Notes from a Screenreader


photo via Go Into the Story

If you spend money on an entry fee for a competition, you want it to be well-spent, which means getting past the first few rounds. When you make the semi-final rounds, your logline goes out to production companies and agents who want to read your script.

That is success. But you have to get past the first few rounds of readers first.

If you’re entering big competitions like Bluecat or the Austin Film Festival, there is a chance I will be one of those readers.

So here’s how to get past me:

  1. Keep it short. Just a few years ago, a page count of 120 was fine. Now 100 is fighting weight.
  2. Write with subtext. Expositional dialogue is deathly boring to read. Keep your story moving with what characters do, not what they say.
  3. Use your own voice. Your voice sets you apart. The interesting things you find to describe and the writer’s voice you use to describe them make your script unique.
  4. Get your story underway quickly. Scripts are too short now to get bogged down in lots of setup. Develop your main characters, their immediate problem and what they’re going to do about it in the first twenty pages.

To have your script stand out in a competition, write a lean story loudly in your own voice.

Next week, we’ll cover those things that prejudice a reader against you on the very first page.

-ANNIE LABARBA @annelabarba



nywift New York Women in Film & Television supports women calling the shots in film, television and digital media.

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