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Script Reader, Scott Parisien, Reveals His Insider Secrets

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by Script Reader Pro in Life As A Screenwriter, Script Coverage
August 22, 2014 0 comments
script reader

This post is an interview with the latest script reader to join our team — Scott Parisien. Scott has many years working as a senior script reader and consultant with ScriptPipeline among other companies, but is now well on his way to becoming a full time professional screenwriter. 

In the interview. Scott shares with us how he got to where he is today, his writing habits and plenty of tips and advice for the aspiring screenwriter. Enjoy!

How long have you been writing?

I would say I have been “writing” for as long as I can remember. I was always a storyteller and a bit of a liar, always fabricating stories to make my life feel more exciting than it actually was. Sometimes it got me in trouble, and sometimes it got me glory.

But as far as writing it down and making it a screenplay, my first step into these dangerous waters was in the seventh grade, in which I crafted a horribly inappropriate Police Academy screenplay for an English class assignment. It was essentially a short version of a Police Academy script, and writing it really made me excited about the format and I started on the journey of becoming a screenwriter.

How did you get interested in writing? What inspired you?

As far as my inspiration goes when it comes to screenwriting, I was always a lover of movies. I remember going to see The Goonies in the movie theatre and it instantly made me want to not only live in that world, but be the person who created it. I had so many stories and characters and ideas floating through my head on any given day that I knew I could create some great movie scripts.

But the moment I sat back and said, “Damn, I want to be a professional screenwriter,” was after seeing the movie Scarface. The characters were so crazy, larger than life, their dialogue was incredible, and the scope of it all made me feel like that was the only thing I wanted to do. And from that moment I was writing hard ever since.

How did you learn to write? MFA? Books? Mentor? etc.

When I first took interest in screenwriting in a serious way, life was a lot different. The internet was not as advanced and extreme as it is now. You couldn’t just google search a movie title and find the screenplay. Screenplays to read were few and far between. They were not the easiest thing to find outside of the Hollywood system. And I was not in a financial spot where going to school for screenwriting was a possibility.

So I did all I could to watch every movie and write them down how I think they would play out on paper. I then started to read screenwriting books as they began to trickle into bookstores and I started to really learn a lot. I would listen to every DVD commentary that involved the screenwriter, and soak up every word they said.

And I wrote. A lot. I wrote until my eyes bled. I crawled in a hole and didn’t come out. Until I realized that I needed to live life in order to create it. I needed to meet people and characters, listen to conversations and bounce story ideas off of other people. And then I took a trip to Los Angeles and found a beautiful library that had actual screenplays that you could sit and read. And man, that was like finding the gold at the end of the rainbow for me. I lived in there from open to close until I had to leave the city because of having no more food to eat.

Now it is a lot easier to get your hands on screenplays, networks where you can share and gather, and of course screenwriting groups where if you put in the time and effort you can help each other grow as you grow yourself.

How did you start out in the industry?

My very first start in this crazy industry that I love was optioning a screenplay. It was a small script, and a small producer, who would have no chance of ever getting the script made, and the script was garbage when I look back on it now. But he saw something in it, and would pay me an option fee every year for eight years until he moved along and gave up on the dream.

From there, I placed well in a few contests and optioned a couple more scripts. I felt like the King of Options at one point, having about 5 going at one time. But I also felt cursed because no matter how big the legs got on those possible productions, they always fell through.

Which led me to my “big one”. Also known as the one that got away. My lit agent at the time got me a great option and deal for a script that was set up and ready to be shot in Louisiana. The post-Katrina tax credits were in place and the project was rolling. Until Mr. Bush came on the television and said we were in a recession. And 12 million of the 15 million budget pulled out almost overnight and the project fell apart, and the six figure payday I would have had only weeks away as principal photography began, disappeared.

And man, did I fall into a deep hole then. I was ready to give up, I didn’t write anymore, I was depressed, I was trying to find a new goal in life. And then my agent passed away from cancer. And I woke up and realized life was too fucking short and if I wanted this dream it was something that I needed to remember would knock me down again and again before I finally rose to the top. I then got a tattoo of typewriter keys on my arm with the words FADE IN: on the keys and I never looked back.

What was your first paid writing gig?

After my first option, which I was paid a very small fee each year, most of the options after were zero dollar. I took many of those and they never went anywhere. Which made me decide to never again take a zero dollar option, because if the producer has zero to pay, not even a few hundred, then it has zero chance of getting funded and made.

So I made a few grand here and there on options and then took a chance on a producer who liked my scripts but didn’t find the write story he wanted to make. So I asked him what ideas he had that he wanted written. We decided on one, I chose to write on spec because he was going to push it through a government funding process where I would be paid and all I had to do was write up a treatment.

I wrote it, he got the cash and I was paid nicely to write a first draft. The script then went no further with him, but it felt good to be paid and be considered worth something as far as your talent goes, and he currently has a new script of mine under option.

How many scripts have you written? How many before your first paid writing gig?

Before this first deal of getting hired to write a script, I had written about 20 scripts. The first 15 or so were garbage, just learning processes. But the next 5 were pretty solid, winning a contest here and there, getting optioned, getting me on with a major management company, etc. But if I hadn’t written those early scripts and become better with each one those never would have happened to me.

Your writing process: How many hours a day do you write, etc?

My writing process has always fluctuated based on what is happening around my life. But I ALWAYS have made sure to write at least 1-2 hours a day, every day. Sometimes that includes just scribbling down ideas, sometimes it is typing up scenes, sometimes it is reading scripts.

It is more of a set time for screenwriting and all of its aspects. My wife was always one who went to sleep early, so back in the day I would usually write from 9pm to 1am. But as time went by, jobs changed, kid came, old age crept in, I would have less energy, so that has dropped down to 1-2 hours. But it is still in the evening as that is when my mind works its best. I have tried to wake up and write in the morning and I am just not that kind of person.

The place that I tend to write the best, where stuff really flows the easiest, is out in the public at a coffee shop or restaurant. I find that being around others with conversations going on, personalities coming through as the music in my ears plays, sets my mind on fire. I have a hard time anymore writing in a quiet and closed off room. For some reason, it just makes me thrive more outside of it.

What’s your situation now?

Right now, I have never felt more secure in the fact that screenwriting is going to be my career, my full time job, my only pay check. I have three projects moving forward into development, some small and some large, some options, some gigs. Last year I was one of the winners of the Page Awards, as well as up top in the Nicholl, and did that ever boost my career. Screenwriting contests have been very helpful for me.

It is still a year later and I get email requests and check-ins from people who either had read me in the Page or the Nicholl and want to see the script or see what else I have. I have signed on with a new manager who is the type of champion of me and my scripts that I have wanted since the beginning.

He is the smartest man on story I have ever met, and he inspires me each and every time I speak to him. He teaches me so much with every scene I write and challenges me to get better with every word. I can only see bright things from my next spec and the meetings that will come with it. Things are definitely looking bright.

What would you do differently in your career so far if you could?

I can’t say that there is anything I would “change” about my journey so far. Of course I would like to be doing this for studios full time at this point, but what writer wouldn’t. I guess I would probably have spent less time on the roster of a manager who didn’t really see eye to eye with me or hear the voice that I was putting on the page.

But if I hadn’t gone through the ups and downs I have so far, then I wouldn’t be writing the stories I am now that are making people excited, and I wouldn’t have the characters I have come to love and hate taking this ride along with me.

Any advice for young aspiring screenwriters? How to write scripts that move the reader. etc?

As far as advice for aspiring screenwriters goes, there are a few things I tend to tell them:

The first thing would be to read screenplays. Read as many screenplays as you can get your hands on. Read scripts that have been produced, scripts that have not, scripts of fellow writers, basically anything you can read. And don’t just read them, but study them. Break them down. Rip them apart. Reverse engineer them. You can learn something from each and every scene, whether good or bad.

And write notes on them as well. Put it down on paper, explain why they worked or didn’t, what you would have the writer do differently to make the script better. I learned more and understood more by reading screenplays, top notch and not so much, while working as a reader and analyst at a number of companies for the last 7 years, and I would never change that or give any of that back. It is an invaluable tool to have in your kit, being able to analyze and see things from different angles. It makes you better on your own pages.

The second thing is to write. Good, bad, it doesn’t matter. There is nothing worse than a screenwriter who thinks their very first screenplay is the greatest thing ever written. It most likely isn’t. Be humble. Realize there are others who work just as hard – or harder than you and they strive to get better every time. Don’t be that writer who thinks they are better than anyone else. Just write. A lot. Get better. Strive to be better each time, to pull this medium back out of the cookie cutter format is has turned into and really make it exciting again.

And the third thing I tell writers is to not be a douche. Don’t be that writer who doesn’t take notes well. Don’t ask for feedback and expect to have flowers stuffed up your butt. Expect to be ripped apart and have criticism as it WILL make you better if you let it. You don’t know it all, so soak it in, never stop learning, and be that writer people want to work with.

Be the writer you wish you had mentoring you when you first started out. So if you get a chance to be in that room, or work with that person who can get your career going, they will not even think twice about having someone else tell their story or your story, or whomever else’s story is begging to be told.

Lastly, this is not as big of a world anymore. Moving to LA will definitely help you get in positions where you can meet people who can help move you along. But in this connected world, it is not a necessity. But don’t kid yourself, you do need to be there at least some of the time.

If you can’t move there, then make a trip every month or two and go to events, meet people, get meetings, etc. invest in yourself and your career because nobody else will. You need to be seen in this town when starting out, so do all you can to get your face time. And who knows, maybe one day soon you will be the writer all of the other writers want to meet and ask questions on how to make their dreams come true.

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Scott was a senior analyst at ScriptPipeline for five years before switching to ScriptReaderPro. He has optioned five scripts in recent years, one of which “Incision,” (2013 PAGE awards winner) js currently in pre-production with Loesch Productions. 

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