Premise: (Original Twit-Pitch Logline) A group of friends returns from a time-travel fieldtrip to find a nerdy student has altered his past turning him into a living legend.
About: For those recently joining Scriptshadow, I held a contest a few months back called "Twit-Pitch," where anyone could pitch me their screenplay on Twitter, as long as it was contained within a single tweet. I picked my 100 favorite loglines and read the first 10 pages of each (which I live-reviewed on Twitter), and then from those, picked the Top 20, which I'll read the entire screenplay for. This is one of the finalists.
Writers: West McDowell & Thomas Mahoney
Details: 101 pages
An early time-travel device. Only wish it was real so I could go back in time to before I read this.
Okay so I know I've been harsh this week. I've taken down two professional scripts so far, giving both of them the lowest possible rating on Scriptshadow. I don't know if the stress of the move is getting to me or what. Actually, that's probably it. I have so much stuff to get done before next Thursday that time is of the essence. Therefore when I sit down to read something, my expectations are high and my patience is thin. I don't want to feel like I've wasted two hours of my time, and by association, two hours of yours. Which is why it's taking every molecule in body to stay calm after reading today's Twit-Pitch script. Or, I should say, the first 30 pages of today's Twit-Pitch script, since I didn't read the rest.
When I envisioned the Twit-Pitch contest, the idea was to give writers opportunities who don't usually get them. I wanted to find 2 or 3 great screenplays and get the writers of those screenplays into the industry. It's partly my fault for constructing the contest like I did (only requiring a logline at first), but I'm really disappointed in writers who used this opportunity to pitch a logline they hadn't written a script for, and then tried to write a script in the 4-5 weeks before the deadline.
This is what I do FOR A LIVING. Read scripts. Do you really think you're going to write a script in 5 weeks that's going to impress me? I read scripts from pros who have worked a year on their scripts and still have flaws. I read scripts that have been in development for years at studios and still have flaws. Do you really think, as an amateur, as someone without as much experience or knowledge as those writers, that you're going to whip up something in a matter of weeks and I'm not gonna be able to tell the difference? Are you that delusional? Do you really disrespect me and this profession that much?
I did this to help you guys. And this is what I get in return? This is what I get for all my hard work? I didn't have time for Twit-Pitch. I had a move coming up, a book coming up, a site-relaunch coming up. Those last two things have pushed back specifically because of the time it's taken to do Twit-Pitch. And this is my reward?
Here are some of the sentences in the first act of "Cut Copy Paste..."
"Printed below the is the name, JEREMY WOODSTOCK." (this was on the first page btw)
"...an brand new camera."
"LEA THOMPSON, age 16 would give Winnie Cooper a run for her money, in his mind she is his soulmate." (No, you're not hallucinating. This sentence does have four errors in it)
"Oh my god, were screwed."
"Oh god...Your right."
"He reaches his hands in to picks it up."
I could go on but what's the point?
Look, guys, let me tell you something. You don't get second chances with people in this business. If you show your script to an industry contact and it's a half-assed piece of garbage? You're done with that person. They will never read anything from you again. They've officially labeled you a bad writer, or at the very least, a writer who doesn't take his profession seriously. So that's it. You've forever burned that bridge.
One of the biggest mistakes amateur writers make is believing the bar in this profession is low. That if they just whip something together with a funny premise and a few laughs, that they'll be on their way to dozens of million dollar paychecks. In their head, their script is funnier than that latest Adam Sandler movie. So therefore, they should get paid Adam Sandler money, right??
Besides the fact that their script isn't even a tenth as well written as the Adam Sandler script (as scary as that sounds), it's just a terrible way to approach screenwriting. If you want to be a professional screenwriter, you have to be fucking serious about it. You have to study the shit out of the craft. You have to read all the books, take some classes, read tons of screenplays, write tons of screenplays. You need to live and breathe this stuff. If you think that all you have to do is be a movie fan and buy a copy of Final Draft, you're wasting your time as well as the people's time who are reading your scripts.
I mean there's no fooling going on here. I know when I'm reading a first time screenwriter, as do all the gatekeepers in this business. For that reason, raise the freaking bar. If you're a young screenwriter (as in you're still under 3 completed scripts), here's some advice: Wherever you think the bar is? Multiply it by 100. That's your real bar. Will you be able to reach it within your first few screenplays? Probably not. But at least now you're aiming for the kind of quality that Hollywood expects.
For those who were wondering what Cut Copy Paste was about, I admit I can't tell you much because I never got to Act 2. I know in Act 1, besides all the spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors, there were a lot of scenes where nothing happened. I think an entire scene was dedicated to two people trying to text each other. Nothing was moving forward. Time was stalled until we got to the second act turn.
This is one of the reasons there are so many bad movies out there. Because writers don't hold themselves up to a higher standard. I'm so disappointed right now.
Script link: Cut Copy Past(e)
[x] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] Wasn't for me
[ ] Worth the read
[ ] Impressive
[ ] Genius
What I learned: I often run into writers who are rushing to get their script ready for an industry contact they just met. They ask me, "Should I take my time and make sure everything's perfect, or should I hurry up and get it to him while I'm still fresh in his head?" After this review, I hope you know the answer to that question. Who cares if you get a script to someone if it sucks? Even if you consider it 75% ready. Or 85% ready. That's not good enough. Do not give your script away until it is 100% ready. Until you can go through every single scene in your script and say, "I cannot do better than this." Every one!