Friday, May 16, 2014

Screenplay Critique--aka "Coverage"

Many budding screenwriters pay big bucks to send their scripts out for critiques by supposed experts.

The purpose is to get tips about how to improve the screenplay.

However, sometimes the coverage can go beyond constructive criticism and be brutal.

With this in mind, a writer friend of mine (Chris Neiman) recently sent the following message to a company called Scriptapalooza about the coverage a fellow screenwriter (not me) had received:

Dear Scriptapalooza:

I am sending this to explain why I did not order coverage from Scriptapalooza.

I recently saw coverage that another writer received from Scriptapalooza. It's understandable and desirable that you would be negative in your coverage; no script is perfect, and it is helpful to the writer that you point out flaws to be corrected. However, this coverage went far beyond that. It was extremely negative, to the point of seeming, at worst, hostile, and at best, annoyed. There was not one word of encouragement in the coverage. The overall tone of the coverage was rude and condescending and almost angry.

It's a miracle to me that the writer who received your coverage – who is actually quite talented – went on to write another script.

I think the people who do your coverage need to be aware that writers tend to be sensitive people who can be easily hurt and easily discouraged. The writer who received your coverage apparently isn't, but I am. And because I am, I don't want to risk getting the kind of rude, discouraging, and condescending coverage that was given to this other screenwriter. I certainly don't want to pay $100 for the level of hostility and verbal abuse that I observed in that coverage document.

I hope that reading this will remind you that the people who order coverage are your customers, and that while you are certainly being paid to point out flaws, it is possible to do so and to be kind and supportive and encouraging at the same time. That's what good coverage and good customer service are about, and if your coverage writers in particular and Scriptapalooza in general are unable to do this, you should not be providing coverage.

I hope this message is helpful to you.

Chris Neiman

In fairness to Scriptapalooza, I want to add that the president, Mark Andrushko, promptly wrote a nice note to Chris, in which he said, in part, "I completely agree with you."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Review: Roles of Women in Mystery and Suspense Film and Fiction

Here’s a book worth reading for fans of the mystery and suspense genre: Roles of Women in Mystery and Suspense Film and Fiction by Kathryn Ann Ward.

As the author points out, “Raymond Chandler said, ‘Love interest . . . weakens a mystery because it [is] antagonistic to the detective’s struggle.’ Yet love stories are often seen in the mystery/suspense genre, including in The Big Sleep by Chandler himself!”

The author begins with a fascinating overview of the history of the mystery/suspense genre that reaches into the Old Testament to consider whether Cain’s slaying of his brother Abel was the world’s first murder mystery. She moves forward to medieval times to discuss the criminal Robin Hood as a “noble outlaw” character, then crosses the pond to cover Edgar Allan Poe as “the father of the modern detective story.

Having laid this groundwork in an introductory chapter, the narrative moves into the twentieth century to its main subject: an exploration of love stories in mystery/suspense works by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Kenneth Millar (Ross Macdonald), and in films based on these works. The conclusion surveys love stories in three mystery and suspense films that are not book adaptations: Klute, Chinatown, and a lesser-known thriller, The Late Show.

This book is not one of those feminist critiques—I hate them; they’re typically, I find, too glib or too dense for pleasant reading.

Instead, Roles of Women in Mystery and Suspense Film and Fiction applauds the strong, brave, and able women who people the works the authorWard discusses. Each of these characters is not just equal but superior to her male counterpart, especially when it comes to cleverness, courage, and coping skills.

Roles of Women in Mystery and Suspense Film and Fiction by Kathryn Ann Ward is highly recommended.

You can buy it here: