  • They want to sleep with one of the other stars.

And so on. Of course, the number one reason an actor might say your script is good is because they’re fucking actors. They lie for a living. Do not believe a fucking word they say.

Who else is there? The crew? They don’t care. They get paid the same for a good film as for a bad film – the script is inconsequential. Yes, they’d all love to work on something which is awesome so they can tell granny about it, but at the end of the day the only good project is one where everyone gets paid.

What about when the film’s finished? If all the critics say the film is awesome it must vindicate your script, right?

Wrong.

Critics judge the film, not the script. They haven’t read the script. When they say the script sucks, they mean the director’s interpretation of the script, the actors’ delivery of the lines and the editor’s ability to splice it all together sucks.

Conversely, when someone watches a film and pronounces the script to be great – punch them in the balls. Unless you’ve read the script, how the fuck do you know?

And that really is the point – you don’t know if your script is good. No one does, not ever. Because ‘good’ is a subjective opinion and everyone who reads it has their own agenda and filters the script through their own unique world view.

At the end of the day (and this ridiculously long post) ‘Is my script any good?’ is the wrong question to ask.

‘Am I happy with it?’ is the closest you’re ever going to get and really, the only thing which matters.

Apart from ‘Am I getting paid for it?’

Which really comes down to ‘Is the client happy with it?’

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Categories: Industry Musings, Random Witterings | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “How do you know when your script is good?

  1. Oddly, very appropriate to my current situation. *LOL*

  2. Jess

    And appropriate to mine as well 🙂 Great post. I laughed out loud at the actors bit.

  3. Superb blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on
    everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?

    There are so many options out there that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any tips? Bless you!

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