I know a lot of screenwriters who can sympathize with Josh Olsen, who wrote a column in the Village Voice about all the reasons why he “will not read your fucking script.” He writes, in part:
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.
[…]What they want is a few tough notes to give the illusion of honesty, and then some pats on the head. What they want–always–is encouragement, even when they shouldn’t get any. Do you have any idea how hard it is to tell someone that they’ve spent a year wasting their time? Do you know how much blood and sweat goes into that criticism? Because you want to tell the truth, but you want to make absolutely certain that it comes across honestly and without cruelty. I did more rewrites on that fucking e-mail than I did on my last three studio projects.
I found this article especially timely since today I received over two dozen requests from complete strangers to read their scripts or listen to their great ideas for TV series. Here’s one I got just a few minutes ago from a stranger on Facebook:
I have a great idea for a TV series…oops, you’ve heard that a million times. But really I do. Can I send you the Treatment I have written and get some help pitching it?
The answer was no. I will not read scripts from strangers unless, of course, I am running a show and I’ve asked agents to send me samples to read for assignments, staff jobs, etc. But I will read scripts from my good friends…and I will occasionally ask them to return the favor. And I certainly will never, ever listen to a TV series idea from someone I don’t know…most of whom, of course, aren’t screenwriters, just someone who is convinced they are more clever than the thousands of professional writers, producers and directors who are pitching series to the networks every day.
UPDATE: Within minutes after I told the stranger that I wouldn’t read his treatment or give him pitching advice, he wrote this in his Facebook update:
Sick of arrogant TV writers who write crap that we have to watch on TV.
I am talking about Lee Goldberg…what a f’n snob…and he sucks.
I wasn’t a fucking snob, and I didn’t suck, until I told him I wouldn’t read his treatment and help him pitch it. This reaction from him proves a point Josh Olsen made in his column:
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.
[…]You are not owed a read from a professional, even if you think you have an in, and even if you think it’s not a huge imposition. It’s not your choice to make. This needs to be clear–when you ask a professional for their take on your material, you’re not just asking them to take an hour or two out of their life, you’re asking them to give you–gratis–the acquired knowledge, insight, and skill of years of work. It is no different than asking your friend the house painter to paint your living room during his off hours.