Studio Reader’s Checklist
The following 20 points, are what studios look for in a script. I got them from a seminar I took last year. A very respectable script writer and script consultant gave them to us. I prefer not to mention his name for security reasons. ;)
20 points that studio reader’s check for in a script
1. Is it properly formated?
- When it’s properly formated, the reader will not get confused, or mad.
2. Screenplay descriptions should direct the reader’s mind Eye, not the director.
- There should be no camera directions, unless you (the writer) and the director are the same person.
- One paragraph per beat of action.
- And with these ‘actions’, the reader needs to know how the characters feel.
- Avoid physical descriptions, unless they are important for the story.
- “Less is more”.
- Sounds can go in CAPS, only if they are important.
3. Imagine the Trailer and imagine the One Sheet Poster.
4. Is the premise marketable? What is it about the script that is marketable?
5. Who is the target audience?
6. Does the story deal with the most important events of the people in the story?
- The events which the main character has to go through need to be the most important of his/her life.
Example: Jerry McGuire, Casablanca, Alien, Star Wars IV…
7. Are the characters original or deriveted.
- Have I seen him/her in other movies?
8. Is there a strong emotion/heart at the center of the story?
- Avoid mean driven stories.
- The “heart of the story” is the dominant relationship of the story.
9. We need a main character that we can root for, or care about, or identify with.
- The audience wants to see characters that who care deeply about something, specially if they care about other characters.
- Give us a moment alone with your character, where we can get to know him/her.
10. Is there a 3-Act structure?
- For the 2nd Act to be strong, each character needs to have a ‘need’, a ‘goal’. Have Between 5 and 7 characters each with a goal.
11. Is there a main goal? Is there conflict in the story?
- In Star Wars IV the ‘rebels’ need to destroy the Death Star (among other things).
- In Shreck, Shreck needs to “bring” the princess to the King so he can have his swamp back.
12. What is the ‘hook’? The exciting incident? The big event? And is it in the first ten pages?
13. What is the screenplay trying to say? And is it worth trying to say it?
In The Sixth Sense, we have the message “communicaton overcomes fear”:
The little boy is affraid of telling his mother that he sees dead people. But he eventually does tell Bruce Willis’ character.
14. Will actors want to do any of the characters?
15. Will the screenplay create questions?
For example: Will they find the killer? Will they destroy the Deat Star? Will they get together? Is he going to win the race? Will they scape in time? Etc…
16. What’s a stake?
In Lord of the Rings… the fate of Middle earth is at stake.
How does the character arc change based on what’s at stake?
17. What does the audience want for the character?
- Either we love or hate a character; but do not let the audience become indiferent with a character.
18. Is the main character confronted with his/her greatest fear?
- Characters can be understood based on wath they fear the most.
In JAWS, the sheriff’s character is affraid of the water, he has to overcome his fear and get on a boat to be able to go after the shark.
19. Is the lead character involved throughout the story?
There are a lot of scripts were the main character suddenly disappears for 20 pages nowhere to be seen. This is totally unacceptable.
Does he/she have control on the outcome of the story?
If the main character has no control of the outcome, why will I bother reading this script? Even more, watching the movie?
20. Distinguish characters by their speech patterns:
- Word choice
- Sentence patterns
Is the dialogue crisp?
Is there subtext? Not everywhere, but at least in the key scenes.
Here the 20 points end.
Even if you’re a director who writes his own movies, I suggest you write your scripts taking these 20 points into consideration. Or at least as much points as you can.