This week's Answer:
Be a Story Analyst or A Script Consultant... That is the
Thatís an excellent question,
Iím both a story analyst and a script consultant, it
would be wise for me to know the difference, wouldnít
you say? Thank
you for agreeing. I
think the best way to answer your question is to start
simple and work my way from there.
According to my experience, a story analyst points
and a script consultant solves.
Another way of looking at it:
the story analyst spots the fires and a script
consultant puts them out. In other words, a story analyst points out/indicates what he
or she believes to be the strengths and weaknesses of your
screenplay, but normally (Iím sure there are some abnormal
story analysts about.
Just donít let them in if they come to your door.
They usually give themselves away by saying
something such as ďIím a door-to-door story analyst
and I was wondering if the screenwriter of the house is
free.Ē) does not offer specific suggestions as how to
fix those weaknesses or problems your script.
A good script consultant, on the other hand, not
only must be able to do what a story analyst does, that of
noticing the problems in a script, but goes beyond that
point and assists the screenwriter in solving those
A story analyst usually covers the
basics of premise, storyline, structure, characterization,
dialogue, and other elements that pertain to the specific
marketability and budgetary concerns are also addressed.
The main task of a story analyst (studio reader) is
to screen (no pun intended) out the screenplays that will
not be considered by a studio or producer, and to find the
screenplays (and writers) that could be considered for
sale (not the writer. I mean writers do have their pride.) and production.
As Iíve mentioned, story analysts are basically
looking for the reasons to say ďnoĒ to a script.
(In fact, if you were to have the opportunity to be
in a room with pro story analysts, you might see them
performing the Secret Story Analyst Ritual (the little
known SSAR) of holding scripts up in the air and shouting
at them at the top of their lungs the word ďnoĒ over
and over again. Itís
quite a sight to behold.
A little tough on the ears, though.)
Script consultants, on the other
hand, have a tendency to be Yes People:
Yes, I want the job of working on your script.
Yes, I can help.
Yes, here are my suggestions to help.
Yes, send me a check.
(Thatís much different than the story analystsí
tendency to groan when they are assigned another script,
the first thing they do being to weigh the script in their
hand; then to turn to the last page, hoping upon hope that
it wonít be more than 100 pages.
If it is, a much bigger secondary groan ensues.
Maybe thatís how I should have differentiated the
two vocations: Story
analysts groan and script consultants donít.)
A script consultant (an effective one) uses his/her
experience and awareness of what makes a good script good
(keeping in mind that even this POV is always a subjective
one Ė as is true for a story analyst) to assist the
client to improve his/her screenplay.
A skillful script consultant knows not only how to
talk about the clientís script in terms of the
aforementioned screenplay elements, but, also, how to enhance
these elements for the client. (or develop these
studios have development departments.
In a sense, a script consultant is your very own
development exec. Although,
these days, donít count on a development exec to be able
to do what a script consultant can do for you in regards
to improving your script.
Unless the development exec actually happens to
know the first thing about the mechanics of screenwriting.
Which is probab--... possible.
Good luck finding one.
(I did have the good fortune of working with
a VIP at Hearst Entertainment who really knew scripts and
get me wrong: I
love studio execs Ė especially when they say ďyes.Ē
are a lot a like script consultants after all.)