I asked Brian if he would write a guest post about using actual readers to read over your screenplays before actually submitting them to contests, production companies, agents, and managers.
Because often, it’s really good to know what a reader in the business of reading spec scripts is going to think about YOUR spec before going public with it. We are often simply too close to the material to judge it from more of a business standpoint. On top of that, I’ve known Brian since the early 90s and I can and will vouch for him in a HEARTBEAT. And even more on top of that, you simply cannot beat his prices when it comes to getting someone to read your script and write up some coverage on it.
As I’ve said in the past…
If you’re a fairly advanced writer i.e., you know story, structure, format, etc., then often it’s nice to be able to read at least three different pieces of coverage on your material IF FOR NO OTHER REASON than to see what the industry is going to think of your spec. However, if you are advanced ENOUGH, three pieces of coverage on your material is INVALUABLE when it comes to tweaking and polishing before going public with that same spec. This is of course, assuming you don’t have a support network of other people you TRUST to read your screenplays.
And now for Brian’s guest post:
Ah, script coverage and other script services that cost money…
The casual observer, the expert screenwriter, the hard-bitten cynic… They’d all tell you “Ah, bunk. You don’t need to pay for feedback. You can get it from a writer’s group, or an online screenwriting forum.”
And they’re right.
But do you have any idea how many people are trying to sell scripts out there?
Do you have any idea how few original spec scripts are getting bought these days, as risk-averse studios clamor for scripts based on “established franchises” such as comic books, tv shows, and other pre-packaged products?
Now add in the amount of scripts that are in any given producer’s pile that are “friend reads,” AKA reads that that producer promised a friend, or a friend of a friend, and which already have a slight edge on yours, no matter how great your script may be.
Heck, I’m writing this and I’m already ready to throw in the towel, and change my career to pizza delivery guy.
The bottom line is: Your spec script has to kick. Major. Ass. In order to have a chance.
A) The concept has to be something that makes people who hear it say “Wow! I should’ve thought of that!”
B) The script has to look, at first glance, as an EASY, BREEZY READ, or else nobody will pick it up.
C) Once they pick it up, they’ve got to KEEP TURNING PAGES… WILLINGLY.
That’s a tall order.
One that requires ALL HANDS ON DECK. It requires you to be an amazing storyteller, an amazing craftsman of the screenwriting trade (two completely different things), and requires the input of as many people as you can get to read it.
And yes, even the idiots who read it can help you pinpoint what could use work.
To that end, finish your draft, get it to your writer’s group, get it to your forums, AND get it to a script analyst for some script coverage. If you can afford it, even hire a script consultant or script coach.
We’re screenwriters! Which means we’re putting together a blueprint that’s gonna cost a studio $1 million, $15 million, or even $200 million to make. The spenders of such cash don’t throw that cash around willy-nilly, no matter how crappy movies make it to the cineplex as evidence to the contrary!
Flat out: Cheap out on that blueprint at your own peril!
But I know that’s a lot to ask. Because I would bet that for 97% of screenwriters, one of the most attractive aspects of the screenwriting craft is that it involves very few components to pursue. It’s just you, a computer, and a blank screen, and not a whole lot of other nonsense getting in the way.
But as a competitive screenwriter who wants to sell my scripts, the 97% is not who I’m worried about. I’m worried about the 3% out there who are investing, not only the TIME, but the MONEY into making their scripts – their blueprints for their $25 million movies – by hiring professional, neutral, often brutal and often harsh script analysts to tear their scripts apart and help them make it better.
We’re competing against those guys. AND we’re competing against the usual slew of hacks, agents’ friends, favor reads, festival/contest winners, folks who paid a reputable (or otherwise) service for “industry access,” etc.
If you can afford script coverage, get it. And not just because I’m the owner of Screenplay Readers, which has covered thousands of scripts since 1999 and helped not only screenwriters improve their scripts, but a slew of agents and producers find such scripts.
But if I was out here shilling the raw benefits of script coverage, without giving you the raw drawbacks of script coverage, I doubt I’d have been in business this long, so let me hit you with some bad things about script coverage:
Straight up: Script coverage can be costly, it can take a long time, you sometimes end up with pinhead readers, you can often get just as good of notes from a writers’ group or reads from your friends, etc.
But as a growing screenwriter, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and that put me at a huge disadvantage. The only time I grew as a screenwriter was when I sat down with a script coach, who slapped me in the face with my script (figuratively), and gave me seemingly idiotic notes at the time.
“Use fewer words. My eyes are getting tired.”
“Don’t have such long action blocks. Break it into lines. Use SERIES OF SHOTS”
I wanted to tear my hair out and light this lady on fire for mentioning such stuff alongside notes about my character motivation, dialogue, etc., until I realized what she was trying to say, without saying it:
50% of screenwriting is simply getting your reader to continue reading.
And format/eye strain/white space/reader flow? EVERY BIT IMPORTANT AS CHARACTER, PLOT, DIALOGUE, AND CONCEPT.
Mind blown! I became a changed screenwriter. One who not only wrote for himself, but for an audience, with my first audience being: THE SCRIPT READER. The gatekeeper. The person who can shitcan my script, or go out on a limb and recommend it to his boss.
The first step? Admitting that your script may not be the greatest thing in the world, yet.
After that, the possibilities for improving it, both paid and unpaid, are many. Use as many as you can afford.
And by the way, I’m writing this is, yes, as part of the screenwriting community wanting to help my fellow screenwriters, and yes, to maybe drum up some business or new contacts and friends.
Yes, making a buck is awesome, but in all honestly, my business is doing just fine.
So get your script notes and your objectivity and your perspective from whomever you can.
You’re in a super-competitive field. I say it not because you don’t know that already, but because we all need to remember that.
Otherwise, we might as well all go down and fill out that application at Pizza Hut.
Now close your browser and get back to your screenwriting program, Chachi.