Ray P.

How many screenplays have you read for BlueCat?

Probably in the region of 1500.

What is your job when providing feedback to a writer? 

To point out the positive as well as the negative. Hopefully to enable him/her to improve the script. Inevitably, I have my own preferences when it comes to genre, but I try not to let this color my response to a script: it’s my job to judge whether a script seems to succeed or fail in what it sets out to accomplish, and to suggest why this might be.

What is your attitude toward a screenplay before you start reading? 

I approach every script with the hope that I’ll be entertained. I don’t have any prejudgments…although if I see that the script is in Comic Sans or there’s Clip Art on the title page, I may approach it slightly apprehensively…

How do you stay focused when reading a script you don’t find interesting? 

A sense of duty and an uncomfortable chair. 

What are three common problems that keep coming up when reading for BlueCat?

Clunky expository dialogue. Scenes that run overlong, with redundant repetition of information or insignificant action. Dramatic shapelessness: I’m not talking about a rigid adherence to the “rules” of three act structure, but scripts where the main goal of the protagonist is slow to emerge or the protagonist’s development ends well before the final obstacle he/she has to overcome. 

How do handle being critical without being mean?

I remember that I’m being paid to provide a service and not to sit in some presumed position of judgment from the heights of Mount Olympus: I’m an aspiring writer, too. Inevitably, the word count imposed on me means I can’t sugarcoat opinions but have to express them with relative brevity: hopefully this doesn’t come across as meanness. 

How do you avoid unwarranted praise?  

I don’t think the delivery of unwarranted praise is a trait to which I’m prone…

Do you have any pet peeves? 

Fantasy epics that stop at page 120 (or, more usually, page 140) as if the writer thought “that’s it, I’ve got enough for a script, now onto part 7 in the Zygathorx Chronicles”: a script has to function as a self-contained work, even if it lays the groundwork for sequels. Protagonists called “Jack” (likeable everyman) or “Dylan” (poetic rebel). 

What is the heart of a successful screenplay?

For me, a successful screenplay allows me to imagine it on screen. This doesn’t mean an over-reliance on giving camera directions, but creating the impression that the script is already on the verge of bursting out of its chrysalis and becoming a film. It’s a blueprint for action, pared-down but vivid…one that hopefully engages the emotions and avoids dramatic clichés. 

What do you believe is the hardest part of the job of the screenwriter?

Overcoming self-doubt, or, rather, utilizing it effectively. Developing the ability to give up on pet scenes or ideas that are hindering the script. 

What advice would you like to offer a screenwriter before they enter BlueCat? 

Show the script to friends and fellow-writers, ones who don’t feel obliged to flatter you or to be polite. Listen to their opinions and decide if you need to act on them. Be a ruthless self-editor. Read the dialogue aloud to see if it flows well and think about how long action will take to play out on screen: identify flat moments and unnecessary action and chop them out.

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