Friday, February 24, 2017

A Simple Screenplay Test

I came across this seven-point test to help you rate your screenplay and identify maybe some of its weak points.  While my bullshit alarm immediately goes off visiting the guy's website (using blog posts to help drive traffic towards a product he's hocking), the test is useful enough on its own that it's worth re-iterating.  I've edited down the material and paraphrased a bit here just to cut to the chase:
This fella opens up his pitch by talking about a very binary idea: there are only two types of scripts, good and bad.  He speaks with too much snappy confidence here, so I've parsed the crap out.  The only gem to set up the quiz is: "You got one shot… better make it great."

Screenwriters Only Have One Shot

Upon writing, registering (WGA) and copywriting (LOC) your script it is time to send it out and you will only have 1 shot with each person you send it to, for if it isn’t great, then truly forget about ever having that person read wittingly another script from you… Thus, what you send better be great. 

Screenplay Test

Score each Question with a 1-3 for “Very Poor”, 4-6 for “Adequate”, 7-8 for “Good”, 9 for “Very Good” and 10 for “Excellent”
When reading your script do your eyes flow down the page, instead of movie left to right, line-by-line? If they go left-to-right, while reading, then you, the reader, are bored.
Please do not have to much exposition in your script. This is not a novel. Stop overly describing every scene.
Readers & Development Execs will always tell you “Want to see a lot of white space”.
SCORE (1-10) _______________

Grab-The-Reader instantly: You must hook readers/viewers in the first 15-20 seconds. These are people that have read 500-1,000 scripts and have no desire to read yours. Thus, you better grab the reader super quick.
Does something shocking happen in your script by Line 7-9 of page one to grab the reader? Or are you taking 3-5 pages to allegedly “establish” your characters and settings.
Grab-The-Reader instantly.
Do you have a Grabber around Line 7-9 of Page 1?
SCORE (1-10) ___________________

Make-Reader-Turn-The-Page: Does something happen, a 2nd grabber, at the bottom of Page one (one minute into the film) to hold the tv viewer through the commercials or grab the reader who really doesn’t want to read another bloody script from a nobody?
Do you have a 2nd Grabber on the bottom of Page #1?
Do you, when reading your own script, actually want to turn the page, after page 1, and are excited about what is on Page #2?
SCORE (1-10) ___________________

Yes, it is correct most readers only read 10 pages… that is assuming they get past Page #1.
Let’s be positive and assume your Page #1 is great (You have 2 Grabbers) and the reader turns-the-page to Page #2.
Now, do the next 9 pages, your first ten pages make the reader to want more?
SCORE (1-10) __________________

Do you manipulate your reader, every 10-14 pages (or minutes, in tv 2 commercial breaks), with expecting something to happen, and then throw in a sudden twist out of nowhere…but is logical?
This can only be accomplished by creating a proper Step Outline (aka: Beat Sheet) prior to commencing your 1st Draft.
Is your script loaded with a roller-coaster ride of emotions and plot twists?
SCORE (1-10) ____________________

Can you sit down and outline three reasons why each character is unique?
Make sure your characters are not simple 1-dimensional stick figures.
Everyone is not either Black (evil) or White (good). We are all some shade of grey.
Now, does each of your characters have depth?
SCORE (1-10) ___________________

Pick any page in your script. Put your thumb over the character’s name above a line of dialogue. Can you tell from just the dialogue which character is speaking? Can you even tell if the character is a man or a woman just by the dialogue?
SCORE (1-10) _________________

Now add up the score. It will be between 7-70.
What did you come up with? 33? 48? 67? 68?
If your score is anything but “70”, get back to work.
50-60 is horrendous.
65-67 isn’t good.
68 is close but not there.
69 still isn’t perfect.
70 is perfect…
If it isn’t 70… then back to the drawing board for a re-write.
If it is 70…now let’s find a reader who thinks like you.
Remember, you are a first-timer and you have to be perfect.  Areader will only put forward a script to have his boss to read…. If-It-Is-Perfect.
Only perfect will do.
Thus, I guess it’s time for either a rewrite, or put the script away, and write another totally new script, and then, a year or two later, go back to your first script, that didn’t get a “70” score and try one more re-write.
So that's the test.  I feel like it's a derivative of what Syd Field and Blake Snyder both push in terms of approaching your work with a critical eye, but it's either going to be a great little confidence booster for you, or a kick in the pants and a dose of honesty for how much farther you need to push the work.

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