There's been a bit of a buzz on Twitter lately as to whether script consultants are worth the price or not. Personally, I believe they are, and I'll address the reasons why in an upcoming Balls of Steel column, but for today, let's focus on some tools available to improve your script.
I have used professional script consultants for my work, several actually. At some point in one's career, we build up a network of writers we respect who give us feedback for free, but until that point, there is great value in hiring a consultant to help you mold your story into something well-told and marketable.
1. Screenplay Development Notes - What better way to highlight the importance of notes than from the mouth of a pro writer herself: "As a professional screenwriter, I rarely, if ever, receive the kind of extensive feedback offered in these notes. The detail and scrutiny are well appreciated. I also teach graduate level screenwriting, and in the past, have not known how to respond when students have asked about submitting their work for this kind of critique. I will now feel confident in sharing my very positive experience and will not be reticent in suggesting that your service may prove very helpful."– Jeanne Rosenberg (Screenwriter, The Black Stallion, White Fang)
Can't say much more than that.
NOTE: Even the shorter sessions from Story Specialists would be great just to get feedback on your premise. Why not find out if your idea is marketable BEFORE you put the work into writing it?
2. Screenplay Treatment Development Notes - If you want help in the early stages of your script, getting notes on your treatment or outline can save you an enormous amount of time, making your first draft more like a third draft.
3. Pitch Clinic - Before I write my scripts, I always write a pitch to see where the holes might be. It's a great way to get a handle on your story and if it really has a hook. One way to get less expensive script feedback is to have a consultation on your pitch, either before or after the script is finished.
4. Screenwriting Contests - Some, not all, offer an option to get feedback on your script. I've used this option before because it's the cheapest way to get advice from a pro. Screenwriting contests are also a great way to see where your talents fall in the pack of writers. Having said that, they are also subjective, so don't let a non-win get you down. Just keep at it!
As always, I practice what I preach, so my advice to get professional feedback is truly advice I believe in. I've done it and will continue to get notes on all my future stories, screenplays or novels.
Jeanne Veillette Bowerman is the Editor and Online Community Manager of Script Magazine and a webinar instructor for The Writers Store. She is Co-Founder and moderator of the weekly Twitter screenwriters’ chat, #Scriptchat, and wrote the narrative adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery by Another Name, with its author, Douglas A. Blackmon, former senior national correspondent of The Wall Street Journal. Jeanne also is President of Implicit Productions and consults with writers on how to build and strengthen their online and offline networks as well as face their fears in order to succeed in writing and in personal peace - a screenwriter's therapist. More information can be found on her blog, ramblings of a recovered insecureaholic. Follow @jeannevb on Twitter.