I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script

We know you've been working very hard on your screenplay, but before you go looking for some professional feedback, you might keep in mind the following piece by A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson.

JoshOlson.jpg
I will not read your fucking script.

That's simple enough, isn't it? "I will not read your fucking script." What's not clear about that? There's nothing personal about it, nothing loaded, nothing complicated. I simply have no interest in reading your fucking screenplay. None whatsoever.

If that seems unfair, I'll make you a deal. In return for you not asking me to read your fucking script, I will not ask you to wash my fucking car, or take my fucking picture, or represent me in fucking court, or take out my fucking gall bladder, or whatever the fuck it is that you do for a living.

You're a lovely person. Whatever time we've spent together has, I'm sure, been pleasurable for both of us. I quite enjoyed that conversation we once had about structure and theme, and why Sergio Leone is the greatest director who ever lived. Yes, we bonded, and yes, I wish you luck in all your endeavors, and it would thrill me no end to hear that you had sold your screenplay, and that it had been made into the best movie since Godfather Part II.

But I will not read your fucking script.

At this point, you should walk away, firm in your conviction that I'm a dick. But if you're interested in growing as a human being and recognizing that it is, in fact, you who are the dick in this situation, please read on.

Yes. That's right. I called you a dick. Because you created this situation. You put me in this spot where my only option is to acquiesce to your demands or be the bad guy. That, my friend, is the very definition of a dick move.

I was recently cornered by a young man of my barest acquaintance.

I doubt we've exchanged a hundred words. But he's dating someone I know, and he cornered me in the right place at the right time, and asked me to read a two-page synopsis for a script he'd been working on for the last year. He was submitting the synopsis to some contest or program, and wanted to get a professional opinion.

Now, I normally have a standard response to people who ask me to read their scripts, and it's the simple truth: I have two piles next to my bed. One is scripts from good friends, and the other is manuscripts and books and scripts my agents have sent to me that I have to read for work. Every time I pick up a friend's script, I feel guilty that I'm ignoring work. Every time I pick something up from the other pile, I feel guilty that I'm ignoring my friends. If I read yours before any of that, I'd be an awful person.

Most people get that. But sometimes you find yourself in a situation where the guilt factor is really high, or someone plays on a relationship or a perceived obligation, and it's hard to escape without seeming rude. Then, I tell them I'll read it, but if I can put it down after ten pages, I will. They always go for that, because nobody ever believes you can put their script down once you start.

But hell, this was a two page synopsis, and there was no time to go into either song or dance, and it was just easier to take it. How long can two pages take?

Weeks, is the answer.

And this is why I will not read your fucking script.

It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you're in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you're dealing with someone who can't.

(By the way, here's a simple way to find out if you're a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you're not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)

You may want to allow for the fact that this fellow had never written a synopsis before, but that doesn't excuse the inability to form a decent sentence, or an utter lack of facility with language and structure. The story described was clearly of great importance to him, but he had done nothing to convey its specifics to an impartial reader. What I was handed was, essentially, a barely coherent list of events, some connected, some not so much. Characters wander around aimlessly, do things for no reason, vanish, reappear, get arrested for unnamed crimes, and make wild, life-altering decisions for no reason. Half a paragraph is devoted to describing the smell and texture of a piece of food, but the climactic central event of the film is glossed over in a sentence. The death of the hero is not even mentioned. One sentence describes a scene he's in, the next describes people showing up at his funeral. I could go on, but I won't. This is the sort of thing that would earn you a D minus in any Freshman Comp class.

Which brings us to an ugly truth about many aspiring screenwriters: They think that screenwriting doesn't actually require the ability to write, just the ability to come up with a cool story that would make a cool movie. Screenwriting is widely regarded as the easiest way to break into the movie business, because it doesn't require any kind of training, skill or equipment. Everybody can write, right? And because they believe that, they don't regard working screenwriters with any kind of real respect. They will hand you a piece of inept writing without a second thought, because you do not have to be a writer to be a screenwriter.

My Voice Nation Help
411 comments
clperdue4342
clperdue4342

86% of what was said in this essay was dead-on right, the other 14% was hilarious.  The comments section largely validated it.

lldelamater
lldelamater

Wow. He's not embarassed to have written this?

rice.enterprisesllc
rice.enterprisesllc

And people like you do not deserve to be in this business. You are the agent of "no." The ever-hated, unsung, will never be more than an "in memory of" in the credits of a show you had some small portion in creating. 


Fine! Don't read any scripts. Enjoy your self-importance while it lasts, but remember that once upon a time, someone listened to your BS and gave you a shot. Someone rolled their eyes at your attempt to make it and gave you the opportunity to impress them.


So often, industry people have a really hard time remembering that they needed ANYONE to just listen for five minutes in order for them to have the career they have. 


Oh, who am I? I'm a screenplay writer with two scripts in option right now and there's no way in hell I would let you near anything I've created. Not after reading this. 

rick.macy
rick.macy

Ok, point taken.  Down with that.  And I have no screenplay. Yet. But what if you came across a person with a real story.  


And what if that story was happening now involving a hot Russian spy living in a water view apartment on the west side of Manhattan.  


And what if that story included a tax dodging nutcase right wing billionaire from Illinois who gave up his US citizenship not only to dodge taxes owed to the nation that protected him as a boy but who was as we speak was conspiring with an NCIS agent living by the beach to create out of a New England boy this generation's version of Lee Harvey Oswald? 


And what if those two whackos were cooperating with the Russian FSB to create a SPY KIDS network by siccing hot Russian girls on American servicemen to create future passport carrying Americans with loyalties inspired by their hot Russian moms to screw over America in the future?


Would that be interesting?  If so check out my facebook page for your chance to ask the right questions now and to get the FBI to stop this nutty plan!  


And then we can get my kidnapped son home with his father where he belongs.  

mychatposts
mychatposts

Note to self: Do not work with Josh Olson. He obviously does not know how to construct relationships with limitations. Karma's a bitch.

KoboldCleaver
KoboldCleaver

Alright, deal. Can you read my REGULAR script, please? :D

hulleyd
hulleyd

Is this really coming from the moron who wrote and directed Infected?? Hey Olson... You're a Pompous schmuck with a pathetic body of work. Your only claim to fame is converting someone else's work into script format. Come off that mountain top, mate. You're a waste of time.

dgsquared
dgsquared

I belong to a writer's group website and forum where the rule is, you don't ask for a critique on anything until you've done a few of the same yourself. This typically separates the people who actually want to hone their skills from the rest.


It's very difficult to thoughtfully critique someone's work. I agonize over 300 word excerpts knowing full well what goes into a piece.


I also belong to a screenwriter's group that meets twice a month. We typically read through eight to ten pages of two or three script excerpts. The writer picks who reads which characters and we have fun trying to bring the characters to life. We discuss and offer verbal suggestions and will make notes on the scripts as we read through to highlight the pluses and note the parts that don't work. Sometimes two or four of us will do script critique exchanges.


No one can possibly know the amount of time and effort that goes into a critique until you've done it yourself. You become a better writer and you appreciate and can have a more healthy respect for the suggestions you are offered.


I wouldn't dream of asking anyone to read my fucking script unless I could do the same for them. If someone asked me, I'd ask them if they'd done their homework.


Josh Olsen wasn't being a dick but the person who asked him for this 'small' favor was the ultimate limp dick. 


~Deb G.






ben_myers
ben_myers

This screed reveals a significant amount of writer's ego.  Who read HIS screenplays when he was starting out?

tomRmalcolm
tomRmalcolm

wow, you are such a dick!


tomRmalcolm

dekker
dekker

This was a refreshing read. I saw his film and enjoyed it. As a writer of five failed screenplays, I appreciate his honesty. I have since written two novels and will no longer write screenplays. My 'voice' just leans toward novel form. Anyway, about this piece. What he failed to mention is that he can't do dick for you. He could love your script and he couldn't help get it made. He could hand it to last night's academy award winning director and producer and it will not get made. Unless he's willing to write a check for your budget. Then cash the check. And then hand the cash to someone in neat stacks to make your film, it's nothing. The odds of having your script looked at, much less made, are astronomical. You truly have as good a chance at winning the lottery. Am I jaded?  Of course. Am I right. Probably. The irony here is that I don't stop writing. Like the man said, if I can cause you to stop, you're not a writer. I'm fully confident my work will not be produced or seen, but at least I'm honest with myself. All the positive thoughts and energy in the world isn't going to change that. But keep writing. The writer of HOV and this article is spot-on. Learn the craft yourself.

datmama4
datmama4

I don't understand how anyone can think this guy is a jerk for taking issue with people who want freebies. If you have EVER been put in the situation, you'd completely understand. It's always the people who have no real relationship to you who ask for the biggest favors, and the people who actually have the relationship with you who understand that certain lines shouldn't be crossed. I would no sooner ask a doctor to take a look at my latest physical issue while we're at a birthday party for a mutual friend. 


As a copy editor, I know how much time it takes to "take a look" at someone's work. I also agonize over how to write an honest evaluation without coming across as a know-it-all jerk, only to have the author get angry and stomp off. I'm spending hours of my time trying to help you. I have no stake in whether you sell one book or a billion, but my name will be on your book, so why would I want to give it less than my best?


This article hits on so many good points that I can't even narrow down what I like most about it. 

billracz
billracz

A producer told me to read this and I'm glad I did. It's also a lot of work to read through a screenplay and not get paid for it.

jamesgarney
jamesgarney

these comments are hilarious. anybody looking up Josh Olson on IMDb to judge his "credits" clearly has no idea how screenwriting works and clearly does not work in entertainment.

screenwriters write scripts and sell them. that's it. they have no control over the script after that (unless they're also producing, which only a privileged few have the power/clout to do). the guy has probably sold 30 screenplays that will never be made for a variety of reasons, from funding, to executive turnover, to the recession, to whatever. not to mention that, if you had IMDb Pro (like every professional working in entertainment), you'd see he has two projects in development, one being the sequel to the nearly $500M worldwide grossing Oz: The Great and the Powerful. so id say he's doing just fine.

one last thing: do you know how many credits Blake Snyder, author of the highly successful screenwriting book "Save The Cat!" and one of the most respected and in-demand script consultants and screenwriting teachers ever, has on IMDb? two.

so please don't talk out of your ass like you know what's going on when most of you obviously don't.

philsucalouski
philsucalouski

If it really is so hard to find a good writer why would you turn down scripts? Wouldn't your odds improve with the more scripts you read? Lazy pompous douche.

IncrediBILL
IncrediBILL

The real dick move in my opinion is being spineless and then writing some story explaining how you spent all this time reading his script because you were gutless.

Nut up.

When people ask you to read their script simply tell about the 'friends and family rate' for script reading and it's paid in advance. That way you aren't saying no and if someone really wants your opinion that badly. They're paying for your time and you know they're really serious. Yes, it's a cliche, but money does talk and BS walks but at least you're establishing the fact that you don't do it for free without turning them down.

Print a business card with the friends and family service described right on it so it doesn't come off like something you just made up or an excuse. Just hand them the card and tell them to contact you with payment any time they're ready.

That's how you get out of awkward social situations that overlap your professional career and surprisingly, that approach can generate some nice pocket change depending on what you do for a living and how much you can get away with charging.

rhondamerrick
rhondamerrick

It's rude to corner somebody you don't even know very well and try to get professional help from them for free. It's like asking a dentist to have a look at your dodgy molar at a dinner party.

WebTickets
WebTickets

This is my second post but this is a topic that I really feel strongly about. As I said below I agree with the guy and am not sure why anyone would think of him as a "dick" or "ungracious" or any other insulting term.

We seemed to have warped the meaning of friendship in modern society and think it to mean “free stuff” or “people who do things for me without charging me”.

I ask for favors all the time but I always make it clear that there is no hurt feelings if the person says no and I make it clear I will return the favor in a way you feel is of at least equal value. I own a ticket business, I usually return any favor in tickets.

Free favors are only for the best of friends and family, those deep relationships where both people understand this without speaking about it. This does not mean you do not do free favors for people that you have lesser relationships with, it just means that it should be something you offer, not something you are specifically asked to give.

In this case, if I knew Josh, I would tell him I have written a script and would ask him if he knew how I could get someone to read it that is in the business and could give me an honest critique. This gives him the chance to offer his services for free without me insulting him by asking him to give me something for free. But in my case I would be thrilled if he said, “hey, I know you buy and sell tickets, can you get me Lakers tickets if I read your script?”.

This is how the world works for adults, time is more valuable than money for most people, I know it is for me. Making money is easy but making more time to do what I want is not something I have figured out how to do.

WebTickets
WebTickets

Here, here, as a small business owner I totally understand and agree with everything Mr Olson has said in this article.
I have lost so many friends through the years because for some reason most people think friendship means "free stuff" and even when you do give someone something for free they will still find a way to find something wrong with what you have done for them. "Hey, when I asked you for tickets I thought you were going to give me good seats, like front row, these were only 5th row, I thought you were my friend dude."
Now Josh, since I have read your article and since we are obviously BFF since I get it, will you please read my script?

poefranz
poefranz

I will not read your fucking blog/article! Why? Because you're a fucking dick!

Nihilus
Nihilus

Maybe if this tool had written something of merit then I'd take him seriously.....

WayneRoonie
WayneRoonie

2009?....

*Looks up Josh Olson on the imdb*

It would seem lots of other people stopped reading his scripts some time ago.

Denied.

tw296
tw296

"By the way, here's a simple way to find out if you're a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you're not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers."

Bullshit. I am a writer if I write. Simple as. (Being a *good* writer is another matter of course.)

EpicHam
EpicHam

Can someone read my script? 
Anyone. 
its less than 400 words since its only a microcinema that'll last around 5-10 minutes.
It doesn't really have that much dialogue since it mostly relies on cinematography to convey meanings.
Its not finished yet, since its more coarse than the queen's undercarriage. 
The problem with it mainly , in my opinion is too many events in a too short of a time frame. 
It feels a bit disconnected. 
Some characters have less than 30 seconds on the screen before they are sent away on a coffin. There's not enough time to develop character connection.
Another problem I have is with digging up the hidden clue to form a twist without it being too sudden. 

There's comradeship  ,there's familial attachment ,there's the conundrum of artificial intelligence, there's love, there's the intrinsic human desire to explore. 

There's is simply too much!
But if I take anyone of those out, 5 minutes becomes a drag and 7 minutes becomes bland.
I don't know what to DOOOOOOOooooooo

7 minutes is SO DAMN SHORT!!!!!

mooser42001
mooser42001

Okay, sure, sure, sure, yada,yada, but the script I sent you is different!  It's really good! Everybody says so, and plus, in addition it's a story which wouldn't bring the blush of shame to a virgin's cheek.  

Go ahead then, take a pass on immortality!   But I ask you this: What if the publishers had refused to read L Ron Hubbard's books!

And the continuous use of the word "fucking" is offensive.

sweeney
sweeney

Thank you. THANK. YOU.

opie100
opie100

I can't wait to make it so that I can offer a different route here. Just set simple rules around reading scripts. Ask them to pay another professional reader before submitting. Also say that you'll only read one draft - and recommend hiring another professional reader to review the next version. And tell them it will take a month to get back to them. It's really not that complicated.

genialityofevil
genialityofevil

And the moral of the story is...
Write a logline, that's why they exist. If you can't pique interest with a sentence or two then you won't manage it in two pages or 120 pages.

erowe84
erowe84

"I did more rewrites on that fucking e-mail than I did on my last three studio projects"

 I think what he meant to say was:   "I did more rewrites on that fucking e-mail than I did in my entire career."  Because if you actually look at his IMDB he only has 9 credits total...one of which says "uncredited" and the others are just "an episode of this and short film for that."  A History of Violence is really the only thing noteworthy on his profile.  And David Mamet, he is not.

So with that in mind, this guy THINKS he has exactly some weight and pull in the industry, when in fact, I could give less of a shit of what this guy thinks about my screenplay.  If I wanted an industry professional's advice, then I would ask someone with more than one major film to their resume.

All I'm saying is this:  take away his A History of Violence credit and if anything, he would be doing the EXACT same thing to other more established writers in his profession like the guy that he was writing about did to him!

He's talking as if his time is worth so much for his skill when in fact there are people out there who do open-heart surgery, repair freeways, teach children, prosecute criminals, etc.  THOSE are things with skill and nobility.  You, Josh Olson?  You write for movies...that's it.  It's entertainment.  And don't give me that "but entertainment shapes the way we think and feel and look at ourselves" argument because that's total fucking bullshit.  You entertain people.  Great. That is all.  People shouldn't bow down to you because you learned how to entertain people.  Nor should they pay you $1,000,000 for 30 seconds of your time because you are "the all-high and mighty writer," as previously mentioned in Picasso's story.

Have some humility for God's sake...have some RESPECT for one's up-and-coming struggle in your industry.  If the person presenting you with a screenplay seems like a joker, then yes, DON'T waste your fucking time on him!  However, if the person seems respectable and has presented you with something that may be OK, then fucking read it!!  Don't YOU remember when you were that age and up-and-coming?  Remember what it was like to get professional feedback and how much you valued that coming from someone you respected?  It's the LEAST that you could do to give back to your profession and community.  If they're smart and tough, then they'll take your criticism and learn from it.  If not, then they'll just call it "Bullshit"  And when they're 40 or 50 and still flipping burgers for a living and wondering why they never got anywhere with their writing career, then they'll wished they had listened to you to begin with and had taken your words more seriously.  But either way, if you care about your profession, then read their fucking scripts and give them HONEST feedback.  If not, watch both you and your profession go to waste because an hour of your time is "too valuable" to spend on a younger writer who may want to contribute something meaningful.

Finally, if you are going to talk like you are such a "Big Shot" Hollywood writer, then make sure that you have more than one major movie to your credit.  Because to me, you seem like a one-hit wonder of Hollywood screenwriters.

penE.
penE.

When roommates move in together, they set themselves up for failure, and even disaster if they don't sit down and establish some rules. 

The same when doing someone a favor, especially when theres blood, sweat, and tears involved.

Now if it were me, I would have learned a lesson, instead of losing my heart.

I would let it be known upfront when dealing with a friend that I'm a straight - shooter. I hold no punches. Infact, I would let them know that I didn't become this successful by denying the harsh truths about writing and that I often had to face the same truths about myself. 

Critiques from friends and professionals are 2 different things.

When your grandmother tells you to wrap yourself in collard greens to get rid of the flu, you can laugh or listen. But if she's old enough and raised enough kids, she's wise.

But when your doctor prescribes you some drugs, you take them if you if you want to go that rout.

If I was a professional and a friend came and asked me to read his script, I would lead him to another professional. But I would never stop giving back. It's like killing your own soul and burying the elements that brought you to your own success. 

bananapiff
bananapiff

Wow, lot of nastiness in these comments. And yet somehow people are surprised professionals are wary about getting involved with amateurs.

CarlaE
CarlaE

My question is how does a film like SHARKNADO get a pass on the script-writing to become a movie? In that case, yeah, you better read my fucking script because you're missing out.

GenialityOfEvil
GenialityOfEvil

@ben_myers There's a difference between asking for free advice from a professional and engaging a potential business partner such as an agent or producer. In the latter situation you both have a potential gain, while in the former only you do.

001eipo
001eipo

@opie100 You left out the fact that you have to work on reading/critiquing that script for a month. You just casually said "tell them it will take a month" as if it just happens by itself.

yurcis61
yurcis61

@erowe84 lol you've clearly never written a screenplay if you think it's as easy "entertaining" people. People are "entertained" by cat videos on Youtube. You don't have to be good at writing to entertain.

Your ignorance on writing as a profession is beyond baffling.

olafreinhardweyer
olafreinhardweyer

@erowe84 I'd day if he's making a living as a writer, which is tough enough, he is a success, no matter his credits. His problem is, he is one sided. People ARE open for honest critique, at least the once who have a chance to make it in this business. My advise for him would be to be open with those who are open. No need to completely close down on everyone. Unless of course you find yourself to be a really bad judge of character, which is only human, then he is right about his decision. 

ben_myers
ben_myers

@GenialityOfEvil @ben_myersAgreed, from what I always deal with myself as a practicing professional.  But, again, "This screed reveals a significant amount of writer's ego."  Not sure how you measure the size of an ego, but the author's IS a pretty damned big ego by most every frame of reference.

mooser42001
mooser42001

@loneaviator69 @mooser42001 

  "Your idiocy is offensive."

Maybe, but goddammit, at least it's CLEAN!  Not even a bit of smooching in it,  and no two-backed beasts to be found.

This country is famished for good clean entertainment, and Im just the guy to give it to you.

My script is attached, and I know if you read it you'll be impressed. It's clean, except for a few "damns" and "hell, no" BUT ONLY WHERE APPROPRIATE!

mooser42001
mooser42001

@IncrediBILL @mooser42001  

Bill, you are right. Somebody so foulmouthed will not recognize the genius in my script. It's a simple God-fearing story about simple God-fearing people in a God-forsaken land which it knows no pity in the naked city.  It'll wrench their <i>kishkas</i> in Des Moines, but with a generous interlarding of comic Dutch cross-talk and knockabout acts galore to satisfy the jaded comic tongues of big-city film-goers.
 I should leave a gilt-edged yarn like that where every gonif from here to Harper's Valley can do the filch with it? Not on yout tintype, Margery!

erowe84
erowe84

@yurcis61 "Your ignorance on writing as a profession is beyond baffling."

Hey moron, first of all, do you actually think there is something MORE to writing screenplays than just providing people with entertainment?  Then please tell me...what is it?  Do screenplays build highways?  Do they perform open-heart surgery on people who need it?  Do they educate kids in a classroom?  Do they engineer mechanical designs that are used on a daily basis?  NO THEY DO NOT!!!  So don't try to pull this "but we make art that is reflective of society" bullshit on me.  Because you know what?  You write stuff that ENTERTAINS people.  The fact that you try and distinguish between Entertainment and what Screenwriters do is something more than that makes you even more of a loathable pompous asshole.  Again, have some humility for Christ's sake.  What?  You're soooo important and too busy to read someone else's screenplay because because what you do "makes a difference" in people's lives that is greater than the professions that I listed above?  Then it is YOUR ignorance on your role within Western Civilization that is beyond baffling...because at the end of the day, you entertain people.  That's it.  And Shakespeare?  You ain't.


erowe84
erowe84

@yurcis61 @erowe84 First of all, I would like to apologize to you for being offensive.  It was inappropriate for me to do so.

Second,  I do not write screenplays.  I am simply commenting just as an outsider looking in when I read this piece by Josh Olson.  But thank you for offering to read  something of mine, if I actually wrote anything

Third, just like yourself, I actually DO place value on art in society as well.  However, I do take issue with the fact when an artist places more value on his work than that of people in other professions. The fact that a supposed "successful" screenwriter would rather take out a page in the Village Voice newspaper and rant about his problems that he gets asked all the time to read other people's screenplays doesn't make me want to sympathize with the artist.  It makes me want to wring his neck.  The fact that he gets what he wants to do for his profession is a luxury of something that MANY people in this nation aren't afforded.  And then,  he takes out a page in the Village Voice to bitch about other people's requests for advice (something he should be HAPPY to give, seeing as though he is a writer) and tells them to essentially "fuck off with their requests" is adding insult to injury!

Because quite frankly, he would be NOWHERE if he hadn't received the kind of criticism that his elders gave to him!  And what?  Is he too BUSY turning out that one screenplay that he finishes every 2 to 3 years or so to give a little critique here and there to someone who asks for it?  Oh the problems of being a successful screenwriter.  

Quite frankly, if there are any problems, they are surely narcissistic ones.

Finally, if Mr. Olson actually placed any value on his profession, then he would lend a helping hand to those whom he sees fit...and not just simply telling them to fuck off.  Because THAT would be placing value on high art in society...showing that you care enough to help usher in the next generation of youngsters in your profession by passing on a little of your expertise.

yurcis61
yurcis61

@erowe84 @yurcis61 Haha. You are unbelievable, man. Yes, because only physical & tangible contributions to our society is all that matters. Emotions? Values? Thoughts? What are those!?

Calling me names because I believe art has value? Hey, if you feel the need to insult me, it's all good. I really do hope it makes you feel better. I'm sorry that whatever you're passionate about didn't work out and that it makes you so angry you have to spit in the face of people who have values that differ from your own.

Also, I'll read your screenplay, if you want.

Now Trending

New York Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...