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500 Ways to Beat the Hollywood Script Reader: Writing the Screenplay the Reader Will Recommend Paperback – July 13, 1999
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But the script you pour your soul into won't be read by a single soul you've ever heard of. If a star or mogul reads anything about your story, it will be in the form of "coverage," a brief report reducing your screenplay to a one-sentence summary, with a very few pages of synopsis and ratings of your characters, dialogue, and plot. That report is written by a Hollywood reader, who is likely to be a smart woman desperate to find something she can recommend to her boss--someone like Jennifer Lerch. If her eyes glaze over, you're dead.
Your eyes won't glaze over reading Lerch's 500 brisk mini-lessons. How many pages can you turn in? Not over 120. How crucial are the first 30 pages? Utterly. How many big, climactic moments do you need in those 30 pages? Two. How many scenes do you need in the dramatic opening sequence? Three to five. How many parenthetical comments directly addressed to the reader can you include? One or two per script. How about your favorite passages, where you plumb your characters' inner depths? Throw them away: "If the character doesn't say it, wear it, or do it, delete it." How do pros write? "Staccato. Economical." That's how Lerch writes. And if you want to get anywhere in Hollywood, you'll have to please someone just like her. Know your enemy--and make her your best friend. --Tim Appelo
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In contrast to a reviewer who said this book would be most helpful for beginners, I think the book is most helpful for non-beginners. Indeed, I think the negative reviews on the book owe to the fact that the book takes for granted the reader is knowledgable about the nature of "story." Not just the story of screenplays, but the nature of general story, whether in the form of short stories, novels, plays, or even song.
For someone not terribly familiar with the nature of story, this book will seem like a waste of their time, or, worse, a theft of their money. For it is not written in narrative. It is an enumeration of 500 "ways" that Lerch offers on the craft of screenwriting. A beginner will definitely be disappointed.
However, for someone knowledgable about story who is interested in learning about screenwriting (or even more fitting, someone, such as myself, who is a fiction writer aiming to convert to screenwriter), I haven't seen a better book on the shelves, and I have been looking.
When I read it, I used a third of a notebook taking notes. Some points she makes could quite literally save someone's entire dreams of screenwriting. For instance, did you know when a Hollywood reader receives a script with an address outside L.A. the script is essentially dismissed as the work of an amateur? (Out-of-staters have to rent an L.A. P.O. Box.) Cruel? Perhaps. But important to know for the apprentice screenwriter? Without doubt. Just that point alone for someone outside L.A. would be worth the $12.Read more ›
I see this book more as a reference guide. The first 200 or so tips are for complete newbies who have never written a script in their life However, when you get to Part 2 of the book, which covers tips for Acts 1 through 3, that's the real meat of the book and the real reason to buy it.
While writing your screenplay or even while plotting your outline, read this book. It is no more and no less than a 500-point checklist of what you should and shouldn't be doing in your script.
Sure, some tips would make more sense if they were combined with others. And yes, some tips are reworded versions of previous tips, but that's what it took to reach the 500 number.
On the positive side, I have lost count of the number of times I have found a hole in my plot or realized that I could eliminate or scene or two without damaging my story thanks to one or more of the tips in this great book.
So, if you're reading it hoping it will explain the awe and mystery that is screenwriting, you'll be sorely disappointed. If you use it as a checklist, you should find it quite valuable. I know I did.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Lerch is a script reader/consultant who wrote this book to point out the most common mistakes in screenplays submitted to Hollywood. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Book Maven Reviews
As an aspiring screenwriter, I've been poring over many books, web sites, and other resources. This book seemed like a good one to augment my learning. Read morePublished on December 5, 2013 by NickSab
An excellent guiding light to help you navigate through unknown or unexpected rough waters, yet a comforting sight always pointing you to an open ocean of clear sailing just ahead.Published on October 20, 2013 by MT
Excellent. A must for the first time screenplay writer or someone who is looking to cross the T's in professionalism and marketability. I keep it next to my chair.Published on April 12, 2013 by Abacus Books,Inc.
After finishing my third screenplay, I happened upon this book. It is an easy read and is well laid-out. Read morePublished on January 15, 2013 by Steve