>Script Alive! Reviewing the script-review process.


Script Alive! Reviewing the script-review process. By Tara Judah.

Among the many profound utterances of Ernest Hemingway is this: “The first draft of anything is s***.”

For screenwriters this is especially true because getting a screenplay ready for production also involves the input of an inordinate amount of “other people” with their varying artistic visions, trying to somehow pool creativity (and money) to produce something that will ultimately be both entertaining and profitable.

But how much of the re-writing is about one’s own artistic vision, and how much is about what works for audiences, and, more importantly, how much is about not disappointing those good people who funded the re-writing in the first place?

Having chosen a handful of wannabe screenwriters with promise, Film Victoria understandably want to make sure their “chosen ones” are going to deliver. And this is exactly what their latest venture Script Alive! is all about.

In conjunction with Melbourne’s Cinema Nova, Film Victoria have organised a run of events where both the paying public and industry insiders can come along and “see” (or hear) a live reading of a funded script in development. The purpose of the event for Film Victoria is to get audience feedback to help the screenwriters ascertain which areas of their script need still more attention.

This is done through the take up of audience questionnaires, a version of market research whereby Film Vic can ascertain age and gender demographic, the script’s communicable genre and thematic strengths and positive/negative reactions to characterisations and specific scenes in the film. Questionnaire examples include; “Would you recommend this to your friends Y/N, If so why? If not, why not?” and “Do you believe the characters behaved/reacted to the events of the story in a believable and logical way?” But I wonder if these questions aren’t more helpful in determining marketable audiences than they are in helping the scriptwriter realise his/her vision?

Either way, of the two readings I attended I’d say both works still have a way to go. The first, Breakable written by Brett Cousins, is a sort of dramatic horror/thriller that currently suffers from underdeveloped characters, their abrasive motives not entirely plausible – yet – for a mainstream audience. In particular the questionnaire seemed interested in finding out if the relationship between main characters Lach and Mia was “clear and understandable”. I’d venture that in the current draft, it’s not. But in asking the question, it seems both Cousins and Film Vic already suspected so much.

The second, The Non-Believers written by Steve Mitchell, is a comedy/mystery that might be a little too close to sketch comedy, with not quite enough “feel-goodery” to appeal to its anticipated broad market audience. In a story where cows go inexplicably missing and their whereabouts is investigated only as a result of suspected insurance fraud, the inclusion of a question about who stole the cows suggests the resolution of the narrative might be a little unclear. Furthermore, both films seemed to raise the question, “Whose story is it?” which reveals Film Vic’s desire for there to be one definitive protagonist with whom audiences must identify and empathise with. For without a strong central lead, even if the piece works thematically, you risk losing the audience and therefore word of mouth recommendations and those all-important box office returns.

But when so much of a film’s success is attributed to its visual execution and lead performances I am hesitant to say at this juncture whether or not either of these scripts will in fact work onscreen. A film’s communicable affect comes largely down to delivery, tone; aspects achieved through cohesive formal execution. Thus, it is almost impossible to imagine how a draft script will fare as finished picture.

A fascinating process and an insight into both screen development and film funding in Australia, Script Alive! is an event that offers the public a little transparency and a lot of questions.

Submit your screenplay to Script Alive!, or keep an eye on future events here.

One Response to “>Script Alive! Reviewing the script-review process.”

  1. >“The first draft of anything is s***.”Touche! Rough drafts are always total BS. I remember when I used to write scripts, I'd end up a trash can full of crumpled paper. LOL

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