On Advice Tips

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Should I hire a consultant?

Should I Use a Consultant?

As hard as it is to break into screenwriting for money, and as lonely as it can be writing and having no one with experience in screenwriting to read your work and give you feedback, it's no wonder screenwriting consultants thrive. Sadly though, many working in screenplay consulting haven't the experience to give you worthwhile feedback. Some firms use other aspiring screenwriters—who know nothing of significance more than any other new writer. In other words, beware!

   
How do I get input on my writing?

Seek Honesty

When friends and family read your work, beg them (if necessary) not to sweeten their comments. If someone you trust hates something you write, be sure that person tells you—but also be sure he or she tells you why. You need honesty and details (and you are not required to agree with anyone's comments on your writing).

   
Should I hire a consultant?

Consultants Defined

Basically anyone who accepts money to read your work and give you feedback (and perhaps other services) is a screenwriting consultant. They typically charge hundreds of dollars—a price range that is a stretch for most new writers.

   
How do I get input on my writing?

Solicit Input

Writers need criticism. Anyone who will sit down and read your work is worth considering. This certainly includes friends and family. Give your writing to anyone you know and trust. Feedback helps hone the writer's craft.

   
Should I hire a consultant?

What a Consultant Gives You

Services vary, but all consultants give you feedback on your screenplay to help you decide if it is “ready” for the eyes of people who reply positively to your excellent query letters. Is this valuable? The feedback may be quite helpful (or quite useless), but telling you that your screenplay is ready is an outcome in direct conflict with the consultant earning additional income from you by telling you to make changes and come back for another review (at your cost).

   
I have an idea for a screen play. However, I am not really sure how to write to that format. Can you help direct me to a screen play format. Thanks.

Screenplay Formatting

A screenplay is a blueprint for a movie. Besides telling the story, it also serves as a guide to the many professionals(directors, producers, actors, technical people) who will work together to create the final movie. Each person involved needs to be able to know at a glance what they have to do. For this reason, screenplay formatting is very strict. If an actor wants to know how much dialogue he has, he looks for his character's name in the middle of the page. If a producer wants to estimate a budget, he checks the page count and the number of "slug lines," a heading that indicates the beginning of a scene. A standardized script format makes everyone's jobs easier.

One screenplay page in Courier 12pt font translates to one minute of screen time. The standard length of a script is 100-120 pages. There are many screenwriting books available where you can learn more about formatting, and a Google search on "screenplay format" will turn up additional resources. The best way to learn formatting, however, is to start reading produced scripts. You can either buy them or find them on the Internet for free.

Once you understand the basics of formatting, you can use screenwriting programs, such as Final Draft and Movie Magic, to simplify the task of formatting so you can concentrate on your script.

   
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Sheri Ann Richerson