Scott R.

How many screenplays have you read for BlueCat?

I have read about 100-120 screenplays for BlueCat.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am working on rewrites for a family script and a comedy script, and am researching a drama/comedy script set in a mental institution. I am also collaborating on a short horror script which will be produced and then developed into a feature script.

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

As a reader I take pride in providing practical and constructive feedback. You can read all the screenwriting books you want – we all have – but reading screenplays shows you what works and what doesn’t work. With each feedback I write, I try to give advice that applies to each writer’s story instead of just regurgitating rules from books. I have been lucky enough to learn from some great teachers, both in school and out, so I view providing useful feedback as a serious responsibility.

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

I’ve heard a theory that readers who are also writers don’t want the screenplays they read to be any good, lest it be one more script that is better than their own. For me that simply isn’t true, and I’ve never met a reader/writer to whom that applies. I carve out a good three or four-hour block of my night during which your screenplay is the only thing on my mind – no cell phone, email, nothing. I want to be entertained during that time. I want to read a great script.

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

Three common problems:
#1: Protagonists who are not put through the grinder. Be tough on your characters, and make happen to them the worst possible thing that you can imagine happening (within the context of your story, of course). You should like your character, yes; but you’ll like him even more when you see him grow after throwing everything possible in his path.
#2: Scenes that don’t have consequences. Every scene should happen because of a scene that happened before it, and should affect whatever scene comes next. Yes, you’ve probably read that in a book already; but it rings true when reading screenplays, as well as when watching movies. Nothing should be wasted.
#3 (more of a pet peeve, but here goes): When writers write in the names of songs they want to be playing during a scene, whether it’s within the scene or on the movie’s soundtrack. 99.9% of the time, I have no idea what the song is… Am I supposed to stop reading, go on YouTube and look it up? Because if I go on YouTube, I ain’t coming back for a while. This being said, however, rules are made to be broken (or at least bent): if a particular (and well-known) song adds something awesome to the scene, then by all means put it in. Just be absolutely sure that you can’t do without it.

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

In terms of advice, I only have two nuggets of wisdom: don’t bore me, and don’t confuse me. That’s about it.

What do you think is the hardest part of being a screenwriter?

The hardest part of being a screenwriter is making a habit of writing. Sometimes in film school, and then later on with a full-time career, I’ve had days when I say : “I don’t have class/work on Friday, so I’ll write for six hours that day.” You’re not going to. Everyone can find an hour in the morning or at night to write. Make it a habit every day. You want it to be your job, so treat it as if it is your job. 

What is the heart of a successful screenplay?

This is probably the toughest question to answer. There are a few scripts that I read for BlueCat last year that sometimes still cross my mind today: “I wonder whatever happened to that character,” or “what if the plot took this turn, instead?” So I guess the best screenplays are the ones that not only entertain you while reading them, but that make you think about them after you have finished reading. How do you do that? If you find out, seriously, track me down and let me know.

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