Dave Smith Reports On Attending Breaking Into Script Reading Course

Dave Smith Reports On Attending Breaking Into Script Reading Course

Wed 22 Feb 2017


Easter Ross based Writer and Animator Dave Smith represented ScreenHI and XpoNorth Screen and Broadcast at the Breaking Into Script Reading course at the London Screenwriters' Festival.

Dave Smith | Easter Ross Writer and Animator

Image: Copyright Dave Smith

Dave Smith
Writer and Animator

Here is Dave's blog about what he got up to there:

Inverness, Friday Night.

All aboard the overnight train to London. I set off for the Breaking into Script Reading course run by Lucy V Hay of Bang2Write as part of this year’s London Screenwriters' Festival.

Lucy V Hay | Breaking Into Script Reading

Image: Lucy V Hay | Breaking Into Script Reading. Copyright London Screenwriters' Festival


Image: Bang2Write. Copyright Bang2Write

I was first attracted to this course when I saw it advertised several months ago and decided to take advantage of the early bird ticket offer. As a writer one can be inundated with adverts and there is always the opportunity to become a full-time course attender and never write another word, but this one looked promising.

On the one hand it suggested you wouldn’t get rich as a script reader but claimed that you could make some money. This under-ambitious claim appealed to me as it sounded realistic.

So, I had signed up for the two day course, which at the time seemed quite a way off. However, as writers among you will know time ‘quite a way off’ turns into ‘quite soon’ quite quickly. So a few months later suddenly seeing the course looming I set about the booking of travel and accommodation. I should also say thank you to ScreenHIXpoNorth's Screen and Broadcast network, who gave some support for my attendance at this outing which helped smooth the path to London. And so I found myself aboard the overnight train to Euston.

‘I’ll do some work on the way down’ I had promised myself. Now you are probably thinking that this amounts to setting up one’s laptop on the handy table, spreading around some papers and then gently nodding off. But no, I actually did manage to get some writing done as I sped south. I quite enjoy working on trains and this was a particularly pleasant one. A quiet coach, a good project to work on, the black night speeding past the window,  were all conducive to working on my text. All that and possibly a need to re-affirm with myself my writing credentials before I turned up at a writing festival.

There was preparation for the course, which had included writing a script report on a screenplay we had been sent, but fortunately I had done this earlier and like any good boy who has done his homework I was free to work on a project of my own for a few hours before the moment for sleeping arrived. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Breaking Into Script Reading

Image: Breaking Into Script Reading. Copyright London Screenwriters' Festival

London, Saturday morning. 

A couple of connections on the tube and here I am at Ealing Studios bright eyed and bushed. Lots of people all cramming into a room, an air of expectancy and a lack of actual air as we sit in rows waiting for the first words from our script reading guru, Lucy V Hay. Who, to be fair, while obviously well experienced in her field, she did not come across as a guru.

Inevitably quite a lot of the people on the course were writers wanting to add script reading to their skills, so there was a fair bit of discussing the script from the creators point of view as well as the assessors POV. However she was quick to veer away from any particular structure system as being the one true way, whether it was Robert McKee’s Story or Ima Knowall’s 5 Act breakdown. She emphasised that you had to do what was best for you and your story, but that you definitely had to give thought and attention to its structure. This back and forth between wearing the writer’s hat and the reader’s hat was a pattern for the presentation and served to illuminate both.

When lunch came it was networking time and, although not my forte, I managed to make a few connections - someone looking for a writer to collaborate  with, someone working on their film set in the North of Scotland and finding out about The Sitcom Mission from the competition organisers. This last bit of networking seemed the most useful and I think Right Lines will be submitting a piece to  them. If nothing else, it seems like it has a good business model -the organiser’s charging for script readings and feedback at different levels and costs combined with a competition showcase possibility for the entrants.

The afternoon proceeded with more info about getting into the script reading business and two speakers who were young women already on their way up in the business telling us how they got started.
At this point we entered the world of the unpaid intern or doing some work for free to get a foot in the door and that circular problem of no one hiring you as a reader till you can have some kind of reputation as a reader ( does this happen for plumbers?) Anyway, they seemed to advocate hanging around on the fringes of that world but being determined and prepared for the moment opportunities presented themselves.

By the end of the long day I was ready to find my hotel, my head full of must-see films and good advice.

London, Sunday Morning.

A good breakfast plenty coffee and I was ready for whatever the day had to offer.

Contained arenas, vertical writing, high concept, actionable advice, framing stories and money for old tropes – if nothing else I was going to pick up enough jargon to be able to hold my own at my next screen-writers soiree. Again, to be fair jargon wasn’t bandied about to impress but was introduced and explained for the purpose of giving us a vocabulary with which to analyse scripts. Lucy was trying to take us from just expressing simple like and dislike of a script to writing assessments that contained actionable notes, positively framed comments and avoided hi-jacking the authors script with your own ideas.

All this was done in an upbeat, no nonsense delivery with a sense of humour and illustrations aplenty. The afternoon session included a conversation with Karol Griffiths, an experienced script editor/reader/supervisor who had  worked with a galaxy of big names, most impressive in my book was her work with the Cohen Brothers.

So, as so often with these course a lot to digest afterwards and their value is in what you make of what you have learnt. It was well organised and the homework we had been given to work on  after the course means that we can submit an assessment of a screenplay to Lucy and we will receive feedback on that, which is a valuable follow up and consolidation of what we were taught.

Then the journey home, and yes some more work on the train until the zzzzzzzzzzzzz’s took over somewhere around Crewe.