Script Note: When misspelling hurts your script’s chances

B. O'Malley

Free Script Notes To Go

logo for Free Script Notes on your first 10 pagesStand Up by B. Slykerman

Read the pages here

I got the Annie Hall vibe right off the bat, which is what I think you’re going for, but these pages fall a bit short due to two primary problems:  tone and spelling.

Re: the tone – I couldn’t side with Leonard once he called his own mother a bitch.  Let him think that, let her be that, let him even say it, whatever you want, but just don’t put it in the first ten pages if you want us to like the guy, which is what I believe your intention is.  (To be clear, we don’t necessarily have to like a character (see #6 in my article about script notes here).)

re: the spelling – As soon as I read “cieling” and “imaculate,” I detached, as I felt I was in the hands of a writer who was too lazy to click on the spellcheck button, let alone manually proof his work.  Too lazy to spellcheck?  You’re too lazy for me to waste time on.  And that’s not just my view; that’s pretty much the entire film industry.

stading, legened, bannana, attented, prescence, tommarow, freshner – list goes on. If you want your 10 pages to be taken seriously by script readers, take spelling seriously.

Pare down the descriptions. Instead of this:


City lights and busy streets. Horns honk. People stroll down the sidewalk.

Cheering and smooth jazz can be heard from within the Main Event Comedy Club. The neon light sign of the comedy/tragedy masks shines on the faces of those walking by.


Inside the place is packed. Tables lined with visitors who clap and cheer. The walls are lined with boxing memorabilia; title belts, gloves, ect. Smoke fills the atmosphere. 

The stage is spotlighted as a three man band in the corner play a jazz tune. SHANE FITZ, early 60’s, thin grey hair, handsome but wrinkled, donning an imaculate suit, comes up the side on a small set of steps.

An old fashion ring mic is lowered from the cieling. The crowd quiets down.

Do this:




The place is packed, and lined with boxing memorabilia.

A band in the corner plays jazz.

SHANE FITZ (60) – wrinkled but wearing an immaculate suit – steps up to a boxing mic.

Everything else is fluff. Apply that sort of paring down throughout.

In addition, look for opportunities to make people sound like real people.  For example, instead of this:

“No you are fine.”

Do this:

“No, you’re fine.”

Let’s either like Leonard more, or be more interested by him in these 10 pages. Can the jokes he tells in grade school be funnier?  Can his relationship with his mom be bittersweet instead of flat out harsh?

Dreams In Color by B. Slabchuck

Read the pages here

Action and description and dialogue are all nice and terse.  Breeze to read.

Characters are good. “You better be sorry, asshole.” Says a ton about her and her relationship with her kids – and makes her likable.

The stakes are there at the top of p.7 – one month to pay back $30k. Solid.

“Calling All Filmmakers” sends up a red flag. Uh-oh. A movie about filmmaking?  Tricky to pull off, usually due to stakes. That is, in most “let’s make a movie” movies, the emotional stakes aren’t exactly high, so everything else about the film has to be extremely fun to watch in order to compensate . But since you’ve set up actual stakes with actual non-privileged characters, that may ease the concern of a reader giving script notes or potential producers.

By page 1, I’m in.  By page 10, I’m still in, but only a tad wary due to the filmmaking possibility.  But I would keep reading, as the screenwriter is clearly in control of the pace, stakes, tone, characters, dialogue – everything.

Forget You (working title) by R. Arabo

Read the pages here

As a producer, my company and I often put out the word for the occasional raunchy teen comedy. But if the script coverage comes in and doesn’t blow us away, we don’t bother looking at the script. What we’re looking for in a raunchy teen comedy, as are most producers, is freshness, and unfortunately, these pages don’t score any points in the freshness category.

But perhaps the most inhibiting, red-flag factor of these pages is their presentation.

In the very first line on the very first page, the script blows all chances with me, due to a single comma without a trailing space.  “What!?” you say. “You’re kidding me!  You can’t be blasting my script for that!” Ah, but I can. And so will many others.  But the single comma space was only the icing on the cake.  The 10 pages are riddled with all sorts of these typos.  Rather than enumerate them one by one, here’s a brief to-do list you can follow:

1) Lose all camera directions.
2) Lose all “We see” and “We hear.”
3) Put periods at the end of sentences.
4) Put question marks at the end of questions.
5) Spellcheck. (I would love too, better then Leo, loose my memory, you got booed to)

Moving on to the freshness department, in order make the pages more original/interesting, consider upending the very clichés your script is embracing (kid pining for the dream girl, his raunchy sidekick providing comic relief, the dream sequence, the bully jock, the ugly girl, etc.)

One possible example: make the characters aware that the situations they’re in are typical, cliché high school comedy movie situations.

Another possibility, make it an adult school.  A night school.  People in their 30’s/40’s behaving exactly like teens.

Another possibility, albeit an extreme one: take the entire story and place it in a rest home. Make all the characters old people.

If you must to stick to retelling the same high school comedy that’s been done a billion times, at least go through and fix the presentation problems I mention above.


2 Comments on “Script Note: When misspelling hurts your script’s chances”

  1. Thanks Brian,

    I think everyone should make the first 10 pages the same as the other 90… Same feel, same excitement, same motivation and more importantly the same quality.

    In fact the first 10 pages should have been proof read more times than the rest of the script and really more errors should appear later in the script rather than at the beginning. (not that there should really be any errors… FULLSTOP).

    There’s not such a thing as a lazy writer, just one who gets it out there to early before putting in the time to check it… Vomit draft being sent out as a final…

    The journey is a learning exercise for us all.

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