Friday, March 07, 2008

Good Advice on Script Consultants

My friend, Sheila Gallien , screenwriter and script consultant to the stars, has written an excellent article about how to get the most benefits from a script consultant.

We writers need good criticism. We know that. But we often don't know where to get it. Our family and friends serve one purpose -- to tell us how fabulous and creative we are. But as the rejections accumulate from agents and producers, one quickly comes to the conclusion that perhaps Mom may not be the go-to person for an honest appraisal of a work.

Finding a qualified consultant to discuss your script (or book) with you, to point out story strengths, and to illuminate weaknesses isn't always easy. Several things have to happen first:

* The writer must be ready to hear an unvarnished critique.
* The writer must realize that NO work is ever perfect. No consultant will ever read a screenplay and say "It is perfect. Change nothing. Let me put you in touch with my agent who will make all your dreams come true."
* The work must be thoroughly edited and as polished as the writer can make it.
* The writer must believe in the merits of the work so much that criticism doesn't dissuade the writer from championing the project.
* The writer must have done his or her homework in order to choose a consultant who is a good fit -- creatively and professionally.

Ms. Gallien has been a consultant for years. Her credits are impressive and impeccable. If you have a script that you are ready to take to the next level, and are considering a script consultant, you owe it to yourself and your work to read what she has to say about making the writer / consultant relationship work for you.

In addition to addressing things like creative communication, the consultant's tone, and avoiding a consultant's baggage, I especially like the article's Tip #5, which addresses the consultant's experience with scripts in different stages of development.

When I consult with writers on books they are working on, I am very up-front about my experience with the publishing process. I feel that I bring the most to the table when discussing non-fiction works, because those are what I have the most real-world, hands-on experience with. I have actually taken books from concept through creation to publication. I understand how a project's parameters might change during each phase.

In the same vein, when I work with a script consultant, I want to make sure that the consultant has worked with many optioned and produced scripts. Otherwise, I'm essentially paying for a glorified reader's opinion -- and that won't help me or my script much.

Sheila Gallien is the real thing. She has literally written the book on screenwriting. She has worked with a veritable Who's Who in the film industry. And she took the time to work up an article dispensing free advice to writers ready to take the next step in polishing their work.

Is your script ready for a consultant? Only you can say. Perhaps, after reading Sheila's article , you'll agree with me that the better question might be: "Am I ready to hear what a consultant has to say?"