Day 278: Reading Between the Lines of a Rejection
So there is good news and bad news. I’ll start the written portion of the bog off with the bad news. The revised version of The Calling received its first rejection notice. This was a script request I received from Mark Castaldo of Destiny Pictures at the Great American Pitch Fest just over two weeks ago. I appreciate the quick response, but the results were less than I hoped for. Mr. Castaldo’s note was short, but had some positive words. He found the script “enjoyable for the most part” and particularly liked the first and second acts.
Now if I read into that, I had him hooked with the first 10 pages and he wanted to keep reading. That’s bonus points for me; a lot scripts get set aside after those first 10 pages, so I‘ve done something correctly there. Another big problem for a lot of screenwriters is the dreaded act. This is where the story will most likely get lost and lose the reader’s and an audience’s attention. I made it through that. Additional points for me. Where I lost him is in the third act. He thought it was a bit muddy and became too “wild and out there.” I’m not sure what to make of that statement. If I had to guess – and it’s all I can do – the twist in the third act that reintroduces the thug from the first act took him by surprise and not in a beneficial way. The script does become a bit actiony (is that a word?) once the thug comes back into the story. Technically, the fight between Connor and the thug (Jeb) is two ghosts battling it out, but does this take the reader/audience out of a horror movie and into an action film?
This is not an issue that anyone has ever raised, but I have wondered about the action sequences in the third act feeling a little less horror driven even though I think it makes sense in terms of this specific story. It may not be an issue at all for most readers/audience, but you can’t please everyone. In this instance, it may simply be a tonal quality that didn’t sit well with Mr. Castaldo and took him out of the story. Or it could something else entirely. I’ll have to see if I get other feedback along these lines before I can make an adjustment.
But if I have to make lemonade from lemons, I’ll stick to the fact that he enjoyed the first two acts, and I had him hooked for the majority of the script. It particularly gives me some reassurance about those first 10 pages. I was worried that the setup might take a bit too long to get to the scary sequences, but I really like the character development that happens there.
In other news, and a bit more uplifting, I took advantage of WeScreenplay.com’s First Impression offer. WeScreenplay is a coverage notes service providing three different levels of coverage. Their pricing is similar to Screenplay Readers, and both companies have a 72-hour turnaround. WeScreenplay also offers a free first impression of the first page of your screenplay. It’s a bit of a marketing ploy to try and get you to purchase full coverage, but it’s an interesting idea to see what a reader thinks after just one page. Do they want to see more? Or are they already leaning toward putting the script down after 10 pages?
You can only submit one time, and once they have your email address, that email is blocked from using the First Impression service again. Since I have multiple email addresses, I was able to submit two pages, one from Come Ups and another from The Calling.
The Calling report came back first. The notes are very short and simple; it is only one page after all (and free!). The Calling begins with a cold open that shows how Eben Myers drowned his granddaughter during a baptism and establishes the falls as a very bad place to go. My reader thought the descriptions on this first page were a bit dense but did a great job of establishing the world of the screenplay. The descriptions on this first page are a bit dense, particularly when compared to the rest of the script. I wanted to really establish the falls as a mythic setting and this cold open was really my only chance to do so. There is not a lot of dialogue in the scene, so I had to set the mood in the descriptions. Once that mood is established, the action descriptions become more spare. If the reader hadn’t liked the “painting of the world,” I might have been forced to cut it back. As it is, I think I’m okay.
The reader also found the setup to be intriguing and complex with an interesting focal point. He concluded by stating he was “definitely interested to keep reading.” So, it seems I have made a decent first impression, a fact backed up by Mr. Castaldo in his comments. There’s just that damn third act thing that may need work.
I also received a first impression from WeScreenplay on Come Ups. This impression was even better. The first sentence was “This is an excellent first page – even the last line of dialogue makes us wish the writer included the second page.” You can’t do much better than that! I wonder if I can use that as a quote in marketing materials? Probably not. The reader also commented that the dialogue was “crisp and realistic” while “setting up the story and the characters.” I don’t think you can get a much better reaction from a single page.
Now a first page critique doesn’t mean the remaining 119 pages of your script will live up to that expectation, but it does give you a sense of whether future readers will be intrigued to see where you will take them, or are they already eyeing the next script in the slush pile. And for WeScreenplay, it’s a great marketing ploy, because now you want to know what they think about the rest of your script, and the only way to find out is to purchase one of their coverage packages.
I don’t think I’ll be submitting either of these scripts for coverage, as I feel pretty confident in where they stand currently (although that third act issue with The Calling is nagging me). However, I may send The Devil’s Tramping Ground to both WeScreenplay and Screenplay Readers to see how the services compare. I need to get through this round of revisions first. I’ll keep you posted and let you know what the results are. Until then, keep up the writing.
Note: If you would like to take advantage of WeScreenplay’s First Impression service, you can submit at this link: https://www.wescreenplay.com/coverage/first-impression
The Screenwriter’s Journey and William Gilmore are not affiliated with nor receive any compensation from either WeScreenplay.com or ScreenplayReaders.com. Any submission(s) to these companies are at your own discretion.