First, I apologize for my absence. Work calls, and well…I hate to say it, but…I kind of got bored with blogging for a while there. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say. I did.
I just didn’t feel like talking much. God knows there are plenty of people out there who wish that condition to remain permanent, but perhaps all I was waiting for was something juicy.
Et voila, enter “the scriptshadow.”
Before you read any further, stop now and read John August’s excellent article here.
Go. Do it. I’ll wait.
Okay, you read it? Good. Now you know what the deal is. Scriptshadow is some guy operating under the blanket of internet anonymity. He reviews screenplays, many of which are still in development. He also occasionally posts links to the scripts themselves.
I have a problem with this. But first, let me tell you the problems I don’t have.
I don’t have a legal problem with this. The studios almost certainly do, and there are all sorts of copyright issues involved here, but in this particular circumstance, they don’t get my goat.
I don’t have a “convenience” problem with this. Yes, the more guys like Scriptshadow post screenplays in development, the more annoying studios will get with their writers, forcing us to jump through all sorts of security hoops, when all we really want to do is just write the damn things and be done with them.
I don’t have a personal problem with this, i.e. as far as I know, Scriptshadow has never bothered reviewing any of my screenplays. No grudges to speak of.
Finally, I don’t have the “barrier” problem. Many defenders of Scriptshadow believe that he’s doing the Lord’s work in breaking down the barrier between the pros and the non-pros. The more screenplays in development the aspiring writer can read, the better his or her chance of writing something the studios will want to buy.
I rue how difficult access is, and I empathize. That’s one big reason I started this blog and forum (with our Ask a Pro section), and it’s why I was thrilled to be a part of the excellent Nashville Screenwriting Conference this year. I will certainly be back in Nashville in 2010. It’s also why I go after the cottage industry of nonsense books, courses and scams designed to separate desperate writers from their money.
I want you to succeed. This is not a zero sum game. Your success will not impact mine. If you write a great script and I write a great script, they’re both going to get attention, and hopefully they will both get made.
Here’s my problem. Here’s my one single problem. Sometimes, Scriptshadow posts reviews of screenplays that are in development.
THE SCRIPTS ARE NOT DONE.
Let me repeat that.
THE SCRIPTS…ARE NOT DONE.
You would think writers would understand. And yet, so many don’t get it. When we write a draft, it’s a draft. It’s an attempt. We may find it absolutely awful and horrifying, and yet necessary as a basis for the next draft, which will be good. We may be writing the draft to address notes we think are completely misguided, with the optimistic (and often rewarded) belief that once the note-givers read the draft, they’ll finally see the light. We may be writing the draft to race a deadline, and we’ll fix it after. We may be writing the draft for an actor who is hopelessly miscast, and once that actor is gone, we can do it right.
And yes, of course, maybe we just stink, and this one isn’t very good.
But dear Scriptshadow…it’s NOT YOURS. Not yet. Soon it will be. Soon it will belong to everyone. But not yet. And anyone who really gives a damn about movies should see that and believe it and just…well…KNOW it.
Why experience someone’s writing before they’re ready for you to experience it? Even worse, why critique what you know IS NOT DONE?
Do you go to a restaurant, ask for raw chicken and a glass of wine, then review the coq au vin?
Let me tell you, I’m the last guy in the world to get precious about what I do. I’ve got years of blogging here to back that up. I’m the guy who says we shouldn’t be arty-farty about the gig, that we should remember this is a job as well as a creative pursuit, that screenwriting is about writing movies and not about writing documents…
…but I deserve one thing.
I deserve to goddamn finish my script before you or anyone else in the audience tells me what you think. You can hate it allllll you want when it’s DONE. And a draft isn’t “done.”
In short, my writing process, and the writing process of anyone who does this job, be they on the top of the mountain like John August or a newly-optioned-for-a-buck rookie, deserves and requires PRIVACY.
Privacy, Scriptshadow. Privacy until we decide we’re ready to show it to the world.
Privacy is why you should stop reviewing screenplays in development. Because hey, if you didn’t believe in the value of privacy, in the value of holding things back, in the value of protecting that which you’re not ready to make public…
…then why call yourself “Scriptshadow” instead of your name?
Right, Christopher Eads?