Tough Reader, Good Advice

"Mike has a superb knowledge, love and understanding of film. He does his work with integrity and passion."

Kristin Overn
Executive Director
The PAGE International
Screenwriting Awards

"To be honest, the money I have spent on these reports ($50 for each one) has been some of the best money I have ever spent. "

Mina Zaher
Journey of a Screenwriter

"Michael Lee is the most knowledgable, thorough and professional screenplay analyst in the business!"

John Vincent
Executive Director
Hollywood Screenplay Contest

Monday, January 4, 2010

Getting Ready PART 1

Had a great #scriptchat yesterday. Much thanks to Jeannevb, Yeah_write, DreamsGrafter and ZacSanford for a busy but wonderful evening.
Click here for the transcript!

But there’s so much still to be said and to cover.

I’m going to pick up with something that I was only able to touch on last night. DreamsGrafter asked, “DreamsGrafter: In 140 characters, what makes a winning script?”

My answer was, “Format/typos, Concept/logline, Characters, Dialogue, Story, Structure, Pacing, Style/Tone, Theme, and Marketability”

To which mckormickastley tweeted back “That's cheating, like saying everything - what hooks a script for you?”

That’s the problem. A lot of things can grab your attention, from a piece of dialogue, to a character, to an action scene, to just the title. But hooking isn’t the same as reeling it in. If you’re strong in one area but weak in another you miss the YES pile and end up in the MAYBE pile. You land on the MAYBE pile, chances are you’re going to end up being pushed to the NO by somebody else. Somebody who took the time to work on each facet of the script. That’s called bulletproofing and you really need to bulletproof your script before you send it in.

Do other people have to do this? No, obviously. So many movie projects don’t even start with a completed screenplay. They get a hot property, a name actor and throw 250K at some writer to come up with something. They won’t be throwing it your way. At least not until you log a bulletproof script into their databases first.

That’s why it’s a good idea to get a reader. Script Department, StoryPros, and ,not to sound completely self serving, but yours truly. Contests that offer feedback are a good two for one deal. The only problem is you have to wait months to get notes back usually. After you’ve put The End on your masterpiece you need to get some objective idea of the strengths and weaknesses. What do you still have to work on? We’re a critical bunch but if you can get a RECOMMEND on your coverage you’re in good shape.

Of course that’s just part of the process. But that’s for another post.


  1. Yet more great advice, Mike. We at scriptchat truly appreciate your time at both chats yesterday and look forward to more and more screenwriters learning from you and our future guests.
    Feedback is so important... even better if from more than one reader!

  2. Wish I could have been there in person, but you imparted a lot of great wisdom, Mike. Thanks for answering my question too!

    Applying Kevlar to screenplay now...

  3. Learned a lot last night. Thanks so much.

  4. Had one other question that I got cold feet about asking durng the chat, so instead I'll ask in an even more public forum, because I choose the hard way!

    What advice would you offer someone who is looking to become a reader, who has already done pro-bono reading for production companies, and had their ability as a reader confirmed.


    Thanks again for all your hard work for ScriptChat!

  5. TO RL,

    If you've already have some reading on your credentials ask around. Sometimes even cold call (or cold email which is easier)

    If you have ANY friends or contacts mention you've done reading and are looking to do more.


  6. The thing that makes me nervous is screenplay format varies slightly from writer to writer. For example, I have heard from different sources that you do and do not capitalize sounds in a spec screenplay. There are dozens of small details like this that could make a writer seem "unprofessional." Is there a definitive source for how the modern spec should be formatted?

  7. TO Notorious John,

    You can always check out Script magazine or Creative Screenwriting websites for the most up to date info on formatting trends.

    If you don't find your answer right away send them an email.

  8. Micheal,

    Thank you sincerely for being a part of the 01.03.2010 scriptchat. Your help to screenwriters and thoughtful suggestions re: the screenwriting craft - expert. (Bulletproof for shure).

    Many many thanks and
    I'm still smiling after
    the group meet -

    - Dylan S.

  9. Great post, as always Michael. Totally agree. That's why I sent my script to you. Really believe that if you want your script to stand half a chance, it's got to be to industry standard - and that's where a pro reader comes in.

    If anyone's looking for a reader, hand on heart, I recommend Michael. I've had quite a few years experience reading scripts professionally and two years MA in Screenwriting - and Michael's feedback was exactly what I was looking for and what I needed. He does tell it how it is - but in a very constructive way. Needless to say, next draft will be on its way to you soon.

    Thanks again Michael for #scriptchat ... :)


  10. Terrific and honest advice, Michael. Yes, for new writers or lesser knowns (like yours truly) bullet-proofing is a necessary step. Any little aspect that detracts from the reader's pure enjoyment could easily result in a rejection.

    Thanks for driving that fact home. Thanks, also, for a terrific #scriptchat on Sunday!
    Donna Carrick

  11. Wonderful advice, Michael. Wasn't able to stay for entire Scriptchat yesterday so look forward to transcript. Kudos to the great minds behind Scriptchat for bringing you in!


Recommended Reading and Tools

Script Reading Services Available

Basic - 5 to 7 pages of detailed analysis going over a script's concept, structure, characters, dialogue, plot and marketability

Page Notes - 10 pages or more of in depth analysis from the first page to the end.


The StoryPros