Writing Scripts To Be Read Vs. Writing Scripts To Be Performed

“I’m not writing something that’s meant to be read; I’m writing something that’s meant to be performed… Just having written a screenplay is no more satisfying to me than if a songwriter handed out pieces of sheet music.”

(Aaron Sorkin, The Hollywood Reporter)

I’ve read a number of scripts and early script reviews before seeing the resulting films and similarly to reading a novel on which a film is based the final film is rarely as I had imagined it. The link is far more direct with a script than a novel though and in the case of a novel the prose are written merely to be read. A script is intended to be filmed but before it can go into production it must be read much more like a novel is read.

Reading The Social Network script by Aaron Sorkin I found the characters and dialogue a little unconvincing and unengaging  (although for the most part I actually loved the script) but these issues melted away when I was watching the film. As someone with minimal experience reading scripts I found it far easier to appreciate it performed than I did reading it on paper.

Although one would hope that those reading a script and influencing its production are generally experts in appreciating this and read scripts in a unique way, it is interesting to hear how much of  a concern it is to most screenwriters and in what ways it influences the way they write a script (if you have a take on this please feel free to comment).

This is often something that comes up in the Creative Screenwriting Magazine and on their Podcast and I can recommend checking those out if it is a subject that interests you.

UPDATE: The Social Network screenplay can now be downloaded here.

(This was originally posted at my old blog in 2011.)