by Jim Cirile
Here's a note we tend to give a lot here at Coverage, Ink: read your script aloud. As writers, we tend to isolate. We toil in our little stalactite-encrusted caves, hearing the screenplay only within our heads. Dialogue may seem fine, nay, even brilliant, on the page. But unless you're in a writing class or a writer's group, you may not ever hear your words spoken aloud.
See, something interesting happens when a screenplay is performed. Suddenly, passages that were fine moments ago may now seem lugubrious or awkward; speeches that looked eloquent and incisive on paper might seem overwrought or expository when spoken. Fortunately, the solutions to these issues are often immediately apparent. Right away you know what cuts to make, what dialogue needs to be finessed. It's a fantastic development tool.
Enter iScript.com. A new service founded by Lorena David, Mark Roberts, Mark David and Michael Lawrence, iScript.com will actually perform your screenplay for you. Such a brilliantly obvious idea, I can't believe no one had thought of this before. We chatted with cofounder Mark Roberts and got the lowdown on what they do. Check 'em out at iScript.com.
Jim Cirile: I love that you guys (iScript.com's partners) have 8 first names--Lorena David, Mark Roberts, Mark David and Michael Lawrence. Tell us about how and when you guys came to found iScript.com. Whose idea was it?
Mark Roberts: Lorena came up with the idea of recording scenes and listening to them for analysis. She would hand me recorded scenes for my drive home. It was a great way to make use of my drive time. I would listen, get home, and send notes based on the recording. It was the best set of notes I have given and it immediately made the project better. A little over a year ago we decided to raise a little money and launch iScript.com.
JC: Can you give us an idea exactly how iScript.com works?
MR: iScript.com uses real, professional readers along with picky sound editors to create your iScript quickly and with the highest quality (as high as an audio book). You go to our site, place your order, tell us any specific directions and then upload a file of your script. After we make your iScript, we send you an e-mail with the link and instructions of how to download your iScript. You can then put it on your mp3 player, burn a CD or send other people the recording through your download page.
JC: Very cool. I'm always telling people it's amazing how dialogue that looks fine on the page may sound awkward or unnatural when read aloud.
MR: Analysis is one way iScript.com is a very useful tool. It's a great way to examine the pacing, dialogue and characters in your script. Not all writers have the time to set up a table read for themselves. iScript.com clients don't like to waste time. They order their iScript and in two days are listening and getting right back to work. When you hear your writing read back to you by a professional reader, you instantly know if your dialogue is working or not.
There are a lot of writers that are so happy with the iScript of their screenplay that they send it out with the PDF and give people the option of reading or listening.
JC: Who are the performers? You have the option of selecting one or more voices, right? MR: One thing we realized early on is not just anyone can be an iScript reader. We interviewed and auditioned hundreds to find our readers. The goal of an iScript reader is to make every character and conversation sound as natural and real as possible.
iScript.com gives you the option of having one reader or two. It's up to the writer. A two-reader iScript is great because you can get a female and male reader so each gender is represented.
JC: Okay, what do you guys do when you get to a section where the dialogue is especially clunky or full of typos--just soldier through as best you can? Do you sometimes correct grammar or edit as you perform?
MR: Our readers are instructed to correct any obvious errors and make note of the corrections. We try not to correct too much. So far it has not been an issue. But we also offer proofreading and text editing services, which have mostly been used so far when writers do not use English as their first language.
JC: In my writing group, we read scripts aloud, and I've noticed that the material's reception can be influenced by the performance -- specifically, a poor or clunky performance can wound a good script, and an enthusiastic one can brighten a weak one. Do you guys just go for a flat read, or do you, say, amp it up a bit in action sequences for example?
MR: iScript allows you to give some direction when ordering your script. For example, you can ask for your script to be read flat or you can tell us about the characters; e.g., my main character sounds like Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. Readers don't impersonate other actors but it gives them an idea of how to read a character. Direction from the writer helps a lot. Our goal is to make each script sound as good as it can so writers can use it to analyze and especially help sell their script.
JC: What's the most surprising thing you've had happen since launching iScript?
MR: A producer ordered an iScript of the film he was producing and gave people the option of listening or reading or both. I thought that was a great use of an iScript.
JC: What sort of reactions have you gotten so far? I see a lot of raves on your site, but I imagine there are some people who may be shocked upon hearing their script performed for the first time, right?
MR: We have had nothing but good reviews, but I'm sure you're right there are no doubt lots of writers shocked at hearing their script read for the first time.
JC: Thanks, Mark. Sounds like a cool service!
MR: Hearing is Believing. Ordering an iScript can get you one step closer to selling your screenplay and ultimately having it made. You are giving investors, agents and producers the option of reading or listening. That’s powerful.