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  • Josh Olson Won’t Read Your Fucking Script…And Shouldnt Have To

    September 14th, 2009

    This past week, A-list writer Josh Olson, who penned “A History of Violence” and a whole bunch of other stuff that hasn’t been produced yet, wrote an article in the Village Voice titled “I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script.” You can read the full original article here: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/archives/2009/09/i_will_not_read.php?page=1.

    Since its posting online, and re-posting on Nikki Finke’s website, hundreds upon hundreds of professional and amateur writers have commented, as well as producers, execs, script consultants, etc.

     

    The comments range from calling Josh a hack and a piece of shit selfish asshole who doesn’t deserve to ever work again, to the most brilliant tell-it-like-it-is martyr for everyone who’s tired of reading a stack of shit they feel forced to read by personal connection or profession.  So where do I fall in this spectrum?

     

    Well first please allow me to preface my comments. Josh was talking about reading people’s scripts for FREE. People that speak to him once or are friends of friends o long lost family members who think that he is their IN, and therefore use that referral to ask him to read their script for free. Obviously, since I run a script consulting company, I am MORE than happy to read any of my clients scripts (yes, even the bad ones), and I appreciate and am grateful for everyone’s business! So, please keep in mind that my comments are regarding the freebees that Josh was referring to in his article.

     

    This wouldn’t be No BullScript if I sugarcoated it, so for me…Josh was absolutely right. Sure, he seems ungrateful because after all, someone took a chance on him when he started, right? But here’s the bottom line – karma might be a bitch, and maybe he’ll never work again, but no one ever said that you HAVE to pay it forward. It’s everyone’s individual choice.

     

    This town is dog-eat-dog, and he’s the Rottweiler who just decided to take a bite out of the neighbors’ Yorkie. He doesn’t owe you anything just because he became successful. He arguably worked hard to get there, and he works even harder to stay there. And as a screenwriter, the first thing you need to learn is that no one owes you anything. No one HAS to give you a shot or your first big break. YOU have to make that happen.

     

    And Josh’s reason for no longer wanting to read scripts from everyone he has barely met has great merit. People outside of the business are constantly told that they need referrals and an “in” to get anywhere in this industry and that’s true. But that means every single wannabe writer, director, producer and actor trying to break in, is contacting that ONE person they know to see what they can do. And it gets tiring for those on the inside. We have hundreds upon hundreds of scripts to read per year just for work. And then probably another 50 we want to read just for fun.

     

    Of course, I’d be happy to read my old college roommate’s script and give him my thoughts, but his friends’ roommates’ cousin? No, I’m not going to read his fucking script…unless of course he’s paying me to.

     

    There are only so many hours of the day, and the more successful you are, the busier you get. Josh is currently rewriting at least 4 studio movies, so it’s not out of the realm of plausibility that he actually doesn’t have TIME to read every wannabes’ script that comes across his desk. Every exec in town is scared to meet new people that are writers because we know that after the niceties subside and we’ve talked about the weather, our alma maters, and the latest viral video, they are going to ask us to read their script! And either they want us to read it and give them notes, or they want us to read it to see if we’d like to produce it. And Josh is right – it’s not fair that everyone we meet assume that we are willing to do this.

     

    If you and I are close, then fine. But if we just met, don’t be so presumptuous. And it’s worse for executives and script consultants than it is for writers. Why, you ask? Because writers aren’t PAID to READ scripts. If I make my living reading scripts and giving wonderful, constructive notes, how many freebees do you think I can possibly give just because you know someone I know and we had a 5 minute conversation? That 5 minute conversation just cost me over $100.

     

    And I can commiserate with Mr. Olson’s worry about how to word his response just so, because you don’t want to piss off a friend, but chances are – they suck.  It’s hard to give constructive notes without feeling like you’re being too rough or a total asshole. Now, those of you who have used my services know that’s not usually a problem for me, but that’s because you know what you’re getting into before you submit your script. How do you tell your friend or family member that they suck? It’s easier and cleaner if you just refuse to read it.

     

    Now, because I have had luck with younger, unrepresented, unproduced writers, I’m usually willing to give anyone a chance. But with someone you know personally, you can’t just stop reading after page 10 if it’s awful. It’s just an awkward situation.

     

    To summarize, yeah, Josh might have been a bit harsh and certainly seemed a bit holier than thou when really, he isn’t, however he was just expressing an opinion that (whether they admit it or not) every single executive, professional writer, director, actor and producer actively working in the business feels. And if you are so deeply offended by the fact that someone successful isn’t reaching out a hand to help you, then this business isn’t for you, because going back to the my point…no one owes you anything.

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