I don't think script coaching is a good idea.
Okay, anyone who's tried to sell a script knows there about a hundred of those script evaluation coaches out there who charge anywhere from $75 to $300 to read your script and tell you what's wrong with it (script coaching). I only think you need this if you’re a novice writer who needs some direction.
Here's why I think they are not a good idea:
They all claim to be script selling gurus, but how many scripts have they themselves sold? "We'll tell you what your story needs to make it sell!" They all say that. And they all tout their years working as producers. But just because you've produced a movie doesn't mean you know what all script buyers are looking for. I think the best script coach is someone who SELLS SCRIPTS, not produces them. You as a producer are only 1 buyer; an agent knows what ALL THE BUYERS are looking for.
You're paying for one person's opinion. I paid to have my script coached by three different people. One told me it made absolute no sense whatsoever, it didn't follow any beats. She didn't understand the story at all. She said I needed to throw it out and start on a whole new idea. A second told me the story was pretty good but it needed work. A third told me the script was amazing and recommended it to an agent, who picked it up. All the same script. Every script coach will try to tell you what changes you need to make, but if you take all their advice then you will have too many cooks in the kitchen. Each thinking you should go in a different direction and you’ll wind up with a muddled, indistinct mess.
They're primarily salespeople just like any other type. I had one script coach read the synopsis of my story and told me it would never sell and that I needed his service. He never read the script and told me it would never sell (after an agent picked it up). After you pay for their advice they are going to try and R.E.H.A.S.H. you (Remember Everyone Has Another Sale Hidden). The lady who took my money and told me my script made no sense... she said "this is your first script. Nobody gets it right in their first five scripts. You should do some coaching with me so I can help develop you into the writer you need to be... for $150 an hour." She promised to "go over my script with a fine tooth comb.” But she missed a dozen typos that another coach found. She gave me some formatting corrections, and another script coach told me all her corrections were wrong. I seriously think she read the first 10 pages closely (because that's where 90% of her comments were), decided she didn't like my script, then lazily skimmed the rest and tried to rehash me into a coaching client. I’ve been pounding the phone. Calling production companies that might be interested and 99% of the time, they give you no feedback. But .00001% of the time, someone will tell you what they think. And they generally say that it’s good, just not what they’re looking for. So the lady who said my script would never sell is DEAD WRONG. Because actual script buyers told me it was good.
I don’t think it is productive to keep paying for people’s opinions. What you need to do is find that one producers who’s opinion is high and wants to buy your script. He’s out there. You have to do the legwork and find him.
I think most script consultants are like most stockbrokers: they are salesmen pretending to be skilled experts.
Very few stockbrokers are rich from investments. Very few script consultants are repped writers.
I think the best criticism isn't subjective at all. It's not one person's opinion. I think the most useful feedback is about execution -- how well did you execute your intention. In order to offer that feedback correctly, the reader has to have -- you guessed it -- mastered the form . When your golf coach tells you you're lifting your head on your drive, you don't say "that's just your opinion." You ask how to stop lisfting your head. Then you go and practice, and see how it helps your game.
The main problem, I think, is that most consultants can only offer their opinion, because they lack the mastery to be objective.
And if you have mastered the form, it's just simply not cost effective to use your time with "consulting." Newbie writers can't pay as much for your expertise as studios.
I think most script consultants are like most stockbrokers: they are salesmen pretending to be skilled experts. Very few stockbrokers are rich from investments. Very few script consultants are repped writers.
Exactly. If they're rich, it's from commissions/sales.
I'm a repped writer. I've mastered the form.
Here's how you (and everyone else) should evaluate your work: Did someone offer you money for it? No? Then it sucks.
Maybe the better way to look at it is this: Did it get me an agent or a a manager? Did it get me meetings that could lead to money later?
There are degrees, I'd argue.
Yes, but that's a person with experience.
But if you give it to three coaches and each has a wildly different opinion, doesn't that raise questions about their authority and ability to accurately evaluate your script?
Coaching has its detractors, but I don’t think anyone is actually arguing against the idea that people with more experience can help beginners develop. Rather, the biggest arguments against coaching seems to be that coaches may have dubious credentials, they may over-promise, they may under-deliver. Those pitfalls can be avoided by common sense:
Do your research.
Don’t believe anyone who promises you access and exposure.
Understand that selling a screenplay is inherently unlikely, even for those who have done it before.
Recognize that you are taking classes to build skills, not make a quick killing in the (non-existant) spec feature market.
Don’t pay too much. Non-accredited screenwriting training should cost somewhere between a class at a community center and an hour with a personal trainer.
It sounds like you got some shitty coaches. It also sounds like you're really, really desperate for someone to like your work, and that's not a mindset that gets good results.
My agent told me that the spec market isn't non existant. think of it like this: it only seem rare because the number of people trying do it and the number times it actually gets done, when really it does happen from time to time even in 2014 when nearly every movie is a pre-sold franchise.
think of it like this: American Idol. How many people show up to audition and how many people make it to the final 12? A few actually do. TWO people from my hometown (detroit area) are on the top 12 this year. Just because it's unlikely doesn't mean you shouldn't give it everything you have because lightning does strike the earth every once in a while. And from a philosophical standpoint, the way to succeed at anything is focusing on what IS there not what isn't there. if there's a 99% chance you'll fail, ignore that and focus on the 1% chance that you'll succeed.
Does anyone else remember the list of producer lines, that all meant a rejection?
If those Script buyers actually thought it was sellable, wouldn't they have gotten in touch with the Studios or Producers who WOULD option it? They would work as a pseudo agent and demand producer credit on your work if the studio was interested.
It would be great to get a producer credit and some cash, but lots of people around town are more than willing to pass stuff along without getting anything for it. They do it for the bragging rights, or to earn a favor, or just because they are decent people.
I've gotten the most honest feedback from people who know nothing or very little of screenwriting. You won't get good formatting feedback, but I enjoy feedback on characters and narrative from the people who I am really writing for. If they don't like it then I've failed.
Of course, if you want exposure then you're in a whole new ballpark. One that I know very little about and will not even pretend like I do. Finding an agent or a producer who'll look at your stuff if you haven't got a reputation is mostly impossible so it seems.
I don't think coaches should promise exposure. It's a bad practice
They all claim to be script selling gurus, but how many scripts have they themselves sold?
Syd Field never sold a script in his entire life, right?
I'm more blown away he was comfortable with paying three different people. That's a lot of cash.
OP I agree 100%. A screenplay is a work of art, and all art is subjective. One man's trash is another's treasure; varied feedback should be expected. That being said, I don't think buying script coaching from the front page google results list is smart. They all come across as used car sales guys/Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad. In my experience, totally not worth it.
Script feedback in general though, from colleagues or teachers or friends you trust, is an absolute must.
Then do the legwork to find that one producer/manager/agent who believes in your work. If it were easy, everyone would be repped and paid.
I also don't think pursuing an agent is a good strategy either, but that's another story.
I learned to play pool from a guy named Roy Yamani, he was great at teaching pool, but he wasn't the greatest player and didn't hold any titles. The point is and I have one...is some people can help and teach, and some great writers probably would be worthless in trying to explain the process or their thinking. I would argue that there are some who are experts in their own right, but that translating to being able to elevate your script or help in what it needs are not mutually exclusive.
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Very few script consultants are repped writers. Exactly. If they're rich, it's from commissions/sales.