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I first came up with the idea of doing interviews with professional script readers and consultants just about a year ago. I was curious about how they got into this, what they looked for when reading a client’s script, and what a writer could do to develop their craft.

And of course, their favorite kind of pie.

Based on my activity in social media and having heard them on a few writing/screenwriting podcasts, I could only think of a handful of consultants.

But the more research I did, the more consultants I found and contacted, asking if they’d be interested in taking part. The number of interviews was growing exponentially. Responses were overwhelmingly positive, with many excited to be involved (with a few opting to decline for their own reasons).

What I thought would be a fun 5-week lark of a project soon snowballed into a 10-month undertaking of monumental proportions. I started with five names, and ended up with 50. Fifty. 5-0. That’s a lot.

Some of you might be wondering what I got out of this. It’s just something I’m interested in. A fascinating subject that also happens to apply to something I want to do for a living. Nobody offered me free coverage, nor did I ask, because this is how most of these folks make a living, and it would be just plain rude and tacky to ask. I’ll also admit right here that a whopping three out of the fifty offered a discount on their rates in gratitude.

As someone who has used consultants in the past, I’ve been very fortunate in getting extremely helpful feedback that’s made a big difference in making my scripts better. Hopefully other writers can connect with any of the consultants in these interviews and have the same experience.

There are those who are against the idea of using consultants, with some claiming it’s just a scam designed for the sole purpose of separating you from your money. No doubt there are some out there that fall into this category, but most tend to be legitimate. Since there are so many to choose from, I’ve always recommended good old-fashioned comparison shopping; do your research and go with the one that works best for you.

Right now it feels kind of weird to not have to worry about editing and assembling an interview to be posted next week. I’ve got a few ideas for what to do next, but for now am going to enjoy the slower pace and return my focus to developing my own material.

Naturally, I’ll be using a consultant for feedback when the need arises.

Thanks for reading.

3 thoughts on “And….scene.

  1. Paul,

    I thought your interviews with screenplay consultants were consistently informative and insightful. Your most recent interview with Ryan Dixon was typical of the high quality questions, answers, and editing that went into all the posts!
    I mention Dixon also because he had an answer to a question I believe lies at the heart of consulting / and/or / feedback on a screenwriter’s work. I refer to his rave appraisal of the “Elizabethtown” script, which he then goes on to candidly admit that the movie fell far short of the lofty promise of the screenplay script he read (also astutely pointing out that the screenwriter, Cameron Crowe, was also the director of the final film). His answer reaffirms that screenplays are indeed part of a larger process, which is the production of a film/tv/or any media based on the screenplay.
    What I’m intrigued by is Dixon’s further thoughts on that particular project, along the lines he referred to as “alchemy,”– how does a good script go bad when it is produced as a movie. The term he employs suggests almost a mystical, unknowable answer. But because Dixon’s interview was filled with bright and intelligent answers, I’m betting he has theories as to what went wrong.
    But what he eludes to in his answer included in your interview should be frightening to all screenwriters — For god’s sake, we’re talking about a great script, written and directed by Cameron Crowe! What the hell happened?

  2. What the hell happened? Good question, Richard. But I don’t think we need to look for any woo-woo “alchemy” to explain Elizabethtown. Read the 139 page script. [This was not the shooting script, so be aware that much of what Ryan Dixon loved may have never been shot. He’s off the hook.]

    My read produced 46 notes: 2 attaboys, 32 minor comments, and 12 major problems. The latter affect viewer identification, continuity, and credibility, the core of the film.

    Here are just two of the problems:

    (1) The basis for the movie is the recall of the shoes. [P12, P130, pdf pagination]. But we’re TOLD it’s a disaster; we’re not SHOWN the disaster itself: the shoes. Instead, we are shown (empty?) boxes labelled “recall” arriving back at the factory. (Factory recalls do not work like that, BTW.)

    But why were they not selling? Did they look like clown feet? Were they open-toed alligator sneakers? Did the soles say “EAT ME!” on the tread? We’ve not been shown. Thus the subsequent miraculous resurrection of the shoes is without visual and emotional foundation, therefore without credibility. There was never really a problem.

    For future reference: A. Show, don’t tell. B. If I intend to write a movie based on the blivet business, I’d better learn how it works before I start. Having used blivets all my life does not qualify me to write a script with that setting. This will take more than a factory tour or an Internerd search.

    (2) Drew’s entrance establishes him solidly as a putz. Yes, he gets interesting later on, but by then the “cat” is dead.

    For future reference: C. Character entrances are vital. I only get one shot; I’d better make it count. A great movie depends on audience identification with the main character.

    Still, Crowe’s Almost Famous is my #1 favorite film, and I love the E-town cast. Especially Kirsten Dunst.

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