The Constructive Script Review (2)

Some people say nothing in their reviews because they don’t want to reveal their “secret insights” on screenwriting. Let me ask you – how do you know that what you know is correct? How will you find out if you’re correct unless you talk about it?

(Continued from Part 1)

Just because you have a different vision of how to tell a story doesn’t necessarily mean that the author’s vision is wrong. 10 different writers could tell the same story 10 different ways and they could all turn into 4-star films.

What you’re feeling while you’re reading a script is quite important and should be noted whether the author wants to hear it or not.

Life is full of subtext. Movies should be, too.

If every character in a story is saying exactly what they are thinking and feeling, give suggestions about how to incorporate subtext. There are no books on subtext. Plus, thinking of creative ways to avoid on-the-nose exposition will not only improve their scenes but will also sharpen your skills as a writer.

If you’re not learning something new with every review you write, you aren’t giving the scripts enough thought.

I love character depth. Make the author love it, too.

Every story has to be considered on an individual basis.

So you’re reading a mafia story. That doesn’t mean that the narrative should be exactly like “The Godfather.” Or that a comedy should also be like the “Pink Panther.” Just ask yourself, “Given the parameters of this concept, was this story told as well as it could be told?”

I’ll praise a script even if the story parts do not fit the whole so long as the scenes play strongly on their own and the parts work together even if the whole leaves me a little uncertain. A lot of scripts are certain about their story as a whole but are made of careless parts. Forced to choose, I would take the strong parts over the whole.

Many film critics and TS reviewers behave like merciless logicians

Many film critics and TS reviewers behave like merciless logicians by pointing out each and every plot hole and logic flaw and thereby rejecting entire stories because of said plot holes no matter how small they might be, as if that’s the only thing that matters in a movie.

Well, it all depends upon the size of the holes, doesn’t it? Most film students know that almost every thriller under the sun has plot holes and flaws in logic in them but they are still accepted and beloved by many because of so many other elements of quality craftsmanship. I think there’s a sliding scale involved.

If a movie takes itself seriously and yet you can’t buy into its incredibly flawed plot, then yeah, it officially sucks. Unless, of course, it is a movie that doesn’t really take itself too seriously and is INTENDED to be wildly impossible but entertainingly so, like, say, a James Bond movie, then okay, no problem. If a serious thriller can hold water for the most part (or not leak too quickly), I won’t condemn a script over a few minor leaks.

TriggerStreet and my blog have given me opportunities I never dreamed would happen.

To my great surprise, I was approached by one of my all-time favorite novelists. That’s no exaggeration. All-time favorite. I completely love this woman. She’s married, unfortunately. Anyway, she kindly asked me to give her feedback on two scripts she wrote, one an adaptation of her very famous novel and the other an original story. You know what? She made all the same amateur mistakes everyone else makes. We’ve all been there.

My reviews are usually 2,000 words – a thousand words for the running notes, another thousand for the review itself. The feedback I gave to the above-mentioned famous writer was 6,000 words – each. She’s not as lucky as we are to receive regular feedback on this site from true students of the craft.

To this day, she asks me who I am, and I won’t tell her. Hehehe

I invited one other quite popular writer I know to participate on TriggerStreet. For a time, he really loved it. But his reviews sucked. Yet, he’s a great writer.

There’s no such thing as a perfect script. But sometimes a script is good enough.

A critic’s pen should serve as a whetstone, not a sledgehammer.

And finally, not long ago in the world of film bloggers, Andy Horbal hosted a Film Criticism Blog-a-Thon. I loved what Peet Gelderblomwrote: “It’s one thing to challenge the opinion of others, it’s another to proclaim absolutes in the name of Good Taste. A true provocateur doesn’t hamper by discouraging thought, but stimulates others to think differently.

Why is it that some critics judge like punishing Old Testament Gods when their function is not to damn or win souls, but to sharpen minds? A critic’s pen should serve as a whetstone, not a sledgehammer.”

To that, I say, “amen.”

Unless, of course, you’ve written total drivel.

– Mystery Man

In his own words, Mystery Man was “famous yet anonymous, failed yet accomplished, brilliant yet semi-brilliant. A homebody jetsetting around the world. Brash and daring yet chilled with a twist.”

MM blogged for nearly 4 years and tweeted for only 4 months, then disappeared – mysteriously.

The Story Department continues to republish his best articles on Monday.

Here, you’ll also be informed about the release of his screenwriting book.

Leave a Comment