Screenwriting : Script Consultants... by Marvin Willson

Marvin Willson

Script Consultants...

Why do most of them have ZERO writing credits? Would you let a 'Tooth consultant" examine your teeth without going to dental school? This is YOUR writing career we're talking about here. Let's discuss.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Hi Marvin. There's a great thread already going with extensive commentary regarding script consultants. Perhaps give it a look: https://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting/Script-consultant-or-script... :)

Regina Lee

Hi Marvin, you'll see a lot of my comments in the thread that Beth posted. Speaking to your question, in my experience, screenwriters who like to teach will add mentorship or academic screenwriting instruction to their resumes. Story analysts, producers, and studio execs (full disclosure - I'm in this latter category) who like to teach will add script/market consulting or script editing (many non-US countries use this term) to our resumes. Screenwriters write scripts, but their core line of work doesn't include writing notes memos and delivering notes at notes meetings; whereas, for a studio exec/producer, that's how we communicate with writers. For example, I'm qualified to give professional, studio-level notes on a script, but I'm not qualified to teach Screenwriting 101; and screenwriters might say the same thing about their work. Hope that makes a least a bit of sense. Thank you for reading.

Regina Lee

And secondly, I know a lot of very, very talented writers, much sought after for their writing, who know little about the market beyond their own place in the market. Therefore, they might not be the best script consultant. You'd almost need to hire the writer and his agent to consult, since one would bring the creative sense and the other the market sense. Whereas, for producers, our job is to know both enough to get projects sold to financiers. (Btw, I'm not a total know-it-all. If you need a budget, I'm referring you to an AD or UPM.)

Regina Lee

If someone is looking for high level screenwriting instruction, I 100% recommend taking a class from a working screenwriter though! @Beth, would love to hear your thoughts on these points!

Marvin Willson

Thanks @beth, but that link is more about recommending consultants.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Well, the thread has a lot more in it than that; discussing the merits of consultants. Seems similar to what you are asking. :)

Beth Fox Heisinger

I couldn't agree with you more, Regina. While I have received fantastic reviews and support from peers, I've found that perhaps the most objective reviews and sound advice came from working industry professionals who also consult or teach -- my mentor being a development executive. So, yes, it does make better sense to work with someone who has real industry experience, i.e. credits. However, it does seem a combination of both is truly best; receiving support/instruction/review from working screenwriters and industry executives for coverage. It takes a village to create a career. :)

Regina Lee

I would offer that script notes/script consulting is a different skill from screenwriting. They are of course related, but not the same. Thanks, Marvin and Beth.

Marvin Willson

They are indeed, having done/doing both. I'm just playing devils advocate. ;-)

Beth Fox Heisinger

Yes, they most certainly are different skill sets!

Beth Fox Heisinger

Play devil's advocate we must! Aspiring screenwriters must do their own due diligence. There are those out there looking to take advantage of dreamy naivety. Educate yourself, be realistic, work hard, network, seek out those script consultants/teachers/mentors/professionals who do have a solid understanding of story, craft, industry experience and current market knowledge. :) Thanks so much Marvin and Regina!

Danny Manus

I'm not gonna get into this one. I just don't have the energy and Regina made many of the points. I will just say that while getting feedback from other writers can be very helpful, and getting free feedback can help when starting out, when your script is ready to be submitted, you're not submitting to writers or friends ...you're submitting to executives! And reps. So, to get notes and feedback from someone with that experience even if they've never been a professional screenwriter, can often give you the help you need to make the script strong enough to BE submitted. Writers often look for different things in a script than an exec, so it's good to get that opinion.

Regina Lee

Hey Marvin, I appeal to your kindness and ask that when you are playing devil's advocate, you are respectful enough to say that upfront in the original post. You don't want to lead a novice astray who doesn't possess the know-how that you have, and people like Danny and me don't wish to waste our time trying to convince people that a script consultant is not a "tooth consultant who didn't go to dental school." That's not in the spirit of thoughtfulness that is fostered on this board.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Yes, generalizing and making assumptions isn't the best notion, nor is it fair -- just because there are some bad apples out there doesn't mean they ALL are bad. From the perspective of an aspiring or novice screenwriter I can understand, or empathize, with the cynicism when considering script consulting solely as a "business enterprise" and not as hard working individuals who are truly professional, extremely knowledgable and love the craft. We, aspiring screenwriters, are confronted with a lot of rhetoric; noise; quick fixes; those claiming to know all the answers but are full of hot air and posturing. The industry has a massive oversupply of screenwriters and the message is: you're not good enough; few are ever good enough to break in. While there's some hard truth to that message there are many lined up to feed off of those trying to break through, and the more naive the better. The key, of course, dear aspiring screenwriter, is to do your research. Find those who wish to foster great writers. Know yourself; know your goals. Educate yourself about the craft by whatever means that works best for you. Understand the industry and find those great people within it who DO wish to champion great stories. Push past the negative noise and negative people -- who's got time for it any way! It's counterproductive. :)

CJ Walley

There's a fundamental flaw behind the criticism over consultants and credits - The ability of a script consultant to write, option, and sell their own material has no relation to their ability to critique, advise, and mentor other writers. A consultant can lack imagination but have acute market awareness. A consultant can lack a distinct and entertaining voice yet possess remarkable knowledge of how the buying and development process works. A consultant can suck at writing dialogue but have a near forensic awareness of structure. It's the same in all industries and artforms and always has been. There have been those who are very good at coming up with things and those who are very good at analysing and improving things. There's also the old adages of "plumber's taps always leak" or "Baker's kids always go hungry." it's typical that those who spend all day working hard on something for others rarely have time to work for themselves. How about managers? When was the last time anybody saw a managed by credit in a movie? Yet that's a role that may have a massive impact on the market appeal and subsequent development of a script. They just speculate their income through a different dynamic. As Beth rightly points out, the most dangerous thing to do is generalise such a varied portfolio of people just because they trade under a single term. That doesn't do us or them any favours at all. When it comes to finding the right consultant, it's a very personal decision and one that should not be taken lightly.

David Levy

There are many talented people who work in the industry who may not have credits but can provide a wealth of insight to your script, format, and story. Great advice and feedback does not always have to come from someone you can find on iMDBPro. Some of THE BEST notes I received was from an employee in the TV Dept at APA. He's not an agent or manager but knew the right advice to give me to make my work better to be taken seriously. This is a small industry so it is best to build a positive reputation as a writer now even before someone takes interest in you.

William Martell

I get notes from development executives and readers who have no credits and probably never will have credits... but they are the ones who decide to buy my screenplay or not (which is more important to me).

Eoin O'Sullivan

Not all the best coaches are star athletes. That said, do your due diligence on any consultant whom you wish to engage. A mixture of abilities abide in all professions.

Ace Cheverez

good catch.

Chas Franko Fisher

I am no in favour of script consultants generally. That said, directors and editors and producers are often not writers and may never be. But that doesn't mean they aren't story-tellers and can identify problems in a script or not. Where I'd be concerned about a consultant is not whether they have writing credits or not but whether they are genuinely in the business or not.

Regina Lee

If a person really doesn't feel that a good script consultant or a good set of studio notes can be a benefit, I'll bet that person has never seen a good set of notes. If a person has never eaten good sushi, then you might think sushi is crap because you've only eaten $6 supermarket sushi.

Regina Lee

Same thing with notes on a pitch. Look at all of Joey Tuccio's Success Stories. A good critique with constructive advice is a benefit!

Chas Franko Fisher

@Regina: I totally value good notes. Whether such notes should be paid for by a writer working on spec on their own original material from someone who is not working directly in the industry producing content... another kettle of fish entirely. Aren't you a script consultant yourself?

Aaron Majewski

It's like anything else, you get what you pay for. Useful constructive criticism should help polish a good screenplay, will you get actual constructive criticism from someone asking you for 20 bucks? Maybe not. Whether or not you need to have a plethora of credits in order to be able to spot the holes in someone else's story is another matter entirely, like has already bee said though, those who can't, teach, and whether or not you are a good teacher is again, another matter entirely.

Regina Lee

@Chas, I'm a producer, primarily focused in TV at the moment, with a deeper history in film. I have pilots currently in development at HBO and Starz, and I have other projects that haven't been announced publicly yet, so I can't talk specifics. I do script consulting on the side, primarily for non-US clients in countries where script consulting is standard, not a dirty word. So far, I've been referral-only as a script consultant. I have no website because I'm a producer first, script consultant second. Because I don't have a website, I send a 2-page bio to interested parties and sample notes memos for serious inquiries.

Regina Lee

@Chas, is the question whether I'm a script consultant with no industry experience? I'm a script consultant who has supervised approx 20 studio movies as a studio exec or a production company exec, and 1 TV show that aired on a major broadcast network. With additional studio/network projects in development, but not yet produced. As a script consultant, I've worked on 2 indie movies that got made.

Regina Lee

@Chas, thank you for taking the time to make that clarification. I sincerely appreciate it.

Regina Lee

@Megan, I'm sorry that your personal experience has led you to feel that way. I have volunteered my time as a CineStory Board member, CineStory writers' retreat mentor, CineStory screenplay contest judge, UCLA guest speaker, USC guest speaker, NYU guest speaker, Screenwriters Online guest speaker, etc. I have answered questions in the S32 Lounge. I am an entertainment industry adviser for Duke University's DukeConnect. Three years ago, I helped 3 theatre actors get agents or managers. I've helped an Australian director get a US agent and manager. I make ZERO dollars for all of these things. In fact, I have expenses from making trips to fulfill my volunteer commitments. None of these people are "my friends" and few of them are "already in the business." There are proper channels to getting help, advice, and mentorship. You're getting it right here in the Lounge. For free. You are not our/my "friend," and all these people in the Lounge are trying to help you!!

Regina Lee

@Stuart, thank you for taking the time. I find that Stage 32 is chiefly a very convivial environment. Never been called a "tooth consultant without a dental degree" though! New one on me.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

I'm a tooth consultant and a smile critic. Send me pix of your smile and get a free rating today. Sincere inquiries only.

CJ Walley

I feel I have to call BS on a couple of tired axioms here. "Those that can do, those the can't teach." - Simply not proven to ever be true and incredibly insulting to a precious part of human society. Yeah I'm a terrible academic and hated school but anyone who decides to dedicate their life to educating others has my utmost respect. The fact is that many who can, do, and then go on to teach. Besides, consultants aren't teachers, they are part researchers, part analysts, and part advisors. Yes you'll learn from a consultant, but you'll also learn how your car exhaust fits if you watch a mechanic replace it at a muffler shop. That doesn't mean that you took a car maintenance degree. "You get what you pay for." - More fool anybody who lives by that logic, especially in this day, and age and particularly in this industry. On another screenwriting forum, I know of a successful working writer who charges $50 for notes while another, who has little more than a few competition wins, proudly boasts they charge the same high rate as the highly established consultants. Plus the better consultants out there give away an enormous amount of valuable knowledge and assistance for free. Furthermore, let's not forget that we are communicating on this wonderful platform which asks for no payment yet gives us so much more than any other.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Megan, I see that you are a new member, so welcome! We have an incredible group of writers and industry folks on this site who are not only talented but truly generous. Feel free to post questions or ask for advice. We're here to help. :)

Beth Fox Heisinger

Well said, CJ!

Bill Costantini

"Those that can't, teach" is true to a certain degree, though, CJ, although it's certainly not a blanket statement that has 100% validation. There are many terrible teachers in school systems in America. So that saying does have some truth to it, to a degree. Exactly what that degree is across the entire country, I don't know. I once had to do an analysis on a public school system in America, and many of those I surveyed weren't a "precious part of society"; were only in it for the money; were terrible teachers; hated their students; and had no interest and no integrity in understanding a student's deficiencies, and in helping to formulate and implement the best successful paths to achieving education goals for their 25 - 30 students. That school system wasn't an anomaly. If I ran the world, I would have fired those fraudulent and reprehensible teachers immediately, and probably would have put the 20 - 30% of them that were outright frauds in jail, and maybe even would have committed a few public executions. But their union keeps them protected year after year and on track for lifetime pensions and free health care, so I just have to bite the bullet and bear it. But there are certainly a lot of terrible teachers out there, and that's one of the things that really pisses me off about American society today.

Regina Lee

@Megan Lewis, my feeling is that there's no need to insult industry pros or to apologize to us. We're in a no-win situation. Defend ourselves and we look juvenile for being defensive. Let it go, and it's a silent acknowledgement that we deserve your insults. Let's all try to refrain from insults and rephrase as constructive thoughts.

Bill Costantini

Megan, I hear you and can understand your feelings. The simple truth is - and nobody denies this - it's very difficult to sell a spec screenplay; to break into "Hollywood"; and to get hired as a writer. There are thousands of great writers; great scripts; and established networks of people who prefer to do business with established writers that they already know. Those three statements can't be disputed. BUT...it's not impossible to become a great writer who sells a great script and who can then become an established writer who can break into one of those circles. That statement can't be disputed, either. I hear where you are coming from, and wish you the best.

Eoin O'Sullivan

'The world IS, as you see it.' If you imagine it can't be done, then the harsh truth is, you won't succeed. Breaking in is tough. The odds are overwhelming, but why be your own obstacle? I have just two features written and NO agent and I and my co writer,have optioned a script earlier this year. With the right material, the right attitude and the right approach, it can be done. Outside of the craft aspect, screenwriting is a business. It takes business acumen, interpersonal skills and networking to make things happen. It is possible - don't give up.

Regina Lee

Go, Eoin! Make it a point of pride that you've been "kicked in the balls" every day and got back up. I'm stealing that quote from the late Joe Wizan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Wizan). He said working in Hollywood is getting up every day, getting kicked in the balls, and going back to work the next day. Rinse and repeat.

Bill Taub

Megan, I'm new to this thread but if you have been at it since 2012 how many scripts have you written? So you've written a spec pilot. Great. You called USA - that's not the way to do it. The last thing in the world they want is to read your script. Maybe it's just not that good. And to think that you are going to sell your spec pilot is foolhardy at best. Your spec pilot will be used as part of a larger portfolio to hopefully get you a staff job on a series. Which will then let you climb the ladder and get a seat at the table so you can get some experience and rub shoulders with those who will mentor you and maybe some day you can sell your own show. If in three years time you don't know that by now, you need to take a long look in the mirror and realize the fault does not lie in the stars, it lies with thee. Let me give you a few other urban myths that i have come to learn besides 'those that do do, those that can't teach'. They are 'the cream rises to the top'. Another fallacy. As is pointed out elsewhere many are at the top who are less talented than those who are not even on the train. The other thing I would like to point out to you if you haven't realized it yourself already, 'theese are not businesses of geniuses'. (Sorry Regina, I don't know you - so I'll accept the you are one of the exceptions and are a genius -:) ) If you have spent thousand of dollars on soncultants and books and courses and whatever the heck else you spent it on you are throwing good money after bad. I tell my students and those in the who want to get into the industry or back in the industry that I meet -- as I see it there are two sides to building a career -- 'do the work. And network'. You can't do one without the other. You're a writer so write. And rather than spending money onn consultants spend it on going to mixers, seminars, screenings, conventions where you can mix and mingle and get to know others in the industry. And networking is not a one-on-one process, it's not 'can I help you or can you help me?' It's 'I might know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who I'd like you to meet!' - Third party referral is the best recommendation you can get. My wife is in the referral marketing business (Arbonne) which is also called network marketing or MLM. It has a bad rap, but that's for those who don't understand it - and the fact that they don't, is their loss. You are too. Enter your scripts in meaningful competitions. Not just any fly by night contest. And let me tell you something else, just because you come in first if you are lucky enough to do so -- doesn't mean you wrote the best script. Just say thank you and move on. There will be times when you have written the best script and you don't even get an honorable mention. Think or it as sports, the bad calls even themselves out over time. So, to sum up -- there is no magic bullet, there is no road map, there is no triptik for you to follow. You have to fight your way to a seat at the table. And just because you do the work doesn't mean take a seat. Lots of people do the work -- it takes more than that. Stay positive. It's all doable. It's not impossible. But if you think if you do the work you will be guaranteed next month's rent, you are wrong. I have no idea how old you are or how much experience you have -- but I would say, get rid of the frustration -- believe in yourself -- and as one manager said to me 'you will be a better writer a year from now than you are today and that's the way it should always be' -- so keep writing. And network. Network. Network. But you better be fun to be around -- I am sure you are. Get that person back. Cry in your beer or scream in the bathroom - but I would be careful of having a tantrumm on boards like this -- that really won't help you much. If you are sincerely looking for advice, realize that what you have been doing hasn't been working for you. So, like sailing, you've got to tack left or right or take a whole new course. Sorry I went on so long -- but I meet many who express what you express -- and really don't want to hear the answer -- or else aer asking the wrong questions to the wrong people. You have it in your power to give yourself the best shot -- lose the sense of entitlement and go out and do it!

Danny Manus

@Regina - believe me, there's no point defending your bio in these forums. I did that for a long time and it doesn't help usually. People are gonna believe whatever helps them sleep at night. For Megan, It seems what helps is thinking everyone's trying to keep her down, which isn't true. It sounds like she got a shitty agent who my guess is doesn't live in LA. And she naively believed USA when they said get an agent & we'll do it which a network wouldn't say if they truly loved & wanted it. They'd find her an agent if they loved it so much. But its easier to blame consultants, seminars and Hollywood in general. Because then she wouldn't have to face that the script might not be good enough. and after 3 years - which is still VERY little time, one should have more than one original pilot. So, don't bother defending Regina. Consultants and execs will always be the scapegoats even though we're also the ones offering guidance and help.

Bill Costantini

Megan, I want to tell you what is hopefully a bit of inspiration for you. Bill Taub mentioned that his wife works for Arbonne. In 2006, I consulted for a man who formed a company that funded the advancement of some promising chemical compounds developed by a university science lab. Those compounds were able to stop the growth of cancer cells at the test-tube level and at the mice level, and are now in clinical trials. The man put over $2 million dollars of his money into the company after his brother died of cancer and was determined to find a cure for that killer disease. Thirty years earlier, those two brothers worked out of their garage for more than a few years, developing natural/organic beauty and cleaning products. They devoted a good part of their younger years to developing natural formulas and products, and tried to sell them to big companies, but were always turned down. They never quit, and eventually got their brand, Nature's Gate, into stores on their own. That brand then evolved into Levlad and Arbonne, and they eventually exited the company as very rich men - from a Woodland Hills garage to a large faculty that employed hundreds of people to an international brand. I used to have coffee every morning with the surviving brother in the upscale Sherman Oaks Galleria, and the occasional lunch or dinner in the area with him as well. Surrounded by well-dressed professionals and trendy Hollywood types, here would come Vlad, dressed in scruffy work clothes, sporting a mane of unkept hair , looking like a janitor, and carrying a beat-up leather satchel older than I was at the time. People around us would look at him with disdain. Little did they know he was worth more than every person in the room COMBINED. And he would pull out his papers and show me his latest discoveries, findings and postulations, scribbled in black, blue , green, red and yellow marker colors. I wasn't much of a science guy, and pretty much flunked every science class I ever took in high school and college - but here was Vlad, a self-taught chemist who was now being schooled by the university scientists that he was funding, and he was making it very easy for me to understand how natural, foreign and synthesized bodies worked at a cellular and molecular level. He was a great guy, as was his brother Leo. I love being around people like that. In broken English, he used to tell me, "I will not give up until I find the cure for cancer." Just like he didn't give up when every major cosmetics and health products company turned down licensing deals for his products. I think of them from time to time when I need a little pick-me-up, and remember his philosophy: keep learning what you don't know; keep getting better, and don't give up. Those are the same words of Andrew Carnegie, too, and many other successful people. Good luck.

Cherie Grant

Geez it seems like you don't even have enough experience yet to break in. Some of us have been at it waaaaay longer than you and you won't hear me whinging about it.

Pertinax Aureolus

Danny - it's a tough thing to hear, let alone accept and endure. But, I like your point that it is our words, our script is what matters most. Cuz, I can see it's kinda hard to support something that really isn't there. It follows that most of the burden lays with the screenwriter. Not the supporting characters in his career. Cherie - but whining is soooo much FUN! If only I was paid a nickel...forget that, make it a penny and well, you know the rest.

Kent Flaagan

Angelo Dundee couldn't fight, but was/is one of the greatest boxing trainers of all time. You don't need to be a great writer to be a consultant. Before you spend your money, or take advice, it's the writer who should do a back ground check to see if the person's claims of being qualified are legit.

Marvin Willson

@Megan - Methinks USA are fobbing you off. You don't legally need an agent to get to see a network. I have had pitch meetings at Fox, WB, NBC and others without an agent or a manager.

Regina Lee

@Bill Taub, haha! No need to joke about genius and ego. We're all just people doing the best we can every day. @Danny Manus, thanks for saving me the headache.

Regina Lee

@Writers Who Intend to Enter "Hollywood," this is the last you'll hear from me on this particular topic within the thread -- Even if you're frustrated, don't post with anger on a public message board. The pros who read these boards, who might have wanted to help you, will be turned off and not want to stick their necks out for you. "Hollywood" is very much about relationships and working with people you "want to be in business with." That phrase is used every single day. Even if you have honey, you might not be able to attract your bees, but you certainly will not attract any bees with vinegar. You're certainly not going to be hired to a writing staff if you display a bad attitude toward Hollywood. Just my 2 cents that you can toss in the garbage.

Regina Lee

@Bill Taub, apologies. In backtracking, I see that you already posted this advice to keep it professional in the public space. In agreement with Mr. Taub!

Regina Lee

I'm going to regret getting back into a fracas... @Megan Lewis, if you have a legitimate offer on the table from USA Networks' Business Affairs, if indeed the network has reviewed your spec pilot and have made you a legitimate offer, I will personally introduce you to a WGA Signatory agent, reputable manager, and/or reputable entertainment attorney who have the ability to do the deal for you. Before I approach these execs, I will need evidence that you have an offer on the table, as I would be risking my own reputation for you. You don't have to post the offer in a public forum. I will accept no fees whatsoever for assisting you. I bet Danny Manus would offer the same. I must admit I'm skeptical of the situation; I read your post stating you have an "offer from USA" but I did not see any post indicating that USA has actually read your script. I believe there is a missing piece here, but what the hell do I know? Notwithstanding, my free offer stands. With proof, I will introduce you to a legit dealmaker, and the rest is in your hands. Good luck in all your writing endeavors.

Regina Lee

No one who has a legitimate offer on the table from a TV network's Business Affairs should flounder in search of a reputable dealmaker. I will do everything I can do to prevent that from happening. You have me saying that in a public forum.

Marvin Willson

@Regina - You are so kind. @Megan if the offer is legit, grab it with both hands. I do however think that if all you've had from USA is "that's an interesting pitch" and they have not read the pilot, then you have a long way to go. Ideas are dime-a-dozen, but executed is everything. Good Luck.

Regina Lee

@Marvin, all good, thank you. Good karma. Please note I need to be able to show a legitimate offer to the WGA agent, reputable manager, or reputable attorney. I can do that Monday morning. If Megan has a non-WGA Signatory agent, I can pair that agent with a reputable entertainment attorney, and that should work just as well. She wouldn't have to fire the non-WGA agent. But I need to be able to show them the legit offer from USA in order to hold up my end of the (free) bargain. Thanks!

Regina Lee

Please also note that if Megan has only one offer (all you need is one, and one is plenty!!) and no previous fee quotes as a WGA writer, the offer is likely to be for WGA Minimum. The agent/manager/attorney will not be able to negotiate much, if any, above WGA Min. If she had generated multiple offeres, then the dealmaker has leverage to negotiate a better deal than WGA Min. A Guild minimum deal would not be the dealmaker's "fault." Dictated by the market. Please no one blame me or the dealmaker if Megan gets a WGA Min deal.

Danny Manus

Sure, much like Regina, if Megan has a legit offer from USA but her agent can't close the deal, I'm happy to introduce her to a TV agent who might be able to. IF there's a legit offer and not just an exec who likes her script. I am friendly with 1 of the execs over at USA and might be able to help if its at that level.

Regina Lee

Hey, Danny, I wasn't trying to call you out. Really hope it didn't come across that way. I'm hoping to show that we're not heartless bastards, kicking people when they're down.

Kent Flaagan

Let me go to the opening of this post. "Would you let a 'Tooth consultant" examine your teeth without going to dental school?" Does a tooth consultant "need" dental school? He is, just a consultant. And who recommended this consultant to you. If your teeth are so bad that you need to see a consultant in the first place. Maybe that's telling you something right there.

Regina Lee

Hey Megan, I'm afraid that an "offer" includes an option price or purchase price plus additional terms. An "offer" in Hollywood is similar to an offer you'd make to buy a house. It's not "we will let you visit the house we're selling if you have a real estate agent," it's "we are offering you x dollars to buy your house or to rent your house for y period." The offer is binding until it's formally withdrawn. For example, an offer might say something to the effect of, "HBO is offering you WGA Minimum (+10% for your agent) to buy the script, plus 2 rewrites also at WGA Minimum (+10%)." The purchase/option decision would be made by the HBO Development Department after they have read your pilot, and the offer would likely be presented to you by HBO's Business Affairs Department. Rather than an offer letter, it sounds like what you have received is a standard letter informing you of the company's submissions policy, i.e. HBO does not accept unsolicited submissions, but you may re-submit your project when you have a reputable agent. I would be happy to help you find a dealmaker if you have a legitimate offer. Now all the frustrated writers out there will take my head off... Lucky me.

Regina Lee

To others who believe I'm not nuts, please feel free to jump in and politely concur that the letter Megan received does not constitute an offer letter. I'm not BSing.

Regina Lee

If you don't believe me, send a submission letter to HBO from Fido, Rover, or Fluffy, and Fido will receive the same pro forma response about unsolicited submissions. I'm sorry. I really am sorry. Your agent should have clarified for you what constitutes an offer letter.

Regina Lee

Thanks, Megan. That letter is from the HBO Submissions Administrator informing you that they do not accept unsolicited submissions. It's not an offer letter. That letter is sent to prevent "you stole my idea" lawsuits. I have the same policy posted on my Profile page. I'm sorry, and I really don't mean to burst your bubble. If you don't believe me, maybe others will chime in and concur. I'm really, really sorry. I think a bunch of innocent misunderstandings have happened along the way for you.

Eoin O'Sullivan

'Entertain my show idea'. What read that as, they don't accept unsolicited material, but if you had an agent, they'd be willing to read it and take it from there. Even agents will request submission release forms. As Regina said, an offer is an option or a straight sale.

Bill Taub

@Megan - First of all Megan, the response you've posted about all you've done is what you lead with -- I have no idea why you don't see that. I think @Regina is misunderstanding you or I am -- you do not have anything form USA -- they will not look at anything for legal reasons. Even I will not read anything of anybody's without a release form or a waiver. Even if I win litigation I don't want to be in it. You have recived so much good advice here, who have absolutely nothing to gain by spending out time doing this -- that eventually we say 'live and be well'. I think it was @Marvin who said concepts are a dime a dozen it's all about execution. If you take nothing away from anything that was said here, stamp that to your forehead. As far as 'teachers and doers' - some of us, like me have decided to teach because can and do do. I remember I first got the notion to start teachiing becaus I was invited to 'career days' at various universities and saw these eager faces staring up at their faculty who hadn't working in the business, if at all, for at least ten years - and had no clue what was going on today. Somdbody who doesn't know what's going on in the digital world both creatively and form a marketing standpoint, shouldn't really be teaching. It's like me telling you and hour script has four act breaks! (the veterans will know what I'm saying) -- You have all these screenplays? Great. Do readings of them. Video the readings. The technology has gotten so user friendly a six year old can do it -- probably, these days, better than I can. I just did that with a pilot script I liked that I didn't write. I went to a reading of it with great actors -- I asked the writer, who is not a newbie, how come he didn't video it -- he said because he didn't think of it. And went on to say that he couldn't get pitch meetings nor would his agent send out the script with any sort of excitement. I told him we're going to try something -- I want to test my theories -- we're going to have another reading and we're going to video it -- then we're going to take that half-hour sitcom video down to a three minute sizzle reel and that's what you're going to send out. He is just starting to receive invites to come in and talk about his pilot. 'We want to see more!' - Think outside the box. =Look at what everybody else is doing and do something different. Seminars are useless. Oh really? How many people have you offered to help? That's the key. The best way to get support from somebody is to offer it! Networking 101! I'll stop here. That's about enough fireworks for today! But I wish you good luck. And as an agent once told me, when he calls a producer about a screnplay he sent them and they tell him how 'weak' it is. it's not worth the paper it's written on or some such thing. He says to them, no problem, thanks for reading it -- we'll see you at the opening! That's the attitude you have to have!

Regina Lee

Hey Megan, given what we know, it sounds like your agent may well "suck" (quoting Megan's word choice)! Hope you can find a way to improve your professional situation. It's unfair to accuse all Hollywood professionals of suckage based on one horrible experience with some random agent in who knows where.

Marvin Willson

As I suspected this is just a standard letter telling you they don't accept unsolicited material. As for your agent, If it walks like a duck... Best advice, Keep writing, keep asking questions here. and read as much about the business side of TV, it's more than a little different from film. And now we've moved on to sucky agents/managers. I'm off to get hammered on Margaritas and Steak. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Regina: If that's an offer from HBO then I'm Abraham Lincoln. Most high level outfits like HBO or William Morris will reject unsolicited material. I've only gotten to people on that level via people representing me that had established relationships with people at those companies. As to the original thread about script consultants: I took a paid job doing it this year and it was good experience and hard earned money. I am very direct with my written observations; so the client also felt a bit beat up afterward. However, they took stock in my counsel and rewrote several bits that vastly improved the script. But I provided a lot of extra work for free to make the client happy. I've also been judging a script contest, which requires me to offer constructive feedback. At times, this is a real challenge. I guess my point is now have more respect for anyone who offers script coverage. It ain't easy and the buyer should do their due diligence as they would in shopping for any other service.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Dan: Maybe you consider going gluten free. Speaking of gluttony, I ate three snacks while reading this long ass thread.

Regina Lee

Thanks, Phillip and Dan. I broke my word when I jumped back into this topic. I won't bore you again, so I'm jumping out now. Megan, Bill Taub offered some great advice if you'll please scroll up. Sorry I don't have any 100% surefire advice to offer. I know you're disillusioned by contests, and my advice would have been to win some prestigious contests that market their winners well. But I know that's not a good fit for where you are in your career. So I'll shut up. Best of luck in all your work.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

@Megan: You want a little guidance, here you go: If you seek to make money being an actor, musician, writer, painter or any other career in the arts, then you better grow a thicker skin. You need to live and breath working towards success. There are people that flogged scripts for ten years before they achieved any level of success. It's nobody's business how long you've been writing unless you wish to disclose that information. Quite honestly, being a professional screenwriter is like being a soldier in a war. You have long periods of failure, rejection and frustration punctuated (if you're lucky) by occasional moments of success. So here's the advice part. Take stock in yourself and decide if you have the talent and tenacity to endure all the bullshit you can stand in an effort to sell your wares. And look at your efforts to break through like a numbers game. The more you do, the better chance you have of success. I leave you with a quote from someone who understood failure: "By endurance we conquer." ~Ernest Shackleton.

Aaron Majewski

I think it is safe to say that Regina is nothing but helpful and kind :) True she may be the exception, but that just means we should appreciate her all the more :)

Kent Flaagan

And then they kissed and made up;-) Oooyeah, girl on girl...FADE TO BLACK

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Dan: LOL Me too!. With all the gluten free stuff out there I couldn't resist.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Megan: Phillip has two L's in it. Thanks for taking my point and underling it. Never did I ever say you were lacking in talent or did I resort to any personal attacks. And as far as calling anyone a bastard, I would never resort to point out an accident of birth. I simply stated something that a long stretch of time as a musician and writer has taught me. Nobody is asking you to kiss anybody's posterior, bow to the queen or whistle Dixie. However, you seem to wallow in a world of hyperbole and lament about how nobody wants to help. I'm just telling you that those who persevere are the ones who make it as writers. Some people carry chips on their shoulders. Perhaps yours is a boulder.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Kent, girl on girl? Really?! That's incredibly offensive, not to mention sexist. Not the sort of thing we appreciate at Stage 32.

Bill Costantini

My gosh, Megan, people have taken a great deal of time to help you, advise you, and motivate you. Don't displace your angers and frustrations on them. Phillip is right - you do need to grow some thicker skin if you are trying to pursue an endeavor where rejection is the norm, and not the exception. And you need to smarten up, too - if you think that letter is an "offer because my agent said it", then your own naivete and lack of enlightenment better change quickly. And find a new agent, if you haven't figured that out already. This website offers you a great deal of opportunity. From the free education you're getting in the forums here; to the pitch opportunities that are only $45; to the labs, classes and other benefits. All I see is a bunch of nice people offering you information, and a bunch of opportunity in the other areas. You should really take a few days off, fire your agent, and create some short term goals with the pitch opportunities. There are REPUTABLE agents, managers and producers looking for content. You should really consider those strategies I stated. Good luck.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Wise counsel Mister Costantini.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Megan: No harm, no foul. It's just a thread and S32 folks are spirited debaters.

Ryan D. Canty

I'm blaming ALL of you for me not doing any work at my job tonight because I'm ready all of these replies! LMAO No but such fantastic advice across the board....

Cherie Grant

Whoa, Megan go easy on yourself. No one's hearts are damaged, no one's been bullied, relax a bit. Have a drink or something. No need to delete your replies, I think. I haven't read them all lol. We are all in the same boat as you. We've all bought the t-shirt etc. I make myself feel better by writing not just screenplays, but novels, poems, short-stories in the hope that something will sell one day. I've not put myself out there yet, but I'm getting ready to and I'm ready for all the rejection and heartbreak that goes with it. It's just the reality of the biz. I may never make it, but at least I will have tried.

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

I haven't read this thread yet but it appears to me that Meagan's reply is soaked with sarcasm. But again, I haven't read the thread so off I go.

W. Keith Sewell

Yes, it's a totally different animal. Pitching and marketing skills... and who should be best at advising you in this area, Writers? or the buyers, managers, agents and Executive VP's? Writing is one thing... getting it sold is another.

Aaron Majewski

Don't be too hard on yoruself Megen, everyone has bad days, the trick is not to let them get you down so badly you quit. Don't quit, keep writing!

Bill Costantini

I echo the others. Don't be too hard on yourself. Smart people learn from their mistakes. Smart and successful people learn what they don't know. You've already learned a few things that you didn't know from this thread, and it didn't cost you a dime. Good luck.

W. Keith Sewell

I feel your pain Megan, but you got to work at turning a negative into a positive. You say you got a meeting with USA, how many writers even get that far? You say you've been batting zero - since 2012? But what have you learned or accomplished since then? Are you really stuck in the same place or have you progressed in your writing and marketing abilities, have you grown your network and been willing to help rather than seek help... The one truth I hear from working writers, execs, Producers is .. "don't give up.." There's a good chance you'll get your shot if you're still in the game. Don't quit, before your luck turns... Not everyone who call themselves agents or producers are able to provide the assistance you're looking for. You may have better resources and contacts than them at this point. Do your due diligence in selecting an agent, manager or producer .. follow them, research them, their likes and dislikes, current situation.. "We do not accept unsolicited material" is a legal roadblock - that's all. Some take it more seriously than others.. but it can be hurdled. It takes time, patience, and a thick skin along with a little luck. Good luck... I first attended film school in the 80's, got some attention, got a big head, but didn't put in the work and nourish those oppts and connections. So, you can say my journey started over 30 years ago...

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

This thread was interesting . Sorry for questioning you, Meagan. I had to read the other posts to get where you were coming from. I haven't made that first step to try and break into Hollywood yet. Never tried to get an agent, send query letters, or enter in big name contests, but I've been writing for 10 years. I think I'm ready NOW. Last year, I did not think so. So it takes time in my opinion.

Bill Taub

@Dan. Try a writer's group. They're less expensive and often more helpful.

Bill Taub

@Meagan. Take this as a teaching moment - and personal growth. I think Regina said it best - this business is so hard for everyone - you are not alone - and nobody is ever on Easy Street - but we do want to work with people we like working with. Who make things easier. And more fun. Who are positive. And helpful. And constructive. When you display a difficult temperament of any kind, it makes it very difficult for them to say to you, 'yeah, I'll recommend you'. We too are judged by the people we refer and can lose our credibility real fast. So, bear that in mind in the future. I used to go with a lawyer who gave me some great advice when I was going to post something or write something or tell something to someone I was angry with -- she'd say, 'take the emotion out of it'. And just state the facts. That's probably the best thing I got out of that relationship. :-)

Phil Parker

Fascinating thread. I think many new writers on Stage 32 could benefit from reading it in its entirety. So many lessons. common frustrations, corrected misconceptions and great advice. Another example of how valuable Stage 32 can be to so many. Stick with it, Megan. Embrace the love and support here, it just may help you through the dark times, and hopefully one day you'll be able to help others through it too :-) Feel free to lean on me anytime if you need a friend.

Mark Nickells

We do this, because we love to be creative. Writing in general, is a risk, as it exposes us to other criticisms. How we deal with the negative, stuff is how we grow in the industry. Don't ever quit on your dreams.

Elisabeth Meier

Okay, I read most of all the comments and I like this thread because one can really learn a lot although it is all about Megan and not Marvin who asked this question, but her case is a good example how things can run really bad. So, Megan, you got the statements and know where you stand now. I would add you first should fire your agent and get out of this contract that you mentioned asap. If you need help you can find media lawyers even here on stage32 who perhaps can at least advice you how to get out of this contract. (Search under 'connect'!) Then, concerning the script or concept which you want to offer to TV stations you can get help by stage32 as well. Just book a coverage which you find under happy writers - and you'll get a very profund and professional feedback, even with a personal phone talk if you like and after this you are 'a patient' for Joey, I would think. ;) Meaning just book pitches here and invest your money in something real. This all can really happen very fast. I wish you really all the best and all the luck in the world. Someone who had bad luck deserves now a little wonder. Just try it. If your script or pilot or what ever it is is really good you will get requested very soon. So, cheer up, you stumbled, now stand up and try it again. Those who stand up one time than others are those who win. Go for it!

Marvin Willson

Hey, I only posed the question as a gauge. Where it goes is up to the posters. Many more to come.... ;-)

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