I’m guessing you aren’t already an established screenwriter with industry connections. Maybe you don’t even live in L.A.
I’m also assuming you wrote and edited that screenplay. Maybe you pitched, and nobody bit. Maybe you entered some contests, and your results didn’t earn you the industry attention you were hoping for.
You also don’t have (m)any screenwriter friends who can offer you solid advice. Or maybe you do, but their style and taste are far too different for you to take advantage of this.
You want professional opinion of someone who knows what they’re talking about, but you can’t decide where to begin.
You aren’t alone. I want detailed feedback on my screenplays, but there are many options out there. Offers and prices vary greatly.
So while there are far more services than I can cover in a single blog post, I’m sharing the ones I’m considering using myself.
Now, ideally, you’d want the most honest, detailed, relevant yet encouraing feedback from someone who you could afford.
None of the links in this article are affiliate links. This article exists to make your (and my) quest on finding the ideal coverage service a little easier.
What’s screenplay coverage/consulting exactly, anyway?
Very, very roughly, it’s an evaluation of your script’s strengths and weaknesses. However the length, depth and contents depend from service provider to service provider.
Of course more details and pages usually mean more money. Some even offer marketing packages. Some offer their industry position (pass/recommend/consider), etc.
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s start with the Blacklist.
I plan to write a separate entry detailing Blacklist and my experience on it.
But for this article, what you need to know is that Blacklist is a popular screenplay hosting-evaluation site where you can host a single script for 25 dollars a month.
You fill in your logline, keywords, genre and a lot of other information, such as your agent (if you have one), how many episodes you are planning (if it’s a TV show, etc…)
Now, you want your screenplay to be highly visible, and for that it needs a high average score of 8 or upwards after being evaluated by at least two of their readers.
Evaluations cost 50 bucks a screenplay, and they are a page-long descriptions of your strengths and weaknesses, budget (low/high/medium) and a logline written by the reader, and some tips on what to improve .
Those lucky souls who get 8 (over a scale of 10) or above are promoted within the site, and a lot of Blackist favorites have been made into movies. You should remember that 8 needs to be the average of all areas, and you’re graded on the plot, premise, characters…..
The problem is, it is pretty difficult to score that high. Even if your story is strong, this is a highly subjective matter. And getting one or two bad scores shouldn’t put you down.
However with two low/average scores and a couple of months of no/little traffic (more on this on the upcoming post), it might be time to spend money elsewhere and take your project(s) down.
Mind you, this isn’t me being pessimistic. The site’s own guidelines suggest this.
Of course there’s a chance that even if your screenplay hasn’t scored high, the keywords you used to describe your projects can help you get found by industry professionals.
I might try Blacklist again for another project of mine, but for the time being I’m adhering to their advice and will suspend my account for the current ones.
Bluecat Screenplay Contest and Screenplay Consulting
I gave some details about this contest in my previous post The Elusive Craft of Writing Better Screenplay Dialogue & Useful Resources to Improve Yours.
The contest sends your written feedback in a month, and after that you are allowed to resubmit (only once) before a certain deadline, should you choose to make the changes requested. So if you’ve entered earlier, $55 will give you a contest entry, and about a page of written analysis. After that you can resubmit for an extra $40 (or more, depending on when you submitted).
I’ve recently received my feedback, and I’m quite happy about it. Sure, there are elements that made me panic a little. For instance, I was told my characters were prone to saying exactly how they felt (as opposed to hiding it, expressing through actions, or saying the opposite…)
And the thing is, I edited very harshly before submitting it to this competition. The script was at its shortest version, and I had cut a total 7 pages of dialogue and description, following Gordy Hoffman’s (and other respected experts’ advice on dialogue).
That said, this was the first review where I felt the reader and I are on the same page when it comes to what the story is about, why my protagonist is acting in a certain way, and who he is, and how the characters are interacting the way they are interacting.
And I’ve gotten so used to killing darlings (do Stephen King’s ears ring every time writers use this phrase of his?), I’m sure I can kill some more on my next editing spree.
The great thing about the Bluecat site is that there’s lots of great tips on all aspects of screenplay writing. The only cost is your time (and attention, obviously).
You can also choose to join workshops or get script consultation by the Gordy Hoffman (Bluecat Founder and Contest Judge). The downside is, if your script has been evaluated by him, it can’t enter the competiton, which is only fair.
Doug Davidson (Four Star Feedback)
Doug is a freelance writer, screenwriter and Nicholls fellow.
He’s affordable, friendly, and open to questions. He also offers a fixed price/service, so you won’t scratch your head for long. He has posted a sample review on his webpage, and I do like his approach and tone.
His rate is $100, and you get several pages of feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
Happy Writers Stage 32
My screenplay got to be a quarterfinalist in the Happy Writers at the last competition (before they merged with stage32).
I also love the network of Stage32 (which is also where I met Doug Davidson).
The great thing about Stage32HappyWriters is that it’s free to join. You can connect with other writers and entertainment professionals, learn from your peers as well as more experienced veterans. Helpful posts are frequently published, and there are lots of informative discussions going on.
There are also labs you can attend for a fee.
The good thing about Stage32HappyWriters’ coverage service is that you have several alternatives to choose from. The readers’ credits have been listed, and you can choose a reader whose work you already admire.
Ashley Scott Meyers is a working screenwriter with IMDB credits to his name, and he runs a very helpful site loaded with screenwriting tips, including writing better, networking and how to sell your screenplay.
In addition to his free e-mail course (5 emails, an email per week upon signing up) on how to sell your screenplay, the site also features a screenwriting library where you can download actual scripts of movies for free, though mostly they aren’t the shooting scripts. Still, it’s a great resource.
Sellingyourscreenplay.com also offers a premium membership where you can join classes.
As for coverage services, you can choose one of the industry specialists (whose resume highlights are listed) on the page to evaluate your script.
Page Awards organizes a yearly TV script/movie screenplay contest. You can choose to get professional feedback before submitting your screenplay to the contest, or you can do it without entering the contest.
They have several packages to choose from. What I like about their packages is that you can even choose to get a marketing package where they write your synopsis, query letter and logline.
They also have a very nifty newsletter that offers tips, links to resources and several calls for the types of screenplays studios/executives/producers are currently looking for.
Page Awards also lists the accomplishments of their previous winners, and that alone usually fires you up, and want to enter.
I entered one feature screenplay and one TV pilot (drama, one-hour) this year. They are a couple of weeks away from announcing their quarter finalists, so please keep your fingers crossed for me.
Scriptapalooza is respected competition for both TV pilots and screenplays. Like many competitions, you can get your judge’s feedback for an additional fee. You can also just enter the competition, or skip the competition all together and order a consultancy service.
David Trottier is the writer of Screenwriter’s Bible, and also called Dr. Format. His website Keep Writing comes with great articles.
He also offers query evaluation, courses and workshops.
His script consultation comes in different packages ( 14 Point analysis, one sheet or synopsis, first 10 pages…..), and the prices vary greatly.
Specscout has a fixed service rate for feature film screenplays (you can’t yet get analysis for TV shows yet.)
Their coverage costs $197, but the price includes the detailed evaluations of 3 professional reader. And should you score a 70 over 100 and higher, you can list your script on the site for free, and forever.
You can also see what scripts have sold, and by whom.
Sample evaluations, along with their scores in every area, can be viewed on the site.
Important End Note:
Remember your favorite movies. Remember your friends’ favorite movies. There have likely been arguments on what’s better, and why. One friend might find your adored “masterpiece” mediocre, and you can question your friends’ sanity/logic/taste for loving the movies they do.
Remember the different kinds of movies that have become box office hits and/or award favorites.
Even if you get a very pessimistic review, or get pessimistic after what you read, you should remember the objectivity of it all.
One person’s genius is another person’s what-the-hell.
So keep writing. Keep editing. Keep studying and pitching.
And please share your results and experiences in the comments if you have tried any of these consulting services.