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  • How to Get a Recommend from a Script Consultant

    August 19th, 2010

    By Danny Manus

     

    In case any of you read Creative Screenwriting Magazine’s recent survey and analysis of the best Script Consultants out there, you may have noticed two things. One, I was named one of the Top 15 “Cream of the Crop” Script Consultants. And two, there are well over 100 script consultants out there, and each has their own point of view and experience and opinions on what deserves a recommend. 

    Writers always want to know how they can get this elusive “recommend.” But even more than that, writers wonder what they should expect from a script consultant, how to find the right one for them and if the whole industry isn’t just a bunch of scam artists.

     

    As for the last question, the answer is No. Are there less than credible consultants out there giving less than adequate or constructive notes? Absolutely. Are there people who charge far too much and deliver far too little? Absolutely. Personally, I think your script should never cost as much as your car. And I don’t suggest writers use anonymous services where you don’t know who is actually giving you notes. But as a whole, I have found that script consultants are writers/producers/executives/ teachers/managers, etc., that truly care and want to help writers improve and succeed. And they bring their experience and knowledge to those who need it.

     

    I bring the executive perspective to my notes and I think that’s a valuable, different voice than many other consultants out there. I’m not putting down any other consultants, but many companies give you notes from another writer’s perspective (granted, a more established successful writer than yourself that probably has good insight), but when your script is ready to go out, you’re not going to be sending it to other writers – you’ll be sending it to executives!

     

    I liken consultants to the American Idol judges (see my Mission Statement on my home page).  Simon’s not a singer, he’s not a songwriter, he’s not a performer – and yet he’s the one people trust because he’s the one that songwriters and singers GO TO and submit their stuff to – he’s the one that actually evaluates talent.

     

    I say a good script consultant’s job is two-fold.  

    1. To improve your writing abilities and open your eyes about your own script, giving you insight into your story (and the many story elements) that you perhaps did not see before, giving you a fresh set of eyes on your material and constructive feedback.  And…
    2. Help make an uncommercial script more commercial so it has a better chance to sell or do well in a contest or garner you attention.

    At No BullScript (did I mention we were recently ranked as one of the Top 15 “Cream of the Crop” consultants by CS Magazine?), I use a 20-point grading grid of elements to judge a script – including story, structure, concept, characters, commerciality, tone, dialogue, transitions, format and spelling, pacing, stakes, climax, originality, international appeal, etc. But then there’s the X factor. And for me, the X Factor is – does it read like a first time or amateur writer wrote it? That’s really the last and ultimate question I ask myself. Does this feel like it was written in 3 days? Does it feel like this is a first script? And if so, then it’s not ready and it doesn’t get a recommend.

     

    But I ask myself these three questions before deciding on a grade:

    1. Could I sell this? Is this something that could do well in the marketplace?
    2. Could this script be a contest winner? Is the voice, writing and story strong enough to do well in screenwriting contests?
    3. Even if it couldn’t sell and wouldn’t win a contest, would this script be a nice writing sample for the writer that could score him or her meetings?

    If it’s a NO to all 3 questions, then it doesn’t get a recommend. At the end of the day, I put my executive hat back on and ask myself – would I pass this on to my boss to read? Would I be willing to put my name on this? And if the answer is no, then I can’t recommend it even if the basics are there. I would be doing you a disservice. And my reputation is more important to me than repeat business.

     

    Too many companies out there hand out recommends because they want repeat business. I find that repeat business comes when you give good notes and specific, constructive things to work on. And I will say that almost all of my clients come back with a second script.

     

    If your script has great potential but it isn’t there yet, I will give it a ‘Consider’. But if I can answer at least ONE of those questions above with a resounding yes, then your script has a good shot at getting a recommend.

     

    Good luck and keep writing!

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