Writers vs Readers

Posted on December 3rd, by JCH in Screenwriting. No Comments

In an effort to compress my screenwriting education I’ve looked to several resources for input. But what do you do if you get conflicting advice?

Craig Mazin is a respected screenwriter, former WGA board member and, along with John August, he’s half of the excellent Scriptnotes podcast. I listen every week.
Danny Manus
is a script consultant, author, former producer and sells his services as a screenwriter’s resource for everything from how to write a logline, to pitching, to giving notes.
Through the Dallas Screenwriters Association, I had the chance to hear Danny speak. I liked what I heard enough to pony up a few bucks for his one-day seminar on pitching and how to garner interest from agents, managers and producers. It was good stuff. So much good info that I had a hard time taking notes and keeping up. Hey, Danny – would it be that hard to offer handouts? I think I’m supposed to buy the book.

Now, Craig thinks what I’ve done is stupid. He thinks that all script consultants are charlatans. That paying money for professional script readers to give notes is a waste of money. He famously takes umbrage at people who aren’t in the movie writing business trying to tell those working to get in, how to do it. He logically argues that if they could do it, wouldn’t they?
He may be right. There are some who charge a ridiculous amount. A thousand bucks to read my script? Please. But, I’ve listened to his advice and arguments on these screenwriting gurus and it seems he believes that spending money on learning the craft is a bad idea.
Here’s my take – I’ve bought a lot of books – I bought McKee first, and still don’t know what he’s talking about in most of Story. I invested in Cat Saving techniques and a couple of others. I’ve found a couple of really good reasonably priced script readers – ScriptGal and Scott the Reader. Yeah, they don’t promise to waltz my work into studio execs, but they have helped identify plot holes, structure issues, characters that need more depth and what does and doesn’t make sense. It’s been a great, affordable education. I’m doing this to try and get paid to tell a story, not spend the rent. I’m also starting from scratch here.
I went to the Austin Screenwriters Conference this year and thanks to what I learned from Mazin, Manus and the incomparable Stephanie Palmer’s Good In A Room pitching tips, I made the finals of the pitch competition. It really helped that I’d paid some smart people to look at my script and incorporated their significant changes. That lead to a recommendation to a manager. Who has since moved my script on to a prolific producer. Gears are turning. So far it’s been a good investment. Lord willing it will pay off.
This step in my education has taught me that not everybody is always right. Mazin makes good points – buyer beware – there are crooks out there. But then so too do the good folks who are charging a fair price for excellent service and information.

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