If you’ve had opportunity to work as a script reader at an agency or production company, then you have almost certainly tortured through the task of reading script after script that made you want to light yourself on fire. Seriously, this isn’t just film snobbery. It’s got to be an empirical fact that the vast majority of scripts that make it all the way to the hands of successful industry types are bizarre enough to make you question your entire career path. Almost every reader will have a similar tale. At least, I have to assume. My time as a reader was short. I read some “Okay” to “Decent” scripts, mostly in the action genres. Horrors scripts were always a fun ride. Comedies, an annoying mixture of college humor and mid-20s self-deprecation. Love stories were always a clever twist on the down-and-out man struggling to land the way-out-of-his-league blond woman. Basically, the genre scripts were entertaining, if always derivations of derivations of derivations.
And then there were the dramas… that’s where the real horror lay. Virtually every purported drama I was asked to read was either a convoluted mess of daddy issue-induced, forced dialogue-ridden melodrama or film-school written character arc with a neat bow at the end. Subtlety, nuance, artistry, topical concepts, and, most of all, films with women as the leads, never made it to the desks of executives of my company… That is, except one very special story.
The very best script I read while working for this company was a small drama called Middle of Nowhere by Ava DuVernay. I remember I was on a bus to The Poconos and almost started crying. Not because the story moved me to tears, but this script single-handedly gave me hope that something truly extraordinary could make it to a major production company. It made me believe in me as a person. As somebody with a purpose. The story itself reflected the desire to succeed that I was feeling at the time. The lead was a female trapped into the psychological repression of the men around her. Men she at once relied on and needed to break free from. These characters were African American, but not of the types media often give us with the likes of Tyler Perry or The Wire. These were humans, just like everyone else, not on the fringes or the margins. Just fucking humans, warts, hurt, sorrow, and all. The script was a glorious, simple drama. Simplicity, that’s what most scripts lack. This one nailed it. It was beautiful.
Almost positive it would never get made, I empathically recommended the script, and even secretly kept my copy on the off chance that one day I might be able to have a hand in resurrecting it. Well, that part didn’t happen. But the film DID get made (not by my company). It hits select theaters this Friday, October 12th. Early reviews emphasize that same simple, moving quality I gleaned on my cold bus ride.
“Quiet but compelling, emotionally buttoned-up and naked at the same time, Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere, opening in limited release Friday, October 12, is a film about holding still while trying to move forward.” – Marshall Fine
I haven’t seen the film yet. Honestly, the trailer doesn’t exactly represent what I thought the film would be like. But that doesn’t matter at all. The reactions to the film are precisely what I imagined. There’s nothing quite like seeing something that slightly changed your perspective not the world come to life. I couldn’t be more excited. I’m hearing buzz about the film possibly getting Best Screenplay attention from the Academy. As it stands now, I couldn’t agree more.