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Another source of feedback is the professional script reader. Below, Barb Doyon, professional consultant and owner of Extreme Screenwriting, tells us how to go about it:
"Use a professional consultant before marketing a spec script. The screenwriter is the last person to see shortcomings in his work. A professional consultant offers an objective opinion and helps ready the script for the market. Screenwriters who market scripts before they're ready have greatly affected the way the industry looks at specs. If you want to get beyond the slush pile and be considered a pro, have a professional consultant review your material first.
"Find consultants through word-of-mouth. Ask other screenwriters who they use, and question them to determine if a specific consultant fits your needs. Send the consultant an e-mail asking for referrals. Check out their Web site, if they have one, and look for client testimonials. Have the consultant's clients won or placed in contests, optioned or sold scripts, or secured representation? If a consultant has been in the biz for several years with no track record, then look for someone else. The point is to further your career.
"Don't use friends or family as reviewers. If you have to explain what INT. or EXT. means, then that person shouldn't be reviewing the script. Anyone who knows you personally isn't a candidate for providing an objective review!
"One review is not enough. To get a thorough indication of where your script stands on the spec market, always get several professional reviews. Do a side-by-side comparison and change problem areas mentioned by more than one reviewer. Don't use two-reviews-for-the-price-of-one services because the reviewers are in the same company and may compare notes. You want independent reviews from parties who don't know each other.
"Don't pay money for studio-style coverage, which provides things you already know, like the logline and synopsis, and tends to give vague comments, like the dialogue is too on-the-nose. Instead, find a reviewer who gives story notes. These often include page references so you can spot the problems easily and advice on potential fixes. Both types of review can be useful, but the goal is to help you improve the material and compete on the spec market.
"Don't market a script before it's ready! When a screenwriter finishes a script, it's like a hot potato that he wants out of his hands and onto the market. Slow down! If an idea is really hot, it can wait forever. The spec market is fierce. You're competing with A-list writers, as well as other aspiring screenwriters. Taking the time to make a script the best it can possibly be shows you're a professional."
Prices for services start around $80-$100 and go up from there depending on the consultant's experience and reputation. Verify any service you're considering before you pay!
Barb Doyon offers a free and very informative newsletter for aspiring screenwriters. Sign up through her Web site: http://www.xtremescreenwriting