This is a great question cuz let’s face it: Experienced TV writers get away with writing average scripts all the time, but new writers have to submit great specs just to get in the door.
What makes knowing the difference between an average script and a good one tricky is that for all practical purposes, showbiz’s definition of “great script” more often than not is (as our Beloved Leader LB always says), “What my boss likes.”
Which makes the following article all the more valuable – and genuinely helpful. (Yay, Amanda!)
Ed writes: As you’ve read and evaluated scripts, are there common ingredients missing in a script that is good but not good enough to go anywhere? Are there characteristics you notice between a script that’s OK and one that’s oh-my-God-I-have-to-see-this-made!
This is a great question — and it’s difficult to answer. You’re onto something with the idea of the “oh-my-God-I-have-to-see-this-made” script. On a practical level, your script needs to be something that will make the reader take action. A script that will make them write “Consider” or “Recommend” in coverage, forward it on to a boss or other person who has the ability to take the script to a buyer, buy the material themselves, or represent the writer. If your script doesn’t make a reader do this, then they didn’t love it that much.
A reader friend of mine said that after ten years of reading over 10 scripts a week, he only remembers about 15 scripts. I feel similarly; sometimes I’ll be asked about a script I read two days ago and I’ll have to re-read my coverage because I can’t remember any of it. Unfortunately, most scripts are forgettable. Fine. Standard. Mediocre. So that’s step one: you need to write something memorable.
I know that might sound intangible and unhelpful, but that’s because impressive scripts are memorable for all different reasons. A script might have a really unique main character or point of view, laugh-out-loud dialogue or a high-concept, unusual premise. But the common theme in all of these things is originality.