Grab your free RESOURCES TOOLKIT and more screenwriting awesomeness!COUNT ME IN!
FREE RESOURCES TOOLKIT

blog

What Is a Script Editor and What Can They Do for My Script?

A Quick Guide to the Mysterious World of Script Editors and Whether You Should Hire One

SIGN UP & GET A FREE RESOURCES TOOLKIT PDF

We'll also send you the very best screenwriting tips, hacks and special offers on the web.

GET IT NOW!
Featured In
by Script Reader Pro in Script Coverage
May 19, 2015 4 comments
script editor

What Is a Script Editor and What Can They Do for Your Script?

Are you looking to hire a “script editor” but are unsure what the term means exactly? Let’s clear up the confusion surrounding this title and help you decide if should hire one.

“Script Editor” Is a Term Used in British TV

In Britain, the term “script editor” is used to describe someone who works closely with the production team. Their job is to work with production and the writer to maintain a standard of quality on a TV drama or comedy series.

Much of the confusion surrounding the term “script editor” is because it’s also used interchangeably with “script consultant” and “script doctor.”

However, they all pretty much mean the same thing: people who get paid to help screenwriters improve their work.

Script Editor vs Script Consultant vs Script Doctor

The difference is in the types of service these people provide. If you hire someone as a script doctor/screenplay consultant, you’re asking for extensive feedback on your script.

The term “script editor” is sometimes used to describe this service, but really it shouldn’t.

“Script editing” refers to a service some script doctors/script consultants provide when they go through a screenplay and perform a Line Edit. Or some other kind of editing service that edits what’s on the page.

The main difference here between an “edit” and a “doctoring” or “consulting” service is that an edit generally makes cuts to the script without going into the same level of detail on story, character, structure, etc.

An edit is not a consultation service. It’s usually a service that tidies up and polishes what’s in already pretty good shape.

For this reason, we only recommend Line Edits to screenplays that have already received a “Consider” or “Recommend” grade from a well-respected screenplay consultancy.

On this page, you can find a Line Edit example to give you an idea of what the service entails.

For now, forget about the technicalities of the terms. Depending on what country you’re in, and who you’re talking to, a script editor/script doctor/script consultant can all mean the same thing.

Here’s a quick rundown of the kind of things a judicious script editor or whatever you wish to call them will seek out and destroy in your script.

A Script Editor Will Look to Cut Idle Chatter

A film “is life with the uninteresting parts cut out.” And that means cutting out all small talk. In well-written scripts, characters don’t make small talk. Every single word they say in some way moves the story forward or reveals character and theme. And often all at once.

The old chestnut concerning writing scenes is to “get in as late as possible and leave as early as possible.” This means avoiding have your characters say anything to each other that’s not relevant. Unless it’s important to the plot or revealing character in some way.

Also, characters should never talk about things that we already know. Near the end of 12 Years A Slave, for example, Bass (Brad Pitt) asks Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor) how he ended up as a slave.

Rather than having Solomon lay it all out for him, the film simply cuts to ten minutes later and we pick up again with Bass saying, “That’s quite a story.”

This is exactly the kind of thing a good script editor/script doctor will suggest to help quicken the read.

script editor

A Script Editor Will Cut Unnecessary Scenes

These are the single biggest culprits for over-inflating a script. Every single scene should move the story forward and hopefully reveal character. If it’s not then it shouldn’t be there.

You may have heard that a good way to test whether a scene should be in a script is to take it out and see what happens. We don’t like this advice as it doesn’t take into account how hard it is for the writer themselves to make this kind of judgment call.

A script editor will either flag up “dead scenes” or remove them him or herself, rather than leave it to the writer to take them out.

A Screenplay Editor Will Cut Unnecessary Sub-Plots

Sometimes rogue sub-plots can sneak through several drafts. These will also be flagged by a script editor.

A sub-plot should only exist in order to impact on the main plot. In other words, if you write a series of scenes in which your main character tries to set up a friend on a blind date, but nothing happens to the main character as a result, then they don’t belong in the script.

For example, in Sideways, Jack gets together with Maya’s friend, Stephanie in a subplot. After finally getting it on with Maya, Miles lets it slip to her that Jack is engaged and she dumps him.

The subplot, therefore, directly affects the main plot and this should always be the case. Otherwise, it’ll be another item marked for deletion by a script editor.

A Screenplay Editor May Cut Unnecessary Montages

As you probably know, montages should serve a specific function: showing one action, usually executed by the protagonist.

One example is the famous “training montage” found in sports and war films. The hero has a week to get in shape, say, for the big fight or entrance to the army. We then see them doing lengths in the pool, chin-ups and shooting practice in a series of quick scenes.

Often, they are visibly better at whatever they’re doing at the end of the montage than they were at the beginning, to increase the sense that they’re changing.

The key point is a montage is one action with a purpose. The hero should have a specific goal, just like in a scene, except this time there’s often little or no conflict. It simply exists to move the story along more quickly than possible in a series of proper scenes.

The mistake many writers make, however, is adding montages without a clear purpose. Common examples are montages of city/country life. Montages of family/friends lives. Montages of traveling/driving/commuting, etc.

In each of these examples, the montages fail to move the story along and so will probably be cut by the screenplay editor.

A Script Editor Will Cut Unnecessary Characters

At the risk of sounding repetitive, every character in a film is there for a reason. If their impact on the main plot is unclear or non-existent, a script editor will take them out or suggest you take them out.

Does your protagonist really need that buddy who pops up every so often? If the buddy is not guiding the protagonist, advising them, or turning against them then they shouldn’t be in the script.

Often, script editors will suggest several minor characters be melded together to form one. A protagonist will come up against several obstacles posed by different characters, when in fact they could all be the work of the same one.

###

We hope this has cleared up some of the confusion surrounding the role of the script editor, script consultant and script doctor for you. Have you ever hired a script editor? Or do you prefer to work alone?

script editor

Liked This Post? Read More Script Editor Related Posts…

4 Crucial Things You Should Do Before Hiring a Script Consultant

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

How to Become a Screenwriter: A Pro’s Guide to Unlocking Your Career

[© Photo credits: Pexels]

4 Comments
  1. Vincent Kong says:

    Hi there,

    my name is Vincent Kong. I’m wondering. Would you to the editor for me my script? Do I want to know how much cost?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      One of our readers would do the Line Edit or Proofread and you can check them out here: https://www.scriptreaderpro.com/line-edit-service/ and here: https://www.scriptreaderpro.com/proofreading-and-formatting-service/ Cheers!

  2. Farzin Youabian says:

    Screenplay Restless Time ” Farzin Youabian film.
    Hi my name is Farzin Youabian and at this point I do have a script is action pack crime story looking for script editor to fix my script which is 103 pages

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Hi, Farzin – you can find our Line Edit service here, and Rewrite/Polish services here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SIGN UP & GET A FREE RESOURCES TOOLKIT PDF

We'll also send you the very best screenwriting tips, hacks and special offers on the web.

GET IT NOW!