When you’re raising money to make your next film, having a killer script is essential. The problem is, most filmmakers have no idea how to tell a good script from a terrible script. And if you’d like some context, I suggest you read every screenplay you can find. You can start this process by reading scripts for great and classic films.
This is exactly what I did. And unfortunately, the exercise soured me for almost every indie screenplay that followed. To date, I’ve probably read about 600 screenplays (not counting those classics), and hated around 580 of them. It’s not that I go into the experience wanting to hate the scripts… Just the opposite. I start on the first page hoping the story will blow me away. But that rarely happens.
Why is this? Well, first off, everyone believes he or she can write. Janitors, bartenders, teachers and your Aunt Sally… I’ve had horrible scripts given to me by famous actors who have been in the business for twenty years. A famous movie editor once gave me a script that was literally unreadable. And this guy had edited $300 million studio features. Everyone thinks they can write. And this is a major reason why the WGA has to retain such strict standards for admission.
The Killer Script Is King
You want to produce an independent ﬁlm? Having just an okay script or just a good script won’t be good enough. You have to start with a killer script! That’s the only way you can hedge your bets to get your ﬁlm made.
Repeat after me: “The killer script is king.”
How do you know if you have a killer script? Have multiple people (who know what they’re talking about) read it. One approach is to go online to Craigslist and click on the Los Angeles location. Then place an advertisement for script readers.
- You’ll receive resumes from people who’ve been script readers for major studios.
- Get a few of these people to read your script and give you studio-level coverage for $50-$100.
- Don’t put your name on the script. Doing so might lead the reader to censor his or her comments.
The reason you’ll get multiple people read your script (at least three) is that you want to look for trends. Readers, even the experienced ones, have likes and dislikes. Or they misinterpret things.
In the coverage for a dramatic screenplay I wrote, the reader assumed the main character killed a man twenty pages into the story (when, in actuality, he didn’t!) This plot point was clear to everyone who read the script but her. And it soured her whole coverage, reporting: “The lead character shows no remorse throughout the entire script!”
Obviously, she didn’t get it, and that can happen. To counter this, have multiple people read your work and give you feedback. If everyone says, “The supporting characters need to be developed more,” then that’s what you should do.
Writing Is Rewriting
To create a killer script, you’ll most likely have to rewrite your story more than seventeen times. And even then, be prepared for adjustments. Actor A might come to the set wanting to change dialogue. You might have to change a scene because you lost a location. You may need to write a quick “filler” scene at the last minute. All kinds of problems arise. So start thinking of your script (much like you think of your business plan) as a living, changing organism.
And don’t worry if you can’t write. You have to be honest with yourself about this. It won’t stop your movie from getting made. It just means that you’ll need to work with someone who can write. Pay him or her to rewrite your script or option one of his or her scripts. There are killer scripts out there… You just have to find them.
Search everywhere: IMDbPro, Craigslist, Inktip (a website that features a directory of scripts from screenwriters) and your network. You may even want to turn to managers and agents. Once you have a script, do the coverage test that I mentioned earlier. Killer scripts find a way to get made. And if you liked this article, check out Bankroll Film Funding Training.