I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script

We've all heard stories of aspiring writers attending cons so they can hopefully get the chance to show their material and get some advice from established authors and editors. Most are always disappointed by the fact that the pros, although they do it politely, nearly always decline to do so.

If you are in this position and you are currently looking for some professional feedback, please read this article by A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson.

Just a friendly warning: Olson doesn't pull any punches and he will shock many of you. Here's an excerpt:

I will not read your fucking script.

That's simple enough, isn't it? "I will not read your fucking script." What's not clear about that? There's nothing personal about it, nothing loaded, nothing complicated. I simply have no interest in reading your fucking screenplay. None whatsoever.

[...]

You're a lovely person. Whatever time we've spent together has, I'm sure, been pleasurable for both of us. I quite enjoyed that conversation we once had about structure and theme, and why Sergio Leone is the greatest director who ever lived. Yes, we bonded, and yes, I wish you luck in all your endeavors, and it would thrill me no end to hear that you had sold your screenplay, and that it had been made into the best movie since Godfather Part II.

But I will not read your fucking script.

At this point, you should walk away, firm in your conviction that I'm a dick. But if you're interested in growing as a human being and recognizing that it is, in fact, you who are the dick in this situation, please read on.

Yes. That's right. I called you a dick. Because you created this situation. You put me in this spot where my only option is to acquiesce to your demands or be the bad guy. That, my friend, is the very definition of a dick move.

[...]

Now, I normally have a standard response to people who ask me to read their scripts, and it's the simple truth: I have two piles next to my bed. One is scripts from good friends, and the other is manuscripts and books and scripts my agents have sent to me that I have to read for work. Every time I pick up a friend's script, I feel guilty that I'm ignoring work. Every time I pick something up from the other pile, I feel guilty that I'm ignoring my friends. If I read yours before any of that, I'd be an awful person.

Most people get that. But sometimes you find yourself in a situation where the guilt factor is really high, or someone plays on a relationship or a perceived obligation, and it's hard to escape without seeming rude. Then, I tell them I'll read it, but if I can put it down after ten pages, I will. They always go for that, because nobody ever believes you can put their script down once you start.

[...]

It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you're in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you're dealing with someone who can't.

(By the way, here's a simple way to find out if you're a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you're not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)

Follow this link to read the full article.

6 commentaires:

T.D. Newton said...

This is the most interesting thing I've read all day.

I hope, someday, to have a similar problem. What a problem to have, indeed.

I definitely agree with a lot of what he says, particularly with the "writer test" at the end. Then again, doesn't he have license to be extremely eccentric? It confuses me that people would be upset that he, literally, doesn't have time.

Anyway, nice post. This is why I subscribe.

Sam said...

That was an interesting read, though I'm less convinced than a lot of people seem to be. I guess it's just because how many, now published, authors did get their start this way.

... And also by the fact that he seems incapable of just doing a read through. If it takes you weeks, instead of 15 minutes, to do a readthrough of two pages, you're right to turn them down. Because you're bad at it. Someone asking you for feedback isnt, probably, asking for detailed criticism. Just a 'This looks good' or 'You suck' or even 'Interesting idea, but needs work'.

At least, that's the case for me, and most other writers I know who've done this. We aren't asking for detailed criticism. Hell, in my own case, I don't want. What I've just shoved under your nose is brief; it's not a 'Hey publish this', but a 'Hey would you publish something on this topic'. If you're writing pages on it, you're making a mistake. We just want to know if we're headed the right way, or if the idea is so bad we shouldn't even bother.


As far as the writing test goes, it takes a paragraph. No more, no less. Writer or reader. The first sentence could be weak, but it could pick up. Or the first sentence could be great and the rest a mess. If you stop after one, you're missing too much. If you keep going after five, you already know if it's worth it.

T.D. Newton said...

@Sam
I agree with you, also, but I don't think the specifics of the "writer test" are what's important about it. If you've read/critiqued enough pieces, you know that you can determine poor writing a lot more quickly than mediocre or great (specifically for the reason you stated about needing a paragraph). Maybe things are different for screenwriting, I haven't read all that many scripts but they seem very restrictive as opposed to a novel.

I don't agree with all of what he says, but I think a lot of it makes sense (or perhaps just makes sense for him). I think you make a good point in that being more concise with your offering is the best route, rather than asking "will you read my entire script?" I mean, that's why query letters exist in the first place.

I just think this is an interesting discussion to have, particularly the "dick move" point. After enough times of being painted with that brush because he refused to read entire scripts, I can understand his frustration and ultimate decision to just lay down the law about not accepting them.

tero said...

This was interesting. But yeah, he does sound like a dick.

machinery said...

in one word : obnoxious.
i'm not an aspiring writer, i have no allusions or illusions.
that being said, john olson was given a chance by someone, right ?
don't get me wrong, approaching someone in a conference asking him to read a script is far from what i call decent behaviour, but the best way is just to politely refuse.
what's so hard about that ?
in stead this john olson, talks like he is the king of the world (btw, wtf makes him so important to anyone ?).
in short, his attitude is the same as those asking writers to read their work.

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