Screenwriting : Script consultant or script doctors by Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Script consultant or script doctors

What are the key things you look for (depending on what your script needs) when working with either a script consultant or script doctor?

Lauri Donahue

Look at their samples, and recommendations from others.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Well, a script consultant primarily gives notes to screenwriters; they "consult” on ways to possibly improve one's script. A script doctor is someone hired by a movie studio or production company to rewrite an existing script; to “doctor it,” if you will. So, perhaps, what you seek is a script consultant.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Rickardo, you can also do a member search by occupation. Perhaps take a look and peruse various consultants' personal pages and then perhaps their web sites: https://www.stage32.com/people?coordinates=&name=&location=&roles=Script...

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Thanks for your comment Lauri. Who have you worked with for your screenplays?

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Thanks for the link and comment Beth. Which script consultant or doctor have you worked with?

Beth Fox Heisinger

I have not worked with a script consultant, per se. I am, for the most part, self-taught. Although, I have an incredible mentor who did consult, guide and encourage me at my very beginning, still does from time to time -- she's a former V.P. of Development of a major studio. If I would recommend someone, I'd have to say Julie Gray. My path crossed with hers when I entered her screenwriting competition "Just Effing Entertain Me" -- I believe that competition may be done for good now?? Anyway, she gave me a ton of fantastic free advice and is incredibly knowledgable and generous. http://www.jgwriters.com

Lauri Donahue

You mean this Julie Gray? "Silver Screenwriting Competition is run by a woman named Julie Gray. She also runs a screenplay consulting firm, The Script Department. She’s done a good job of promoting both, though most indications are a few years ago she was a struggling screenwriter who couldn’t herself get read or find an agent — who just went for the money by founding a business in which other writers paid her to tell them how to write and get agents and sell scripts. Kind of interesting since it doesn’t appear she had much success pulling any of the above off herself. Flash forward, Ms. Gray’s consulting business is doing well and her competition is barreling along getting entries a few years later when a blog post comes out on one of her associate’s blogs saying the associate while reading for an unnamed competition screamed through 75 competition scripts in three hours, often dumping a script from the competition because she didn’t care for the way the title page was formatted or for the writer’s zip code. This started moving on the web — and the blog post was ultimately removed, though is still available in a pdf download here and yeah you do have to register with the forum to download that sorry — when Jeff Lowell, an established TV/film writer/director, posted the post’s link on Done Deal, an established online forum for writers in every tier of the screenwriting community from rank amateur to veteran. The fall out from this post was major. I am pretty sure it got talked about everywhere from MovieBytes to Zoetrope and places in between, the only screenwriting community I haven’t seen it talked about on is Wordplay. And since then, there have been a whole lot of lies — yeah I said it, lies — posted online, often by Gray herself, in defense of the competition and Gray’s consulting firm...." Continued at https://celluloidblonde.wordpress.com/2010/08/21/fear-loathing-in-compet...

Lauri Donahue

Personally, I recommend ScriptGal, Screenplay Mechanic, and one other who must remain nameless. ;)

Beth Fox Heisinger

Lauri, Julie Gray was incredible to me and I highly recommend her. I could care less what others say. Again, I haven't really used script consultants. One size does not fit all. I was fortunate to have found a mentor.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Rickardo, if you feel a script consultant may be truly beneficial, then by all means do what works best for you. :) But, please understand there is a difference between having someone impose their practice of the craft upon you verses someone who will encourage and help you develop your own voice as well as make you wiser to the industry and its expectations. So, shop around. Find someone that is not only knowledgable and well-experienced, but also someone who would be a good fit for you. Perhaps more guidance as a "coach" rather than "consultant." :) I wish you the best with all your endeavors!

Beth Fox Heisinger

Also, we do have a wonderful group of writers on this site. If you wish, you may post any screenwriting questions that you may have, or perhaps post loglines or scripts on your personal page for peer review. :)

Regina Lee

When I was working at Hugh Jackman's production company, I hired Julie Gray to cover a few books for me, and I thought she did great work. For me, as a producer who does script consulting work, I encourage everyone who is choosing among script consultants to be sure 1) they are giving you highly personalized attention, not generic advice; 2) understanding your intent and helping you express your intent in your writing; and 3) guiding you objectively, not subjectively. I can't tell you how many times I've heard writers come out of writing groups in which their peers give them subjective advice, e.g. "If it were me, I'd show how he got the superpowers," or "how he became a killer." That's subjective, not objective. I'd ask, "Is your intent to write an origin story?" Why or why not? For example, one of my fave movies is SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. The movie doesn't tell you how Hannibal Lecter became a cannibal. The movie is awesome, and it doesn't need to give Lecter's origin story. The movie is not "lesser" because it doesn't show the origin story. So if someone reads your script and says, "I'm confused as to how he became a killer/cannibal," then they might well be giving you subjective advice without first understanding that you're not writing an origin story and don't need to give backstory. I believe we producers/script consultants need to first very clearly discuss/define the writer's intent, or else we can't give objective support. I also believe producers/script consultants need to teach by talking through successful movie paradigms and illustrating different paths that the writer can take in his decision-making. Then it's up to the writer to pick a road and stick with it! Please understand that this is a reductive response, and I can't write a book to get into the nitty-gritty. My responses are based on years of experience working with writers who say, "Well my friend said that she was confused by how he got his superpowers." Let's quickly look at THE SIXTH SENSE. Not a lesser movie because the origin of Haley Joel's power is never explained. So we gotta first understand/define intent, or else the whole development process is flawed!!

Regina Lee

Another personal example of advice given poorly: I spoke to a European pilot writer this morning whose script established its protagonist at Midpoint. Previous reader(s) had told him he needed to establish the town more clearly in the first half of the script. As a result, somehow he chose to establish subplots before he established his protagonist and the A-plot, pushing them until Midpoint. This situation might have been caused by bad advice, subjective advice, a misunderstanding of the note, a miscalculation in how to address the note, etc., or more likely, a combination of these issues. We wonder how innocent people can be manipulated into admitting to crimes they didn't commit... I also wonder how a situation like this can happen, in which a writer somehow takes advice, miscalculates, and decides to introduce his protagonist at Midpoint. But let's use these experiences as learning experiences! Let's all try not to repeat our past mistakes!

Owen Mowatt

Great posts Regina! Funny you should mention, The Sixth Sense and Joel's unexplained ability. One of my scripts is based around why my protag can see ghosts.

Alice Charles

The first thing is to get your script in as good a shape as possible by showing it to friends and colleagues. If you're sending a first draft to be critiqued, you really are wasting your money.

Regina Lee

For sure, Alice, that's relatively easy for seasoned professionals to do. But what if this person's friends cannot offer a more educated review than the writer's own? I find that oftentimes showing non-pros and getting their subjective advice (advice often untethered to the realities of the current marketplace) does not move the ball toward the end zone. Do you disagree? Respectfully.

Regina Lee

And for emerging writers, I find that doing rewrites based on subjective advice can result in burning out the writer. The writer writes draft after draft, chasing a random note, and then is too burned out to do his very best work. I think for many people, it is productive to get a read from a seasoned reader, whether that's a friend well-placed in the industry or a paid read. All that said, if a writer is writing for the indie market, and able to secure his own financing, he might be able to just do his own thing and not worry about what others think! Different paths for different situations. All valid paths. None better than the others!!

Beth Fox Heisinger

Thank you so much for sharing your experience and insights, Regina! I'm sure many of us would love to pick your brain. :) I greatly appreciate the distinction you made between objective and subjective review and how each affects a writer -- fantastic point!

Alice Charles

Writer, know thyself... If three people tell you that they didn't understand why a character did something, then you know you have a problem. The way to avoid burnout is to do structured rewrites - one for dialogue, another pass for story, and so on. But the best way is to properly plan and outline your screenplay in the first place, to minimise the number of rewrites you'll have to do. Download the beat sheet for Robert Towne's China Town (widely seen as one of the best scripts ever written) from Drew's Scriptorama site and you'll see what you have to aim for.

Alice Charles

I should also add that professional or not, we are all hardwired for story. We all understand how stories work at an instinctive level. If you're serious about writing, I recommend reading Christopher Booker's "Seven Basic Plots" - it really is enlightening.

Bill Costantini

"20 Master Plots and How to Build Them" by Ronald Tobias is a good one, too.

Stuart Wright

Regina ... Big thumbs up re intent ... In an incredibly uncertain, subjective business It's the only bit of power a writer wields with their writing. Therefore anyone asking what your intent is will be trying to draw out your idea rather than impose their ideas on your screenplay. That's a good thing IMHO

Regina Lee

For what it's worth, I agree with Alice's methodology, especially her great tip that specific, purposeful passes yield positive results. When I started my first studio job, I had a lot to learn... like a LOT. I was not and am not a naturally gifted storyteller. I had to learn how to analyze story. As my friend who was at Fox Searchlight said, development is a skill, refined rigorously over time, like learning how to play piano, practicing every day. For some, music and screenwriting come much more naturally, while neither came naturally to me! I think, like Alice, some people are much more "hard-wired" for story, but I really had to bust my butt. I had a piano teacher as a kid, and thankfully, I had incredible studio leadership and filmmakers to learn from. Like Bill, I own 20 Master Plots. So this brings us to another point, for some people, story development will come pretty naturally, and they require much less external instruction. For others, external instruction/support will help them advance their craft at a faster, more efficient clip. IMHO. I find writing about these immense complexities really challenging, trying to speak clearly to different personality types and skill levels, and I hope that I'm representing 5% of what could be said.

Regina Lee

Wish this were a conversation with back-and-forth. I appreciate hearing your POV, Alice!!

Stuart Wright

I recently paid for a reader after getting chaotic and damning notes from a fellow writer. Thankfully it was the right thing to do or I may have lost sight of my original idea

Regina Lee

Hey Stuart, when I advise as a producer or script consultant, I use the word "IF" like crazy. "IF IF IF your intent is to do x, then... IF your intent is to do y, then..." Stuart states it incredibly well, and much more efficiently than I... which is why I'm not a screenwriter! :-) Point is, when you choose a friend, rep, producer, paid consultant, mentor to help you, let's hope they're asking about your intent, helping you to define it clearly and precisely, and helping you to execute your intent skillfully and with market awareness.

Stuart Wright

Regina ... I find these open and honest interactions really positive. I get to explain my POV which means I better understand it if I'm going to state and then I hear other POVs and hopefully discover new or better ways of doing.... I'm a Master Plots owner too

Regina Lee

Lastly, and then I promise to shut up, Stuart's example is why sometimes simple coverage or notes in a vacuum can point writers in the wrong direction. If you get a simple written document, with no conversation about intent, etc., then you might be reading analysis that takes you down a road no one ever intended. For example, I'm working with a writer who got simple notes on a script. The notes said maybe the villain should be friendly at first. (This is all a vast reduction from the complexity of a full script, so forgive me.) Thus, the writer made the villain friendly at first. The result? The rewrite had no antagonist until late in Act 2. Obviously, that's not what either party intended, but it can result from notes that are delivered or taken in a relative vacuum.

Stuart Wright

It's a blooming minefield ... The one thing I will definitely take from this thread is distinguishing subjective from objective feedback ... Sounds like the key to making best use of feedback received

Regina Lee

Great! Now I feel less bad about initially posting an incomplete response about the genre/subgenre of Rosemary's Baby in your other thread!!

Stuart Wright

No worries my end ... We are all just shooting the breeze

Regina Lee

Furthermore, similar example. New writer wrote a script about a psychic. Initially, she didn't explain how the character became a psychic. Her random friends (not industry people) told her they didn't understand how the guy became a psychic. (OK, that's 100% true, a reader won't understand, but do they need to? That depends...) A more helpful response would be, "Did you intend for this movie to be an origin story like SPIDER-MAN or not an origin story like THE SIXTH SENSE?" (Yes, I know that Spidey is not psychic, but he has a power, and the movie is an origin story.) Once you define the intent, you can take it from there. Without doing so, isn't the rest of the argument flawed, or at the least, on shaky ground?

Regina Lee

Btw the way, at other times, intent is crystal clear on the page. You could read a script and know that it's intended as "the next HANGOVER." Or you could read a script and not know if it's supposed to be a dude comedy first, or a rom com first. You'd need to clarify genre intent, and take it from there. In my personal experience, non-industry folks will not have the skill set to present it as clearly as that, despite their best intentions.

Stuart Wright

I reckon that The boys power in sixth sense didn't need explaining because the story was about Bruce Willis's character learning or coming to terms with being dead. Much like silence of the lambs is about a rookie woman trying to make it in her profession vs a notorious/charismatic cannibal

Stuart Wright

I think getting to intent is a reason why David Fincher likes to hear writers read their script to him as part of the prod process

Regina Lee

Yes, I'm using those specific examples only to make a certain point. Again, really challenging to write about highly complex ideas in only a few sentences. To boil down years of us busting our butts and learning to analyze story into a short post!

Regina Lee

There is also quite a common belief that although you can, you never have to explain why "a Hannibal Lecter is bad." Because these types of characters have much more emotional power over us when we do not understand them or how they came to be.

Stuart Wright

Worth pointing out still ... I'm only giving my two pennies worth ... Recently re watched sixth sense and it blew my mind that's it's not the little kids story

Regina Lee

Hey Stuart, again you are making my point. Rhetorically, how many non-professional peers would have the tools to hash out that idea with you? I'd bet less then 50%? And how many would possess the tools to discuss the implications? Believe it or not, I dislike screenwriting jargon, but as Socrates said, "The beginning of wisdom is a definition of terms." For 2 people to have a productive conversation about a complex story, we have to speak the same language, understand what a protagonist is, understand what a central character is, understand what dramatic conflict is, etc. How many non-pros would have the tools, the terms, the bird's eye view, the marketplace awareness, etc. to have a real conversation about THE SIXTH SENSE? Sometimes (not always) for some people, professional mentorship or consulting is an efficient way to improve your material.

Regina Lee

Not just in entertainment, in any industry.

Regina Lee

Can't you just see someone reading the HARRY POTTER script, and saying, "Why are some people capable of magic and others muggles?" Rhetorical. You may or may not need that material in your script, but sometimes, it's worth discussing with someone in the industry. All that said, I think Brad Ingelsby came out of nowhere, and he, like Alice, was hard-wired for story. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/dicaprio-scott-high-low-dweller-10...

Regina Lee

To answer Rickardo's original question, another key question to ask is what scope of work they are giving you. If they're going to be honest with you or just tell you what you want to hear. If they can speak intelligently about your particular genre. How they understand the market. Etc. All common sense really! I've read reports from a well-known script consultant, and they are all the same. I feel like he does little more than just change the proper nouns.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Thanks Beth and Lauri for your additional comments and recommendations.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Thanks Alice for your feedback, adding the references to Robert Towne's beat sheet (great tip) and I'll check out Christopher Booker's book.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

I've really enjoyed reading through all of the comments, especially yours Regina - thank you so much. It's all be really insightful, actionable and helpful.

Regina Lee

My pleasure, Rickardo. Just to blow your minds... all this talk of creator's intent goes halfway out the window when the writer is hired to write by a studio/financier. Because then the studio that is commissioning your work gets to make it about their intent, which may not be your intent. You're a writer-for-hire in that situation, which is great because you're making a lot of money to do a job they've handpicked you to do. Or the studio might defer to the writer if they trust the writer. Yes that happens! When the studio hires a Gary Ross, Steve Zaillian, Eric Roth, Billy Ray, Steve Kloves, Scott Frank, Leslie Dixon, Judd Apatow, Tina Fey, Joss Whedon, etc., they will typically defer to the talent, and they thank their lucky stars for the privilege of working with a great, great writer.

Stuart Wright

Regina ... If some one is paying I'll write what they want lol

Regina Lee

Per wise ICM client, "Screenwriting is an art, but it's a patronage art."

Fiona Faith Ross

@Regina I appreciated your comment about the risk of burnout if a writer follows too many subjective opinions. It happened to me a few years ago during the early stages of my major spec novel. I had the story clear in my head but I ended up going down blind alleys and with all kinds of distortions I didn't want. Some of the professional advice I received was good, but at the time I found it hard to distinguish what to act on and what to discard. I learned from that experience and now I am turning this story into a screenplay, I am working with one professional only, and the spec script will be the one that comes out. Development? Well, I'm not going to worry about that now. On the plus side, I know my characters inside out and I have a mountain of story lines for them, in reserve.

Alice Charles

Here's the thing that people seem to be forgetting: if your script if bought and produced, where will it end up? That's right, on the big screen, to be enjoyed by ordinary people, not script consultants. When you write, you must always keep the audience in mind. What will their experience be? That's why giving your script to "civilians" to read first is perfectly valid. On another point, it is possible to critique the life out of a script. As a writer, it is not your job to slavishly incorporate every single note you get - but to understand the spirit of the note wherever it comes from, regardless of whether you are being paid or not.

CJ Walley

Rickardo, firstly I want to point out that Regina's advice here is golden, absolutely golden. So golden in fact that I'm going to print this thread out, take it to the bank, and demand they pay this months mortgage payment with it. This is why Stage 32 is so great, real people with real names and bios and not pseudonyms hiding behind avatars. Real working professionals with actual experience to back up their views. The contrast between her posts and the early hear-say based trash talking couldn't be more apparent. I think the big question you have to be asking yourself is, why do you feel you need/want a consultant? I'm going to provide this link; http://www.geofflatulippe.com/?p=256 Now, I'm not saying I agree with it, it's too generalised in my opinion. However, it does highlight, from an actual working screenwriter, that script consultants and their customers have created a consultant culture among some screenwriting communities. You have to remember that there are many other sources to learn more about your craft from knowledgeable peers on forums, to blog posts, to books. Yes a lot of these are highly opinionated, but if you take in the majority of views, you'll quickly form your own balanced take. The important thing to note here is that, while it is a discovery based route to learning, it can be a far more cost effective one than paying someone to teach you the same information. For example, in my recent Stage 32 blog "Ten Ways for Me the Best Things in Screenwriting Came for Free" (https://www.stage32.com/blog/Ten-Ways-for-Me-the-Best-Things-in-Screenwr...), I talk about some great resources that are actually zero cost. The next question you have to ask is, why do consultants exist? Who are they? Well this is where something very complex becomes overly simplified. The title script consultant is a self appointed, anybody can call themselves a consultant, and many do. Many are failed writers who, after failing to break in, have decided to cannibalize their peers to make some easy money. There is the possibility for many that they are paying someone who had no more knowledge or experience than themselves. A lot of consultants prey on potential customers by making them feel inadequate and ignorant. They beat new writers down and instil fear to sell their snake oil. Do you want to pay someone four figures to mark your writing like a grad school teacher and simply paint over you creatively? Do you want to pay someone just so they can laud their opinion over you and make you feel terrible about your abilities (it happens). This of course leads onto the big question, if someone possesses the ability to either write scripts worthy of being purchased or turn scripts into valuable assets, why are they scouring screenwriter forums trying to make a quick buck when they could be working writers, executives, producers, or managers? There is a gaping chasm between those scraping together minimum wage because consultancy is a last ditch attempt to cling onto a dream and those who are going places while helping/earning on the side. What would I be looking for if I were in your shoes? Firstly, I'd be making as many consultants as possible sing for their supper. Don't rely on websites, sales pitches, and word of mouth. Email as many as possible and ask what they think they can do for you. Something rarely brought up but in my opinion is critical is the subject of taste. If you know a consultant hates car chases or Wes Anderson films then there's questionable point in them being able to appreciate your quirky 50's street racing movie. You need a consultant who's going to find the love and share your vision because there's only so objective they can be. A lot of consultants blog and that's a good way to scope out what level they are talking on. Do they have to enlightening views on craft? Are they putting their opinions out there for free? Are they giving before they are taking? Or are they just promoting fear and hiding behind ambiguous claims about how you need a consultant? How are they evaluating the results of their services? Competition placements and Blacklist ratings don't really mean much, especially compared to gaining representation, options, sales, and getting assignments. References show they have clients but a glowing list of deluded customers may not show the bigger picture. Most consultants are known and many of their ex-customers will detail their experiences to you privately if you open the question. Beware these consultancy jerk circles that exist, there are gangs of them that stick together, recommend one another, and just so happen to also use one another for coverage on their rewriting jobs. But ultimately, the essential thing you should be demanding is "show me the experience!". If a consultant is demanding top dollar, then they absolutely must have quantifiable experience that can be proven and demonstrates they have a level of insight the free sources of information cannot provide. They need to be able to reference that movie they sold that you've actually heard of, they need to be able to mention that writing/producer credit that you can look up on IMDB, they need to be able to back-up that development job with a resume or LinkedIn profile that proves it. They need to have earned the right to charge their prices. There are some amazing consultants out there in all shapes and sizes. I know of actual working writers who read scripts and gives notes for $50. I'm aware of writers on here who've genuinely helped others for some extra cash and one page of notes while continuing to make their own projects. I'm in absolute awe of one particular consultant on here who, while remaining one of the most friendly, open minded, and charitable members here, has a list of high profile credits longer than this rambling post, offers her services to the big studios, and unsurprisingly has found herself swamped with writing jobs this year. Now it may sound like I'm advising against consultants. I'm not. I'm just staying your right to tread very carefully because there's a lot of sharks in the water. After writing my first three scripts, I put all those on the BlackList and gained tremendous insight into what professional readers thought. While I do feel I wasted my money going that route, it did give me direction, boost my motivation, and show me how comparatively puerile and potentially damaging some peer feedback can be. The right advice can move us all forward very quickly, but the wrong advice can also send us in circles, or worse still backward (just as Regina points out). Been there, suffered the consequences. Ultimately you owe it to yourself to look hard at who you are, where you want to be, and what you need to progress. Don't pay $3,000 to gain what you could learn in a $30 book or a visit to the library. Don't pay someone $1,000 simply to tell you how they'd write your story. Don't spend $500 on what's effectively a bitter-minded peer review. But at the same time, invest wisely (either in time or money) in the resources you believe can work for you.

Owen Mowatt

Shit the bed. That's the longest post I've ever seen?

CJ Walley

Oh and a few more things. Most consultants offer some low cost version of their services, be it coverage, notes on one act, etc and this can be a good way of trying them out before committing more money. Be cautious of gimmicks attached to services. Stuff like consultants saying they'll recommend your script to their industry friends if it's good enough. They should be doing that anyway if they are connected. If a consultant is registered here, you can can search through their post history to see how much they have contributed to the community vs how much they've tried to leverage it for self serving means. This will also show how objective and professional they are in debates. Do you really want to be debating points in your script with the kind of person who regularly finds themselves in forum flame wars? Maybe you do.

Fiona Faith Ross

@Owen I wish you wouldn't. lol @CJ Well said and I do so agree. I have had amazingly valuable info off this thread alone, and I am constantly impressed by the number of A-list industry people on here who seem to have time for unknowns like me. @Regina and @Alice have both given golden, if not, diamond-encrusted platinum advice. @Alice My consultant asks me, as I am working through, what do you want the audience to feel at this point? What is your protagonist/character feeling at this point? It's tough going but it really works. My heartfelt thanks to all of you.

Stuart Wright

CJ it needed saying and in another thread it wouldn't have stood a chance to breath ... Thanks for taking the time to give a full and rational summery of the whys and who :)

Fiona Faith Ross

@CJ You raise certain interesting points here, questions and dilemas which are universal to all screenwriters, I imagine, but answers can only be individual. Here are mine. (By the way, I read your blog post, which is absolutely marvellous and to the point.) I'm an aspiring screenwriter with no track record, and only a half-finished spec script to date. For the last five years I have been down all kinds of blind alleys as a long fiction writer. For screenwriting, I decided to take a different approach. And I'm glad I did. Screenwriting IS writing, but not as we know it. It's so different to any kind of writing I have done (except haiku). I have used all the resources in @CJ's blog post and many others. Some resources like "20 Master Plots" are common to both fiction and screenwriting. I enrolled in an intensive screenwriting course for two reasons a) to learn the technical components, techniques and effective methods/organisation of crafting the story b) to get the work corrected and to have feedback along the way, rather than have to backtrack after discovering a major flaw too late. I'm learning about both industry expectations and market requirements, and audience expectations. Uppermost in my mind is "Would I enjoy/be engaged watching this film? Will the audience feel the same way?" Right now this strategy is working for me, and at the end of the process I will have many more tools in my screenwriter's kit. I feel the course is great value for money. In addition, I continue to draw on other resources, such as this excellent site, especially when I'm all writ out, tired and low, and chocolate hasn't worked. I especially love the video resources on YouTube, Richard Walter, William Martell, and Film Courage. I can listen to these on my Mac, when I'm too tired to get up and make tea, and I lie there with my eyes shut, just listening.

CJ Walley

Sorry, one more thing. Consultancy kickbacks. Watch out for consultants who do things like tell you the software you are using is wrong while offering you a voucher for something they recommend. There's not always an agenda there but sometimes there is. Fiona, I'm just about to head off for a meeting, but look forward to getting into some dialogue with you later. Stuart, thanks for the kind words, buddy.

CJ Walley

Fiona, great share and reflection there :) A combination of paid and free resources. I feel that's a common mix for many screenwriters. It's good that your fiction writing background allowed you approach screenwriting with a more considered strategy. I think that most of us are looking for a combination of validation, education, and promotion. As much as we need to learn, many of us also need to feel assured, plus believe we're making effective progress. Consultants seem to fulfil those needs; tell us we have potential, uncover our weaknesses, help us produce something more marketable. However, as you're demonstrating, we can get a lot of that from an al la carte selection of services, both free and paid.

Fiona Faith Ross

@CJ I reckon you nailed it there. I'm also lucky because my consultant happens to share my passion for the genre I work in, since he also works in it. Sci-Fi (+action +thriller +whatever). Thanks for the kind comments.

Regina Lee

Hey CJ, great point about consultants who want "kickbacks." I know a guy with a fancy website, who tells his clients who are already paying him to consult, "oh let's talk after you've read my books and watched my DVDs." Not cool imo. I've been referral-only to date. Consulting is a side project for me because my time is spent producing. From where I sit, I'd use caution when vetting pure consultants with great websites, but who have too little current marketplace experience. I'm in the market every day, with wins and losses, and I can tell you how the market is responding. So can others who are in the market every day. (I'm not saying "you must pick me," I'm saying use current marketplace awareness as part of your criteria.) One small clarification to CJ's great post. "Script consultant" and "script editor" are completely standard terms in countries like Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, etc. where there is no studio development infrastructure like ours in the US. Film financiers in some countries require a "script editor" for their projects because they feel it's a good investment to bring on a development-focused team member. For example, in Australia, the producers have a ton of physical production experience, foreign sales experience, VFX experience, cast connections, etc., but typically have less story development experience. So it's very helpful for a producer to hire a script consultant to supplement the team. (I was a Hugh Jackman development exec, so I'm speaking from experience.) CJ brings up Geoff LaTulippe -- I haven't talked to Geoff in years now, but he's a New Line script analyst-turned-writer. He is walking evidence that there is value in having a professional reader contribute to studio and indie scripts. Lastly, Alice and Fiona both speak to writing for an audience. Agree 100% that a good script consultant should "represent" the audience and argue for the Audience's experience. For example, "you've written this scene, and I bet you intend for the audience to learn/feel this way about it, but for an uninitiated audience member, we're feeling that way. We aren't getting on the page what is in your head." Too long to explain all the "audience concerns," but here's an abbreviated example. I like to teach using THE RIVER WILD by Curtis Hanson. Great example of 5 different POVs. From the start, Kevin Bacon knows he will kidnap the family to get Meryl Streep's river rafting skills. David Strathairn is highly suspicious of Kevin. Meryl Streep is slightly suspicous. The son worships Kevin and is 0% suspicious. The Audience POV is that we're somewhere between Kevin, who knows the whole villainous plot, and David, who is highly suspicious. We know more than David, but we know less than Kevin. At Midpoint, 5 POVs collide and become one. Why? Because Kevin's gun comes out, and we all know that he's kidnapping them. Have I made my case that good market-aware, story-knowledgeable script consultants can help some writers refine their craft at a quicker, more efficient pace than going it alone? Do people really believe that peer readers can consistently deliver this level of precision and circumspect analysis and have the experience to tell new writers what they need to hear? Are peers equipped with enough teaching experience to make the point well without doing any harm? All that said, yes, for some people it absolutely comes naturally to them. You can't teach what Mozart did and what Mickey Fisher did when he came out of nowhere are sold EXTANT to CBS (http://variety.com/2014/tv/news/extant-how-a-contest-led-creator-mickey-...). But I'm not Mozart or Mickey. I needed help from my bosses at Universal Pictures. I still learn everyday. Could you benefit from help? Maybe, maybe not. Up to you. Each person is different, that I believe. Open yourself up to learning, no matter which path you take.

Regina Lee

CJ and Fiona, would love to hear your critical responses.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Hi Alice, I agree with your point r.e. remembering that we're writing for real people – the audience who will watch the work in the end, however, it needs to be made first, by those people who will invites their money. That investment and aspect of business, as Regina noted, will drive a lot of the intent behind their choices and requests.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Hi CJ, From a craft perspective, I've come to better understand the need for outside professional perspective on my personal screenplays, hence looking into working with other script consultants. I don't feel the need for a total overall of my work (script doctor) just notes. I do agree with you that the other sources (thanks for adding the links) to learn and better hone ones work like blogs, website and indeed, this really cool thread were all in right now are immensely useful. The other aspect of a consultant I would look for is mentorship if only for that specific screenplay being critiqued. Great feedback by the way.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Hi Fiona, Thanks for your feedback and supporting ink moves by the way. Which course have you specifically taken and I too immerse myself in the online videos (I've enjoyed Richard Walter's, William Martell and Film Courage videos), blogs spider a lot of the film / media sites in order to better support my knowledge and craft.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

I enjoyed watch Richard "RB" Botto give his opinion on script consultants: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMCvJTUvaKw worth viewing.

Fiona Faith Ross

@Regina Brilliantly argued, the case for defining the POVs and their dynamics as they move through the plot, especially since you used one of my favorite films as an example, THE RIVER WILD. Producers..."have less story development experience." Succinctly put. This insight conceals a gigantic iceberg of a topic: expertise, components, craft, tools, audience-cast-and-production requirements and considerations. As I go through my screenwriting course, I am learning how crafting the story in screenplay format is a precision skill in its own right, multi-faceted, and requiring as much knowledge and technique as cutting a diamond. I don't need to itemize the process here. You all know what it involves. What possibly separates the script consultant men from the boys (women included) is how your consultant advises you to prioritise your writing efforts. I can only talk from my own experience, but my consultant keeps me focused on audience perception first and foremost. So, he says to me, "What do you want your audience to FEEL from this scene? How do you want them to understand it? What information do you want to reveal? (also, how much can you hold back? but that's another topic, lol) And then, Have you achieved the objective for that scene with 1) the tools at your disposal and 2) by navigating through the production minefield and not treading on anyone's toes? This is the approach I'm learning. So, yes, bottom line, @Regina, you have:- "Have I made my case that good market-aware, story-knowledgeable script consultants can help some writers refine their craft at a quicker, more efficient pace than going it alone?" This is precisely the experience I am having, because I would be making time-consuming "rookie" mistakes otherwise, and my script would undoubtedly not have the quality it already has. Now, it may or may not be sold, but I already have a piece I shall be proud to show as an example of my work. I'm also one of those lucky writers whose brain throws up stream-of-consciousness story ideas, from the well spring somewhere (don't ask me where), which leaves me free to pour my effort into the technical skills that my edge-of-the-seat sci-fi action thriller demands. "We aren't getting on the page what is in your head." "Boy, you said a mouthful there, sister," (Carrie, Sex and The City). Wow, Regina, isn't this THE challenge in a nutshell. To succeed in this is what makes a great screenwriter. Okay, this post is long enough. Wouldn't want to break @CJ's record.

Fiona Faith Ross

I'm really enjoying this thread. :)

Beth Fox Heisinger

You're not the only one, Fiona! GREAT commentary!

F. Aaron Franklin

Always remember: when you ask for an honest opinion, you can't get mad when you get an honest opinion.

Regina Lee

@Fiona, which episode of Sex & the City?

Fiona Faith Ross

@Regina I should've said, from the feature film, the first one. I'm trying to recall the scene, and I gave away my DVD of it, so I can't watch it but I'll try and put it in context.

Regina Lee

Ah. Btw, how can we share this post with readers who just want advice on how to interpret notes? Whether the notes come from a paid consultant or a friend? Is there a way to re-post and share with a new title so people can benefit from the discussion even if they can't hire a script consultant? Help us out Mods?

Beth Fox Heisinger

Perhaps start a post yourself, Regina? Or, would you like me to?

Regina Lee

@Beth, would love for you to do so.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Okay, you got it! It shall appear shortly...

Regina Lee

I also want to add one other thought. Whether you need a consultant (and what kind) is dependent upon... again... your intent. If you want to sell a TV pilot to a major network, you could probably benefit from a consultant who not only understands pilot writing, but also knows the contemporary TV marketplace, pitching, etc. If you want to get a "bigger" indie movie financed, you probably need to shop a script that can attract an internationally viable star (who can trigger foreign sales and equity financing). In this case, you could probably benefit from a consultant who not only understands feature screenwriting, but who also has experience attaching stars and knows the indie finance marketplace. If you want to make a "smaller" indie that you're going to finance yourself, guess what - you probably don't need to spend money on a consultant! You can do whatever your heart tells you to do because you don't need to depend on any market - indie or mainstream!

Regina Lee

To personalize those examples, and to show I'm not a total know-it-all, if someone of my skill set were to consult on a "bigger" indie movie, I'd feel very comfortable consulting on story/script and overall market/packaging strategy. But if you're about to start going to cast, I'd refer you to a foreign sales friend to make your cast list. I have a general understanding of which stars can trigger financing, but I'm no specialist. I don't have up-to-the-minute info. If you had the resources, you'd want to get a foreign sales agent to weigh in for that part of the job. Point is, pick a consultant who can help with your specific situation. If you're writing a movie that you're going to finance yourself, then you don't need someone like me (who has current market awareness); you'd be fine with an old school story/screenwriting mentor, even if that person doesn't have current market awareness because you're going 100% indie.

Regina Lee

@Fiona, I can tell from your posts that you are a good writer because your writing in even these posts is very strong. Hopefully, you're making great headway into transferring your general writing skills toward becoming a good screenwriter too! My producer friend who started in book publishing says screenwriting is the hardest form of writing she's come across. (Am I just saying this because Fiona said I "brilliantly argued" my points, using one of her fave movies THE RIVER WILD? Well... it certainly didn't hurt. Flattery will get you everywhere.)

Regina Lee

@Rickardo, sorry to hijack your post to make some "big picture" points. You created fertile ground.

Regina Lee

And one more really important measure for a top script consultant to achieve - have these script consultants ever supervised a movie/TV episode from development through release as producer, studio exec, and/or writer? Have they seen what happens when a script goes through prep, production, post, and release? Have they sat in test screenings and watched the test audience either laugh or groan at a joke? I will never be able to put into words how much I learned from sitting in the edit room and test screenings. We've learned how to give notes at script stage, during production, during post, on an editor's assembly, on a director's cut, etc. A full-life cycle appreciation will greatly inform how one develops one's script notes. Unfortunately, for writers who have never been through the process, it's impossible to learn this on your own. You have to see for yourself what footage winds up on the cutting room floor. To see for yourself what additional photography is needed because none of you were prescient enough to put the scene in the script before production. You have to get lucky and have a movie produced, or of nearly equal value, work on someone else's movie.

Regina Lee

For sure, if a producer/studio really cares about your project, you will be invited to an in-person meeting, where there will be a two-way conversation. The meeting will likely either be preceded by notes as talking points so everyone is prepared for the meeting, or recap notes will be sent after the meeting. Studios value the two-way exchange that Joey speaks of.

Bill Costantini

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY Here's my highlights of my experiences with script consultants. THE GOOD. Donie Nelson was my first script consultant. Without a doubt, she shaped me as a writer and helped me grok the DNA of structure/writing/character development, which is "cause and effect". She recommended that I read Aristotle's Poetics, which probably provides more critical understandings of creating accurate and compelling drama more than any single written book or tome ever formulated. She also objectively and subjectively (now there's quite the combination!) tore apart my first script. As a result of her work with me, I optioned that script after a couple re-writes. Dr. Linda Seger calls her "one of Hollywood's intellectuals." I haven't worked with her recently, but I love her and will always hold her in the highest regards. Recently, I have been exposed to Dr. Melody Jackson of Smart Girls Productions. She is also very sharp and extremely knowledgeable in writing and marketing areas, and I think we're going to have a great relationship. THE BAD. I once asked a script consultant who was pitching his services to me, "so what do you think about Schuller's 54 Dramatic Situations?" He gave me some bullshit answer, like "you can't go wrong with Schuller." Well, it's not Schuller, it's "Polti". And it's not 54, it's "36". NEXT! THE UGLY. One consultant once told me that "realistically", any script "he analyzed...would take four or five sessions", and that every script he analyzed for four or five sessions ended up selling. I asked him to name me some names. He said he couldn't "for confidentially reasons, and because they were all now famous writers." He then tried to intimidate me with lines like "you really don't want to famous, do you?", or "Naw...I didn't think you had what it took to be a great writer." He is so lucky I didn't bury him on Mulholland Drive somewhere, where the coyotes can make human remains disappear in a single night, if you know what I mean. He was the lowest-level piece of swine intestines I ever met in Hollywood. Personally/anecdotally, I love good consultants - they provide to me value that goes far beyond the dollar amount that I paid. I know there's a lot of good ones, but Donie and Melody are the only two I've been involved with. Like in all professions, there are good one, bad ones and ugly ones, and the screenwriting consulting business is no different. I've seen all three. But if you get a good one, you will really get what you pay for - more than what you pay for, actually, because the value that you gain from them goes far beyond that singular script. It stays with you in every subsequent script you write. I sooooo recommend getting a qualifed script consultant if you're seriously trying to get sold. I will never do a pitch or try to send out a script before one of those great people help me out first.

Regina Lee

This is not a personal plug for myself, I swear! If you're interested in further examples of objective advice, please check out my S32 Wall and read some of my other posts. I believe the vast majority of my advice comes out of objective marketplace awareness and experience advising new talent entering the marketplace. I'm not the only one trying to give objective advice on this platform, and I'm happy to see several others advising objectively!

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

I've absolutely loved reading all of the comments Regina, so thanks for expanding the initial question.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Thanks for your feedback Bill and for adding the references to Polti and Aristotle's Poetics.

Fiona Faith Ross

@Regina @Beth Thank you! This thread is so thought-provoking. I think I've found my place in the universe, with souls that worry and agonize and nit-pick over the hows, whys and wherefores. Why else would we have been given consciousness? lol I burnt myself out over the weekend hauling scenes up the slope of improvement. Consequently, I was good for nothing yesterday (except maybe some deep thinking about this POV business and audience positioning in it). A riddle. (I like those). Q. Why are screenwriters like Sisyphus? A. Because they are doomed to heave their concepts uphill until the studio doors at the top open. What an exhausting business it is. The popcorn-munching, cola-swigging masses have no idea...lol I certainly didn't until a few years ago. And it's heartbreaking, sobbing into the laptop, crying out "Help, I need a script consultant". On S32 we can all weep on each other's shoulders when we crash and burn. I love it. Does anybody else think Breaking Bad is probably as close to perfection as it's possible to get in the craft? And another movie that ticks all the boxes for me is Little Miss Sunshine. Soooo clever. @Bill I'm lucky, then, with my consultant (or I chose well). He ticks all the boxes. Finally, story-weavers and plot-threaders, don't forget to dream. Dreaming is where it starts, and if your consultant picks your dream apart, you'll fix it or have another one. And don't forget to visualize. Every day I see myself in the producer meeting for my script. Can't wait. I need to do some work today. Over to look at the new thread.

Regina Lee

@Fiona, honestly, I'm super pleased that users are friendly on this platform, respectful in our disagreements, and not nit-picky over whether or not a post is casually written or rigorously written... unlike the Serial podcast discussion subreddit, where I think they're drawing blood!!

Fiona Faith Ross

@Regina The internet is awash with trolls and catfish. Just look at twitter (which I love, btw). Scary.

Stuart Wright

Just look at another screenwriting thread here lol

CJ Walley

Regina, excellent points and certainly no rebuttals from me. I absolutely agree that a good consultant can be a highly valuable asset at any level from first time writer to established studio. I feel the big issue is we allow ourselves to group consultants together into one image with no differentiation in terms of abilities and experience. As I wrote before, there is a huge difference between an in-demand consultant at the beck and call of production companies and a burnt out writer scouring craigslist for pocket money. What frustrates me is how often the latter market portray themselves as the former (and charge accordingly), and worse still, how we so often accept it.

CJ Walley

Rikardo, I think the need for mentorship is strong desire with writers feeling they have potential but also a little lost. I also think that it's something that's pretty much unattainable to most of us and often something better replaced with an alternative than pursued. We can become our own mentors or at least mutually mentor one-another. This is one of the great things about Stage 32, you can validate where advice comes from. Most screenwriter communities lack that transparency, and thus you are at risk of taking strongly worded guidance from individuals who know less than you. In my first couple of years writing, I really worried about how I'd ever learn about story structure, character arcs, theme, scene dynamics, and also stressed about how I could ever understand how the business side works. I was amazed by how that gradually came to me over time, practicing, learning, discussing, networking.

Patrick Fox

Before looking for a consult, do research. I have recently sent my screenplay to a consult and got very good feedback and help. But there are plenty of people just waiting to take your money so be cautious. Good consults want to help, not sabotage.

F. Aaron Franklin

"Point is, pick a consultant who can help with your specific situation. If you're writing a movie that you're going to finance yourself, then you don't need someone like me (who has current market awareness); you'd be fine with an old school story/screenwriting mentor, even if that person doesn't have current market awareness because you're going 100% indie." This. Too many of these services fixate too much on the film's marketability. And in terms of major and a lot of minor production companies, that's the bottom line. However, if it's for the purposes of DIY or Microbudget, it's very different. Essentially going after the voice and artistic direction rather than the flow, structure, and development.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Wow, fantastic thread! Excellent points! In truth, it takes a village to create a career; people with whom you trust -- be it fellow writers, vetted script consultants, industry pros who consult, teachers, mentors, executives, or producers. :) We all benefit from one another.

Regina Lee

@F. Aaron - Totally true. Alternatively, you should be able to define the purpose/boundaries of the consultation. Again, this is very much about your intent for this script and getting all parties on the same page w/r/t intent. Let's say you've set out to write an art-house drama/tragedy like WINTER'S BONE (which I love), a niche market movie at best in box office terms. For example, "Hey, Regina, put your "market" hat on the hat rack. After discussing with you the different paths this script could take and what my options are, I've decided that in this draft, I want to focus on my signature voice. In this draft, let's focus on creating a great drama/tragedy. That's really my DNA. I fully accept that by consciously choosing this route, my script may be too depressing, not mainstream enough to sell, and will likely have to be made as an indie "labor of love." Still, I know I can write the hell out of this tragedy. I'm banking on my belief that studios will love the dramatic writing. That the script will be a great writing sample that I can use to get a manager. That it will lead to bigger opportunities down the line, in complement with my full body of work, which will include more mainstream dramas in addition to art-house tragedies. It will be too dark a story for most, if not all, studios/financiers, but that's not the point of this particular draft. It's but one in my portfolio." Then your consultant should be professional enough to turn off the "market" part of his/her brain and focus on your desire to write a great little art-house drama a la WINTER'S BONE! But it's both your job and your consultant's job to define intent, discuss different potential paths, get on the same page, and execute upon intent.

Regina Lee

Furthermore, let's use a car-buying analogy. Let's say you are planning to buy a Prius. Your car salesman should say, "The Prius is a great car. I have one myself. Great gas mileage. Good for the environment. But I see you have 6 kids. Are you sure you don't want to consider a minivan? I can sell you a Prius. In fact, I'm pretty good at selling Priuses. But I just want to be sure you know you won't be able to fit 6 kids and a rottweiler in a Prius." That's my job as your script consultant or mentor. Then your job is to fully consider the implications of your decision and say, "Don't worry about cargo space. My other car is a Suburban hybrid. I need this Prius to round out my portfolio." Then we're off to the races.

Regina Lee

@CJ, you're absolutely right. We don't group writers all in one basket. There are thriller writers, animation writers, comedy writers, tent-pole writers, art-house writers, etc. Unfair to group consultants all in one batch.

Regina Lee

@CJ, as for your second post about Mentorship. You're helping me validate why I believe in The CineStory Foundation. I'm a volunteer. I don't make a penny. It's a nonprofit. Our annual fellowship winner receives one full year of free mentorship from the 2 mentors of his choosing. Believe me, I don't get picked. The guys who get picked every year are Mark Fergus (IRON MAN) and Joe Forte (Harrison Ford's FIREWALL). Fergus won the contest years ago. 2013 winner Patrick Tobin has already seen his winning script CAKE come out as a movie starring Jennifer Aniston - in less than 2 years!! Past CineStory winner Daniel Barnz directed and produced it. Is CineStory as prestigious as the Nicholl? Absolutely not. No way. Would I rather win the Nicholl Fellowship if I were a writer? Heck yes. But if you're looking for a chance at a year's worth of free mentorship, just check out the website and see if it's for you.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Hey CJ, My reference to mentorship is more in line with Beth's point about it taking a village to support someone's career and that is something I would like to cultivate. I agree with you that a lot of can be gleaned and learned through continued focus on craft, online tools like this, networking and leveraging past education (as in my case) in order to improve ones effectiveness as a screenwriter and writer in the wider sense.

Eoin O'Sullivan

I don't know how I missed this post, but some great points made!

Regina Lee

Btw, if you are considering hiring a consultant, ask your top choices for a sample set of notes. Understand that a sample memo might be difficult for consultants to give out (especially if you're hiring them for a small job as opposed to a full script consult), as all client work is confidential. For example, I only have 1 or 2 memos that I'm allowed to give out due to client confidentiality. I've been able to convince some skeptics who didn't want to hire me with sample notes. The proof is in the pages for you writers, right? Same for me and for other script consultants.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Thanks for the additional feedback Regina. I'll definitely be undertaking a deeper excavation of the new consultants backgrounds prior to moving forward with someone.

Regina Lee

@Rickardo, please keep those of us who wrote in on your list, but make sure the person you select earns your trust!

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Totally Regina. Part of connecting with you and others through this site, LinkedIn or Shootingpeople.com has been to continually learn from you all and improve upon my knowledge / craft as a screenwriter. I've really enjoyed reading all of the comments and am more than happy to hear feedback on my current log lines and short synopsis: http://inkmoves.com/home/category/film_screenplays/ outside of this thread.

Regina Lee

@Rickardo, thank you for the invitation. As you might have guessed from my long-winded posts, I don't feel comfortable weighing in on a logline rather blindly without knowing context and intent. As other posters have noted, I/we can do more harm than good when not well-informed. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to hear, "Well that other person told me to change it to xxx," and it was the wrong choice because of lack of info. It's not fair to you or to me to make a snap judgment based on little info. Yes, I can tell if a logline is clear, but I can't tell if it's an appropriate logline for your story, and thus, I would not be able to offer solid advice.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Fair enough Regina, makes sense ;-)

Regina Lee

Thanks, Rickardo. Again, I emphasize, yes, we can all tell if a logline is clearly written, but we can't tell if it's an appropriate logline for your story. Thus, there is the potential to do harm, not good. My whole point in all my posts in this "script consultant" thread is to say that I'm experienced enough to realize we need to know intent and other factors, we need to have info beyond the superficial, or else we won't get it right. Getting it wrong is not what I'm here to do.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

I totally agree get your perspective on this Regina and it's really helpful. My focus going forward will be on the screenplay content and supplementary pitch notes.

Regina Lee

You can accuse me of beating a dead horse. I saw this Backstage piece on acting, and it completely applies to my POV about the value of market-savvy script consultants, mentors, and instructors. And why non-market-savvy peer review or instruction can be harmful or inefficient. Just substitute the actor's audition for a writer's pitch meeting, script submission, or general meeting. "Second, most actors have never seen a professional audition so they have no idea how high the bar is set. They go to audition classes but since everyone else in the class is not that good either, they are not learning from their peers and their teacher may not have seen a professional audition either, at least in the last 10 years. You can't hit in the big leagues until you've faced a 90-mile-an-hour fastball." http://www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/backstage-experts/5-reasons-y...

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Thanks for the link Regina. David's article seems pretty on the money, especially (replacing the actor reference for a screenwriter instead) you are starting out in this business.

Regina Lee

Yeah, I really think David got it right.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

I agree with you Regina.

Regina Lee

I'm working on my lesson plans for an upcoming class I'll be teaching on S32. Inspired by this thread, I've written this into Night 2 of the class, "A producer, development exec, or script consultant should try to get a clear script out of the writer, guiding you with our knowledge of the market and with 'fresh eyes' on your work." And yes, as previous posts indicate, our eyes represent the audience's fresh eyes.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

That's pretty exciting Regina. Please update us r.e. when the class / seminar is going ahead.

Regina Lee

Aw thanks! I should be done with my lesson plans by end of week, so we can pick a class date soon!

Regina Lee

The class page is live if anyone is interested in checking out the syllabus. Thanks! https://www.stage32.com/classes/How-To-Hook-Your-Reader-In-Only-5-Pages

Dawn Murrell

Wow! This thread was like taking a class! I have to thank each and every one of you for the comments because I had been trolling the "why was my screenplay/pitch passed on" threads and I was considering getting either coverage or a script consultant. It was like the universe gave me the perfect answer I was looking for when I read this! @Fiona and @CJ you have provided eloquently written and helpful feedback as usual. I have to say that Regina, who is always gracious and forthcoming in her posts and advice has helped me tremendously recently when I came to her seeking help on why my pitch may have been getting passed on. Little did I know that my concept was recently bought by a network who is about to make a children's series! What???? I realized that not only do you need a reader or consultant who knows your intent, knows and respect your voice as a writer and some one who is not just selling you stuff, you need advice from someone who KNOWS the market and what is truly selling in the industry. Regina is the real deal for script consulting. We all have an idea of her knowledge and experience but it was made clear to me even more today. (doing a slow clap here) Bravo Stage 32 screenwriters and community. You all are like stars that shine in a night full of darkness.:)

Regina Lee

Thank you, Dawn. Like I said, for people who will not need to rely on the market for financing, casting, etc., they are totally golden by working solo or hiring a screenwriting craft-focused consultant. If you will need to rely on the market, you may well be served by hiring a consultant who knows both story and market. I'm in the market every single day, some hits and some misses.

Regina Lee

Btw, I knew about the TV show that Dawn mentions because I was meeting with a TV writer who had been hired as a staff writer on that show. So I found out about that show in 2014, months before the show was announced in the trades. Marketplace knowledge from a pro inside the system. Do pros know about every single project in development? No. Do we know more than a script consultant in Milwaukee? Yes.

Tony Cella

I've had good experiences with The Screenplay Mechanic and the BlueCat Screenwriting Contest's feedback. Both focused on the script and its merits as opposed to their own agendas. Phillip Hardy, also known as Mad Monk Productions, is thorough, thoughtful and efficient. Check with screenwriters you like on Stage 32 first and see if they'll give you a free read. It's much more effective than throwing money hither and yon into the ether.

Debbie Croysdale

I agree with all comments praising this thread. There are a lot of "separate beads along the string" to this successful screenwriting conquest, shared by members here. Regina has user friendly, necessary advice which cannot be overlooked, yet is sometimes easily by passed on. The marketing/business/ who wears what badge? side is a subject many, including myself, are not familiar with. This site has become a god send to me, there are more threads to the plot, AFTER completing the script. Thanks everyone.

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Thanks Regina.

Regina Lee

Please allow me to bring this topic back up. I've recently heard from 2 people who hired script consultants, yet these consultants had only book publishing backgrounds and no film/TV experience. These consultants might be great, but chances are, they will lack a fully formed perspective. As S32er Danny Manus would say, that really could be the blind leading the blind. And you're paying for it. You're adults though. You will make the best decisions for yourselves. I have to say that I'm skeptical... Thanks, and break a leg!

Rickardo Beckles-Burrowes

Thanks for the new comment Regina ;-)

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