This week I’ll actually be opining on a Scriptnotes episode not only from this year, but from this very month! What?!?
More important than the What, is the Why. My fulltime friend, sometime-writing partner, Tully Archer appears on this particular episode for a career record of number of appearances: 2. What what?!? To make matters worse (or better, depending on your perspective), she won’t even tell me the secret to getting on even once, let alone twice. So I will take her twofer at face value: She did ask an interesting question. The question (something along the lines of “What do you do when someone who is clueless about their lack of talent asks you to read their script?”) is one I’ve personally had to face when I’ve experienced it myself in real life.
I like the answer Craig Mazin gives. It is perfect: “I just stopped reading at page 10. I had a whole bunch issues, I’m happy to tell you why. But I’m probably not the person that this script was meant for. I just am not connecting with your writing.”
As I said, perfect.
John August, on the other hand, says he really just kind of squirms — and gives a few examples of times when the writers had no redeemable talent.
I personally have had to deal with this same situation. Twice, that I can remember. In both cases, the talentless people were both decidedly not my friends. In one case, I can remember thinking, “This isn’t even a story. These are just words spilled onto the page. I’m not even sure most of these words form sentences.” In that instance, I told the newbie that the script needed so much work, there wasn’t anything I could do to help it. In the other case, I remember, the protagonist just walked around. He walked around in the woods, and down a sidewalk downtown, and through a house. The script just described everything he passed — and it didn’t even do that well. I remember telling that guy , “Remember when David Lynch’s The Straight Story came out? And some mistaken critics called it boring compared to his previous work? Well, I’m not mistaken, and you’re not David Lynch.” I still see that guy around town sometimes (usually walking around, doing nothing). I always feel really bad because he is still to this day so nice to me.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I believe that Niceness Matters. I justify my harsh words to the neophytes by thinking “I’m not doing anybody any favors by sugar-coating their ineptitude,” but the reality is this: harshness is not niceness. Mazin’s retort doesn’t pull any punches, or build any false hope — but it just seems more polite than mine. If at the time, I had only had Mazin’s response, I could have avoided (and could still be avoiding today) the awkwardness when I run into Not-Lynch.