The Script Consultant versus Me


I’ve been privy to hiring numerous “script consultants” around L.A. of varying abilities and value for money.  I tried Adam Levenberg’s services for the first time in an effort to unplug my creative plumbing. He’s been a creative executive for a while, working with various companies such as USA Films and other industry heavy hitters.

He’s unapologetic about his disdain for consultants who aren’t in regular contact with industry folk who can greenlight scripts or those who tell writers what they want to hear rather than what they need. A firm believer of tough love.

Back to my script consult. I submitted an early draft of my horror script called “Inhale. Exhale. Die.” for Adam to dissect. And dissect he did. Diligently. The first stage of the consulting process involves him reading the script and adding side notes in red via a cool PDF edit tool. His read was thorough, objective and considered. He did so much more than pick up the typos or make generic, platitudinous statements copied from script consultant handbooks, such as “character needs development” or “I don’t get this”. And given the early draft state of the script, he went to  town in a constructive way. He was surprisingly concerned about how I’d take his barrage of critique. I was overwhelmed by the sheer detail of information he delivered, but I listened, I digested and I rewrote.

He also added 5 pages of development notes in a separate document with useful guidance on how the script can be improved in terms of focus, main character goal, extraneous characters and scenes and plot. This really helped unleash my creativity. He showed respect for my vision without being overly didactic.

The third stage of the consult was a telephone discussion. Due to technological advancements, we skyped trans-continentally across several time zones. This wasn’t a forty-five minute timed discussion that ended with a disconnection when the stopwatch beeped. It lasted for over 2 hours. So drink plenty of water and take a 5 minute intermission at the 60 minute mark.

Adam likes to talk because he has a lot to say in terms of genre conventions, what A list actors  are looking for, how executives think, who’s buying what and why and similar industrial market intelligence that many writers aren’t privy to. So pay attention and take additional notes. I took 5 pages during our discussion.

Unlike some consultants, who try to impress writers with their encyclopedic knowledge of obscure films, Adam referenced similar contemporary films to my horror genre. He even researched pertinent information online during our discussion. Now that’s multi-tasking.

The conversation began with Adam asking about my overall concept goal. This would help him focus the discussion on how the project can be improved to fulfill my vision in a commercially exploitable way. He didn’t taint the discussion with inane, subjective quips such as “I like this script” or “I’d never see a film like that”. He was too caught up with the story elements and making them work.

Adam’s discussion also touched on how working (read highly paid) writers operate and advised me to that end. A list writers understand simplicity and clarity of concept, not adding too many subplots and unchanging logic; all factors which were apparent in my early draft. He also respected my vision despite with me not agreeing with all of his suggestions. This wasn’t a battle of wills with Adam hijacking the discussion with details of how he would approached the script; a major peeve of mine with other consultants. He stated that I needed to make story choices to make my story work. Is my main character sane or insane? He can’t be both without confusing the story.

I like to get very early drafts of my scripts read in order to help me find my true story, zone in on my theme, character’s goal and theme. A major symptom of early drafts is that story is too loose and unstructured. Adam wisely pointed out these flaws and posed some questions to help me tighten the script.

Adam is a no nonsense creative executive who is acutely aware of the increasingly competitive nature of the screenwriting business. He will be honest and direct about flaws and tries to influence writers’ mindsets by posing the questions creative executives ask. He won’t give false hopes to writers, nor will he denigrate them. His sole aim is to empower them.

If you really want in depth feedback on your script, rather than scant notes, development notes and career advice, I’d recommend Adam’s services. You can contact him at http://www.hireahollywoodexec.com.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. JIm says:

    Adam did something most readers/consultants don’t: he asked what your goal was. As someone who’s also payed for consultants, notes, coverage, etc., and also provided it to someone seeking me out, helping the writer achieve THEIR vision is probably the most important thing that often gets overlooked.

    If a reader knows what you’re trying to accomplish, then it can be a rewarding experience for both parties. The biggest challenge for writers in general is “communicating”, and often what they’re trying to convey isn’t always apparent and the reader is left making comments about characters, never focusing on what the story is REALLY about and how characters are really functions that serve theme, the theme itself being a culmination of things that is dictated by the outcome of the story’s climax.

    Does your character fail or succeed? Why or why not? And most importantly, what, as a writer, is it you want your audience to walk away feeling/learning.

    It’s not surprising then that, in the several instances where somebody’s asked me to provide notes, I’ve started the process by asking them the very same question – what is it you’re trying to accomplish – only to read “you know, I never really thought about that”.

    And it shows in the writing, too.

    Kudos to people like Adam who appear to genuinely want to help others succeed in achieving their vision.

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