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Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make It Great

_Your Screenplay Sucks!
100 Ways to Make It Great
by William M. Akers_
 
90. Your sense of entitlement is in overdrive! a.k.a. “Don’t fight the notes!”
 
No one owes you a read.
  “If I read a bad script, which takes me forty five minutes, I can’t ask for my money back or my time back and I am filled with incalculable amounts of rage.”
— Los Angeles producer
 
No one owes you anything. Just because you took the time to write your fabulous screenplay doesn’t mean anybody Out There is honor bound to read it. It may be the greatest screenplay on earth, but there are plenty of scripts floating around and if they miss out on reading yours, they won’t lose sleep over it.
 
Remember the massive amount of stress and time involved to be in the movie and television business. When you approach someone “real,” be aware of their schedule and what you are asking them to do. If you ask someone to read your script, you are begging for a couple of hours out of their life that you can’t give back. You can give them a nice present, a cool book, or a Starbucks gift card, but listening to their advice, and taking their suggestions, is not a bad idea either.
 
If someone agrees to read your screenplay, you must treat them like a precious jewel and never assume they’ll get to it this weekend, despite what they say.
 
Be sweet. Be patient. Be tolerant. And don’t act like an idiot.
 
The last thing you want to do is come at somebody, guns blazing, put out that they haven’t gotten to your phenomenal screenplay quickly enough to suit you. You’re lucky they’ll take your calls, so act accordingly.
 
And if, perchance, they are thoughtful enough to give you notes, take them!
 
“No one is as arrogant as a beginner.”
— Elizabeth Ashley
 
If somebody reads your script and doesn’t want to canonize you as quickly as you’d like, but they have notes, then dutifully write them down and act interested. I get this a lot with writers who have never had anything produced. Newbies are often less open to criticism. Maybe they figure the advice is worth what they paid.
 
Do not fight the guy giving notes. Do not say, “but the act break is there, you just can’t see it.” Do not claw for every yard like it’s Omaha Beach. Copy down what they say, murmur gracious acceptance, and say “thank you” at the end. Don’t act like you know more about screenplays than they do. Don’t act like they’re idiots because they don’t understand what you’ve so generously taken the time to have written!
 
When I was in film school, we showed our pathetic little first projects and one guy’s was terrible. It happens. So, we were going around the room and giving our most afraid-of-being-hurtful comments, and he said, really put out, “It’s a personal film! You’re not supposed to understand it!” He vanished soon thereafter.
 
If you find someone to read your script, the door to Hollywood opens. Slightly.
 
If someone reads your script and is kind enough to give you notes, but because of some insane sense of entitlement, you fight them on the notes, that great golden door will begin to close. You won’t see it close either, because these guys are smooth, like the Flusher in college fraternities — the pleasant guy during rush who leads the loser to the back door, all charm and grace and understanding, who gently explains to the dweeb that perhaps he might try his luck at a frat house down the road — and the guy leaves all smiles, unaware he’s a dead man walking. That’s how it is when the Hollywood door closes. You never feel the needle enter your brain.
 
These people read twenty or thirty scripts a week. They have no time or tolerance for arrogance. Remember, it only crosses the reader’s mind how long it took to read, not how long you took to write it.
 
If you refute the notes, he or she is absolutely going to think, “Dude, I took an hour of my weekend to read your f
ing script. You’re a guy who has never done anything, and there’s a shot I could know what I’m talking about — at least listen!”
 
And the great, golden door will lock. The producer will go off to her production meetings and casting sessions and free lunches and massages and first days of principal photography, and you will be left alone on a raw, windy sidewalk, clutching your screenplay, looking at the high wall and the closed steel door — wondering why it’s got no handle.

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