a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Capitalism At Its Worst

So if you are an obsessive reader of comments on blogs, you may have noticed long, long posts on other people's blogs by one of my fellow readers, who is trying to shill his new website, where he is offering his services on helping you improve your script. Or become a better reader. You can even hire his mentors and life coaches. He even offers a free report on mistakes that writer's make when using a script consultant.

I'm guessing that overpaying them isn't one of the mistakes he cites.

Because if you want to pay him for "studio coverage" on your script -- basically, a synopsis you don't need, and "basic analysis" that will probably only say that the script is good or bad, without being all that helpful -- it'll cost you $197.

If you want 3-5 pages of detailed notes and suggestions on all the main elements of the screenplay, it'll cost you $347.

If you want up to 10 pages of page-by-page notes, OR to meet with him to talk about your story? $547. If you want both? $697.

Holy Jesus.

And the sad part is that he isn't out of line. There are other script site services that are worse (I'm sure those are the ones that make his report), or more expensive. As one reader justifies on his blog, it's "capitalism at its best", and he sees no problem in charging aspiring screenwriters much more than he does the corporate movie companies that he works for.

The really crazy thing is that the work they are doing is almost pure profit, and it just doesn't take that long. Let's focus on the 3-5 pages of notes, which if they are good could be helpful for a writer. I can sit down with your script, read it, take notes, and then bash out 3-5 helpful pages, and it will take me three hours. Tops. Maybe even less. I do it for friends, all the time, for nothing.

But that's well over $100 an hour, if you are paying $300+. Wow. Start lining up, people. Throw me your cash.

Except I could never do that. Because the idea of making an aspiring writer (who probably has a real job and bills to pay, that they are trying to juggle against their dream, just like I am) shell out that much money just seems obscene to me.

So I'm torn. On the one hand, I'm busy with work, and it's just going to get busier. I don't really have time to do a lot of outside work. Maybe a few extra scripts a week. I'm also concerned that the thugs from the script service agencies are going to come down and beat me.

But screw it. Maybe, as a public service, I'll carve off a tiny sliver of their business. Actually, in theory, I'm not really doing that -- I think the people I am targeting are the ones who would NEVER pay that much money to get notes on their script. Anyone who would, go on to those other services; I'm sure they can help you much more than I can.

Anyhow, here's the offer. Script notes, 3-5 pages. Not a synopsis, not basic coverage, but actual script notes. What that guy is charging $347 for.

I'll do them for $60. Paid in advance, Check or cash, no credit cards. No pennies.

But there would have to be rules.

I don't want anyone sending me scripts in hopes that I think they are great, and will pass them on to someone else. I'm not going to do that. If they are great, enter them in a contest. Win. Become rich.

I want to read scripts in which the writer is stuck, or needs a push, or some direction. Where I can give you pages and pages of story/structure/character notes, and you'll happily launch into a rewrite.

I will tear your baby apart. I'll tell you a few good things, and then most of the report will focus on what doesn't work. If you don't want your baby torn apart, don't hire me.

I won't teach you how to write. If you don't know how to properly format a script, then you'd be better off investing in screenwriting books.

If you think your script is great, and you want to get good coverage and a road to the studios, I'm not the guy. ScriptShark does stuff like that.

If you need to talk to someone on the phone afterward, I'm not that guy either. Go to FunJoel for something like that. (I will trade an e-mail or two, if you need clarification).

What I'm offering is basic, solid notes (no synopsis, just notes), from a guy who has read a hell of a lot of scripts and books (I'm going to hit my 9000th studio/prodco coverage sometime next year) and who'd be just as happy reading your script as he would one from a production company, for the same price. Because that's fair.

Anyhow, I have no idea if this is going to work. I think there might be interest in this, but I can't really handle a deluge, but if I can do notes here, and notes there, it might work. I'd try to turn them around fairly quickly; almost certainly less than a week.

If it's something you might want to explore, now or in the future, e-mail me at

Otherwise, all comments welcome. Has anyone used these other services, and wants to share their experiences, positive or negative? Has anyone gotten satisfying notes or coverage back from contests they entered? Most importantly, am I crazy?


At 12:49 PM, Blogger writergurl said...

You're on.

Crazy? Nah... just a decent guy offering a great deal.

Thanks for that. Look for an email from me soon.

At 1:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could handle that, thanks man

At 1:57 PM, Blogger Matt Waggoner said...

Of course you're crazy, you're a screenwriter.

That said, I don't know... like any service, one has to look at whether it's worth the money. If I were in a position to want to pay for script coverage, I know your writing and experience well enough that you'd probably be my first choice. Especially at the low, low price of $60.

On the other hand, we know what Pogue would say. ;)

At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure it will work. I, for one, will recommend you to some writers I know work well with notes.

Daniel L

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Grubber said...

Once I finish I will be in it. Hopefully you will still be doing it, and it is only fair to compensate you for your time, that could be otherwise spent with family and/or beer.

At 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny that you post this now. I'm not done with a script, but I was just thinking that if I was, I'd email you about doing a read for me.

I'll give myself credit though, I think I was going to offer you $75 for the task.

It's very cool of you to do, if I do say so myself. Now, if your blog weren't so compelling, along with a few others I've recently come across, I might actually HAVE something to ask you to read.

Aw crap.

At 5:17 PM, Blogger Kira said...

Crazy and generous. Thanks, Scott!

At 7:21 PM, Blogger "it's always better on holiday..." said...

Script notes for $60? No you're not crazy... though Nic Cage just named his son Kal-El so I guess it is a sliding scale...

I'm sure I'll be taking you up on your offer in the near future. Though I am Canadian so I'll need to save up first :)

At 11:00 PM, Blogger Warren said...

That's not only fair, it's a fantastic offer that your readers should absolutely take advantage of! I certainly will.

At 11:51 PM, Blogger Dave Olden said...

Right on, Scott.

Pricing it absolutely fair to everyone; You're singing, Scott -- the notes sound like music already!



At 2:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've actually done work as a reader for one of these companies - granted, they skim a hell of alot of the profit off before paying me, but I still make around $75-125 a read. In return, I write ten pages of notes, and frequently take phone calls. I don't know if these kinds of services are really for everyone. It's literally hand-holding through revision after revision, and when it's bad, it's really bad.

But I console myself with the thought that I've managed to genuinely help people for once, instead of trashing their script to a production company. A couple of them have gone from un-readable to getting optioned, and one actually got shot.

Overall, I think it's the kind of service that can be useful, but if you're good, you should be able to do it for yourself.

At 6:14 AM, Blogger PJ McIlvaine said...

Good luck!

At 8:13 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Anonymous --
The fact that the company you worked for took that much off the top shocks me (but on reflection, doesn't really surprise me). I hate to think how much money some of those people dropped on revision after revision.

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Leif Smart said...

Thanks for offering this service and I hope it works out well for both you and all the people who will be sending you their scripts.

Personally, I would love to use such a service, sometime in the next 6 years when I finish a script, as a way to get an objective opinion on my script before I try sending it out.

At 12:03 PM, Anonymous LJH said...

I've used places like zoetrope to get the same for free, and there's helium which offers some 'mentor' type arrangements for about the same price.

Not knocking your offer at all though Scott - sounds fair and reasonable!

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I'm all for peer review -- I still think the best way for anyone is to cultivate a few intelligent, movie-loving friends who will be able to give you meaningful thoughts on your script beyond "I liked it".

Not always easy to find, though.

At 11:29 PM, Blogger Chris (UK Scriptwriter) said...

Fantastic, I'm in. I'll drop you an email.



At 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've used places like zoetrope

Huh? The notes at Zoetrope are dreadful.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger shecanfilmit said...

I think your offer is a bit too nice :-) You're probably going to get a deluge of cash and scripts.

I only paid for coverage once, and not on my own screenplay but one I was paid to rewrite. I paid my story consultant friend $500 for an in depth read and analysis. She came back with 5 pages of notes that nailed all of the problems. It wasn't so much for me -- I knew the problems already -- it was for me to use to help the original writer, who was stubborn and writing a story about himself.

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Fun Joel said...

Late to comment, as I'm still catching up on stuff. But A) thanks for the shout out, and B) anyone who doesn't take you up on this offer is an idiot. Good luck keeping your head above water and finding the time to do your other work!

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Michael Leahy said...

Just by way of comparison, I got a pretty detailed 12-page analysis by a good reader in London for about €180/$220 (can't remember what the pound price was). As well as holding my hand and warming the cockles of my heart with nice comments, she also inevitably picked out the smelly parts and offered a good handful of possible changes (if it's a tragic gangster movie, then try XYZ, if the character is on an epic journey then ABC, etc.). I still pull out elements when talking to directors and producers when they raise questions about structure. Gives them the impression I can think on my feet (have to love that expression), so I'm getting long-term ROI.


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