Friday, January 31, 2014

Reading readers

adj. plausible - credible, believable

One of the most disliked jobs in the film and TV business is probably "the reader".

These are the people who read screenplays for their production company or studio or producer. There's a couple of reasons why companies enlist readers; it could be the volume of screenplays a company would get and/or the producer is just too lazy and finally because the producer probably can't read because they never learned how to or they have an attention-deficit problem.

Having said that, there are a lot of producers who do actually read screenplays that are submitted or passed alone from a friend or another company or a studio.

But then there's the reader; you'll notice ads in places like Mandy and producers who are "too busy". There's actually two types of readers; one type is hired by the production company and the other is freelance. 

The production company will probably pay the reader a regular salary which may amount to

maybe a few hundred dollars a week. If the reader is good, they might rise to a development executive. With that label, they get business cards and probably the same amount of money.

Freelances are often made up of writers who haven't worked for awhile or aspiring writers who hope to make friends with the production company so they can have access to the producers with their screenplays.

So what do readers do?

Naturally they read screenplays, sometimes lots of them. And they have the power to either push a writer's screenplay further or the quash it.

The funny part about this is that most readers really haven't had any kind of training except for reading comic books for maybe even a real book or two. If I sound a little rough on these people, I'll tell you why --

Because screenwriters do not like readers.

How would you like it if you were a good pie maker and made a pie to someone who knows nothing about pie-making -- and he says it's not very good.

Okay, that's a weak comparison, but it is true.

Free-lance readers get paid anywhere from $10 a screenplay up to $100 (most of them at the bottom range).

I recently had a screenplay on The Black List and while the reader gave a glowing report to the overall screenplay, they expressed some doubts about the "plausibility" of one story line.

That got me going.

The scene in mind was a doctor who just happened to be in Paris and who witnessed a man having a heart attack and assisted the man to the hospital wherein CIA agents enlisted him for a special job.

There's more to the scene that explains why but let's go with that.

When questioned why the doctor happened to be there I answered simply "because he was" and "that's part of the story". Is it likely to happen? No. But could it happen? Yes.

It's very difficult to explain why; why did Bruce Willis in Die Hard happen to encounter terrorists when he just wanted to see his wife?  What's the odds of that happening to anyone?

How about Sandra Bullock in Gravity. Why did debris cast her off the space station at that moment? Astronauts regularly go out on space walks.  Why did it happen to her?

And how about a classic; Why does Ingrid Bergman and her husband come to Casablanca to escape the Nazis when the Nazis control Casablanca?

Does that make sense?

Is it plausible? I think Casablanca not plausible. Does anyone complain about it. No, the story is so good you don't look at logic.

Could a doctor from the U.S.A. come to Paris because he was kicked out of a hospital for drinking and decided to get out of the country for awhile and end up in a bar in Paris where someone has a heart attack?

Is it plausible that someone can fly like Superman? 

That's not plausible, at least for now.

While writers do not like readers because of the control they have over a writer's screenplay, readers don't always like us. A lot of them are envious because they are closet writers. It is a mutual non-admiration club.

I think the majority of readers give their producers want they want; that's why we see the same kind of movies over and over again, rom-coms (romantic comedies) and superheroes. 

Am I just grumpy, does it change anything... 

Part 2: Monday  The Black List

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