In episode 292 of Scriptnotes, by John August and Craig Mazin, the guys devote almost the entire episode to answering listener questions. The episode ends with one cool things about an episode of Girls called “American Bitch,” and a game app called Stop. It starts out with a little followup on a grammar error from last week’s episode, a Scriptnotes app for Amazon Echo, and rescheduling of the live Scriptnotes podcast, then gets down to Q&A. It’s really nice to have the level of listener interaction Scriptnotes possesses, so it was fun to listen to an entire episode of answering questions–not to mention helpful. Topics and answers include how long an agent should take to read your script (the answer ended up being a week or two, including weekends, but also contained an intriguing discussion on how agents function for actors, writers, and directors–when representation changes due to notoriety, and other such topics.), how to handle getting the note “make it more funny” on a script (good luck–that’s not a helpful note. See if anyone thinks it’s funny. If not, you’ve got a problem, if so, it may be your editor just has read the script multiple times and it’s not funny the fifteenth time but really the material is fine), if a background in law enforcement helps you write crime-dramas (it does), the function of writer-director names on posters, and how formatting that goes (this one was complicated), the translation of feature scripts into tv shows and how the original film spec-script writer is credited, pitching limited series scripts vs longer lasting projects (both are good), how to suggest in script that a character is saying something unimportant while important action is going on in the background (droning in parenthetical is suggested), the morality and amorality of writing about famous figures and including or omitting terrible facts about them such as slave-holding and racism (yes you should probably include it), and the question I thought was by far the most fascinating–how to handle including or omitting character race in your script when it is not important to the story.
This last one is something I’ve wondered about a lot too, because most of film is so white. It’s not such a problem if you’re working on something independently and you’re going to have creative control, like the project I’m working on right now, but I know that since I plan to enter the industry as a writer, I’m going to have to deal with this a lot. And I’m not sure what to do with the answer they suggested, which was submit with your script possible actors for the roles, including ones of a variety of races. I believe that works well for them–well established and successful writers, but I kind of find it hard to believe any executive would give a second look to something like that attached to a newbie spec script. And –considering how white-washed film is, with even specifically non-white roles being glazed over, like Ghost in the Shell, I feel that even if I did suggest actors of color, I’d probably be ignored. It’s a tough problem. Of course, doubting the answer they suggest doesn’t mean I have one. I guess in mine I’m likely to go ahead and suggest race–well, for my major characters, not every single person in a script–unless it’s something I plan to make independently and have control over, and then I only mention race when relevant to the character. Diversity is an important thing in this industry–in all industries–and I want to do my part to try and make things better in that area, and I’m a little daunted by my future as a writer specifically, in regards to this. I’m trying my best to come up with what I should do, and that’s something at least, but I wonder what the right answer is?