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On Gate-Keeping

September 30, 2014

I recently came across an aspiring screenwriter who wanted some feedback.  This aspiring screenwriter has written several screenplays (on spec) and hopefully learned and improved their craft along the way.  Thus far, their most recent spec screenplay had only received mediocre reviews / feedback.  As is the nature of a subjective art, the feedback was subjectively different.  This person sought more feedback in order to ascertain how to properly proceed.

Then, I learned more about this aspiring screenwriter.  They read scripts for a professional company and a script competition or two.

Let me re-iterate that.  This aspiring screenwriter, who has written several screenplays (but not been paid as a screenwriter yet) acts as a gatekeeper for an industry company and a couple screenwriting competitions.

I’m hesitant to claim there’s anything wrong with this approach.  However, there’s something to be learned here:

If you’re an aspiring screenwriter, your gate-keeper (the initial person deciding your fate with regard to your writing ability) may be an aspiring screenwriter who struggles to get past those very same gates.  Ironic.  Maybe just karmic.

The aspiring screenwriter mentioned above is probably more normative than atypical.  All kinds of script readers are also aspiring screenwriters.  There seems to be a correlation.  But, what does this mean?

What does it mean if a gate-keeper who is reading, judging and evaluating your screenplay has never written a great screenplay themselves?  Does writing a great screenplay make it easier for you to decipher greatness within another person’s screenwriting?

If a gate-keeper is an aspiring screenwriter, could that be considered a conflict of interest?

Understandably, aspiring screenwriters pursue script reading jobs so they can learn the craft of screenwriting.  They can get paid to read screenplays.  But, simultaneously, are they mostly reading amateur screenplays?  And, do they know how to decipher a great screenplay?  If they knew how to create a great screenplay, wouldn’t they stop focusing most of their efforts on being a script reader?  Wouldn’t they instead focus their efforts on performing the job of a screenwriter?  But, then again, if they wrote a great screenplay, and it was blocked by gate-keepers, like themselves, who couldn’t see a great screenplay for what it was, then wouldn’t gate-keeping become a self-perpetuating cycle of blocking great screenplays?

I don’t know the answers to all these questions.  Thinking about it makes my brain hurt.  However, I believe in karma.

What if you were a gate-keeper and you weren’t good at deciphering greatness within a screenplay?  What if that was the case and you didn’t know it?  What if you blatantly rejected some great screenplays?

Could there be some karmic debt you might have to pay, in the future of your aspiring screenwriting career?  Might you be forced to undergo the same rejection of greatness if and when you do write a great screenplay?

If you are a gate-keeper and there is a karmic energy to the laws of gate-keeping, will you perform your gate-keeping functions with a greater seriousness?

What if I told you that for every great screenplay you failed to let pass through the gates, you would be forced to write that many great screenplays before you were allowed to pass through the gates?  In other words, if you missed (passed on) 7 great screenplays, you would have to write 7 great screenplays before being allowed to enter the gates.  Would you re-think reading that screenplay and performing that script coverage when you’re in a horrible mood, just looking for reasons to say “no”?

If and when you’re trying to enter the gates, would you want your gatekeeper to be angry and merely looking for reasons to say “no?”  Or, would you rather the gate-keeper be aware of their own state of mind?  Would you want a gate-keeper to think twice about reading your screenplay if they’re in a horrible mood?

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