7 Tips To Make A Reader Fall
Head Over Heels For Your Script

By Stéphanie Joalland

Now a script consultant and a filmmaker, I started in the industry as a reader for the International department of Canal Plus and TF1 in Paris. I dug out a few gems but mostly spent my time yawning my way out of an ever-replenishing fountain of dull scripts. I thought you'd love to get some insight from behind the scenes and know what these necessary evils called "readers" and "development execs" crave for.   

 

1.Concept

I know your grandma was a sweet lady and baked the best peanut cookies in the world but you know what? I have already read 10,000 scripts about cookie-making grannies and they bore the hell out of me. Now if you lovely granny turned out to be an undercover spy for the Kremlin during the cold war that's a story. In other words get inspired by somebody you know, tap into your own experiences and turn it into something people want to see. If I can't sum up your story in 2--3 lines you're in trouble. And if your granny wasn't a soviet spy, well, tough, do some research, that's what Internet is for. And remember: "The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it" (Benjamin Disreaeli).

Write T%o Direct Your First Feature 2.Genre

Now you know that you want to write about how your granny saved the world from being blown out because she was a soviet mole. You still have to choose what movie you want to make. With the same subject you could write a romance, an action movie or even a comedy. Make a choice and stick to it. That sounds obvious yet a lot of writers seem to forget this basic rule and confuse the hell out of readers. It doesn't mean you can't mix genres it means you must remain consistent. If you want to know more about genre read Creating a Personal Genre.

3.Structure

Structure comes first. The plot should be well delineated and the characters' goal well defined.  Don't sneeze at scriptwriting books thinking you're a genius. Get over yourself, ignoring these books seldom works. I know that Usual Suspects was written by a young novice who had never opened a book but, really, how often does it happen? You won't fake me out with your beautiful verbose or clever dialogue. Learn your craft first. Thanks to the plethora of books about scriptwriting (btw, Elliot's is a must-read), the craft level is getting better and better every year so the bar is now set very high. You need to know the rules to be able to break them. And even if you plan to write the next Memento and shuffle up the rules, your characters still need to have a goal and each scene should be eventful.

4. Know your theme

What's your story about? Know what you're trying to say about the world, life, politics or whatever moves and inspires you. It doesn't mean that you should all write the Constant Gardener. It can be just  an original slant on relationships like 500 days of summer. Ok, I loved Salt and it's a pop corn movie and I don't think the writer gave me much insight into his unique vision of the world . But admit it, unless you aim at writing action driven pop corn movies you'd better have something to say.

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5.Let us hear your own personal voice

Don't chase after the God of Originality, don't try so hard. Originality doesn't exist. Everything has been written under the Sun. You think Matrix was original? Read Ubik by Philip K. Dick and you might reconsider this statement. It's not about being original. It's all about writing story with your own unique voice, soul, whatever you want to call it, without trying to mimic what you think is cool or might sell. The good news is if you listen to your voice it can only be unique since you're yourself as unique as it gets (unless you believe in doppelgangers). Don't try to emulate genres that work or instill comedy into your story if you have no sense of humour. It just won't work. Just be you and that's plenty.

6.Write visually.

Less is more. Make each word count, make each word be an image and make each image have a meaning. Read this: "SILENCE. THE DESERT seen from the air. An ocean of dunes for mile after mile. The late sun turns the sand every color from crimson to black" (Opening of The English Patient). OK, you could object it's a very poetic movie that calls for such a beautiful use of words. Then read this: "ANGLE ON apartment doorway. As it opens and an enormously SWEET-FACED, ELDER WOMAN steps out, bungled up against the cold -- turning back to call inside to the  unseen love of her long life". It's the beginning of As Good As it Gets. A tip? Write each line as if you were describing a shot.

7. Less is more

Trim down scenes and dialog. Kill your babies, be ruthless. Don't fall in love with them, especially with your dialogue. Unless a scene makes the story move on just delete it. Unless a line serves a purpose wipe it out. Too many novices fall in love with their dialogue. Watch out for too many subplots. Write down this line by Blaise Pascal on a post-it and stick it onto your screen: "I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter".

Bonus Tip: Grab me in the first 10 pages

Tell me whose story it is, what it's about, make me fall in love with your character, create a vivid visual universe, trigger my imagination, intrigue me. Script consultants and readers read tons of scripts, hope for the gem that will make their day and, yes, as they say in books, the first 10 pages are really crucial and the sad truth is after 10 pages we have already made up our mind as to whether it will be a pass or not.

I hope this helps! Happy writing. 

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About The Author

Stéphanie JoallandStéphanie Joalland grew up in Brittany, France, among mooing cows and cackling hens, penned many creatures in the Parisian animation industry, crossed the pond to study film & TV at UCLA. She recently relocated to Hogtown to make movies as a writer/director/producer.

Probably because she grew up in foggy marshlands she has a passion for creepy thrillers à la "The Shining" or "Rosemary's Baby".

She is preparing to shoot her first supernatural feature film, produced by Sean McConville (who wrote/directed/produced "Deadline", with Brittany Murphy and Thora Birch) and scheduled to be shot in the winter. Stéphanie also works as a script consultant in between feature film projects (no creepo-meter, rom coms are welcome as well).

Email Stephanie here

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7 Tips To Make A Reader Fall Head Over Heals For Your Script