We know how to Fix a Script — but we don’t yet know how to properly, and fairly, read one.


The first thing you do when you pick up a script is make yourself a blank page.  Do not bring any of our prejudices, expectations or notions to the experience.

Let the script and characters wash over you without making any value judgments.

Always keep in mind that few authors venture beyond their circle of “yes” confirmation feedback — so the the criticism so far has been slight and non-harmful.  The author believes they’ve written a hit and all their friends and associates have certified and confirmed that dream.

Try to manage your expectation.  Yes, there are a few scripts that are so horrible that you cannot make it past the third page — but try to stick with the entire flow of the story so you can point out watershed moments for the author to fix or clean up.

Be specific.  Make notes in the margins.  Dog-ear pages.  Cross things out.  The script should reflect the effort you put into its reading. 

Offer choices.  Don’t only condemn.  Offering other ways is often a much better form of feedback to encourage fixing than just saying, “This doesn’t work.”  Explain.  Example.  Provide.

Ask for clarity.  If something is amiss or misunderstood — ask for a passage or a phrase or a character’s intention to be clarified.  Offer options that might help fix the problem.

Be respectful.  Even if the script fails the Poetics test — find some glory to celebrate.  One script reader advises, “Say three nice things and then something negative.”  The only problem with that advice is it can quickly become predictable and authors will count down the three nice things on their fingers before they get slammed.

Be creative and thoughtful in your script feedback and you won’t have to worry about any countdowns or unfair slamming.

5 Comments

  1. Perhaps one should occasionally mix it up and say only two nice things — or four! Of course, the important thing is that these nice things be non fluff. Clarification is also an excellent thing to request. I love the notion of not just saying that something doesn’t work but expounding on it and helping to make it work.

  2. The problem with the “3 good, 1 bad” measure of criticism is that it is by rote and therefore phony. You can try to mix it up, but those who are on to you will still count on their fingers what you say just to throw you off and show you how boring you are. I agree that just being fresh and honest and direct with your fixes — that may well be rejected in total in the end — is the only way to read a script.

  3. I think if I am asking for professional advice I should be ready to digest his/ her honest feedback, that’s the only way to improve if that’s my real objective…or, am I missing something?
    I also think being candid is the best policy…but if I am looking for “ego-boosting” then I shouldn’t be let the script out beyond my friends’ circle…may be that’s just me.

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