The First Three Pages

On episode 295 of Scriptnotes Craig and special guest producer and screenwriter Malcolm Spellman discuss many topics, one of which is the rule that the first three pages of a script must grab the producer.

It is commonly said when having your script pitched and passed to a producer that it must “grab” them on the first three pages or they will just toss it. Craig and Malcolm both clarify that that is not the case. Yes, it is important that your first three pages are well written and nothing is wrong with trying to “grab” the reader but they explain how many producers say that but are already reading several other scripts that may meander twenty or so pages before it gets to the heart of the story. Craig also clarifies what may be perceived as content that would “grab” a reader. He describes how people may think that big plot reveals and set pieces need to be presented quickly but he says thats the not the case and he would be bored by just being delivered plot but not gradually pulling him into the story. Their idea of a writer “grabbing” its reader has to do with simply how well is it written, does it set up its world and characters in a interesting and elegant way? They say how simply that alone will “grab” them based on that the writing itself shows promise that the writer can in fact write but also that there is potentially more good writing to be presented later.

I find this interesting and overlooked as an issue to screenwriting. It is always taught to hook the reader as soon as possible but with that writers may tend to put into too much to try and excite the reader and that’s not always the best solution to do. I think that gradually printing the story you are trying to tell and telling it at the right pace will say much more about your writing and the story as a whole to producers or anyone else reading.

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