What is Script Analysis?

I have thought about this opening sentence a few times. Should I answer the question “What is script analysis” in my opinion, “a waste of money”, or should I give you my reasoning first?

If you are still reading beyond the first paragraph, I am guessing you are interested in my opinion. So here we go.

I like visiting writer’s forums. I like writing and I like talking about writing. However, on these forums, there are always writers desperate for feedback.  These people are easy targets for the untrustworthy industry of Script Analysis. At this point in time, it is worth defining some terms. Script Analysis is the same as a Script Consulting or industry assessment or any other term that says someone can codify your writing and give it a score.  What they are doing is preying on a writer’s insecurities and the writer’s need to be validated.  In my opinion, these are the worst types of people.  They are the faith healers of the script world.

The standard offering is something like, “I will read your script and give you three pages of notes”.  Okay, let’s look at that sentence. No matter how good or how bad your script is they are going to give you three pages of notes.  They could read the award-winning “Hell or High Water” by Taylor Sheridan and still find three pages worth of corrections, interesting.  So straight of the bat, they are assuming you are crap and they will find stuff wrong.

The second thing that is questionable is that they must have a standard to appraise you against.  They need this to be defensible when you disagree with what they say.  Just like using the word “Analysis”, scoring you against some make believe standard gives them credibility.

If art had a standard we could score Picasso and rate him against Jackson Pollack.  Which of course is nonsense.

The very notion of a standard implies uniformity, and by definition, that removes any chance of unique interpretation. You are paying someone that doesn’t write (in many cases) to tell you what is unique about your writing and how to remove it.

So if Script Analysis is bullshit. What then?

This answer is not going to be popular.  Because just like writing it is going to take some hard work and force you to do things that you may not be happy doing.

1) Read more scripts by great writers.  Anything that has won a big award in the last few years is a great place to start. This will educate you and remove the need to contact Witch Doctors (they also call themselves Script Doctors). You can get scripts here.

2) Join a writer’s group, in person or online. Get to know the other writers and find someone you trust.  Read some of their work and then ask if they would read yours.

3) Enter contests.  These are as pointless as script consults. But entering the big ones, Nicol or the Austin Film Festival, can get you a copy of the Judge’s notes.  This isn’t three pages, a Skype call or other pointless crap that is normally offered.  It is what the Judge was thinking.  It is an insight into the reader’s mind, which is what has value.

Final thoughts of Script Analysis.

I heard Neil Gaiman talk about getting feedback.  Neil Said, “if someone tells you they have a problem with something you have written; or they tell you how they feel. They are right.  If they tell you how to fix it they are invariably wrong.

This observation by Neil Gaiman tells me that Script Analysts by their very nature must be wrong.  Only you know how to fix your script.  Script analysis is not about how a reader feels; it is forcing the free spirit of creativity into a box and selling it back to you, the creator. Remember there are no rules.

Craig Griffiths

Craig Griffiths is a screenplay writer and best selling author. His books on screenwriting are available via the Books page on the website. He has written and produced several short films with his feature scripts in production. Craig has been involved in numerous podcast including Canada’s “The Bunker Project” and was the host of “Making Business and Sales Work” a top ranked podcast on iTunes for many years.

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