Friday, May 12, 2006


Just a quick post about this before I get back to my own little writing project.

Personally, I do not think professional writers or readers give the best notes. Not the kind that you can take and execute as a writer. Writers will tend to give you notes that emphasize a specific "take" or direction, one that reflects their own personal view of how screenplays ought to be written. Readers, on the other hand, will give you notes based on market conditions, what they believe is selling in the marketplace. While each of these viewpoints can be instructive, it's sometimes difficult to tell the difference, especially to someone unfamiliar with the Hollywood aesthetic. As well, neither of these folks actually has had to deal with the practical production and political issues in getting a movie made.

I recommend that you look for someone who knows story (eg can talk to you "like a writer"), whose only agenda is making your script the best expression of your idea, not something that fits in with some preconceived notion of what is "selling", someone who has made a film and understands the layers of drafting it takes to get to production and can help you identify what issues need to be addressed at what draft stage, and someone who has a experience actually developing ideas from concept to screen. You want someone who is capable of articulating their notes in executable form so that you aren't sitting at home wondering what the hell "raising the stakes" means in your coming-of-age story, instead you are searching for story beats that illustrate specifically how Allison's desire to leave the pig farm for the big city will result in the bank's foreclosure.

In short, a really solid development executive or producer is worth their weight in gold. If you can't find that, you have to ask yourself if it's worth it to pay someone for their (hopefully educated) opinions about your work. You wouldn't pay someone to fix your toilet just because they'd used one, so don't be satisfied getting notes from someone who has never brought an idea to the screen based on their notes. Pay a professional.


Chris said...

Let me plug, if I may, fellow blogger and industry reader Scott's $60 notes offer.

For a reasonable price you get your script analyzed by someone who has read over 9000 of them for a living. The feedback I received was super helpful in making my Nicholl submission much stronger (I think. We'll see in August).

My next step is to work some contacts i have with established writers, and getting into a writing group with others at about the same point in their own careers, to get that inner circle of 5-10 people I can call upon to circulate drafts to for comments.

The Film Diva said...

I actually read and enjoy Scott's blog for reasons that have less to do with story analysis and more because the writing is so dang funny.

It's really not about price at the end of the day. You have to think about what your goals are for the screenplay. If Scott's notes were qualitatively better than what you've heard before -- meaning he gave you ways to think about the story that were executable (as opposed to cool things to spin your wheels that ultimately ended up being cryptic) than you got an excellent deal.

I do occassionally work-for-hire. It's not a big "business" for me as I charge quite a few hundred dollars as a reading fee with verbal notes, and then my written notes sort of go up from there. It's prohibitive for most folks starting out. I did do some lower-cost notes, but found that it was more frustrating for me since I did the same amount of work per script (about 20 hours) regardless of how little I was making. It was fun, though.

In general I don't plug any particular businesses here, but I'm glad you stepped up and shared a good experience with everyone here. Thanks!