Most of us have heard the expression, You get what you pay for. But, of course, with proper research, you can sometimes hire someone for a reasonable price that exceeds your expectations. For example, I spent several months looking for someone to paint my SUV and had quotes as high as $20,000 to do the job. Finally, I found a one-person operation with a guy who works at his ranch with goats, chickens, cows, and horses on the property. So it was fun going down to his barn shop to conduct business. I expected him to take a minimum of two to three months to finish the work; instead, he completed it in 30 days and did a superb job. I was highly blessed.
Last week, a novelist contacted me about doing a script consultation for his book that had been converted into a screenplay. He informed me that he had paid a writing service to create the adaptation. But unfortunately, he was not so blessed when selecting a qualified source. For consultations, I always have the client pay me in advance. After receiving his payment, I read the first five pages of the screenplay and made several notes. My evaluation was the adaptation was a complete pile of useless junk. It was incorrectly formatted with screenwriting software I’m unfamiliar with and given to the client in MS Word. There were nearly 1400 writing errors, the dialogue was stiff, the narrative was poorly written, and I couldn’t see spending another moment advising this client what to do with this worthless garbage. Although it cost me a PayPal admin fee to do so, I gave this person a full refund and advised him to find a qualified screenwriter to adapt his book.
This morning I researched the well-known outfit that provided this novelist with an independent contractor to write his screenplay. This company does writing jobs in every conceivable category. I was amazed to discover that hundreds of screenwriters charge prices anywhere from 5 to 200 hundred dollars an hour. Yet, in her bio, the five-dollar an-hour writer assured prospective clients she could write a good screenplay. I suppose the folks who charge higher hourly rates could be excellent writers but I suspect you might as well use the Eeny, meeny, miny, moe method in selecting your hired gun.
Finally, the novelist offered to pay me a significant sum to read his book and adapt it into a correctly formatted screenplay. My general policy is I don’t read and evaluate novels because it takes too long, and I’m not a literary critic. However, I read the first few pages of his book and could see his writing was significantly better than whoever wrote his screenplay. I further advised this person I didn’t feel culturally or religiously qualified to adapt this material and that, in general, the storyline didn’t interest me enough to take on the job. I also gave him a few sources where he might be able to secure the talents of a decent screenwriter, who would be only too happy to take his money. I’m an older person who was raised to have honesty and integrity. But like with any other service, when you’re looking to hire a screenwriter, it’s buyer beware.