Q&A: Would You Recommend Using a Script Consultant?
The answer to this question depends on the goals of your project and your goals as a writer, so rather than give you a definitive “yes” or “no” answer, I’d prefer to explore the costs and benefits to hiring script consultants (or any other type of consultants) for you to consider in your own decision-making process.
The one disclaimer I’d give you is that, if you are shopping around for script consultants, you want to be careful to work with someone who has either sold a script, worked as a writer, or worked in development/acquisition for an agency or production company. If they don’t have any of these accomplishments on their resume, you should move on. Not to say that someone without these accomplishments cannot provide valuable feedback on your script, but you’re likely to get higher quality feedback from someone who has already accomplished what you are hoping to accomplish.
The benefits to hiring a script consultant, as I see it, are threefold. First, a script consultant with industry experience (not JUST consulting experience), will have a good idea about what is and what is not working in the marketplace. They can tell you what is selling, what is not selling, and where your concept fits. Second, a script consultant can be cavalier in their analysis of your script, giving you notes on story, structure, and style that your friends and family would be too reserved (or inexperienced) to give you. Third, a script consultant provides an outside opinion that can help you break writer’s block or otherwise give you a new perspective on a script that you may be too close to.
The costs to hiring a script consultant are also threefold. First, the actual price of a script consultant, depending on the quality of their expertise, can be very high. Granted, with enough research you may be able to find a high-quality consultant with relevant experience at a value, but that is time and energy you are trading from your script to the hiring process. Second, script consultants may not be entirely honest in their marketing techniques. Some claim to be “backed by agencies,” which may speak to their experience, but does not necessarily mean that they are going to refer and/or represent your film in any way. You have to remember, script consultants get paid to read your script and provide notes, not shop it around, and they have no incentive to go above and beyond in that way unless they’re asking for a back-end percentage of your script. Third, a low-quality script consultant can do more harm than good. If you are tight on cash and hire someone without the proper credentials, they may end up offering you notes and advice that moves your film in a direction away from marketability.
Now, as I said, whether or not I recommend using a script consultant depends on the goals of your project and your goals as a writer. If you have run into writer’s block or feel like you’ve taken your script as far as you can without now hearing from an outside voice, then a script consultant may help you take your script to the next level. If, on the other hand, you’re interested in hiring a script consultant in hopes that it will be a shortcut to representation or even sales, you may save yourself a lot of time, energy, and money by pursuing a different avenue (like a local writer’s workshop if you want to learn, share your work, and get notes, or like an agent or manager if you’re in need of representation).
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