Friday, April 14, 2006

Scriptwriting on a Budget: Getting Feedback

Scriptwriting is big business. There are numerous books on scriptwriting, "script gurus" offering workshops or one-to-one advice, scriptwriting retreats, scriptwriting software and of course, many script reading and script editing services. Despite the industry in scriptwriting related products, making a living out of scriptwriting (or indeed any other kind of writing) is difficult and notoriously badly paid. Aside from the fact that, as a script reader and a spec scriptwriter, I never have any money, I'm also the sort of girl who likes to find a good bargain, so I've decided to do a regular series of posts on this blog, under the theme scriptwriting on a budget.

I'm focusing this time on getting script feedback either for free, or at an a affordable rate, which I've set at £50, because it seems a realistic benchmark and because it is about as much as I would be able to pay for a report myself. At this juncture I'll point out that I'm not personally endorsing any of these services and I would ask that if anyone wants to comment on this blog, any references to the services I've mentioned here are respectful. Also, I'm not suggesting that the script reporting services that I haven't mentioned here on the basis of their rates are not also value for money. Low budget isn't always high quality, but on the other hand, I see no reason why good constructive analysis needs to be prohibitively expensive.

I mentioned in my last post a competition Spread the Word are currently holding. For those who didn't go off and check the website for details, the competition is to have your script or novel critiqued by a London-based script reading and script editing service. To be considered, you need to be comfortable posting an extract of your script on the Spread the Word forums. The extracts posted there will then be voted on by other forum users, and the manuscript with the most votes wins a report of the complete manuscript from the London Literary Consultancy. There are also a few free reports of manuscript extracts up for grabs. According to their website, paying clients would be charged £275 to have a feature screenplay (of up 120 pages) read and critiqued by LLC - not a sum most of us have just lying around in spare change! So, perhaps worth a go. More information on how to enterhere.

There are other ways to get feedback on your work for free. Online writing communities such as Writewords andWriter's Dock can be a good first port of call for informal, supportive (mostly!) feedback. And of course other writing groups, friends and family can be great resources too. BBC Writer's Room of course, accepts unsolicited scripts and the team of readers there will read at least the first ten pages of everything submitted to them. The feedback offered will be minimal, but constructive. BBC Wales also accept unsolicited scripts, though again, the feedback won't be extensive and for new writer's the Writer's Room should always be a first port of call. Screen Yorkshire have recently launched a script reading service for companies and individuals in the Yorkshire and Humber area, and the first use of the service is free to limited companies, sole traders or partnerships. Northern Film and Media offer free script assessment to writers based in Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, County Durham and Tees Valley.

Another option for free feedback (although of a slightly different nature) is the Rocliffe Forum. Submit your script to Rocliffe, and if they pick it for one of their new writing forums, the script will be read by professional actors to a select audience, with a discussion of the script following the reading. Of course, just submitting your script is no guarantee of having it selected for a performance, and there aren't any details on the website about the process of reading through submissions in the first place. I would expect that unsucessful applications don't recieve any analysis, though there may be some minimal feedback. Probably best approached as a showcase for a script that has already been through some development, but nevertheless a good opportunity that won't put you out of pocket.

If you are willing and able to part with some cash, there are numerous options for getting a professional script report, but as I said I'll stick to services for under £50. Writernet offer a script reading service on a sliding scale. Writernet subscribers get a discount, but for non-subscribers the prices are still affordable - for a fully waged writer, a report costs £30. Writernet have a particularly strong background in theatre, but will also read radio, film and TV scripts. On the subject of theatre, Soho Theatre and Writer's Centre accept unsolicited scripts and will provide a report on submissions free of charge.

Scriptonic provide script reports for £50 on feature scripts of up to 100 pages, with higher rates for longer pieces. Regular readers of this blog will have benefitted from insights from Lucy, who runs her own script reading service with reports at very affordable rates. Have a look at Lucy's excellent blog for more information. Another blogger, Scott the Reader of Alligators in a Helicopter offers script notes for $60 - about £35. And not to blow my own trumpet, I also read scripts for private clients and my rates are all below the £50 mark - I won't go into further detail here, but my contact details are in my profile for anyone interested.

So there we have it, a brief guide to free/cheap script reports or feedback. If anyone has any suggestions I've missed out on, let me know. Equally, suggestions for more Scriptwriting on a Budget guides are welcomed!

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