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by Script Reader Pro in Life as a Screenwriter, Script Coverage
March 28, 2019 0 comments
script doctor

How to Hire a Pro Script Doctor at a Fraction of Hollywood Rates

If you think you’ve reached a stage with your script where you need some help from a professional screenwriter, hiring one as a script doctor may be a good idea.

In Hollywood, studios and production companies spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on hiring a professional screenwriter to doctor a script. But you don’t have to.

In this post, we’ll show you how you can also get a pro script doctor to work on your screenplay or TV pilot at a fraction of the cost.

Here’s What’s Coming Up: 

♦  What is a script doctor?

♦  Script doctors and screenwriting credits

♦  Script consultant vs. story analyst

♦  Script doctor rates

♦  How to hire a Hollywood screenplay doctor at a fraction of the cost

So let’s jump on in.

What Is a Script Doctor?

A script doctor is a loose industry term for someone who’s hired by a production company to rewrite or polish parts of a screenplay. This usually happens after multiple notes and drafts by various other writers.

The phrase “script doctor” seems to have originated out of the fact the work is surgical in nature. For example, one might be hired to rewrite parts of Act 2. Or make character changes. Or fix the ending.

Alternatively, a screenplay doctor may be brought in just to perform a “polish.” This means sprucing up the dialogue, characters, theme, etc. without fundamentally rewriting anything.

In either case, a screenplay doctor isn’t usually hired to rewrite or polish a whole movie. Just fix whatever lingering problem(s) it may have.

They drop in, fix a specific issue, and then drops out again—leaving the rest of the screenplay untouched.

Confusingly, “Script Doctor” Isn’t a Job Description

In Hollywood, the job title “script doctor” however, doesn’t really exist. You won’t sign a WGA contract for a rewrite as one. You won’t live off a fixed annual script doctor salary. And it’s unlikely you’ll introduce yourself as one at a party.

As John August says, script doctoring is “a specific task within screenwriting, but not really a profession in-and-of itself.”

This is because script doctors are essentially just screenwriters. Their main trade may be as a professional screenwriter, but they moonlight as a writer-for-hire when called upon.

How to Become a Script Doctor

Although some screenwriters make a living solely from script doctor work, most fit it around their ongoing careers and passion projects.

If you’re wondering how to become a script doctor, you almost always need to become a highly-sought-after pro screenwriter first.

If you’re just starting out, this might seem like a far-off dream, but everyone has to start somewhere. Here are the exact steps you should take when learning how to become a screenwriter.

Script Doctors and Screenwriting Credits

If further proof were needed that being a script doctor isn’t a recognized Hollywood job description, you won’t find their name in the end credits of a movie once it’s released.

In order to receive a WGA writing credit, a screenwriter must contribute more than 33 percent of an adaptation and more than 50 percent of an original screenplay.

Consequently, script doctors usually go uncredited, as the amount of work they do on any given script most often falls below the WGA’s minimum percentage.

Famous Undercover Script Doctors

Here are a few examples of movies punched up by famous writers, working uncredited as script doctors.

Some may be quite surprising, given the writer and material, but writing undercover in a different genre is an enjoyable side gig for many screenwriters.

♦  The Coen Brothers were script doctors on Fun With Dick and Jane.

♦  Carrie Fisher did script doctor work on Lethal Weapon 3 and countless other films.

♦  Charlie Kaufman worked as a script doctor on Kung Fu Panda 2.

♦  Alexander Payne was a script doctor on I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.

♦  Jason Reitman was a script doctor on The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.

Sometimes a screenplay doctor may end up rewriting more of a screenplay than initially agreed. For example, Noah Baumbach was hired to rewrite elements of Madagascar 3 but rewrote so much he ended up being awarded a writing credit.

Script Doctor vs. Script Consultant vs. Story Analyst

Now let’s now clear up some of the confusion we see out there on the differences between this role and that of a script consultant and story analyst.

The main difference between a script consultant/story analyst and a screenplay doctor is this:

Hands-off advice (script consultant and story analyst) vs. hands-on rewriting (script doctor.)

What Is a Script Consultant?

A script consultant gives writers advice on how to improve their screenplay and get it ready for the market.

They are sometimes hired by production companies, but more commonly by aspiring writers looking for feedback on their script. (Professional writers generally get notes from their manager, writer friends or other industry folks.)

Script consultants write up extensive notes on writers’ scripts of 4-8 pages or even longer in-depth development notes of 12-25 pages.

Sometimes script consultants are hired to give on-the-pagemargin notes“—feedback written directly on the page on how to improve scenes, characters, dialogue, etc.

Unlike a Hollywood script doctor, a script consultant doesn’t necessarily have to be a professional screenwriter or have any qualifications at all. Anyone can set up a script consultancy online so we recommend you properly vet their credentials.

Make sure you know who exactly will be giving you notes on your script. Do you know their name or just a set of initials? Are their credentials just providing coverage for production companies, or are they working screenwriters?

In our post on 4 Crucial Things You Should Do Before Hiring a Script Consultant we go into more detail on the role of the script consultant.

What Is a Story Analyst?

A story analyst (also commonly referred to as a “script reader”) is someone hired by a company to write script coverage on all the submissions they receive.

These companies can be production companies, talent agencies, management companies or studios.

Classic Script Coverage

This classic type of script coverage is not seen by the writer who sent in the script. It usually consists of a short synopsis of the story and a short summation of the script’s strengths and weaknesses, summed up by a “Pass” “Consider” or “Recommend” grade. Script coverage of this kind generally comes in at two pages or less.

Any scripts that don’t make the grade get rejected, while those that score highly get passed up the chain by the story analyst. In this sense they act as gatekeepers, making sure their boss only has to read scripts with potential.

Script Coverage From Script Consultancies

Confusingly, the term “script coverage” has also come to include other forms of story notes provided by script consultancies too.

Aspiring screenwriters often pay script consultancies to provide “script coverage” on their work before sending it out into the industry. However, this isn’t usually the short classic script coverage performed by a story analyst.

The script coverage services delivered by script consultancies are usually much more extensive and performed by script consultants.

Somehow, though, the term “script coverage” has become a catch-all for all of these types of notes—whether from a consultancy or a production company, studio, etc.

Overall, neither a script consultant or story analyst/script reader will perform any actual rewriting on a screenplay. They merely advise the writer of the screenplay on how to rewrite it.

In the real world, rewriting screenplays falls solely on the shoulders of script doctors. But, again, when it comes to script consultancies, sometimes a script consultant will also perform script doctor work, and vice versa.

Our team of professional screenwriters provides both script consultant and script doctor services. For example, the 12+ pages of notes we provide as Deluxe Script Coverage qualify as script consulting, but that same writer may also be simultaneously working on a rewrite.

script doctor services

Script Doctor Rates

The best script doctors in Hollywood get paid big bucks. This is due to the intense and specialized nature of the work, often involving tight turnaround times.

Also, because script doctors don’t usually receive writing credits, they don’t receive residuals either. This means they’re able to command large script doctor rates upfront, rather than take a percentage of the film’s profit.

How Much Does a Script Doctor Charge?

Studios often pay the top screenwriters huge script doctor rates that can run into the millions. Tony Gilroy, for example, was reportedly paid five million dollars for his script doctor work on Star Wars: Rogue One.

Like all fees, this would have been negotiated between Gilroy’s agent and Simon Emanuel, the producer. There is no fixed script doctor rate, however, as it depends on many factors: the turnaround time, amount of work, the movie’s budget, how in-demand the writer is, and so on.

Overall, the producers are willing to pay high fees for this work as they want to make sure the movie stands the best possible chance of being a hit. And hiring a top screenplay doctor is often the best way of doing this.

When Do Script Doctors Get Hired?

In Hollywood, script doctors are often parachuted in at the eleventh hour to solve major issues with the script right before it goes into production. In other words, after a script has been “green-lit” for production.

Producers, financiers and even the stars themselves can get panicky if a movie isn’t firing on all cylinders before hitting production.

A script doctor’s input, therefore, can make or break a movie.

Script doctors aren’t always brought in so close to the wire, however. They can also be hired during the pre-production and development phases too.

How to Hire a Hollywood Script Doctor at a Fraction of the Cost

So what do you do if you want to hire a screenplay doctor to work on your own script?

Before you hiring one, we recommend first making sure they’re also professional screenwriters. Some script consultancies use faceless readers who may or may not be the best person to rewrite your screenplay.

All of our script consultants/script doctors are also working professional screenwriters. We won’t be able to get Tony Gilroy to work on your script, but we do have a highly experienced team who perform script doctor services. At a fraction of the cost.

Choose a Professional Screenwriter

All of our team have years of experience as working Hollywood writers and of providing rewrites and polishes on other writers’ scripts. Not only that, but we also offer clients the chance to choose which screenwriter/doctor they’d like to work on their screenplay according to its genre.

For a summary of our team and their genre expertise when it comes to our script doctor services, you can check out our About Us page.)

Our Script Doctor Services

We help writers achieve the screenwriting career they’ve always wanted. And sometimes letting a professional screenplay doctor step in to fix a few problems is the best way to do this.

Our script doctors perform a wide variety of rewrite and polish work, depending on the nature of the script and requirements of the writer. This could be anything from a light dialogue polish to a major rewrite of the whole script.

See if your script could use the help of a script doctor by sending it in for an initial assessment for just $69.

Here’s a complete list of the script doctor services we offer and more details on the process and how to get started.

Examples of Our Screenplay Doctor Work

♦  Line Edit. This service involves editing the dialogue and description on each page, making it a smoother, more professional read.

This is the cheapest screenplay doctor service we offer and also has the fastest turnaround time. All of our script doctor services have highly competitive prices, though. Follow this link to read more about our Line Edit service.

Below you’ll find an example of a page out of a script before and after a Line Edit.

Line Edit Version #1 (Before)

script doctor

Line Edit Version #2 (After)

script doctor

♦  Polish. This can involve polishing the characters: adding character beats and amping up personalities, etc. Polishing the dialogue: adding humor, making it less formal, removing on-the-nose dialogue, etc. Polishing the description: making it smoother, more cinematic, removing formatting inconsistencies, etc.

♦  Rewrite. This is the most “hands-on” script doctor service. A rewrite can be “light” “medium” or “heavy,” depending on the amount of work the script doctor performs. The service involves getting stuck into the script, adding and/or removing scenes, characters, dialogue, description. Or even completely rewriting chunks of the screenplay, such as an ending that isn’t quite working right.

(Please contact us for a rewrite and/or polish examples, stating your preferred genre.)

If you don’t have the kind of money to hire Charlie Kaufman to rewrite your screenplay, get started with our screenplay doctor services by sending in your screenplay or TV pilot for an Initial Assessment.

And don’t forget, if you’re looking for script doctor jobs, you need to become a sought-after screenwriter first. And we can help you with that too. Check out our blog category How to Become a Screenwriter and also our script coverage services to get first class feedback on your work.

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If you’re considering hiring one of our script doctors, shoot us an email or leave your question below. Or maybe you’ve hired a doctor in the past? How did it go? Let us know in the comments section.

script doctor services

More Posts on Script Coverage and Doctor Services

♦  4 Crucial Things You Should Do Before Hiring a Script Consultant

♦  What Is a Script Editor and What Can They Do For My Script?

♦  Script Coverage Example: Learn What Readers Are Looking For

[© Photo credits: UnsplashFlickr]

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