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Monday, September 1, 2008

Rating the Writer

As many Wavers are aware, I am teaching a Reader Correspondence Course. Quite a number of people have already signed up and are diligently doing their homework. I thought it might be fun to excerpt a section on how readers rate writers:

Rating the Writer

Many production companies want a rating for the writer as well as the project. In this way, they can keep on file “consider” or “recommend” writers when they are looking for assignment writers. How is it possible to have a “consider” writer but a “pass” project? Easy. A “consider” writer has chops. Voice. Style. It’s just that this particular project is not a fit for the company at this time. Making a decision between a “pass” or “consider” writer isn’t too tough. “Pass” writers are those with dull, pedantic writing. “Pass” writers don’t get structure. They didn’t entertain you on the page. They didn’t even have a very exciting idea in the first place.

Now: just because a writer has some typos here and there is absolutely no reason to “pass” the writer. You have to use your judgment; if the story is really compelling (even if it’s a “pass” for this company) but here and there you found some typos, ignore that in favor of the story telling. If, however, typos and language usage is a mess all over the place, you’ll find that the story is affected because of it. The two are linked at a certain point. A writer who cannot use the language well is not given to being able to tell a story well either.

When rating the writer, the main question you are answering is: should a project come up, should this writer be considered for the work? Can this guy or gal write well? If you give the writer a "consider" are you willing to back that up if asked to explain that rating? Be prepared to back up every rating you give on a script or on a writer. Your hiney = in a sling. Rate the writer accordingly.

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Christina said...

Kind of a side discussion - I have come across a peer who is really good at plotting and story development, but just can't make the writing sing on a sentence level. He knows that's not his strong skill. Wouldn't someone like that benefit from taking on a writing partner who has opposite skills?

Do you find that scripts written by two people are a bit better due to have some checks and balances built in? Or not?

meg said...

...ah, not sure if this was "fun" but interesting. I may never write again.

meg said...

Ok, I'm still writing because I have questions.

Do you think how someone writes and speaks in other parts of his life is reflective of the kind of writer he is? I have a friend I asked to write up a flyer for a charity event. She sent it out before I proofed it. I spent days fielding questions. No one understood it except the part with my phone number. She wants me to help proof her book she's working on.

Also, does it follow that a person who spent time on a spec script can also write on assignment?

And is it correct to assume a bad writer would not be a good reader?

Julie Gray said...

Christina: It really depends on the partnership and the chemistry that you have together. My partner and I have complimentary skills but there is also quite an overlap. I wouldn't advise partnering with someone who can't write so good though; it would be a partnership wherein he came up with ideas and you did all the writing. Not sure about that one but whatever works for you.

Meg: I would be pretty concerned about your friend's book but you don't know for sure until you look at the material.

I'm not sure I understand your second question: repped writers who've taken meetings and gotten serious attention around their writing can absolutely get open assignment work. That's the point. Not just to sell your spec but to get in the assignment pool. You don't have to sell a spec to be in that pool but you do have to be pretty damn good as a writer to be considered.

Hmmm would a bad writer be a bad reader? That's an interesting question. Well, I suppose the ability to recognize good writing (structure/theme/character etc.) doesn't have to go hand in hand with being able to execute it yourself but it surely helps a great deal. And being able to write well definitely, definitely is a plus when writing coverages. Writing a good coverage is about being clear, articulate and organized in what you are presenting.