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Script Questionnaire #2 - Before You MARKET A Script
These are questions you must ask your self before you send out your script. It also won't hurt to read before you even start to get your story down on paper.

Follow everything we say and you might sell your script. Ignore everything we say and you still might sell it. It's a crazy business, sometimes with no rhyme or reason.

Structure

1. Is it dramatic? Doesn't matter what genre it is. Drama or conflict is key.

2. Does it build in drama as it progresses? Sure there will be peaks and valleys in the drama but it must be more dramatic at the end then in the beginning.

3. Is the end a do or die situation for the hero?

4. Lots of twists and turns and surprises?

5. Clear where the acts are breaking?

6. Is the story set up properly?

7. Is the story credible?

8. Will the reader be on the edge of their seat, hoping that the hero gets their goal at the end? If the reader doesn't care, you're dead in the water.

9. Length of script okay? 100-115 is best.

10. Is the ending satisfying? The hero always achieves his/her main goal in a studio movie.

Many will tell you that movies are structure, structure, structure and they might be right. Al the other elements, dialogue, characters, setting, etc. can be easily fixed in a rewrite but if the structure is off, you're in trouble. Fixing it is like working on a puzzle. You change one thing and then ten other things need changing. The way to eliminate a big structural rewrite is to get the structure right the first time BEFORE you write the script. Diagram your script any way you like and let some pros look at it. This can eliminate many hours of rewriting that may or may even not fix the problem.

When the structure is off the page count might be off as well. A professional script should come in around at 100-115 pages. A pro knows right away if the script is from a newbie based on an irregular page count. They don't even have to read the number. They can pick it up and "weigh" it by feel. You don't want this to happen.

Comedies should be at the lower end of that scale since they're usually released at 90 minutes. Rule of thumb is one minute per page. After your script is purchased and ready to shoot, a producer will have your script timed by script supervisors to get an idea of running time. The supervisor reads the script aloud to themselves as they time it with a stop watch.

New writers also tend to write too much dialogue and too many unneeded scenes that go nowhere to propel the story forward. Or they don't put in enough scenes that are necessary to make it an intriguing story. In other words, the storytelling is flawed. This is another way to figure out that a script was written by a newbie. Many times, it'll come in at 120-135 pages or 80-85 pages. Not good. As an unproduced writer you must never submit a script between these lengths unless this is a paid assignment and you have permission to do it.


Characters

1. Is it obvious who the good guy and bad guys are?

2. Are they unique?

3. Are they complicated and have depth?

4. Will an audience want to follow them? Are they interesting?

5. Do they both have shades of gray? Not everyone is all good or all bad.

6. Is your hero likeable?

7. Do your characters grow and change as the story progresses.

8. Will an audience want to follow them? Are they interesting?

9. What they want to achieve, short range and long range?

10. Do you as a writer know everything about them? The more you know, the more real they will be. The audience doesn't need to know everything about them but you do. What's in their medicine cabinet at home? You need to know!

11. Do any of your characters have secrets they're hiding?

12. What's at stake for your hero? This is a major question, producers ask.

The bigger the stakes or the "or else" factor, the greater the drama.

13. Are the characters consistent or do they change whenever you need them to change for the sake of the story?

Many new writers write boring, clich?d characters that will never get a movie star interested. Without a movie star, there is no studio movie. Stars will even do bad movies just because their character is so well written. Studios like change in their heroes. What has your hero learned by the end of the story? If you're stumped how to write interesting characters, base them on people you know or have seen in the movies. Just change their names and traits a bit so you don't run into legal problems.

The bad guy doesn't have to be a person. It can be a machine or a company or a group of folks but keep in mind that studios like the main bad guy to be a real person. Remember the tornado in "Twister?" Great bad guy but the studio wanted a real person for that job so they asked for the group of storm chasers to be added with lead chaser as the main bad guy. Felt force to us but hey, you can't argue with success.

The bad guy should also be a big challenge to the good guy. If the bad guy is a pushover, the audience will not be involved in the story.


Dialogue

1. Is it unique to each character?

2. Is it really necessary? Great scripts have quick exchanges for the most part.

3. Can you take it out and replace it with action instead?

4. Is it dead on?

5. Is it real? If your character is a five-year old girl, does she talk like she's five or twenty?

6. Do the characters interrupt each other at times?

They should. Movie dialogue is NOT real dialogue but it must seem real. Big difference. If you wrote real dialogue, you'd have a ten hour movie.

New writers tend to write cardboard characters that all sound alike. Read your script carefully. Can you tell who is talking if you covered over their names? Cardboard characters occur when the writer hasn't figured out who the characters are. Write a bio for each. I know. I know. Much too much work. Poor baby. New writers tend to write too much dialogue that is right on the money. If two characters meet each other and want to jump on each other's bones, you don't need to spell it out in the dialogue. It should be obvious from between the lines what is happening. What is NOT said in a scene is as important as what IS said. Have them meet at the laundromat and talk about the laundry in such a way it's obvious what they both REALLY want.

Go through your script and see if you have tons of long monologues with very little action. I f so, get rid of most of it. Sure, courtroom thrillers have lots of monologues but that's the exception.

If you have too much dialogue, figure out where you can substitute the dialogue for some sort of action. If someone is mad, they don't need to say it, they can throw a can of beer at the TV. Two concepts here you need to master. "Show don't tell" and "less is more."


Exposition

1. Are you giving us the facts in an interesting way?

2. Are you avoiding exposition clich?'s such as having a character put on a TV just at the time the info comes on that he needs to know?

3. Are you telling us too much that we don't need to know?

Exposition is very tricky. If it's not written in a creative way, it can come across as unprofessional. The old adage of "show don't tell" it is very important with exposition. New writers tend to have the characters tell the story to one another instead of showing it to the audience. If you've exhausted all the ways to tell us the story through images and you must TELL us, do it in a way that won't bore the audience. For example, two characters can be in a Karate match yelling at another while we learn what has happened. Anything is better than having characters doing nothing else be sitting at a table telling us the story. Too much of that and your script gets tossed.

If the reader or audience feels that they are being taken out of the story with a lot of facts, you might lose them. Experience will allow you to know when you can give facts and when you need to hold up for a few scenes.


Scene and Character Description

1. Is it too long, too detailed and boring?

2. Is it really necessary?

3. Is it cliched?

4. Are you telling us something we won't see on the screen?

Sure a joke or two every now and then is fine but only tell us what we'll see.

5. If you have a long paragraph, is it at least broken up into smaller paragraphs?

Author/Screenwriter William Goldman can get away with full page scene descriptions, you can't. Too much description and your reader will skip over it. Sure you need to be visual and that requires description but a script requires an economy of words as well.

Some producers will tell you that they get an instant sense of the quality of the writing by the way the writer describes the first few scenes and characters. Not everything in your script needs a description but your main characters certainly do and the description needs to be as interesting as the character and story you've created. Simply writing BILLY, balding in his 20's won't cut it. If he's your lead, you'll need to give us a description more pizzazz.


Theme(s)

1. If your script isn't about anything more than meets the eye, not much you can do about it now. If it does, it'll increase your chances of a sale.


Conclusion

You gotta get your industry reader emotionally caught up in what's happening and get them to want to turn the pages. Create a world they've never been taken before. If you must write another serial killer movie, how will yours be different than the fifty zillion we've seen before? And changing the protagonist from a male to a female won't do the trick. Your story must be fresh and told with an "original voice." You'll hear this all the time from the industry.

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