Robert C.

How many screenplays have you read for BlueCat?

The number is slowly approaching 100.

What projects are you currently working on?

Currently, I’m busy revising a feature length horror comedy AND I’m developing an animated sitcom with my podcasting partner. As you can imagine, it’s a tough balance, but I find that it’s easier to keep the creative juices flowing when I’m working on more than one thing at any given time. If I get stuck on one, I move to the other, and by the time I come back I’m usually in a different head space and ready to solve the problem.

What is your main job when providing feedback to a writer?

It’s the responsibility of every reader to be constructively honest with every screenplay that they pick up. Anyone could just pick up a script and say, “I liked it” or “It was kind of confusing”, but it’s my job to express what is and isn’t working in a script so that the writer has a better understanding of what they’re doing if they choose to start another draft or begin working on a new project. If a certain character speaks to me, it’s my job to explain why that character is speaking to me and point out where that character shines the brightest. When a writer gets validation that something is working, it helps them better understand their own process. At the same time, if I find that a particular character arc falls flat and goes nowhere, I need to be honest about it and explain exactly why it doesn’t work. I can’t solve a script’s problems for the writer, but I can direct the writer to the problems and offer problem-solving techniques so they can get to a solution on their own.

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

I treat every screenplay that I read as if I’m the one who wrote it. It takes the writer out of the equation and allows the script to speak for itself. I want to provide the sort of feedback to people that I would want to receive if I was in their situation, feedback that can genuinely improve my writing and reading a script as if it’s my own usually leads to more honest and helpful feedback.

What are three common problems that keep coming up when reading a screenplay?

The three most common issues are usually connected to one another. Scripts often have an underdeveloped protagonist who doesn’t have a clear goal or arc, the dialogue is flat and on the nose, and the scenes aren’t usually structured very well. As far as I’m concerned, these all come down to the same problem: clarity. Characters speak flat dialogue because they’re not developed enough, the writer doesn’t fully understand who they are, and that leads to scenes into dead ends or have no build up to what the scene is actually about. Fixing the character stuff will usually start helping with the other issues.

As an experienced reader, do you have any advice for writing a screenplay?

Make sure that your protagonist has a clear goal that is tethered to their arc. Many writers will put a lot of effort into jokes if their writing a comedy, many of those ideas starting off as “Wouldn’t it be funny if this happens?” or they’ll put a lot of energy into throwing in something scary if they’re writing horror, but it really always comes down to character. If the story is clear, if the protagonist is well defined, the rest will fall into place. Avoid chasing “Wouldn’t it be funny if’s” into corners and instead let your characters guide you to the laughs, and scares, and drama. Everything starts with character.

What do you think is the hardest part of being a screenwriter?
Personally, I always have the hardest time figuring out where to start a rewrite. Rewriting often takes up more time than writing out the first draft and once I get started I’m golden, but it’s that moment right after I’ve completed a first draft that I’m completely lost. A lot of times I’ll have a vague understanding of what needs to be done in the next draft, but I’ll still be too close to it to really see what’s not working. What I do is take a step back. I don’t look at the script for a week. In that time, I’ll be working on something totally different and ideally, I’ll have trusted friends, familiar with my style and my first drafts, read the draft over. Then, when I’m ready to come back, I look at the notes I receive and I look for overlap, notes that match how I felt when I finished, and I usually start there. That gets the ball rolling and makes everything else easier.
 
What is the heart of a successful screenplay?

Easy, like I said earlier, it all comes down to character. If a screenplay has well-defined characters that are interesting to read/watch everything else tends to fall into place.

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