e-book, 343 pages
Author: Howard Casner
$2.99, Kindle only
Review by Tanya Klein
We’ve all been in this situation: we enter our masterpiece into one of the myriad screenwriting contests out there… and it doesn’t even make the quarterfinals. A script we’ve worked hard on, maybe we even got glowing coverage on it; yet, whoever read it for the contest simply didn’t like it enough to advance it. Why? How could they? What the #$%#!? In the same vein, often we send a script out for analysis and when the coverage comes back, it seems like the person didn’t even read the script we wrote, and we’re baffled by notes that seem to come out of left field. Again we wonder: what the bleep!?
In his e-book “Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader,” Howard Casner attempts to answer all of our bleeping questions. Casner is a longtime reader for several screenplay contests such as Slamdance and Final Draft Big Break, as well as a script consultant. His book includes lessons he’s learned by seeing screenwriting contests up close and personal. He shares with us why he advanced some scripts while passing over others, as well as the biggest turn-offs for readers as well as the sometimes heated discussions that go on behind the scenes before all of the entries are whittled down to the top ten. He also shares his musings on different genres, his dislike of formula and several screenwriting essays culled from his blog as well as many movie reviews.
The book indeed succeeds in probing the mind of a script reader -- that elusive person sitting at his or her desk reading script after script after script. Yes, we all hate a verbose narrative and our eyes glaze over quickly while reading Faulkner-like denseness. And some will barely glance through never-ending action sequences and overly descriptive character introductions. As Casner notes, every reader hopes to get a script with characters that are so fresh and alive that they jump off the page and a story that is unique.
Casner’s book isn’t – and doesn’t purport to be – a screenwriting manual. For someone looking to sharpen their screenwriting skills, there are many “how to” books out there. This isn’t one of them. Casner does share his “Ten Commandments of Screenwriting,” (and one can agree or disagree with them) but those won’t necessarily make you a better writer. The book comes alive when Casner gets into the nitty-gritty of a script reader’s life, from drunkenly kvetching to other readers about the terrible scripts that were submitted to facing moments of terror and panic when called upon by a contest coordinator to justify his selections. This is juicy inside-baseball stuff and is fascinating to read. One wishes that this was squarely the focus of the book, but Casner at times loses his way in general musings on screenwriting and genre proclivities as well as way too many movie reviews, which frankly we're just not as interested in.
If you want to know what the bleep goes on in a script reader’s head, Howard Casner’s “Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Consultant” is a good place to start and it’s currently available on Amazon.
Tanya Klein is a New York writer/director/producer/actor living in Los Angeles.