I posted this impulsive rant on reddit/screenwriting yesterday, it attracted a lot of eyeballs and comments—so that alone makes me feel good! I also posted it to the “Scriptfella” discussion group at Facebook.
Actually it ended up being a good experience. Franklin Leonard from The Black List, who keeps a close eye on criticism, offered me a free evaluation. I said sure!
And I met a bunch of other kind and helpful folks. Some of them watched my short and read some pages of scripts. Me me me me!
Here’s the rant:
I was preparing my finances for annual tax returns. Holy crap. I spent over four grand on “The Hope Industry” last year. (I hope my wife doesn't find this post and divorce me.)
$912.50 Coverfly (various contests)
$342.03 Fiverr.com (various script coverage readers)
$250.00 Script Pipeline coverage (BTW these guys had the least useful coverage and were the biggest dicks about it)
$510.00 Shore Scripts coverage
$944.00 Black List hosting/evaluations
$69.00 The Script Lab coverage (they loved a script of mine that turned out to suck, when I had actual pros read it)
Guys, I swear to you this pledge: this year, I am not spending money at any of these places. I will literally be better off buying four grand in Facebook and Twitter ads. (Not that the awful tech companies deserve my money either.)
The only thing on here that probably provided close to its value were the Fiverr readers, because they were cheap. They weren't very good, but they were inexpensive and quick.
The contests were COMPLETELY USELESS. I reached the QF and SF rounds several times, but so what?
The Black List ended up with me finally scoring an 8 in January—but so what? I got a few downloads and bragging rights.
You want to know the kicker? My confession is the kicker: NONE OF THESE SCRIPTS WERE PRO QUALITY. They did not deserve to win a contest or get passed up to managers.
In fact, a few things got OVER-evaluated. A coverage came back from Shore Scripts with all “excellents” back in September. I thought, hey, good for me, right? So I asked, would you kick it out to your network? They had to discuss internally—they were polite the whole time—but finally said no, they wouldn’t, with no explanation given. Which took four months. But like I said, they were courteous.
By then I had already rewritten the script because it was not, in fact, excellent. That’s the one that, afterwards, got the 8 at The Black List.
Folks, it’s a joke. STOP SPENDING MONEY!
Did any of this help me become a better writer? Well, actually, yes, but not directly. The coverage was, for the most part, not actionable. Probably two thirds of it was really dumb. A few things read like high school book reports.
I said the scripts were not pro quality, but it’s not like they were bad. They were actually promising. But very little of the feedback diagnosed the real problems. I had to do that myself. Which I did.
Anytime you have a human being read something and have a response, it’s useful. But there must be a way to get better feedback for less than four grand?
These self-appointed gatekeepers are rationalizing that they provide an important service to writers, and helping to break in young people (I'm not young). Maybe they are?
But the vast, vast majority of us are holding the bag. Boy am I a ten-cent sucker!!!