From a note that I sent to Alan Jacobs, a few days after Steve Jobs died:
My cousin was a reader at Paramount. This was back before FinalCutPro and Sony PD150. This was back when video cameras cost $750/day to rent and a cuts only editing suite cost $50/hour, plus another $45/hour if you needed someone who knew how to run the machines.
It was, however, after the advent of the desktop computer and all manner of text formating and word processing programs.
Amongst these were programs that would help to put words and letters into the somewhat arcane form of a screenplay (if you’ve ever seen one you know what I mean.)
When these programs came out they cost as much as $1000, or perhaps more. But people would pay for these glorified word processors because they would get their scripts into the proper format, and being in the proper format was necessary, if not sufficient condition for getting past people like my cousin.
Of course the sudden access to proper formating caused a thousand flowers to bloom. Suddenly instead of having unpublished novels, bohemian type people started having unproduced screenplays. Inevitably some of these bohemian type people would meet my cousin, at a party or laundrimat, or where ever and find out he was a reader at Paramount.
“Hey man. Do you suppose you could look at my script? Maybe give me a few pointers? Tell me what you think?”
He would do his best to worm his way out of these situations, but he wasn’t always successful.
“Alright,” he think, “You wanted to know what I think? Well I’m going to tell you…” After all, no one was served by his blowing sunshine up their ass.
Then one day he realized he had it all wrong.
He realized there was precious little danger that an untalented, undetermined person would persist because they received too little discouragement, and that his encounter with them might very well hold the squandering of their life in the balance. No, life is full of discouragement, and it was egotistical in the extreme to think that his might be the straw that (thankfully for *all* parties in the long run) broke the camel’s back.
As he realized this, he also realized that there was, in this world that is filled with discouragement and set backs, a very real danger that someone who had something special and valuable to offer might, simply because of bad luck or unfortunate circumstances or whatever, not be receiving the nourishment they needed to persist.
He adopted a new policy.
He would still try to avoid being buttonholed into reading amateur scripts. But if his cunning and guile failed him, he resolved that he would give the script a real reading and then find three points upon with he could give specific, positive feedback; even if it came down to praising the fact that the screenplay had brass clips in the top and bottom, but not in the center hole (industry standard and one way to cut the slush pile.)
My cousin doesn’t work at Paramount anymore. Sometime after the birth of his second child he went back to school and got a degree in library science. Hidden treasures locked up in companies’ vast databases. Great riches if only all the data could be tagged accurately and completely!