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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Well Here's a New One

I opened up a screenplay this morning to cover. It began with a full page "Note to Readers." This was already quite a no-no, especially as it added little, and what it did add should have been somehow incoporated into the script. Remember:

If we can't see it or hear it, it isn't there!

Anyway, that was an inauspicious start to the script, but I read it anyway, and noticed that it was on a similar topic to a script I had covered back in March for the same company. "Well that's odd," I thought to myself. "Topic must have gotten hot all of a sudden." In truth, this is not all that uncommon. For no discernable reason, it is pretty frequently that I'll get two or three script around the same time that are on similar topics. Still, it was notable that this seemed to be another script on this same subject.

Then I began to read the script, proper. Less than a quarter page in I realized this wasn't similar to the script I covered a few months back. It was the script I read then! I wasn't in front of my computer, and the title was different, so I wasn't sure, but a quick call into the office confirmed my suspicions. Fell through the cracks because, as I said, it had a different title, so the database didn't notice.

Now, the first thought was that someone was being sneaky and pulling a fast one. However, though the scripts were submitted pretty close to each other, the draft dates were 2 1/2 years apart, they were each submitted by different people, and they were each submitted to different execs. So as I told the company, I don't think anyone was "trying to pull a fast one" here. Rather I gave them the benefit of the doubt, and suggested it was probably just a case of the right hand not talking to the left. Still, funny and surprising!

By the way, I skimmed through it, since it was a different draft, to make sure it wasn't a vastly improved version of the same script. In those two-and-a-half years between drafts, the script didn't change very much. There were a few tweaks to dialogue, action, description, and character, but none of which improved the script enough. There was one significant structural change which excised an entire sequence. This was actually a very positive development, and I had even commented on the weakness of that portion of the prior draft (so I suppose other people felt the same problem). But that too was not enough to counteract the problems that were fundametal to the script.

In truth, it wasn't a terrible script either time. Just not a great one. So I think what we have here, between the half-hearted improvements and the miscommunication re: submissions from different people, is an author who may be lazy about his writing, and who has a bad handle on managing his business. And writing a great script is not all you need to succeed in this business!

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Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

But it's better than writing a lousy one.

6:04 AM  
Blogger A. M. said...

Submitted by different people? Did you find out what that was all about? Original author submitting both times or something else? Weird.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Rock said...

I really bet it wasn't the writer's fault, rather his reps. In regards to title changes, my co-writer and I have had two projects with title changes, one of which will go out over this summer. Now, mind you, the scripts have either greatly changed, or in one instance, we created a TV show looesly based on the feature, and thus had to change the feature title, because there is still interest in it as well.

In my experience, and from what I've heard, the name change on a rewrite in not all that uncommon. As long as the rewrite was enough of either a change, or a punch up, to give it a second life.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

AM - No, not sure. My guess is an agent and a producer, perhaps? Neither was sub by author.

Rock -- you're prob right.

And MaryAn -- you're definitely right! ;-)

10:04 AM  
Blogger G-D SQUAD said...

Hey Fun Joel. Happy La''G BaOmer, almost. Just wanted to let you know that a new Jewlicious video is up, check it out here.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Joshua James said...

How many great scripts have you read, over the years? Just curious -

6:26 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Joshua --

It is a good question. I'll actually try to make a separate post about that soon! :-)

6:36 PM  
Blogger mernitman said...

This sort of thing happens ALL the time -- sometimes the reasons are deliberately duplicitous (as if a reader or exec won't recognize the same script if the name's changed!) and sometimes it's just the vagaries of the biz (which is what this case sounds like).

But what really intrigues me is this truly odd phenomenon by which two, even three "same topic" scripts by different writers show up within days of each other. I've even had a two-on-one-day thing happen (high school gender- switch specs). I smell another post on this... (should I call "dibs?")

8:27 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

All yours Billy. I'm not sure I have a lot to say on the matter, other than it happens and it is weird!

8:31 PM  

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