What Can a Script Consultant Do For You?

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by Emily Jermusyk (@EJemily24)

While attending ScriptFest in Burbank a couple weekends ago, I was introduced to a whole new job position that can be helpful to screenwriters: The Script Consultant. I have worked for production and management companies, but I had no idea how large a profession script consulting is. At Scriptfest you could pay for private one-on-one time with your choice of consultant and talk to them about whatever you want for a half hour. Many of the consultants also led panels throughout the weekend on pitching, structure, the state of television, etc.

As a creative entity in the entertainment industry, you are faced with hiring a lot of people to help you along your way: managers, agents, publicists, assistants, etc. Now they want to add consultants to the list? Typically the idea of continuing to give a percentage of your paycheck away to so many people seems counter productive to me, so these consultants had to win me over a bit.

What is a Script Consultant?

A consultant is similar to a manager. They both can read scripts, give notes, guide you on what to write next, help you with your branding, practice pitching, and in some cases assist with introductions… everything you could ever want. The services of a script consultant will always vary somewhat from one person to the next. Their title might vary as well.

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A consultant may recommend you to someone who is looking for writers, though an agent is legally the only person who is allowed to make calls to get you work. Managers are not supposed to make calls to procure work on your behalf, but they definitely do. In fact, most people in the industry will tell you that a manager is there to get you work and pick the right jobs, while an agent is someone who catches all the incoming calls/work.

The difference between a consultant and a manager is that a manager will pitch you for jobs, send you on generals, and can act as a producer on your material (with your permission). A consultant may set you up on generals, but the goal of a consultant is much more personalized. You get a dedicated hour from them, while your manager has sixty other people he/she is representing and may not be able to dedicate as much face time to you.

A manager takes 10%, so they are with you for the long haul, while the consultant is there early on and charges on a per project or hourly basis.

The Costs of a Script Consultant

Consultants are not cheap. Their services start around $200 for a one-hour consult, and go as high as $3000 for an annual fee with unlimited services. Most services are in the $500-750 range for them to work with you on a feature or pilot script. As a struggling or unemployed writer it may not seem financially prudent to spend the money on these services.

Here’s the thing, though: you are not in the industry yet, and there is a reason for that. It may be that the writing is not there, or that you need more time to develop your voice. It could simply be that you have incredibly bad luck and have not had the chance to get your amazing script into the right hands to show your brilliance. If you do not already have representation, there is no way to know what the reason is that you are struggling. A script consultant can answer that question for you.

Again, it is a lot of money so you really need to weigh your options, vet your script, and figure out how much you are willing to pay for when your writing isn’t currently bringing in any money.

I may have walked in unsure of how impactful a script consultant could be, but I left understanding that they are gatekeepers giving writers a reason for their struggle and a plan to fix it. They are not cheap, and you need to do your research to find a top consultant who can really help your writing and your career (anyone can call themselves a “script consultant,” and there are a lot of people out there who are just trying to get your money), but if you have a script that you have vetted profusely but you are struggling to sell, then a consultant is a great way to go.

For more information on script consultants recommended by ScriptFest, please look to the links provided.

carol kirschnerCarol Kirschner

Jen Grisanti

Lee Jessup

Steve Kaplan

Jessica Sitomer

Pamela Jaye Smith

Kathie Fong Yoneda

Shawn Tolleson

Ruth Atkinson

Pilar Alessandra

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Emily Jermusyk is a screenwriter and story consultant. She got her start in high school writing over 150 episodes of a soap opera parodying Knots Landing. If desired, Emily will talk to you at potentially-annoying-length about topics such as why the CW is her favorite channel, the current amazing state of underground comedy, and how she avoids TV/films about zombies because most of them do not chew with their mouths closed. Follow Emily on Twitter, and check out her website, Ruining Television.

4 thoughts on “What Can a Script Consultant Do For You?

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  1. “…[A]n agent is legally the only person who is allowed to make calls to get you work.”

    Thanks for the information. I didn’t know that. Can you please cite the relevant section of the California Business & Professions Code?

  2. I didn’t realize this either. Here’s a solid reference: http://www.writersstore.com/literary-manager-or-agent-which-is-right-for-me “Agents are governed by labor law in the state that they do business. Literary agencies are permitted, by law, to procure employment (i.e., writing assignments) for their clients for a fee. Managers, conversely, are not governed by state labor laws and, consequently, are not permitted to procure employment for their clients for a fee.”

  3. Great article! I’ve been running a series of interviews with readers and consultants on my blog (including several of the folks you list above), and have found that each one has their own unique approach to how they work with writers.

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