Over the past two years or so, I’ve received a number of requests for me to read screenplays. This feeds directly into my ego by suggesting, “This person likes and/or respects my many, many, many strong opinions on film and screenwriting.” Although I’d love to tackle them all, just as thanks for people taking the time to read my blog, I’ve reached a point where the requests have outnumbered my available free time, and something’s gotta give. Namely, you. Have gotta give me money.
I’ve griped in the past about scam coverage services that charge a metric assload for what amounts to studio notes. These services take advantage of newbie ignorance and the low-level vibe that whoever’s reading your script will allow you to ride their coattails to the top. I offer no such promises (see below), but I also won’t fiscally rape you.
Here’s the deal: professionally, I make $65/script. Why should I charge anyone more than that for the same work? I’ll offer two versions at two different prices:
A surface scan of your screenplay, with bullet-points to briefly explain what works versus what doesn’t, and 4-5 supporting paragraphs. This is roughly what I’d do in professional coverage, only without a synopsis.
Turnaround Time: 1 week
The nitty gritty. With every script I read, I could rant for anywhere from two to 20 pages on its problems, complete with arbitrary tangents about the state of the movie industry. I have to curb that impulse professionally, but this is what you’ll get with a Detailed Analysis.
Okay, I certainly won’t ramble for 20 pages, but you can expect anywhere from two to five, depending on how much territory needs covering and how many rants about my disdain for Juno it inspires. (Seriously, though: Don’t do what Diablo does.)
The general overview found in the Bullet-Point Analysis will dedicate a handful of paragraphs to all the major aspects—character, story, structure, marketability—but here, you’ll get paragraphs devoted to each main character and many supporting characters, the main story and each subplot, structure, theme… I have a tendency to get hung up on individual scenes—sometimes even moments—that can honestly make or break a script.
I’ll delve into detail on every problem with the script, but to be fair, I’ll also go into detail on the script’s strengths and offer strategies on how to play to these strengths in rewrites. To put it another way: if you enjoy any of the analyses on this blog, you’ll be happy with the Detailed Analysis.
Turnaround Time: 1-2 weeks
The Half-Assed Credentials
Since graduating film school in 2005, I’ve read an average of two scripts a day, five days a week, working first as a development intern, then as a freelance reader. I may not have decades of alleged experience, but do the math: I’ve read over 1500 scripts in the past few years, and it’s helped my growth as a writer exponentially. I’d like to think what I’ve learned will help you, too.
I’ve also written numerous posts on the craft of screenwriting. If you like what you read, you’ll be happy with my analysis of your work. It might also help you to look at my recent script reviews, particularly my coverage of the top Black List scripts.
The Many Disclaimers
Unlike many of the other coverage services out there, I make no guarantees. If I knew a quick, three-step formula to sell screenplays, I’d be retiring instead of pimping my freelance coverage service. If I wanted to use my Hollywood connections to further your career instead of mine, I’d call myself a literary manager and charge 15% instead of $45-65. Like every other coverage service out there, you’ll get nothing from me but my opinion. Which leads me to my next point…
My opinion, while strong and sometimes abrasive, is not fact. If I suggest ways to improve your screenplay, this will not ensure its immediate sale. If I consider a plot twist or a character arc problematic but someone else who reads it thinks it’s the greatest thing in the history of cinema, this does not make either of us right. Maybe it falls somewhere in the middle, or maybe one of us is on crack. Bottom line: this is an industry of maybes, so you can feel free to respect my opinion, but do not mistake it for fact.
Do not argue with me. It’s not that I don’t like spirited debate, but I don’t want a bunch of unsatisfied customers shouting that I don’t “get” their script. Go ahead and disagree with me—even tell me you disagree, if you want to—but do not engage. Being a writer myself, I understand how a writer thinks, and I know we tend to get defensive about our work. One thing I’ve learned in my short but insane career is that a writer needs to grin and bear it. Behind closed doors, you can gnash your teeth or beat your kids, but at a certain point you have to realize: the problem is not that everyone around you doesn’t “get” you. Instead, you should take the coverage and say, “Okay, why didn’t D. B. think the main character was believable?” You can still disagree with me, but if you take the time to understand where I’m coming from—and it will be clearly delineated, even in a Bullet-Point Analysis—you might find that the story is unclear or your many subtle layers simply don’t get across to anyone but you.
Despite what the previous paragraph may suggest, I will not trash your script. If your script is great, I’ll tell you. I won’t nitpick so much that I start harping on minute problems in an otherwise brilliant piece of work. However, if it has problems, I won’t pull punches. Many coverage services tend to sugarcoat. They fall into a typical problem with Hollywood: passive-aggression. Everybody in the business has an agenda, and nobody wants to piss anyone else off, for fear of reprisals. You may be a newbie coming to me for help with a script, but someday you could be my boss. You know what, though? Blow me. I made a decision that I’m done with the Hollywood grist mill. I’m not here to impress anybody, so I can maintain honesty and integrity in an industry that has very little of either. If you’ve read this far, chances are you find my honesty/dyspepsia refreshing. There’s a huge chasm between honesty and hostility. I don’t rant about things for the hell of it. I know I’m angry, but only because I want everything to be as good as it could be. I get tired of settling for mediocrity.
Why no synopsis? On one hand, I like to give writers synopses because it can show them how a reader interprets their story. It can work in tandem with the comments to present a clear picture of how the story plays. On the other hand, synopses are a pain in the ass and most writers will just skip a Reader’s Digest version of something they’ve already written.
Why so inexpensive? Look, I know you’re all saying, “Forty-five to 65 bucks? Are you high?!” Half of you are outraged that I’d charge so much; the other half are wondering why this is such a suspicious bargain. As I stated above, I make $65 as a reader, and I feel it’d be hypocritical to charge more (primarily because I’ve ranted about other coverage services ripping people off, a practice I find abhorrent). I only know of one coverage service that’s more inexpensive (largely for the same reasons I have, though ironically even they provide certain rip-off services like “professional formatting” for a paltry $400). Most range from $150-300, although I’ve seen some go as high as $850 (for what amounts to little more than my Detailed Analysis).
I know the consumer in you says, “A higher price means more value,” and many of these coverage services prey on that instinct. They make subtle intimations, which they can easily refute in a court of law, suggesting that they’ll give you the keys to the Hollywood kingdom if they just love your script enough. Playing on the hopes and dreams of the naïve disgusts me. You will get nothing from these people but a one-sheet of criticism and a pat on the back. Other than price, the only thing that separates me from the other coverage services is the honesty to tell you these sad facts of life.
The Fee Schedule
To purchase coverage services, simply enter the title of your screenplay into the appropriate box and click the Buy Now logo beside it it. If you have any special instructions (such as certain elements of your screenplay you’d like me to focus on in advance), you can enter them on the PayPal checkout page. Do not send me your screenplay until you have completed the release form below.
General Release Form
Please read about this before making your payment. Every script I read will require you to sign a general release form. I feel weird about this, because look, we’re all writers here. How many ideas for screenplays do you have? A dozen? Fifty? A hundred? How many notes have you scrawled on the back of a receipt because you had sudden inspiration? Would you really need to rip off somebody else’s idea? Maybe you’d want to—you’d see a terrible movie like Soultaker that has a few good core ideas and think, “Man, I could take that story and make it great.” But would you actually do it? If you’re like me, you wouldn’t. Lucky for you guys, I’m a lot like me.
Nevertheless, before I look at your script, you must complete and return a release form.
Sorry I have to put you through that. My attorney strongly advised this. It’s non-negotiable, so if you don’t want to sign the form, do not pay for my services. If you understand that this is a standard general release form and are willing to complete it, you must do so after you have completed the PayPal transaction. I intend to keep everything organized using PayPal’s unique transaction ID numbers, which are required to complete the form.
For you trepid souls still uncertain about why you need to complete a form like this, look at it this way: if you send me a script about a depressed German clown forced to entertain Jewish children at concentration camps, but I’ve coincidentally been toiling on a masterpiece about a WWII-era German clown, I’ve officially screwed myself because you could easily sue me for ripping off your idea, even though I didn’t. If you’re still concerned, click here for a magical mystery tour through the legalese.
Just remember this: I have less than no interest in your ideas. I have too many of my own that I need to work on. This is just a precaution, on the off-chance that one of your ideas has some passing similarity to one of my ideas. Plots in Hollywood are a dime a dozen—it’s all about the execution. (Look at Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Observe and Report for a recent example of this fact.) Signing this form does allow you to sue me, but if and only if I am literally plagiarizing you. It protects me if we both happen to be working independently on scripts about mall cops that, aside from the phrase “mall cop,” have nothing to do with one another. Got it? Good.