I just got to LA a few months ago. I have written a few screenplays, well received from a manager, producer and teachers at my college. But have not landed an agent or manager, yet. I am writing a new script, it’s a hard write but very rewarding. It not only has commercial appeal but I think it is my step in the right direction.
A fellow writer suggested this script doctor to me, just to help me after I got through the “grunt” of my script and really help me polish it. I have tried workshops and things like that with my other scripts, but I do not find them very effective. I figure I would rather take the money and give it to a pro, get a one on one meeting with them and get good notes, of course do the re-writes myself, but getting someone else to look at it and help. My friend the writer tells me he would not send anything out before it goes through her. He swears by her. I think I might try it. Any advice about going to a script doctor?
“Script doctor” generally means something different in the industry, so I want to draw a distinction between the kind of script doctor you’re talking about and the kind of script doctor Variety would talk about.
In the industry, a script doctor is an established screenwriter with a bunch of credits who comes in on a project shortly before production and does a rewrite to fix some specific, nagging problems. (Or, depending on your perspective, destroys the things that made the project unique.) Steve Zaillian is a highly-regarded script doctor. Arguably, I could be considered a script doctor, because I’ve done a fair number of these 23rd-hour emergency jobs. But no one’s business card reads “script doctor.” It’s a specific task within screenwriting, but not really a profession in-and-of itself.
A lot of times, the work you do on these projects is described as “surgical,” which fits well with the script doctor moniker. Generally, you’re not rewriting the whole script. You’re fixing a few key sections that aren’t working.
The person your friend is recommending to you may or may not be a screenwriter. In some cases, it could be someone analogous to a literary editor, who goes through a text and helps “clean it up” before publication. If so, great. Good writers are not always good proofreaders, and it’s important to have sharp eyes looking over your work.
If this person is truly going to rewrite your script, however, I have to question the legitimacy of your career aspirations. Screenwriting isn’t about banging out a first draft and letting someone else make it shine. If you really have limitations in a given area — dialogue, plotting, whatever — you need a writing partner, not a self-styled guru.