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This week's question: 

I know youíre a pro story analyst.  Whatís the difference between that and a script consultant?

Barbara from Wisconsin

This week's Answer: 

To Be a Story Analyst or A Script Consultant... That is the Question.

Thatís an excellent question, Barbara.  Since 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 problems.

A story analyst usually covers the basics of premise, storyline, structure, characterization, dialogue, and other elements that pertain to the specific script.  Often, 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 elements.  Ergo, 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 story.)  Donít get me wrong:  I love studio execs Ė especially when they say ďyes.Ē  (Wait.  They are a lot a like script consultants after all.)


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