The following is a very basic list of items that get my attention as a script reader. If your script addresses each of these points, you’re probably doing a good job. I will be excited to read your script.
So, here we go, a list of my top 10 screenplay “dos” when reading:
DO keep your page count under 115 and, genre dependent, above 90. Horrors and comedies can easily come in at 95 to 105 pages. Most scripts these days do not come in at 120+ pages.
DO write with your own voice. From page one, I want to feel that you have your own voice.
DO write the hell out of your first 10-15-20 pages. I will forgive a LOT later on if the beginning is great. Conversely, if the beginning is poorly written or confusing, I likely won’t read to the end. That is a guaranteed pass.
DO write in ONE genre. You can mix genres, but then make sure you manage the conventions of both genres competently.
DO write something that feels familiar but is fresh, a new and unique take on subject matter we’ve seen before.
DO make me laugh and cry. Make me feel something. The more I feel about your script, the more the characters come alive, the more I’ll be willing to fight for your script.
DO use 4-5 action lines to introduce your character. Be vivid, unique, evocative. I don’t care what they’re wearing. I much more care about qualities of their person that indicate the character arc – where they’re at now and to where they will grow.
DO be sure you’re not repeating beats. Each scene should BOTH expose character AND move the story forward.
DO use the tone to your advantage. If you’re writing a horror, make it really scary – from page one. If you’re writing a thriller, thrill me. If you’re writing a comedy, make me laugh out loud. A lot. The tone should be abundantly clear from page one and remain consistent throughout.
DO think very carefully about theme and make sure the undercurrent and subtext of every scene touches upon that theme.
For a complete list of my Screenplay Competition “Dos,” click here.