Posts tagged ‘first five pages’

February 8, 2013

12 Things Spec Readers Look For

There are no hard and fast rules of screenwriting (formatting rules aside), but there are a number of key factors that readers look at to determine whether or not your script will be worth the full read within minutes of picking it up. Ray Morton of Script Mag has listed out the 12 key signs of a promising script:

Professional script readers will often claim that they can tell if a screenplay is going to be good or not after reading just a few pages. This is true – for me, anyway.

Granted, I can’t assess every single nuance of a script’s story in just five or ten or pages, but by assessing twelve specific elements, I can tell if the story, characters, and dialogue have potential and if the writer has the ability to pull off whatever it is she/he is attempting. Here are those twelve elements – those twelve signs of a promising spec:

1. The script is short – between 90 and 110 pages: The average length of a feature film is between 100 and 120 minutes (yes, I know that a lot of modern movies run longer than two hours, but those films are usually the result of self-indulgent directors abusing their right to final cut and does not reflect a desire on the part of the industry at large to make longer movies – studios and theater owners still prefer pictures to be two hours or less so that they can screen them as many times a day as possible and so want screenplays sized accordingly.

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September 22, 2011

What Not to Do in Your First 5 Pages

This article from MovieBytes.com gives some simple, practical advice for how not to give away your inexperience in the first few pages of your writing, the pages that every reader is going to judge you on and possibly not read past. Take a look:

Five pages.  That’s what you get. You spend six months on that spec screenplay and the reader at the agency-manager-prodco-contest is giving five lousy pages before he makes a judgement.

It’s an outrage! Blame it on Attention-Deficit-Disorder, the Twitterverse, the 24/7 news cycle…but guess what?

A good reader can recognize a poorly written script within five pages or less. Sometimes it can be seen on Page 1.

Here are a couple of traps to avoid:

  1. BE AN ADVERB & ADJECTIVE HATER

    “The Chow Chow sadly waddles up the plush scarlet-carpeted, serpentine-twisting rug, woefully stopping under the plumb Ming Dynasty vase, dumbly lifting his hind leg…”

    You’re writing a screenplay, not the Great American novel. That means not killing the reader with purple prose. Just because you can write effective adjectives and adverbs doesn’t mean you should. When it comes to pumping up screen direction, ask yourself: Do I need it?

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