“With a screenplay you’re creating a world; consider everything, every character, every room, every juxtaposition, every increment of time as an embodiment of that world. Look at all of this through that filter and make sure it is all consistent.”
Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman
“No hero is ever ready for the journey.”
Yesterday I had the single best script critique I’ve ever had. It was also the longest phone conversation I’ve ever had.
My 2 hours and 54 minute conversation with Adam Levenberg was longer than the movie Gone with the Wind. Not that my script is as epic, but Adam wanted to show me what he does as a script consultant. I was impressed and will talk about the experience more in detail in January. But if you’re looking for a gift for that screenwriter in your life who has everything but a produced script—or you want to indulge yourself as a writer—contact Adam.
And while the service was offered free to me, I will warn you that his fee is in the iPad range. Seriously, writing this blog has brought me into contact with some interesting producers, directors, and screenwriters in Los Angeles and talking with Adam yesterday was a great way to round out the year.
Adam doesn’t guarantee that your script will get made, sell, or that you’ll even get an agent— his goal is to make you a better writer. Over the years I’ve taken plenty of screenwriting classes and workeshops, but having Adam go through my entire script and question choices I made was a whole different level of understanding that you can’t get in a class. You can’t hide. (For instance, while my hero’s backstory was in my head—Adam pointed out that it wasn’t in the script.)
Earlier this year I finished the script Shadows in the Dark (with Scott Cawelti) which while my first collaboration, was actually my ninth feature script completed. (In a conversation with My Cousin Vinny screenwriter Dale Launer this year he told me I had one more script to write before I sold one because it took him ten scripts before his first sale.) Anyway, I was fortunate to have several writer friends around the country read my script and offer lengthy and detail notes on various versions of the script.
So the script that Adam read was probably the sixth draft and he still had enough notes for an almost 3 hour conversation. (Actually, it was probably a solid 2 hours of notes because he let me ramble on talking about movies and such.)
I know there is a mini—debate surrounding script consultants, but I was impressed with Adam’s knowledge and thoroughness. And he’s just a heck of a lot fun to talk to on the phone. Adam’s background includes a degree from USC School of Cinematic Arts and time as a development executive at One Race Films—Vin Diesel’s company. And he’s been featured as a guest blogger on WME Story Editor Christopher Lockhart’s blog.
We all have knowledge gaps and have much to learn, which is why even Oscar-winning screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) says he’s still a student. If you’re a working writer in Hollywood you have plenty of working relationships to hone your skills. Diablo Cody recently said she sent the first draft of Young Adult to Jason Reitman and he said it wasn’t quite there and kept sending her notes until it eventually became the movie Young Adult. (And even after all of that talent, when I saw Young Adult in the theater just as the credits began to roll a lady behind me said out loud, “That’s it?”)
Most of us can’t slide Jason Reitman a script and expect him to give us notes. So if you’re in say, Iowa—or some other unlikely place in the world to be writing screenplays–you have to be resourceful. As a small business owner (River Run Productions) I’m all for the entrepreneurial spirit and free market enterprise. So if you have the funds and what to be a better writer I’m all for any classes, workshops, books, and scripts consultants you can afford within your budget to accomplish your goal. But remember the basic solid economic principle— “Make every purchase and investment.”
I do believe that in many cases that experienced script readers, producers, and studio executives can give better script notes than working screenwriters. For instance, you’ll learn more from Carson Reeves’ Script Shadow blog than you will from most blogs by working screenwriters.
I’m sure that there are script consultant scams out there so be careful. While I don’t really know Adam, I will say that my experience with him was positive. The only way Adam could have given me as detailed notes is spending time going over my script. He typically invests at least two days going through a script. His notes went quite in depth and covered some key flaws. I know I’ve never able to give as detailed notes to friends scripts I’ve covered, because I simply can’t spend that much time on it. Plus it’s not something I enjoy doing.
Will Adam’s notes get my script sold or produced? Again, no one’s making that claim. (And if anyone guarantees they’ll get your script sold or even get you an agent is a good sign to run.) But I do believe Adam’s notes will make my Shadows in the Dark script better as well as overall making me a better writer. If you’d like a lower budget version of Adam’s film industry knowledge check out his book The Starter Screenplay.
You can also check out his website HireAHollywoodExec.com and judge for yourself.
P.S. And I offer as a totally free gift to you this Holiday Season, a link to quite an interesting talk Charlie Kaufman gave earlier this year for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). (A link I first found at the always informative Go Into the Story blog where Scott Myers has posted transcripts of that talk as an eight part series.)
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