Communiqué from the screenwriting trenches: The invaluable opportunity of script doctor work…
November 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
If you are lucky enough to establish a screenwriting career and build a professional reputation, other opportunities may come from “script doctor” work. This job includes being hired to come onto a project and do the necessary rewrites to push it through development. Most of the time the previous screenwriter either had another commitment and could not continue on the project, or the screenwriter was “written out” and couldn’t execute the notes as requested. I’ve been hired to do this type of rewrite work three times before and it’s an invaluable opportunity to work with producers and directors. It also helps to build your solid reputation as someone they can go to help
I just signed last week for another script doctor job, my second with a production company that hired me last year to do the same thing. This new job came my way because of my solid working relationship with the company and the producer. They trust me to deliver the goods on time because I’ve proven myself to them before. The film goes into production in three weeks, so I have to be available to turn around the rewrites quickly. The scheduling was perfect because I have a break from a script assignment job and will be returning to that almost when this new film starts production.
It took me six days to execute the notes for my first rewrite. I just completed the next pass and that only took me two days. I’ll be working on any and all changes up until production begins. Many times these rewrite jobs don’t offer credit or shared credit, but that’s okay. The real importance is that the producer and director know that I was able to help them to execute the changes necessary to start the film as scheduled.
The rewrite jobs really offer an invaluable working experience to deconstruct a screenplay and put in new elements to make it work. It also gives you experience on working through the pre-production process and what changes a screenplay needs to go through. It’s also helpful that I’m completely detached because it’s not my screenplay. What doesn’t work has to be changed for the benefit of the overall project. I’m also facilitating the producer and director’s notes. At this point, it is all about making the script production ready.
This is why it’s extremely important to learn how to execute screenplay notes properly. No writer enjoys being rewritten, but the harsh realities of the business dictate when the writer is unable to deliver, producers go with a writer who can adequately make the changes necessary to push the project along toward production. You eventually want to be the “go to” person who they will hire on a regular basis.
This latest job continues my solid working relationship with the production company and allows me to pitch my own ideas and present story treatments to them. If you want steady work, it’s vital to build your professional reputation with producers and directors. According to the Scoggins Report, in 2015 only 93 specs sold and as of September of this year only 47 specs have sold, so you won’t be selling specs your entire career. A spec will open the door for assignment work and possibly rewrite jobs too. As they say, work begets work and it’s absolutely true. There are plenty of hungry screenwriters out there competing for fewer jobs, so if you can land any screenwriting job consider yourself blessed.
The only guarantee is that if you stop writing you’ll never have any shot at success.
Copyright 2016, by Mark Sanderson on My Blank Page.
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