Field Guide to Spotting Screenwriters In The Wild (Part 1)

I’ve worked with all types of screenwriters here at Screenplay Readers, good, bad, friendly, evil, you name it.  And having written, directed and produced 5 feature films, I’ve had the fortune of being exposed to (or inoculated by, you might say) an even wider variety of the species known as screenwriterus domesticus.

So, since the moviemaking world has been clamoring for some sort of taxonomy/classification system for all the different species of screenwriters, I thought I would take it upon myself to do the honors.

I present to you, dear reader, the several major species of screenwriter, in the interest of science, and in the hopes that you may better understand yourself and your place in the screenwriting food chain/cycle of life, should you happen to be a cinematic scribe of any proportion:

The Collaborator (teamus uppus excessus)

Collaborator screenwriters can be primarily identified by their “dens,” where they reside.  These places tend to be constantly in a state of mess and/or unkemptitude due to the fact that the Collaborator is hardly ever at home.

Rather, he’s out meeting for coffee with his co-writer, and brainstorming major beats and plot points with another of his kind.

The Collaborator is rarely found working alone on his own scripts, as he finds that working with another writer in the room is the only way he can get motivated to put ink to paper.

His strong suit is his ability to bounce ideas back and forth, and his ability to “kill his darlings” with great alacrity.  That is, he rarely holds anything in his screenplay too sacrosanct to change, so can often be a great person to work with.

The Tweaker (methamphetamus scriptchangicus)

The Tweaker screenwriter is one who thrives on chaos.  You can usually spot a Tweaker in the wild by her flailing arms and wide eyes, frantically typing, deleting, and retyping her scenes for no apparent reason.

Ah, but there is a reason. Long-term studies of this species has revealed that the Tweaker is just changing things in her script at random for one of two major reasons:


A) She’s not confident enough in her ideas to commit to paper with finality,


B) She simply has too many good ideas rushing out of her brain at any given moment, and feels compelled to pack them all into her script at once.  SQUIRREL!

Similar to the Collaborator, the Tweaker is all too happy to kill her darlings and try new things.  This can be a great species to work with, but it can often lead to headaches, as the Tweaker has been known to hurl her babies out with the bathwater.

The Perfectionist (analus retentivus extraordinairicus)

“A film is never finished.  It’s just abandoned. Or something.” – George Lucas

The Perfectionist can never leave well enough the hell alone. Similar to the Tweaker, he’s always trying new things, but in general, those things are almost always insignificant to the screenplay or the film as a whole, and can even be danger to himself and his screenplay if he takes his perfectionism too far.

Rather than spend a week getting the script in front of a writers group or getting it out to agents, the Perfectionist would prefer to sit in his office, paralyzed with fear that his screenplay is not good enough, and needs far more work than it actually needs.

The Perfectionist screenwriter is a species that tends to be more of a “thinking” species than a “doing” species.  They are mutants, in other words.

However, there is something to be said about Perfectionists, (Actually, there’s only one thing to be said about Perfectionists), and that’s that sometimes, despite their evolutionary handicaps, they can actually create amazing screenplays and films.

The Volcano (burstus writerus maximus)

The Volcano is a screenwriter species that lies dormant for most of the year, then suddenly EXPLODES and spends a month writing an amazing amount of material; good or otherwise.

You can spot a Volcano in the Hollywood environment by its peculiar ABSENCE for most of the year.  That’s because The Volcano is off working on side projects, such as a day job, or a business, or a band.

The Volcano isn’t so much a non-prolific screenwriter.  He’s more of a differently-prolific screenwriter.  That is, she’s prolific, but just in wild, sudden bursts.

The strongest natural asset of a Volcano screenwriter is her ability to burn the midnight oil for long stretches at a time: weeks, or even a few months, nonstop.   Her weakest asset is that she’s “out of the loop” for many months out of the year, and can be hard to “re-ignite” once she’s back in the game.

Our field studies into the nature of all different types of screenwriters, wild and domestic, continues in Part Two.

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