The Red Flags of Rejection: You Only Have One Chance to Make a Good First Impression

Every year, people write thousands of screenplays. Out of those thousands, a very small percentage are actually any good. Out of that small percentage of good screenplays, only a handful ever get made. When writing screenplays, the odds are against you.

To maximize your chances, you must get past the script readers. Since script readers get bombarded by screenplays everyday, they’re not looking for a great screenplay. They’re really looking for a reason not to read a screenplay because they don’t have time to read the whole thing before making a decision about it.

That means first impressions are everything. Make a bad first impression and it doesn’t matter how great your last scene might be. Nobody will ever see it.

The first red flag that script readers look for is just the appearance of the script. If it uses non-standard formatting, that’s a huge red flag because if the screenwriter can’t take time to write using standard formatting, chances are good that screenwriter can’t tell a coherent story either.

Spelling mistakes and typos are acceptable, but if there are too many of them, that’s another red flag that the screenwriter didn’t care, which means the story most likely will be rushed and half-baked as well.

If the screenplay can pass this first visual test, the next test comes from the actual writing itself. If the first scene in your screenplay doesn’t grab the reader with compelling action, an immersive description, and an interesting situation, that’s a huge red flag. If the screenwriter can’t take the time to polish the first scene to make it the best it can be, chances are good the rest of the screenplay will be just as sloppily written.

If the first scene grabs the reader, they may randomly flip to the middle of the screenplay and read the screenplay. If that random scene in the middle of the screenplay also fails to grab the reader, chances are good the bulk of the screenplay will also fail to garb the reader. That’s another quick reason to reject the screenplay.

Essentially, you have to write a great first scene and a great scene from start to finish in every part of your screenplay. If you can’t take as much care writing your first scene as you do your twentieth scene or your thirty-first scene, you probably aren’t taking care to write the entire screenplay.

Most screenplays essentially eliminate themselves from contention because the screenwriter doesn’t take care to polish the script as best as possible. When you’re just getting started, your screenplay likely will lack a consistent story, logical motivation, and compelling action and setting, but that’s why you must constantly study screenwriting to become the best you can be.

You will get rejected because you’re learning a new skill. However, you must keep learning and sharpening your craft until you finally get that acceptance. Ultimately, the only thing stopping you from success is the lack of persistence and the failure to keep learning and improving.

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