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4 Crucial Things You Should Do Before Hiring a Script Consultant

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by Script Reader Pro in Script Coverage
September 1, 2014 20 comments
script consultant

4 Crucial Things You Should Do Before Hiring a Script Consultant

So, you’ve decided to hire a script consultant to review your script? Great, but finding someone suitable among all the hundreds out there can be a monumental task.

Make sure you discover these four essential things about what a script consultant is and why you may need one.

1. Understand the Role of a Script Consultant 

A script consultant is someone who gets paid to offer feedback or work on other writers’ screenplays.

They’re usually (but not always) screenwriters themselves who’ve had some kind of success in the industry. Sometimes they’re referred to as a script doctor.

No one in Hollywood really uses either term, though. They’re more catch-all descriptions used by the wider screenwriting community.

A script doctor/script consultant will usually perform one or all of the following:

♦  Give writers written notes: Fixing the story, characters or specific scenes, for example.

♦  Give verbal feedback: Exchanging and developing ideas with writers. Giving them a fresh perspective and motivation to rewrite the script themselves.

Rewrite scripts: Rewriting a screenplay or TV script according to a brief. This is usually decided upon beforehand by the script consultant and the writer.

Script consultants are also hired by producers and execs. Or by industry players working independently. Likewise, script consultants often set themselves up as freelance operators on their own, or at script consultancies.

Differences Between a Script Consultant and a Script Reader

A script consultant is not to be confused with a script readerBoth terms have become fairly interchangeable in recent years. Technically, the main differences are these:

♦  Type of work. A script consultant is likely to get involved in rewrites, brainstorming sessions and writing long, detailed notes. A script reader engages in writing short, one or two-page script coverage reports. These notes briefly outline whether the script is worth passing up the chain at their company.

♦  Job status. A script consultant usually has a lot more experience and knowledge than a script reader. Consequently, they earn more. Script readers are generally regarded as fairly low-level employees at companies. They are the first line that must be cracked.

♦  Cost. The work performed by a script consultant is often not cheap as they can (usually) really help writers improve their work. Script readers, on the other hand, are free. You send your script in to “ACME Management” and your only reward is a call back if they liked it.

None of this is set in stone, however, as there is no “Constitution of Screenplay Feedback Rules” that everyone adheres to. For example, the terms “script consultant” and “script reader” are often interchangeable.

Let’s say you have a screenplay consultant who freelances at a script consultancy. Well, they may also write standard script coverage as part of their job.

Let’s take a look at the main areas you should consider before handing over your screenplay to a script consultant.

2. Avoid Anonymous Script Consultants 

Sending your screenplay off to a script consultant for analysis, rewriting or polishing is a big deal. This is your baby and you want to make sure it’s in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing. Especially considering the amount of money you may have to part with.

If you’re checking out script consultancies as well as individual script consultants, this is probably the most important section.

Do You Know Their Name, Or Just Anonymous Initials? 

Many script consultancies are awfully vague when it comes to revealing who will actually be doing the work on your screenplay. They’ll write things like “All of our script consultants have worked for XYZ companies,” but not give any names or real details.

This could be a red flag as it suggests they don’t want to reveal who they are.

You need to find out if the script consultant is qualified to be reading your script and giving notes. They could, after all, simply be recent screenwriting MFA graduates? Or worse yet, interns.

If the website doesn’t give the name and resume of the script consultant, send them an email and ask. If they reply that they don’t reveal names for “confidentiality” reasons, we recommend you opt for a script consultant who’s actually willing to give you some conrete details.

screenplay consultant

3. Find Out What Qualifications the Script Consultant Has

Ideally, you want to work with someone who not only has years of experience reading and developing scripts but is a working screenwriter themselves.

Does the Screenplay Consultant Have a Reputation?

It may be a bit of a cliche to say “those who can’t do, teach,” but when it comes to handing over big dollars for someone, it’s worth taking this into consideration. Try to get answers to the following:

♦  Do they have an agent and/or manager? If so, who? Are they signed with a big agency, such as William Morris? Or someplace you’ve never heard of?

Again, none of this is essential to being a great interpreter of your screenplay and wealth of ideas on how to fix it. But it can all help toward making up your mind.

♦  Has this script consultant ever sold a screenplay? Have they had a screenplay produced? This is what sets certain script consultancies apart from the crowd. A script consultant who has actually sold or had a screenplay produced obviously knows something more about screenwriting than one who’s never had any form of success.

Don’t get us wrong, there are some fantastic script consultants out there who’ve never even tried to sell a screenplay. But it’s definitely something to think about.

♦  Can this script consultant tell you about past projects? Any script writing consultant worth their salt should be able to tell you about all the movies they’ve worked on. That’s either behind the scenes or that they’ve brought to the big screen themselves.

They should also be able to readily produce examples of their own screenwriting. Or notes or rewrites they’ve produced for other writers.

At the very least they should be prepared to provide you with script coverage examples of work they’ve completed for other screenwriters. If they’re not already posted online, email and ask to see some.

4. Nail Down a Shortlist of the Best Script Consultants

Once you’ve spent some time researching, get together a shortlist of three or four script consultants and/or consultancies. Review each of their resumes and examples of their work.

Nail Down a Shortlist

From these samples, you want to look out for a few key elements such as:

 Does the script consultant nail the writer’s intention in the logline? Do you get the sense they really understood what the writer was trying to convey?

♦  Is this script consultant someone who focuses their notes on the most important advice? The things the writer needs to tackle first in their next draft? Or do they spend a lot of time discussing typos or that missing comma in the title?

♦  Look at how the screenplay consultant discusses characters: Do they talk not only in terms of there being a lack of depth, but give solutions to add more depth? Do they talk about arcs for major and minor characters? etc.

♦  Look at how the script consultant discusses structure: Do they talk in terms of generic 3-Act structure only, or in terms of sequences? Do they talk about A, B and C stories? Do they mention scene structure? etc.

We can’t possibly list all the areas of judgment a good script consultant uses without boring you to death, but the point is this: read their examples thoroughly.

Make sure their style jives with the kind of notes you’re looking for.

Do all of the above and you will be in a good position to make an informed choice about which script consultant to hire.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Hiring a Script Consultant

Let’s take a brief look at the main advantages and disadvantages of hiring a script consultant.

Advantages of Hiring a Script Consultant

 More extensive work means better and faster results. You get what you pay for. You could purchase a much cheaper script coverage report, but the level of analysis will be much less. This means things may be left unsaid and overall the amount of time it will take to get the script where it needs to will be longer.

♦  Improve your writing skills overall. Working with a screenplay consultant can do wonders for your writing ability as a whole. They will get the chance to get to know you and how to improve your capabilities.

♦  Develop a writing relationship. There’s not much point getting advice from a friend or family member, but honest feedback from a professional writer can be invaluable. Working with a script consultant may free you up creatively so you don’t actually have to hire them to do any costly hands-on work.

Disadvantages of Hiring a Script Consultant

♦  Cost. The main disadvantage with hiring a script consultant is, of course, cost. They’re generally not cheap and often this is because of the more intensive working relationship developed between screenwriter and screenplay consultant.

♦  Credits. Some script consultants may want to claim credit for any work they do on your screenplay. This is not something all aspiring screenwriters are comfortable with so proceed with caution and make sure you don’t sign anything without first getting someone else to look over the contract. Preferably an entertainment lawyer.

Overall, we recommend getting constructive feedback from a script consultant so you can find out what shape the script’s in before sending it out to screenwriting contests, agents, managers, etc.

Hint: go for someone who offers practical advice and cool suggestions on how to fix the script’s problems, rather than just four pages reeling off what’s wrong with it.

Conclusion

Here at Script Reader Pro, we have a team of script consultants who are also working professional screenwriters. We’re fully transparent in that you can see exactly who we are, our qualifications and why we may be the best fit for your script.

You can even choose a script consultant to work with according to your screenplay’s genre, and we also offer a Mentorship Program if you’d like one-on-one regular consulting.

But whether you decide to hire us or someone else, make sure you do your homework before parting with your hard-earned cash and you’ll be okay.

screenplay consultant

Liked This Post? Read More on How to Get Your Script Ready for the Market…

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[© Photo credits: Unsplash]

20 Comments
  1. Alvaro 85 says:

    I’m nervous to spend money as I don’t have much but will try you guys..

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      We look forward to working with you, Alvaro.

  2. Billie Urabazo says:

    Thank you for the informative article and for spelling out the differences between a script reader and a script consultant. I see that you have phenomenal people on board at Script Reader Pro,

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the comment Billie!

  3. Matt says:

    Nothing’s straightforward when it comes to screenwriting is it? Lol.

  4. Heather says:

    How do I get a job as a script consultant?

  5. Paul McCartney says:

    I’m a script consultant for a well-known company and this article is spot on. Got any jobs going?

  6. Juliano Angeliano says:

    Hi guys … Does a script need to be finished to have a script consultant

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Hi Juliano, no it doesn’t. You could get a script consultant on board at any stage – to brainstorm ideas, give you notes on Act 1, a treatment or any number of stages of development.

  7. Nikki says:

    How do I hire a script consultant with not much money? Can i afford to take a gamble at throwing big bucks at you guys? I am poor student, literally a starving artist and can’t risk wasting money on services if I don’t know they will help. Your taking peoples money but with little or no guarantees of success.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      There are no guarantees of success in this business. And no one’s saying you have to spend money on a script consultant in order to be successful as a writer. It’s totally up to you if you want to invest in your screenwriting career or not.

      You could get feedback from friends in the industry, screenwriting groups, forums, contests that include notes, etc. Or you could simply trust your gut and send your work out into the industry without it being reviewed. But that’s the real gamble.

  8. stefan janoski says:

    Excellent advice. I was always getting confused between script consultant and script doctor and script reader but this has really helped.

  9. Yannik says:

    I need script coverage can you help?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes, here are all our script coverage services.

  10. Samantha A says:

    I love this, thank you for the clarification.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome, Samantha.

  11. Niq Huq says:

    How do I know you guys are realy screenwriters?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You can find our bios and writing credits on our About Us page.

  12. Holly Lumpkin says:

    My script is for a stage play. Does that matter to you guys to for the consultant I hire.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      We don’t usually cover stage plays. If you email us directly or on Facebook with details about the play we may be able to find a reader for you, but this is a screenwriting website so you may want to check elsewhere.

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