About twice a week we get emails, usually through the contact form here on our website, asking us if we can send someone copies of a script. And it always gives us a twinge of sadness, since the people asking are almost universally very polite and deferential (OK, occasionally we’ll get a terse, unpunctuated demand, bubbling with entitlement, for instructions on how to download scripts, and those are frankly pretty fun to answer).
But the fact is, in about 99.9 percent of cases, we can’t offer scripts for download.
Here’s why: It’s because we believe in providing multiple drafts of real, original scripts – not transcripts – to as many people as possible. We also believe in reliably sourcing those scripts to ensure they haven’t been stolen or otherwise illegally distributed. And that means honoring donor agreements that put what we consider reasonable limits on how we can distribute those scripts.
That probably sounds a little complicated, so let’s unpack it a bit.
When our library staff acquires scripts, we always attempt to first go directly to the source: Writers. Most writers are more than happy to offer us copies of their work, but some aren’t easy to get in touch with. (We couldn’t blame you for thinking we were automatically issued a copy of every script written by a WGA member, but sadly that’s not the case!) When we can’t get in touch with a writer directly, we go to any of a variety of other sources: Agents. Managers. Studio and network execs. Writers’ room assistants. Script coordinators. Anyone who can get us in touch with either the script’s writer (or writers), or someone with the authority to provide us a copy of the script.
It’s important that we work this way, because it’s the best way of knowing we’re acquiring and preserving real scripts. Because if they’re not real, then what’s the point? LACMA doesn’t preserve counterfeit Diego Riveras. Nor do they hang reproductions of Two Girls Reading. Our goal is to preserve, and provide access to, original materials.
What’s more, getting scripts from the source means we can get our hands on multiple drafts, as well as things like pre-first draft outlines and handwritten notes, studio correspondences, and stuff like that. Not only is it important to preserve those materials, but writers who use our library as a resource often find it useful to see how a great script goes through the drafting process. It’s why we have seven drafts of CHINATOWN.
And in order to maintain the relationships that get us those scripts, we need to honor copyright law and standard donor agreements, and basically agree that we won’t offer scripts for people to take home or download from our website. As many of you know, there’s a thriving market out there for scripts, and that market doesn’t differentiate between published and unpublished, produced and not-yet-produced, real and fake. The studios, and the writers who work for them, don’t want to risk contributing to that marketplace, so we promise them that we won’t distribute their scripts, digitally or otherwise. In short, they’re the copyright holders, so they get to set the conditions under which they donate scripts to us.
(And if you think the studios and the writers are being too skittish, remember that there’s no shortage of people wanting to get their hands on the next Star Wars or Marvel script – or really, any script in production. You kinda can’t blame them for being overly protective of their assets. It’s a testament to how vital the script is to the production process.)
In short, we believe in access for everyone. But we also believe in sourcing our materials responsibly and respecting our donors.
We know this is kind of frustrating for those of you who don’t live in Los Angeles. But if you ever visit Los Angeles from out of town, let us know and we’ll help you plan your visit to our library. We’ll even suggest some great places to eat!
(Oh, and one other thing: You’ll note that some scripts in our catalog are listed as “digital,” and this may be confusing to those of you looking to download scripts from the catalog. The “digital” listing indicates that the script in question is a digital copy, and can be read on one of the iPads in the library.)