I’m not going to read your script either.

But I’m not going to be a dick about it..

When this article came out, a while back, there was something about it that didn’t seem right to me.


I see where the guy’s coming from. I see that it’s at least partly tongue-in-cheek and I think he raises some valid points. I originally thought what bothered me was that the guy was arrogant, or that the people commenting on it seemed to split into two equally obnoxious categories: the “fine, fuck you, your movies suck anyway!” camp and the “right on, fellow professional writer, I hate when unprofessional writers do that to me too, because, like you, I am also a professional writer, did I mention that?” camp.

But after someone re-sent it to me last night and it stewed around in my brain a little longer, I think I finally figured it out.

It’s completely wrong.

If you’re too lazy to go and read the original, I think this sums it up pretty well:

“I will not read your fucking script.

If that seems unfair, I’ll make you a deal. In return for you not asking me to read your fucking script, I will not ask you to wash my fucking car, or take my fucking picture, or represent me in fucking court, or take out my fucking gall bladder, or whatever the fuck it is that you do for a living.”

So basically, he’s a professional writer, he makes a lot of money, he’s worked really hard to get to this point, etc., etc. Therefore, it’s unfair of you to expect him to give you all the benefit of his hard work for free. Also, he operates under the assumption that because you don’t know the etiquette of the situation, that probably means your script is terrible and will be a huge waste of time, but that’s not exactly spelled out.

Now, maybe you’re quicker than I am and you’ve already spotted the problem here. If not, I’ll lay it out for you.

This analogy is 100% wrong. He’s a writer. Not a reader. He’s not being asked to write anybody’s script, he’s just being asked to read it.

Nobody’s saying, “Hey, famous photographer, take my picture for me!”, they’re saying, “Hey, I just took this picture and I think it’s pretty good but you do this for a living and I was wondering if you would look at it and tell me what you think.”

That’s a pretty big difference, don’t you think?

Look, nobody wants to be put in an awkward situation and people resent being made to feel like they “owe it to someone” to help out, but the truth is, this isn’t that big of a deal.

Just say no. Or say yes and then lie about it later. How hard was that?

I’d like to give this guy a pass on this, but he keeps coming back to say the same thing over and over:

“You are not owed a read from a professional, even if you think you have an in, and even if you think it’s not a huge imposition. It’s not your choice to make. This needs to be clear–when you ask a professional for their take on your material, you’re not just asking them to take an hour or two out of their life, you’re asking them to give you–gratis–the acquired knowledge, insight, and skill of years of work. It is no different than asking your friend the house painter to paint your living room during his off hours.”

Again. Wrong. It is different. “Hey man, I just painted my living room, if you could come over and take a look at it later, that would be awesome, I really respect your opinion!”

See, in that light, the other guy doesn’t seem like such a dick, does he?

Now, there’s something worse here that he could be bitching about and he spends some time dancing around it, but doesn’t actually come out and say, which is that these people usually don’t just want your input, they want you to do all the work for them.

But why would you address that? Everybody knows that’s a ridiculous thing to expect from someone and there’s no country in the world with a social contract that would demand such a thing. Not even one of those countries where you get a free goat every time you come over to borrow some sugar. Those people are crazy, so there’s no need to write that article.

Writing isn’t easy. It is a skill. Not everybody can do it. These are the valid points I mentioned earlier. But when you start throwing around “these are the rules and all professional writers know them” you start to sound like a community college writing teacher or something. Or one of those “script doctors” who advertise in the back of literary magazines.

Also, this:

“It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you’re in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you’re dealing with someone who can’t.

(By the way, here’s a simple way to find out if you’re a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you’re not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)”

Well, I guess I just disqualified myself from being a writer!

While writers may also be readers, apparently one thing they don’t have to be is logicians, because structurally, these stipulations are on pretty shaky grounds.

Seriously though, just say no. You don’t have to go and write a whole article and throw around the term “professional” six times (yes, I counted), just because some guy you barely know told your friends you pulled a dick move.

Just say no.

Or “Oh man, I’d love to, but I’m really swamped right now,” even though you’re actually just sitting in your room in your underpants, writing out responses to blogs that were published 4 months ago.


  1. Hey , I agree with you, especially since you are a professional writer, as am I. Speaking of that, check your email. That article reminded me that those of us who are professional writers really need to stick together and keep all of those loser types out of “the biz”, so I sent you something I’ve been working on. You just have to try to see it how I’m seeing it. Anyway, give it a quick read, no big deal. I mean, if you want to punch it up a little, I don’t mind. But you don’t have to. Whatever you think, I mean I really respect your opinion from professional to professional. But just to let you know, I’m going to have to go out of town Thursday, so I was hoping that, well, whatever. Just take your time, no big deal.

    Hey , and you should take your etch-a-sketch to a cafe somewhere. Being a professional writer, that will probably make your artwork worth a lot more. Even if it’s not, you can still try to pull that Picasso scam. Man, if he tried to pull that shit in my neighborhood, they’d have found him in a dumpster.

    Let me know what you think. I’m really looking forward to a real professional opinion.


  2. When I read that post several months back, it stung me and pissed me off. I guess I can keep sending scripts to my auntie who tells me I’m a beautiful boy and I should be a writer. Or an astronaut.

  3. I thought the original poem was rather amusing, especially the version where it’s read aloud.

    As a professional (tee-hee!), I get asked to do such stuff all the time. Long ago, I developed a simple rule:

    The default answer is “No.”

    Easy. I get paid to solve problems, creatively, completely, correctly. A quick skim doth not permit a proper and thorough understanding of even the basic problem statements and history, which form the basis for proper analysis, synthesis, evaluation, implementation and so forth. If I were to “accept the problem,” I would be bound to do ALL that, and more! Not interested in such a commitment, a wise fellow simply chooses “to not accept the problem.” Politely, though, eh? 😉

  4. Just have to say that you’re argument isn’t sound.
    When you ask a writer to take the time to read and give thoughts on material – you are indeed asking them to rewrite it. Plain and simple. A painter’s tool is their brush. A writer’s tool is their brain.

    And your photographer example…

    If you want me, the writer to flip through your script and make sure it “looks” right – then no problem. Yes, it has a title page… yes it’s black and white, margins look good etc… fine. BUT if you ask me to dissect the structure, explain why your set ups and pay off don’t work, and tell you how to end act two… then you are asking me for my creative vision. A writer’s work is done in their head.

  5. Donald,

    I think I addressed your comment that “you are indeed asking them to rewrite it” when I said:

    “Now, there’s something worse here that he could be bitching about and he spends some time dancing around it, but doesn’t actually come out and say, which is that these people usually don’t just want your input, they want you to do all the work for them.”

    I agree, these people are expecting too much, but just because that’s what they’re expecting, doesn’t make it reasonable and it doesn’t make it something you’re required to do.

  6. Great comments. However, I know where he us coming from and yes he is right. I read, yes read, ( I also write) over 100 scripts a year. 95% are frOm first time writers and have all types of structural, plot and other problems. the other 5% fall into good story bad execution. Basically none are produceable as is, and would require a much more skilled writer to tell a story. I have received only 1 script in the past year that was well written. Unfortunately it was written about a situation that made it to screen already. At any rate. I have received scripts from Harvard phds, lawyers, MBA’s doctors. Etc all of whom are educated people who can write. Unfortunately for them they cannot write a script. If I have to rewrite it then it should be my script. I was at physical therapy yesterday and when I told the therapist what I did she said she is quitting her join to write a screenplay. I said why are you trying to hit a homerun without taking batting practice. I work with. 6 time academy award nOminated writer who has trouble getting his scripts read, what makes you think someone with no connections is going to have success. Therefore however tongue and cheek mr.olsons response was, it was harsh. But understandable from the perspective of, hey this ain’t an easy gig and well you need to pay your dues.

    Now unlike mr Olson I have a plan I give tO first time writers. If they follow it they will be successful if they do not they themselves are as big an asshole as mr Olson seems. And that really is where he us coming from, you don’t just wake up one day and your a screenwriter.

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