How Can A Script Consultant Help A Screenwriter Make Their Screenplay Better by Jill Chamberlain

Film Courage: Let’s say I’m a screenwriter and I email you and need my script fixed a.s.a.p. We agree to work together, what are the first things that you’re looking at?

Jill Chamberlain, Script Consultant/Author/Writer: I’m kind of simultaneously looking at both the macro and micro level. So as I’m going ultimately the story is of utmost importance, but also as I’m reading on the page noting things, so I mark things up as I go. I may question things or I may already have questions or suggestions that have to do with minor kind of things where I could think of a better phrasing or your action description isn’t clear enough especially those first 10 pages which are super important where I am having a very hard time slogging through those. That’s a really bad sign so I might even spend more time trying to point that out to help you.

I’m looking at the micro level but I’m also sitting back and looking at the macro level. How does this story work? And I often don’t know the answer to that until I get to the very end. I’m kind of doing two things at once.

Film Courage: And then at what point do you send the writer notes? Do they have to make changes for you to review? Or it’s up to them whether they want to make those changes?

Jill: What I do is I meet with the writer either in person or via Skype and I have their script marked up but I don’t do written notes. I don’t do a written report unless you want to pay for that separately which I don’t recommend. I don’t think it’s a very efficient use of your money. I’ll happily do it if you want to pay me by the hour to sit and type up a report. I don’t think it’s a very time efficient use of your money.

I think it’s much more efficient if we…so with each of my consultations it includes 60–90 minutes where we talk either in person or via Skype.

I go through on the page pointing out things but also talking story. It’s not just that it’s time inefficient for me to type up a report, is to do that is not a two-way thing. It’s more efficient for me to start asking questions and try to find out if something is not working, try to figure out what it was that you’re trying to do versus doing some kind of detached cover report. That’s just not a very useful tool for a writer. As a writer you want to know just how to make this better. For the way to make this better is to talk about it and to say “If that’s what we’re trying to do, I totally did not get that this was the character’s flaw. You need to look at this character’s first scene and see if you can adjust and that’s the flaw. If that’s the flaw they should be saying this in the first scene.” We’re are going to look at specifics.

I’m really kind of script doctoring and trying to help. I’m not just giving you a passive report that tells you thumbs up or thumbs down. It’s not very useful. Who cares if I think it’s thumbs up or thumbs down? My job is to make your script as…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

 


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SAWGRASS on Youtube by Jack Peterson. Jack is an American filmmaker based in Chicago. He’s been featured in the New York Times, the Daily Beast, and ABC News for his work as an activist. His first feature film, Sawgrass, is a psychedelic journey through Florida, featuring an extensive interview with the brother of the Las Vegas shooter. Sawgrass also features a performance by the Rock-afire Explosion, a vintage animatronic band created by famed inventor Aaron Fechter. Jack’s next feature film, My Perfect Everything, tells the story of a magician chasing an imaginary woman he met in 1989. My Perfect Everything is currently in the early stages of pre-production.