Why A Good Script is Even Better When it "Infects" People

By B. O'malley • April 5, 2022

Your script doesn't just need to be good; it needs to be able to infect.

Let me explain.

If you buck the odds and get just one person to read your script, it's not likely going to help you.

Unless that person who read your script is inspired by your script and your script's mind-blowing hook, and is not only able, but zealously willing to be able to tell a second person that they must read this script as well.

I'm talking nothing less than screenplay evangelism here.

As an illustration, take the two following examples:

(A) "Mike, you should read this script. It's about a nice guy trying to find true love but who just doesn't have any luck until he meets the girl of his dreams, but get this, she's out of his league."

(B) "Mike, you should read this script. It' s about two guys who crash weddings."

Example A's script might be the greatest script in the history of humanity. Example A might attract name directors, name actors, and Jesus Christ might come down from Heaven and endorse it himself with a pen made of holy sour cream.

But Example A is a bit of a mouthful. And it's not all that fresh. We kinda know what to expect with a film like that. Nothing about it really stands out, AKA "pops" or sizzles.

But Example B's is armed with our mind-blowing hook. Because, like an internet meme or a good joke, it's got two major things going for it:

Brevity and Surprise.

Brevity is an important component of infection because the concept needs to be memorable. Phone numbers are only seven digits long because scientists have figured out that humans have difficulty remembering numbers in sequences longer than that.

Everybody knows and can recite "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke. But how many of your friends can recite the one about Superman drinking at the bar, or the one about the Rabbi, the Priest, and the envelope with bees in it?

If your script has a mind-blowing hook, it means it's short enough for a seven-year-old to remember and recite at the drop of a hat. The script itself doesn't have to be so simple that a seven-year-old would understand it. But that mind-blowing hook sure does.

Think about it in YouTube terms. We've all seen those YouTube videos our friends forward us. The two things that forwarded YouTube videos have in common are the exact two things a mind-blowing hook must have in order to "go viral" and "infect" others: brevity and surprise.

When was the last time you sat through a ten minute YouTube video your friend forwarded you? If you're like me, if it's over 3 minutes, you don't bother. And that's being generous. It's more like 1 minute.

The same theory applies to scripts, only you're asking someone to waste over an hour of their lives to read your script, as opposed to a few minutes to watch a YouTube video. Give them the mind- blowing hook and you have a better chance that that third person will read it.

And if that third person reads your script and likes your script, then, like a virus, your script could reach a fourth, and a fifth, or a twentieth person. Put simply, the more mind-blowing the hook is, the easier it is to infect others with. And the more people you "infect" with your script, the greater your chances of getting that script sold or made.

Imagine this scenario: Joe the reader at The X Agency reads your script, then infects Mike, an agent's assistant. Mike's boss, Agent Jill, is out of town, but he infects Lisa and Jenny in the commercial division of the agency. When Agent Jill comes back to work the next week, fully four people have now read the script. And even if just two of those people ended up liking it, the script becomes more of a must-read for Agent Jill, who's now somewhat out of the loop, but who doesn't like being out of the loop.

Of course, Agent Jill may not give a damn about being out of the loop on some writer-nobody's spec script, but at least she will have heard of your script, whereas before the infection, it was buried under Joe the reader's desk, with no chance of anybody reading it.

And even with two readers out of four not liking the script, assuming a bad scenario, the two readers who did like the script may keep trying to infect others, either actively or even passively. That is, if you give them the tools to do so by writing a script with a mind-blowing hook.

And then, of course, backing up that mind-blowing hook with a solid, well-written script.

B. O'malley

Screenplay Readers reads screenplays and provides what's called "script coverage" for screenwriters, agents, producers, and other filmmakers. The script coverage we provide tells a screenwriter where her script is working, and where it's not, and gives helpful suggestions on what to fix. Savvy screenwriters and filmmakers use our service to spruce up their spec screenplays before they submit them to producers, studios, managers, agents, contests, festivals, etc.  https://screenplayreaders.com