15 Questions Readers Ask About Your Screenplay

15 Questions Readers Ask 1000x400

As we gear up for another exciting season of the Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition and as we continue to bring on new readers and judges for our tenth season this year, I thought it would be a good opportunity to remind you, the screenwriters, of those questions our judges are asking about your material as they read, and that you should probably be asking about your screenplay too.

The important point for the writer is to answer these questions honestly, objectively and impartially; and therein lies the rub. This is no easy feat for a writer who has spent weeks, months and even years researching, developing and crafting their story. It is not easy to step back and see the work as strangers would. That is where we come in -- a fresh set of eyes to review your work with an unbiased and constructive approach to benefiting future drafts of your material.

So here are the 15 questions our readers ask about your screenplay as they read, that you should probably be asking yourselves too!

And remember, until July 7th, Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition is offering the chance to receive your scorecard and feedback for free. Enter this week, request the 1-page script evaluation, use promocode FREEFB50 at checkout and we’ll send you your judge’s notes as well as your score to each of the fifteen-point checklist below – FOR FREE!

FORMAT - There are specific guidelines for writing screenplays. The format of your script is the first impression. A script that does not have proper formatting lacks professionalism. Formatting allows an experienced reader to scan material in a way that he or she understands what is happening and what is being said, without being bogged down in dense prose. Are the guidelines and industry standards being met?

VOICE - The voice is the style and personality with which you write. A writer's voice should paint a clear and vivid picture for the reader and resonate after the material has been read. The voice of the writer should be evident in every aspect of the screenplay. The voice is based upon the hundreds of decisions the screenwriter makes in their choice of words, descriptions, sentence structure as well as how they craft their story. Does the voice exude confidence? Does the audience feel as if they are in capable hands? Is there a unique style to the writing?

PREMISE/ CONCEPT - How clear is the premise to identify? Is it a high concept premise, or low concept? Is it a genre driven concept, or character driven?

STORY- The story includes the hook, the set up and the pay-off. Do the first ten pages hook the audience and is the story engaging enough to sustain our attention for a full 90 minutes or more?

TONE - Tone is most likely determined by genre, so the question here is how well the tone of the screenplay compliments the genre. Does the horror film scare you? Did the comedy make you laugh? If it it’s a mix of genres, do they clash, or do they work well together?

THEME - The theme of the film is what you want people talking about when they leave the cinema. Why do we care? Beyond the story and characters, what is the film about and what is it trying to say?

STRUCTURE - Does the screenplay have a clear 3 act structure with an identifiable beginning, middle and end? If not, does the untraditional structure benefit the story in a purposeful way? Does the end of act one challenge your protagonist, pose a question or force him/her to make a decision?

PLOT POINTS - Do the plot points twist and turn the story in unpredictable ways? Do the plot points add to the dramatic tension, provide interesting obstacles for the protagonist to overcome in accomplishing his or her goal?

PACING - How well does your screenplay flow? Are the dramatic stakes constantly rising or is there a lull in the action? Pacing is closely related to structure so if the structure is flawed, pacing will often suffer.

CONFLICT - Conflict provides dramatic tension. Conflict is the driving force of any story and usually involves physical (man v man) and emotional (man v himself) conflict. What is the core conflict? What exactly is at stake for our protagonist? Is it big enough, interesting enough, compelling enough to sustain our attention for 90-120 minutes?

CHARACTERS - Are your characters likable, relatable, memorable? Are the character motivations believable? Does their personality fit their character? Do they have a strong, clear character arch? What do they learn and how do they change from beginning to end?

DIALOGUE - Dialogue should be natural, not "on the nose." People rarely talk like you write. People talk over each other, have accents, emphasize certain words and speak with different inclinations. Each person has their individual agendas, motivations and past experiences that will affect what they say and how they say it. Is the dialogue authentic and consistent with the character? Do all the characters sound a like? If I just read the dialogue, would I know which character is speaking?

COMMERCIALITY / MARKETABILITY/ SUSTAINABILITY - How easy is this concept to market? Can the concept be conveyed easily on a movie poster? What is the merchandising potential? (Action Figures, Happy Meals, video games?) Does it have sequel or franchise potential? Does the concept lend itself to any of the new forms of marketing and distribution models? Is it a viral concept? If this is a TV Pilot, does the concept and characters have the potential to sustain a series of the course of 26 episodes?

CAST-ABILITY - Are your characters rich and memorable? Do they scream out for a specific actor or actress? Will the characters prove challenging to a leading actor or actress or are they run of the mill characters that we've all seen before?

MARKET POTENTIAL (SALABILITY) - The trends and needs of the marketplace change often. One day something is hot, the next it’s not. How easy is this film to sell according to the current landscape of the industry? - How broad is your film? Is it a 4-quadrant summer tent-pole or is it a personal, niche-oriented film destined to a limited release in art house theaters?

Constantly reviewing and honestly answering these questions as you write your screenplay will help mold each draft. By doing so you will not only improve your writing but increase your chances of getting noticed by people that can make a difference to your career.

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