Movies and TV

Must Watches and Reads

Marilyn Monroe reading a script - when she was married to Arthur Miller, I bet she read a lot of words intended for the screen and stage

A friend sent me the script of “The Social Network” last week, simply stating that it was a must-read for anyone who needs an excuse to fall back in love with screenwriting. Low and behold, it turns out he and the Academy Awards voters were right; the script inspired in me both a sense of wanting to create something like it and a feeling of confidence that I actually could. As I worked my way through the Aaron Sorkin tome, it also dawned on me that reading scripts like this might be a good way for just about anybody to fall back in love with stories and the general pastime of reading for fun. This is because scripts provide quick reads and much more immediate gratification than novels.

Before I became interested in making movies my career, I’d never read a screenplay – as I suspect most people never have. In general, screen-and-teleplay reading is an activity reserved for actors, film students and Hollywood executives, but TV and movie scripts make great reads and are more available to the general public than one might think (through places like Amazon.com and Half Price Books). Scripts consist solely of dialogue and action, which allows your eyes to move quickly across the page without getting weighed down with flowery prose and character psychology. Thus, the main difference between screenplays and novels is that the former don’t include details of characters’ internal struggles – you’re expected to infer characters’ inner states from their actions. If you want an even sparser read, of course, plays further differ from novels in that they lack both psychological insights and detailed descriptions of action. For this reason, I think film and theater scripts make perfect reads for people short on free time yet long on desire for story. There aren’t endless best-of guides when it comes to dramatic reading lists, however, so where does one begin the foray into the world of script reading?

Checking out every Oscar-winning script might not be a bad way to get one’s feet wet, but how about we make our own reading list right now? Some of my favorite screenplays I’d recommend starting out with include: “The Ring,” “The Godfather,” “The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman” (which may be a bit hard to find because it’s still in pre-production), and the TV-pilot script for “ALIAS.” In addition, my favorite scripts for the stage include: “Our Town,” “The Glass Menagerie,” and “Arcadia.” What scripts for the screen or stage do you consider must-reads? Are there any scripts you’ve heard are classics but just haven’t gotten around to reading yet? Please, do tell – we just might be able to compile a summer reading list for ourselves in the process.

Photo from Pinterest, which is quickly becoming one of my daily must-browse favorites.

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4 Comments

  • Reply Clarissa March 3, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Interesting suggestion, you might have noticed that here in NYC street vendors sell everything including books & scripts. I might just grab one. I would add that I tend to read a wide variety of mediums in order to keep it fresh. Right now I’m reading the original 10 Avengers comic books in a neatly bound volume published by Marvel. Graphic novels & comic books alike actually are quite appealing once you get past the ‘teenage-boy’ stigma. I think I will buy vol 2 but I might read a classic by more common standards or a new novel first.

  • Reply J. R. Coté March 7, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Oh my goodness, Clarissa, I do remember marveling at the fact that NYC street vendors sold countless movie scripts in addition to books. I say try to find a script to a movie you’ve never seen, and that could be a really fun gamble of a read:)…I think you are onto something with graphic novels. I hear such wonderful things about them and have been meaning to find the perfect one to get my feet wet in the genre. The idea of reading comics in a neatly bound collection is also very appealing; all this is making me recall the saying, “So many books, so little time.”

  • Reply Kyle March 8, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    I’m glad you liked The Social Network script. I was fearful you wouldn’t; it’s a chatty screenplay, to say the least.

  • Reply Jennifer R. Coté March 11, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Yes, Kyle. “The Social Network” is quite chatty, but I love the way Sorkin tells the story in the cut, and the characters feel so vivid (albeit downright unlikable). Thanks for allowing me to be inspired by the script. 🙂

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