What Is a Script Consultant and Do I Need One?
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of screenplay contests, pitch fests, and different ways to break into the industry or hone your screenwriting craft. But recently, a new tool has popped up for screenwriters: script consultants.
What is a script consultant?
That's an excellent question. Glad you asked. Before we get into our interview with a script consultant, let's answer it!
Script consultants are usually people who work in the film and television industry, who you pay for notes and feedback. These are people who can help you get your script to the next level. Which tee's up the next big question...
Are script consultants worth it?
I’ve always been skeptical of script consultants on the whole. Recently, a friend of mine, Evan Littman, launched his script consulting service called GetMade.
I’ve known Evan for years, and I’ve asked him to read almost everything I’ve ever written so that I could get his feedback. So I invited him to answer a few questions about script consulting so that in turn everyone on the forum could interact with a script consultant and see if it’s right for them.
Before we dive into the details of script consulting, let’s learn more about Evan.
Evan Littman, script consultant
Evan is the VP of Film Acquisitions & Development at the Steel Company, where he works extensively in the international sales space for independent film. He has read, evaluated, and negotiated deals for thousands of scripts, projects, and packages with an eye toward theatrical exhibition. In a nutshell, he helps foreign buyers acquire indie movies.
Evan has acquired films for theatrical distributors in territories around the world, from China to Portugal to South Africa. His reading client list includes top companies such as Amazon Studios, Covert Media, Red Granite, Sumatra, and more. Evan opened his own script consulting service, GetMade, in part because he saw screenwriters getting so many unhelpful notes.
So... without any further delay, let's get some answers!
Interview With Evan Littman
No Film School: What do you love about Hollywood?
Littman: Everyone is always working on something. Even successful people know they can’t sit on their laurels. Maybe that’s a double-edged sword, but I love the hustle. We make movies and TV; why would you want to stop anyway?
NFS: What's the best screenplay you've ever read?
Littman: I keep a personal database of every script I read, with relevant details and a general rating. I have signed an NDA for most of the scripts, so I’m trying to think of one that it would be kosher to share. Graham Moore’s LAST DAYS OF NIGHT definitely stands out from the pack.
I really hope someone makes that movie.
NFS: Explain the idea of script consulting.
Littman: I can’t speak for others, but I think of it like an on-demand development service. If you’ve written a script and you want to know how Hollywood professionals will receive it, you send it to us and we’ll talk about strengths, weaknesses, and how to improve it. It’s more than just a blurb and a number rating. I want your script to get picked up, so I’m just going to put in the effort to tell you how to it can be more appealing to Hollywood.
NFS: Okay, what does your script consulting service provide?
Littman: We provide a comprehensive conversation about your script. We go over strengths, weaknesses, and then get into the nitty gritty of how to improve it.
The way it works is, you’ll send us your script, we’ll read it in about a week, and then we'll talk about it for an hour over video chat [via Zoom]. We also have faster turnaround available if you want to pay for the rush rate.
During our hour-long conversation, I’ll offer notes and explanations, and you can ask me questions.
The good thing about video chat is that you don't have to live in Los Angeles to work with us. We have clients from a ton of different places.
NFS: What can a good script consultant offer?
Littman: A good script consultant focuses on making your script better at whatever it is that your script is trying to do. For example, if you’re trying to write a kickass action script, a good script consultant will help you improve your set pieces (fight scenes, shootouts, car chases, etc.) so that they’re clear on the page, and they don’t feel like every other action script out there. A good script consultant will also make sure your emotional beats are tracking, and that you stick with the concept you’re setting up.
A good script consultant has the reading experience to know what other action scripts look like, and the development skills to help you take the right steps to get there.
NFS: How can you tell if a script consultant is bad?
Littman: How much time you got?
A lot of bad script consultants try to turn your script into the script they want to see, without any regard for what you’re trying to write. But the sketchiest thing I see script consultants doing is selling the idea that they can guarantee you representation, employment, placement in a contest, or a sale.
That person is lying to you.
No real Hollywood professional would ever sell access to their network like that. After a week of blasting the town with unsolicited amateur scripts, their reputation would be shot.
I also see script consultants charging thousands of dollars for development notes. I think I’m pretty good, but come on. That’s insane.
NFS: How do you approach giving notes?
Littman: My consultations usually consist of two parts. The first part is me asking questions to the writer about their script. Stuff like “what influenced you?” or “what’s the theme?” or my favorite, “if this movie was playing in your local theater and you wanted to convince a friend to come see it with you, how would you describe it in a sentence?”
That’s how people decide what movie to see…“hey, you wanna see the one where Keanu Reeves is a badass and kills a bunch of dudes because they killed his dog?”
Yes, I want to see that one.
Once we hone in on what the writer wants to do, I can explain to them which parts of their script are working, and which parts aren’t.
Sometimes scripts have good ideas that are hidden behind unusual formatting or confusing prose. Other times, writers are trying to do something too complex for the medium.
For example, I was once pitched a script that came with a five minute trailer that the writer had edited together…I mean with a specifically British voiceover.. explaining the backstory of his science fiction universe.
I reminded the writer that he was writing a script, not a novel, and he should focus on the absolute core of the story. Once we’d established a more digestible and compelling logline, it was easier for him to build out the rest of his story.
NFS: What does a good "script note" look like?
Littman: I might tell a writer something like “in this sequence, I like how the character does X Y and Z, but I want to make sure that it’s in line with your intended theme. Are you sure that’s how you want your character to approach this obstacle?”
NFS: A bad script note?
Littman: I have seen writers get notes that adhere to arbitrary rules over all else, which always infuriates me. Stuff like “the Act 1 break into Act 2 needs to happen on page 25 no matter what.”
It’s like, I get it, you read Save the Cat, but maybe we dive a little deeper? Moving a scene to page 25 isn’t suddenly going to turn this thing into CASABLANCA.
NFS: So why should people pick you over other consultant services?
Littman: The first thing I want to say here is, you don’t NEED a script consultant. I know that sounds counterproductive, but the truth is that lots of pros learned on their own. That said, I have plenty of friends who are working professional writers that wholeheartedly endorse my notes.
The production companies that I read for also recommend me to other companies because I’m fast, thorough, and insightful. And finally, I have a pretty good track record when it comes to evaluating scripts and packages for international presales.
So I’m vetted, I’m a working professional, and my prices are reasonable. I charge $149 to read your script and talk to you for an hour about how to improve it.
NFS: If you were trying to break in as a writer, where would you start?
Littman: I’d start by reading a lot of scripts. There are tons of free resources on the Internet. I’d also move to Los Angeles (if I could afford it).
There is no substitute for meeting people face to face. Finally, I would read the trades instead of the fan sites.
Although Deadline has kind of devolved into HuffPo West, it’s still a reliable source for entertainment news.
NFS: What's the best piece of advice you have for budding screenwriters?
Littman: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And getting an agent is the starting block, not the finish line. I would also get a day job, and possibly day career.
The numbers coming out of the WGA are daunting: there are more active players on NFL rosters than there are working screenwriters in Hollywood.
It’s not impossible, but you really have to love the work.
NFS: What do you think the Hollywood landscape / spec market looks like in five years?
Littman: It’s always a push and pull. Chinese financing was supposed to be the industry’s savior, but it’s practically dried up.
Meanwhile, the Middle East is one of the fastest growing theatrical markets in the world, and Saudi Arabia just announced a massive tax incentive program at Cannes. New US distributors like Neon are popping up, while Global Road collapses.
Bottom line is that people love movies. That’s not going to change.
In regards to the Spec Market, writing a dynamite spec is still the most reliable way to jumpstart your career.
Even if it doesn’t sell, you will always be known by that sample.
Having a calling card is never a bad thing.
Summing up our talk with script consultant Evan Littman
As I said, there is a growing number of script consultants on the market and hopefully, this gives you a window into what one does and a sense of if it's something you could make use of.
If you’re going to hire a script consultant, feel free to ask them some of the above questions.
Like Evan said, breaking in as a full time screenwriter in Hollywood is extremely difficult. It can be even harder if you’re throwing money away at bad contests and consultants that aren’t worth your time or money.
If you liked what you heard from Evan, check out his website and feel free to reach out to him if you have other questions. He’s at email@example.com
Got any other professionals or professional services you want us to interview? Any other questions about or experiences with script consultants?
Reach out in the comments. Let us know whats on your mind.
I look forward to reading what you come up with next!