Last week I was asked why I read other people’s scripts. For one brief, rather happy moment I thought the fella might be asking because I am such a fantastic writer that I have no need of learning from other people.
No, he said, I mean why read the scripts when you can just see the bloody film?
He had a point. Crushingly cruel as he was.
I do know many writers who will avoid the actual script if the film or the programme or the show has been made. The script is, as I completely understand, the detailed blueprint. It’s not the final show any more than a house is the sum of its elevation drawings or isometric projections.
And I’ve just now finished being one of the many judges on the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain’s radio awards. I can’t tell you which entries were my favourites and apparently I can’t even know myself which one has actually won. But I can tell you that some of us simply read all the scripts while others listened to all of the finished shows instead.
I can make you a strong argument for both. If you needed this for some test, I could stock you up with reasons to read the script and reasons not to.
You can imagine all of them except, I find myself hoping, one that matters rather a lot.
It’s quicker to read the script.
There. I’ve said it. I can read an hour-long script in about twenty minutes. A full-length feature film, say 120 pages, is maybe fifty minutes reading time at most.
I do read quickly but I never speed-read and I don’t skip anything, it’s just that I’m fast and scripts have very few words on the page anyway.
There is also this. I know in the first few seconds on page one whether I’m going to think it’s a good script. Recently I read a set where it took a page to get going and if we were in production I’d just kill those pages. But even then, they didn’t get going good enough: my first reaction was maybe harsh but definitely fair.
One interesting thing about reading other people’s scripts is that you come back to your own with a different perspective. Hopefully a better perspective but unquestionably different.
The trick is to read the ones by the fantastic writers.