Not too long ago, I was looking for short film scripts for my next directorial project. I advertised for screenwriters to send me a synopsis so I could determine whether their script would be appropriate for the type of project I had in mind.
Now two things happened that irritated me to high heaven which I’m going to share with you now.
Tip Number 1 – Give Them What They Want
If someone asks to read your work, whether it be a play, a film script, a novel or a short poem, make sure you give them precisely what they want!
If they ask for a short synopsis of no more than 300 words and a brief biography, don’t send them your entire script, a copy of your autobiography and a collection of witty jokes. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your work is, if a director or agent is only interested in a short synopsis they are not going read 120 pages and you are more than likely going to annoy them.
To highlight how important this, I’m going to recount something that happened whilst I was hunting for short film scripts to produce.
A lovely chap sent me an application. I had asked for a short synopsis, nothing more. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to give someone with talent a chance, it was simply because I was after a very specific project and I didn’t have the time to waste reading scripts for projects that I wouldn’t want to film.
This chap threw caution to the wind and decided that what I was asking for was not what I wanted. Instead he chose to send me a brilliantly (admittedly) crafted email in which he attempted to convince me that it would take less time for me to read the script than it would for me to understand it through a synopsis. The fact that it took me a fair amount of time to read his giant essay of an email had apparently never occurred to him.
He also put across the argument that his work would be the best thing I had ever read and that I would be completely blown away by its awesomeness…
Now, under normal circumstances I would normally ignore such an email straight off. Any person who tells you that their script is easier to read than their synopsis either struggles with writing a synopsis or has got such a ludicrously complicated script that it probably isn’t worth working on. And anyone who needs to tell you that their script is brilliant evidently does not trust that you will feel the same way.
However on this occasion I happened to be in a relatively good mood. I gave the chap the benefit of the doubt and asked him to send me through his script.
And one that I will never be repeating again!
Not only did this chap’s script completely fail to live up to the hype he created for it, but it also contained numerous examples of evidence that he hadn’t bothered to edit the script before sending it to me….
Which brings me neatly on to…
Tip Number Two – Learn to Read Out Loud!
There is nothing in the world that screams “I haven’t edited this yet” louder missing words, incorrect punctuations! sleeping mistakes, continuity continuity errors and sentences that don’t make tunnel.
Seriously, it is so distracting when you are reading someone else’s work and you start to realise that they haven’t even bothered to read it back themselves. Even those with the best qualities of character would inevitably end up saying,
“If this guy won’t even read his own work, why the hell should I?”
And even reading it back isn’t enough sometimes. Our brains are fragile organs and our eyes see whatever they expect to see. It is the easiest thing in the world to scan through a sentence and not realise that you wrote “tow” when you meant “two”. My favourite mistake, and I seriously make this one all the time, is if I am writing a piece of fiction, I will frequently type “we” when I mean to type “he”.
The solution is quite simple.
Read your work out loud!
Yes, fine. The people in the next room will think you’re arguing with yourself and your housemates may think you’re going mad or the librarian will chuck you out of the library for talking, but at least you won’t let those silly mistakes slip through. Because if those mistakes get spotted, you may as well have not submitted your work at all…