Mom said she’s already picturing your name in lights. Your girlfriend said she’s deciding what to wear to the Oscars when you accept your award for Best Original Screenplay. And your best friend said, “It’s cool, man.” It sounds like you have a winning script on your hands! But somehow, encouraging words from your family and friends don’t instill the confidence you’re craving in your final draft.
That’s where a script consultant comes in. They’re highly debated in the industry, mostly for two reasons: the consultants who promise to get your screenplay sold for a price; and the consultants who’ve never written a script themselves. But there is a time and place for a screenwriter to pay for some good advice.
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When should you hire a script consultant?
People who have made a career out of screenwriting rarely need to hire a script consultant, because, over time, they’ve built up networks of industry friends who they can call on for honest feedback. But a less networked screenwriter, or a screenwriter on a tight deadline, may want some help.
If you’ve reached a point in your drafts where you feel good about your story, or maybe you’ve plateaued, it could be time to invest in a consultant. You can think of a paid consultant like a one-on-one tutor, if you’re willing to accept the feedback and work with it.
Mark Stasenko, a screenwriter who co-founded WeScreenplay and recently wrote for Netflix, told SoCreate that he found this type of critique – while paid – to be very valuable when he was coming up in the industry because he didn’t go to film school.
“Was my way of learning how to write free? No. Was it cheaper than an MFA? You betcha. Which is better? Totally depends on how you work and what your priorities are. For me, ample feedback on my specific screenplays was a fantastic way to go and led me to some awesome career opportunities,” he said.
Script consultants typically work in the film or TV industry and will give you notes and feedback on your script for a fee. A script consultant may or may not have written screenplays themselves. Yes, you read that right … not all script consultants have written a screenplay. However, these industry folks often know a good story when they see one, or at least how to revise a script to make it good. And, they’ve probably read thousands of scripts – which is likely more than you’ve had time to read!
You should also consider the following when choosing a script consultant:
Do they have any testimonials or contact information for someone who’d refer them? This step is important. Contact those references!
Do they have proper knowledge of the craft of screenwriting? We’re talking format, structure, and character development.
What is their industry knowledge? Do they know what will sell?
Do they give constructive feedback (because not all feedback is!)
They didn’t make any promises about executives reading your script, being able to sell your script, or getting it produced, did they? Because that’s a red flag. Run!
While researching script consultants, you may also come across script doctors and script coverage. Script doctors will revise your script for a price. Script coverage could give you a better idea of what executives are currently looking for, or let you know if your script is ready to pitch.
In the end, all these services are only right for a screenwriter who is ready to take their craft to the next level by accepting critique.
"For me, [it’s] valuable only if you’re willing to really absorb the notes given,” Stasenko told us. “Sit with them. Think about why they were given and give the reader the benefit of the doubt. After you really process everything, throw out the notes that don't fit your vision of the story, but find some that help.”
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