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Screenwriting : Who reads your script? by Nikki April Lee

Nikki April Lee

Who reads your script?

When you need a second opinion or someone to help make notes who do you trust to read it? Do you pay any services or are your friends, family, or coworkers good enough?

Amel Aki Puric

friends and family might not give you the best or constructive feedback. But it's still good to use them, you might get some great new ideas you didn't think of.

Steven P Baer

Anyone who is willing to read my work is welcome to read and critique. Some people carry more weight than others; however, if I get a majority of folks pointing out the same flaw, I will make the proper corrections.

William M Terry

The coverages I've paid for in the past, priceless.

Nikki April Lee

I agree about family reading it. My brother is open-minded he's straight up and honest. He's a movie addict like me so it works. My mom on the other hand.... I don't think she knows what constructive criticism is at all. Lol.

Joseph Dale Kelly

I usually sit down with a group of Actors and have them read it. Really helps. I take notes then, I sit down with a writer group. I never do rewrites without get paid for it. There is a point where you must just let it go. If you have an "Opition", you really can only wait for the Producer to finish his job.

Hank Isaac

This is really a difficult and ongoing problem. A few years ago, I decided to total up the cost of ALL the "services" offered - all sourced online - of getting work read: Attending seminars, webinars, the ubiquitous DVD set of how to write better screenplays, entering contests (including the usually pricy "notes"), "professional" readers, books, pamphlets, brochures, how to write a movie in a month, two weeks, 24 hours, five minutes, etc. Not even counting the endless film schools offered by colleges or through standalone organizations. I'm sure I missed a lot. But the total at the time came to over $30,000! It's better to write well but no one will ever turn down making a film they feel has a spectacular story and characters simply because it's badly written. They'll "fix" it. But the big question is: Who is right? I've had literal polar opposite opinions given me over one of my screenplays. I mean two readers, each who seemingly read two different screenplays (they were identical). So whose opinion was correct? Or more correct? Both were "industry professionals." And yeah, the guy who sweeps the floor at Sony is a "film industry professional." I get that. No one, I mean no one, can predict success in this biz. Anyone can find SOMETHING wrong with EVERY screenplay. Just read William Goldman's unproduced work at the end of his famous book. It is SO EASY to fall into the rewrite-based-on-notes trap, only to discover they STILL don't want it. and now, no one else does either. If YOU like your rewrite, fine. But rewriting based on notes may not make your screenplay better. It will just make it different. Also, trying to get someone to outright buy your screenplay is like standing in line to get tickets for an already-sold-out concert at a 50,000-person arena. The best way to get in is: Make friends with either the performers or the owner of the arena.

Lee Jessup

Having run a coverage service for many years, I am a huge believer in coverage. If you have industry friends who can give you notes and feedback - awesome! But if not, you've got to make sure you get some experienced eyes on the work. http://www.leejessup.com/lee-s-blog/screenplay-coverage-confessions/

Elizaveta Siegal

I must agree with Lee: getting some sort of a feedback is great! (I work at a talent agency doing coverage and I see SO many improperly formatted screenplays (I worked at a production company as well and those guys just wouldn't read beyond the first page and then just throw the thing straight into the trash can). I see a lot of screenplays that are frustrating poorly paced and, even though I always try to look for an author's intentions and sometimes it seems that the author did have an idea of what he wants to write about, he/she just didn't know how to make a sense of it for the other people. I am a writer myself and I always seek feedback before showing my work to the professionals. Good luck! (also usually the price for a good service should not exceed about $70; that's what my screenplay analysis teacher told us at UCLA)

Randall Roffe

it's frustrating when a reviewer has no grammar skill though

Hank Isaac

@Randall: [Your] absolutely right.

Cat Stewart

Hey Niki, Fellow screenwriters would be a great start if you haven't had any feedback. That costs nothing and allows you to see what your strengths and weaknesses are. There are two considerations. Is your concept marketable? If not, flawless execution is a moot point. If you've got a great concept and have not mastered craft -- dialog, tight scenes, compelling story, feedback could give you the tools to continue to work until you do. The mistake most starting writers make is paying a service to tell you that your dialog isn't natural or that your margins aren't standard or give you a pass because the idea was cliche and then spin their wheels trying to fix a poor concept that will never sell.

Wayne Taylor

Nikki, check out TALENTVILLE.COM it is fellow writers who will give honest feedback. Sometimes it is good and sometimes not. They really helped me on more than one script. You can go with the free part or pay to be a citizen. I think you can pay $39 for 3 months or $99 for a year. I did both the free version (you get what you pay for) and the 3 month version. Either way it's a great site for newbies.

Leonard Benedetto

Tim, professional analyst see as many movies as your friends if not more, so their opinions don't have the library of experiences to base their opinions on. Also, many 'lay people' aren't comfortable reading scripts because of the format. And remember - the American public made hits out of the Transformer movies, so can we really trust them to make a valid assessment of any script?

Lee Jessup

to add to what Leonardo said... analyzing screenplays takes a very specific skill set, one that most people just don't have...

William M Terry

I think they are distinct expectations when having someone (friends, a service or family) read your work. I have found the coverage services I've used walk cautiously in the creative aspects of the work. I expect from a service to uncover continuity, structure and stablilty from my writing, not direct, edit, or criticize. Good ones know that's not their role. I have had several family members read my work, at least mine can eat you alive on the creative side, which i do expect.

Lee Jessup

I am also a HUGE fan of Andrew Hilton (www.screenplaymechanic.com) and Rob Ripley (http://thirdactscreenplays.com/) Both of them read for me professionally when I ran ScriptShark, and now that I am on my own I still send my clients to them - they are by far some of the best analysts out there, and their prices are reasonable too!

Nikki April Lee

I pay $100 (to receive in 2-3 wks and $150 to receive in 2-3 days) to Hollywood Script Express for my story notes, coverage, and registration. Customer service is awesome. They answer you questions soon as you send them unless its late at night then you receive a response first thing next morning. I researched to see if they were scammers but found nothing bad. Their website is powered by the Movie Outline software.

Leonard Benedetto

Catherine, I don't necessarily think other writers are a sound source for notes and feedback for various reasons. Ego for one; and the possible lack of experience or exposure to many scripts. I have given notes to several writers here, so I'm another option to consider

Leonard Benedetto

although I have done some rewrites and have my own ideas stewing on the back burner, I don't consider myself a writer but a development/creative exec, reader and story analyst

Paul Mailhot

Friends and family are good readers only if you are looking for a pat on the back. You shouldn't pay for coverage right away. Have fellow writers give you notes. I do peer reviewing at www.talentville.com. There I post my script. I read theirs, they read mine. You also learn a lot of what to do and not to do by reading peer scripts.

Rayna Booker

I would recommend you find a mentor or take a class and have a teacher read it because no one else is really going to be as invested as you are in honing your story and perfecting your writing skills. It's the only win-win that works. Paying a service to read your script is the equivalent of paying a masseuse to address your back problems instead of going to a chiropractor-They have a general idea of what pain to address but they don't have the expertise to really heal you. Peer reviews are good if you can find a group of writers that are committed to the craft of writing and are interested in helping other writers as a means of improving their own writing abilities.

Leonard Benedetto

Have to disagree with you Rayna. There are good script consultants/story analysts out there and then there are hacks. I happen to fall in the first category. To lump all consultants/script readers as the equivalent of a 'masseuse' is unfair to those of us who have chosen a career as a story analyst. I have been doing this work for nearly 20 years for companies such as HBO, CAA, Disney etc. The fact that I'm sought out by producers and writers, asking my opinion on how to improve their script suggests I do have the expertise to 'heal' a script. I do have a personal beef with 'script services' which have a 'stable' of readers because you don't know who is reading your script or giving you notes on it. Also, the price you pay to the 'service is split between the one actually doing the work and the owners of the sight. Why not go for an individual and get the full worth of your payment. also do your research - who have they worked for? I recently saw a website for script services and the only experience the guy had was that he worked as an intern. an intern? how does that possibly qualify him to give notes.

Don Thomas

Eventually you are going to have to get quality professional coverage on one, if not all, of your scripts. There is simply no way around it if you have any serious desire of being considered for eligibility in that 10-15% group of screenwriters that are somewhat consistently getting work. Hopefully your first attempt at getting such coverage won't be derailed by an individual, group, mentor, or website whose main focus is taking advantage of others but don't kid yourself into thinking that's not a very real possibility. A whole cottage industry has sprung up to assist the novice, yet highly hopeful screenwriter. Caution and ample research always being the best tools to keeping you from becoming that fool who ends up being separated from their money. Quality professional coverage will teach you things only it can teach. Get it. Learn all you can and strive hard to make the most of it.

Lee Jessup

I have to agree with Leonardo here - there are great analysts working out there who can certainly help you push your writing forward. You just have to do the research and find them. The ones who are worthwhile are those who, like Leonardo, read for the industry, and can gauge not only the script's performance, but also be able to assess its potential in the industry marketplace. If studios, networks, production companies, agents and managers are relying on trusted industry readers to gain insight into a script, why shouldn't writers trying to break in utilize the same resources?

David Silvers

Check out credits, references, destination and goals or waste money!

Joseph Dale Kelly

I sit with a group of actors and have them read it. I then take notes on places they seem to struggle. then we have discussions on those areas, as well as, the script as a whole. Feedback is important. I make sure to stay open and honest. I write down their suggestions. I go home put it away for a day then reread the whole of the script scene by scene with the notes in mind. looking for clarity, structure and tension...etc. I make changes as if I find they are needed.

Joseph Dale Kelly

I usually don't go to friends or family.

CJ Walley

I used to buy three BlackList reviews, that way I was getting a basic overview from three professional readers for what I feel is a reasonable price. But I quickly found there was a lot of conflict in opinion and it caused me to realise that finding people to tell you what's wrong with your script is easy. Finding someone who loves your script and wants to invest time to make it even better is so much harder, it almost has to come organically, but ultimately that person is you.

Leonard Benedetto

The problem with BlackList or any of the sites that offer blind reviews (not knowing who's reviewing your script) is that the amount you are paying for the reviews is split between the site owners and the reviewers - with the reviewers getting less than half of what you're paying. As a result, BlackList et al can't attract the top notch reviewers because of their low rate of pay. I was offered a job by BlackList and BlueCat but turned them down because of their low rate of pay. If you're going to pay for a review - hire an individual - not a website. This way you know exactly who's reviewing your script, you know their credentials and you get the opportunity to talk to the reviewer after you receive their notes to discuss their review. Many of my clients love this last offer because it gives us the chance to brainstorm

Lee Jessup

@Leonard - I could not agree more! Having run a service for 5 1/2 years (ScriptShark) I will tell anyone who wants to listen that it is about the abilities of the individual reader, and no two readers are the same. Black List has its place and its purpose, but it is not where one should go for in-depth review. Black List is all about getting that score, and, if not, receiving some indication as to why that didn't happen. But if a writer is looking for feedback from a reader, they should go to an individual whose point of view they connect with, and who gets paid enough to truly give the work the time and attention it deserves.

CJ Walley

@Leonard I stopped my Blacklist process for pretty much the reasons yourself and Lee states. Now I am very picky about who I seek feedback from and much more objective about what's suggested to me. It did work well for me early on, but since learning a lot, I've come back to those evaluations really questioning the ability of some of the readers. On reflection I would have been better off just reading a few books or paying for a reputable consultant. Although I think I'd struggle to find a consultant aligned to the type of scripts I like to write.

Leonard Benedetto

I think a good story analyst (such as myself - how's that for self promotion) has read so many scripts, that their personal likes and dislikes don't come into play when giving notes to a writer/producer. Sure there are some genres I like more than others but having worked in development for so long, I couldn't tell a boss "I won't cover that because I don't like that type of movie". A good story will always attract my attention no matter what genre. My least favorite to read is romantic-comedies because there are few that stand above the norm (in my opinion) since so many of them follow the same formula.

CJ Walley

That's cool Leonard. I'm a bit tainted from my BL experience as it was clear some of the readers were reading a script for the type of movie they'd hate to go watch on screen.

Harry Edward Saffold Jr.

@ Nikki April Lee. Speaking for self, I deal with a woman who has no interest in selling a story, publication, or fame of any sort. All she likes to do is be amused by my characters, but she is honest. I DO NOT deal with other writers who have the same interest as I. Not even my speech and drama teachers. They say we have to trust someone. Well, in time. But as of now, I deal with my lady friend who is very honest with me.

Ingrid Abrams

I use coverage services, and I hire mentors. Someone that has produced projects and has sold to the major studios in the past. It's expensive, but it's worth it- to me. They don't have time to waste and hopefully I won't waste any time either. They tell you like it is, sometimes you cry, lol, but you get up, brush yourself off, and try again. Time is the only true currency, once it's spent, it's gone. Somethimes things cost, that's just the way it is. That's my philosophy... I'll let you know later if it works! Once I was in a conference with Loral Langmeir "The Millionaire Maker" (NYT Bestseller), and she told a story about her paying to be mentored by Bob Proctor about starting her business. At the time, she was working for Chevron as a financial analyst. She paid $10,000, but was sitting on the fence as to quitting her job, or what. She said he told her- "Don't contact me anymore until you are serious!" (and he kept the $10,000) Finally, she quit, got serious, and her business ended up doing consulting to Chevron (the same job she did for Chevron), for many times more. Then, she went on to start her huge business that is known worldwide. (Google her.) Loral taught me a couple of things: 1) Only take the advice from people who are already where you want to be. (you can listen to others, but consider the source.) 2) You gotta pay to play. Time is money, and no one on the level of where you want to be, is generally gonna baby you along. Their time is valuable. (This is where good readers and coverage services, and mentors come in.) If you have friends, family, contacts that you can tap for free- by all means, use those contacts. But I think if you have no one to give you good advice, sometimes you have to pay to play. But of course, do your due dilligence!!! I was in a screenwriting group once, it was ok- I didn't like it because everybody was emailing everybody's scripts all over the place like crazy. I didn't like that. Now I deal one on one with someone like Lee and Leonard speak about. Sorry for the dissertaion. :)

Jas Nada

Writer friends, non-writer friends and do a read through. Read throughs really get you to notice the weaker area's of your script.

Ruby Zandra Waller

My scripts are a little to "hot" to handle. My editor, designer, and publisher is all I let see them until I'm ready to publish. As far as my screenwriting goes, I only reveal it in parts to the Characters and actors as I write it. Generally, I will share it as I go with the members of Ruby Zandra's Blue Jazz Society by authorizing them on Celtx, but the finished product after changes and editing and surprises and twists are worked in will only be revealed to the committed producer as I save the best for last as I read it myself for the first time.

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