Tag Archives: Craig Mazin

The War on the Consultant III: Confessions of a Script Consultant

(If you haven’t had the chance to catch up, check out  Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

Now, where was I? Oh yeah, I had just admitted that I too, dabbled in script consulting.

NOOOOOO! I know! I was young… I needed the money… Don’t worry, i got out. Cleaned up. Got tested. All is good.

If you’re thinking: “Wait! Did he just compare consulting to prostitution?” Why, yes. Yes I did. If you subscribe to Mazin’s camp, then that’s all a consultant is. Someone that’ll fuck for cash. A soulless entity only after one thing: Dollaz. More specifically: Your dollaz.

Is that the reality? Well… it depends. I know. Tough, isn’t it?

I’m not being difficult, it’s just that the answer isn’t an easy one. Some people out there truly are con-artists. Bent on taking advantage of naive writers, clueless about a system they are desperately trying to be a part of.

On the other hand, some consultants have a vast wealth of experience to offer you. Experience that you might not get anywhere else. Experience that comes from years of working in the industry in various roles. Experience that, when printed out on a resume, blows your level of expereince away.

Yet at the same time, I just proved that what LOOKS good on paper, isn’t always what IS in real life. Know what I mean?

So why did I do it?

At first it was simply because I had a lot of people asking me if I would consult. Later it became about trying to help people NOT make the mistakes that drove me crazy in my day job.

I thought that, if I could get writers to stop doing the dumb shit they were doing, maybe we could churn out better material.

And, to put it frankly, my time is valuble. When I sit down with someone and go over their script, it’s time consuming. I never just said “good job” or “maybe you need more of this.” I spent hours on each case. Reading, making notes and then talking to the writer for 1-2 hours going over all of the notes I made.

That makes for a long day when you spend all day reading scripts only to go home and read even more scripts? AND to try and write your own in there as well? Yeah. No thank you. So I charged people.

But I felt really bad about it. I felt dirty.

For one reason and one reason only. Why should anyone listen to me? I’ve never sold a script. If you subscribe what Craig and John are telling you, than you SHOULDN’T listen to me because what do I know? I haven’t sold a script. That makes me a con-man. A gigalo. Banging for cash.

Are they wrong? Well, no… they’re right. I haven’t sold a script. But does that mean I’m an idiot who doesn’t know anything? No. I mean I have a masters degree. In screenwriting! Oh wait, but I already explained…it’s a useless degree! Shit!

ARE YOU CONFUSED YET?

You are? Good. That’s the point. I did all of this, not to be a hypocrite, but to show you the complexity of the argument.

SO WHAT’S THE ANSWER?! WHO’S RIGHT?

And that’s the fucking problem with the entire ordeal. If you’re looking for an answer than you’re the fucktard in all of this. Because there isn’t one.

John and Craig went to good schools. Got a good ed-u-ma-cation. Used that degree to find jobs within Hollywood. Made contacts. Climbed ladders. Worked their craft. Spent years networking. Tweeking. Learning. Busting their ass. Eventually, they found success and made it to the top.

You know, like millions of people do every day at THEIR jobs.

Yet, for some reason, novice writers think all they have to do is say the correct phrase to the right person and they can get the keys to the executive bathroom. Poof. Just like that.

But that’s not how shit works. Yet there are hundreds of thousands fucktarded writers out there that think it’s just that easy. It’s not.

More importantly, there are hundreds of thousands fucktarded writers that did NOT choose writing and Hollywood as their “profession.” They’re doctors. Accountants. Teachers. Artists. Office workers. Whatever. Tired of their lives, they know FOR SURE that they have a great idea for a movie. All they have to do is write it down and tell someone. Then they can end their miserable lives and enter the the Garden of Eden that is Hollywood.

Fame. Fortune. Titties and ass everywhere! These await you behind the great Hollywood gate. All they need is the secret password. Spoiler alert, there isn’t one.

But here’s the part of the equation that many fail to see. Those fucktarded writers out there, the ones who didn’t choose Hollywood as their “profession,” all have one thing in common… THEY DIDN’T CHOOSE WRITING AND HOLLYWOOD AS THEIR PROFESSION!

And while my $200,000 masters degree is a “useless degree,” it’s still a degree in the field that I have chosen. If you chose another degree, or no degree at all, then you’re hardly knowledgeable in the field you want to be successful in… screenwriting.

So what do you do?

John and Craig have sold scripts and became a part of the elite. So they, according to their own logic, are now capable of acting as consultants… but they’re too busy to consult. Know why? CAUSE THEY’RE WRITING SCRIPTS!

They acheived this by the above stated hard work, not by using consultants. So it’s easy for them to shit on consultants. Label them as Satan’s Spawn cause “we did it without them, you can too.”

Why pay for someone to read your scripts and give you feedback? They didn’t… Or did they?

My combined two degrees ran me about $200,000. And I already told you that I went to a “pointless school in Hollywood.” John went to USC. Craig went to Princeton. Uhhhhh… Imma guess they paid a little more than $200,000 for their education. Soooo… doesn’t that mean that they PAID for their education in screenwriting? (Part of EVERY screenwriting class is reading and giving notes, either by the Professor or your fellow screenwriting noobs a.k.a. students.)

If you didn’t get a degree in screenwriting thus have no knowledge about the craft AND decide to seek out a consultant for their “expert opinion, based on their experience…” then aren’t you essentially paying for an education?

By my math, at quite the discount… unless you’re paying $200,000 for a consult. If you are… STOP! THEY ARE ROBBING YOU!

When I consulted, that’s how I justified it in my mind. All I was doing was “private tutoring in the art of screenwriting.” Hey, I taught screenwriting at a college level so I just translated that in to private lessons. With each person I consulted, I essentially gave them the same level of treatment that I would one of my students. 

Except this time, when I taught, I had all of my experience working in development to throw in.

Let’s take a second to break it down…

These are some of the most common tools that every writer starts with:

Laptop: $1,000 (on average… cost varies)

Copy of Final Draft: $200 (usually found cheaper)

McKee’s Story: $30 (usually skippable)

Save the Cat!: $11 (usually skippable)

Screenwriting Bible: $20 (eh… skippable)

The Hollywood Standard: Complete Formatting Guide: $18 (not skippable in the beginning)

Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make it Great: $16 (not skippable… EVER!)

Script Shark Screenplay Coverage (regular): $149 (if you must)

Average Consultant Fee (Feature Script): $300

Average Screenwriting Contest Fee: $55

Cheapest Pass to Great American Pitchfest: $300 (does not include air or hotel)

TOTAL COST: $2,099

VERSUS…

4 Year Degree at USC: $WAY MORE THAN $2,099!!

When you look at it that way, is it REALLY that bad for fucktards to spend their hard earned money getting an “education” from a consultant?

It is… if it’s a waste of money. What would make it a waste of money you ask? Well, there are good consultants and bad consultants. Just like there are good teachers and bad teachers.

So how can you tell a bad one from a good one?

Stay tuned to part 4 to find out!

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The War on the Script Consultant: First Blood

Well folks, it’s that time a year again. You guessed it, it’s time for established screenwriters to shit on, according to them, the scum of the Earth… Script Consultants.

And by “Established Screenwriters” I mean… Craig Mazin.

After catching up on all of the drama last week (and apparently still going on), I thought I’d throw my two cents in to the ring. To make it easier to read, I’m going to break this up into parts…

If you’re out of the loop, then let me give you the quick and dirty version of what went down. Apparently, (read about it, didn’t hear it directly) Craig on his Scriptnotes Podcast, trashed consultants and told his listeners that, and I’m paraphrasing here,  paying for people to read your shit is dumb and you’re a stupid head if you do. I think he also said that books are stupid and people who write books are stupid and we’re all going to burn in hell. I think that was it.

Needless to say, that didn’t go down very well with all the people who get paid to read your shit. (Craig’s “words,” not mine.)

Several consultants fired back. Some tried the “can’t we all get along” approach… promoting that “writing is for everyone…” and “here’s a flower… express yourself!” Followed by some other hippie stuff.

While others went with a more direct approach of: “CRAIG MAZIN IS A LIAR AND A CULT LEADER!”

Which caused other established writers to fire back with: “I’m trying hard NOT to be mean, but fuck all you consultants in the ear!”

This caused your everyday, this-is-not-my-day-job-writers to join in the fray. Those that worshiped at the church of Mazin, jumped on the consultant hate speech bandwagon. Some actually took to Twitter to attack consultants on a personal level. So sad.

On the other side, those who want to believe the path of righteousness lays in the hands of the consultant… quickly jumped to their defense. Preaching the words of McKee after they took his “weekend retreat.” A retreat, I heard, that ends with everyone gathering and drinking Kool-Aid together. Allegedly. Don’t quote me.

No matter which side of the coin you rest on, I think you can agree… shit got bloody.

What do I have to say that hasn’t already been said? A lot actually but let me preface my opinion before I start.

First. I have interacted with Craig Mazin once. I found him to be very kind and totally NOT an asshole. There was no reason why he should have ever given me the time of day. I am, in his world, considered a “nobody.” I hit him up on Twitter, he responded. We exchanged a couple of emails. Never in that time did I feel like he was better than me or that I was insignificant. After that exchange, he never contacted me and I never contacted him. There was no need, nor did I expect that all of a sudden we were best buds. 

So I don’t have any issue with Craig Mazin. 

I have also interacted with John August on a similar level and have met him a couple of times. I found him to be completely genuine and extremely nice.  

But I don’t listen to their podcast. 

Not because I believe they give out bad information… it’s just not information that I really need any more. That’s not arrogance talking, I’ve just simply evolved past it. Plus, and this comes from a guy that listens to a LOT of podcasts and even had himself one once… I gotta say, I find them kinda boring. Even when they’re passionate about something, they’re not very excited to talk about it. It always sounded like the podcast was a chore rather than something they liked to do.

Not everyone can be Chris Hardwick or Kevin Smith.

On the flip side, I have also met, interacted and befriended several consultants. I don’t always agree with their message or their tactics, but I “get it.” 

Just to put everything on front street, I have never sought out a consultant and I have never paid for coverage. So I can’t tell you if either is worth anyone’s time or money. 

I don’t say that to be shitty… I’m just letting you know where I’m coming from. I have heard from writers that have had very positive experiences with consultants and I also know other writers who live by paying for coverage. It’s just something I have never felt I needed.

The second thing I want to preface are my credentials. This won’t make sense right away, but gimmie a couple of minutes and let me get there.

I have a masters degree in screenwriting from Ohio University. I interned at both Winkler Films and Kopelson Entertainment as a reader. From there I was hired by Kopelson to work as an assistant and I bullied my way into the position of story editor. There I was involved, albeit limited, in several scripts that were in development. I read them. Gave notes. Heard opinions.

I have attended numerous pitchfests for Kopelson. Heard hundreds of pitches and read my fair share of scripts. It’s because of this I was offered a column in the Business of Show newsletter. The column led to a successful podcast with listeners from all over the world.

From Kopelson I went to Final Draft to work in  their Marketing Department. One of my job duties was to act as a liaison between Final Draft and events seeking sponsorship from Final Draft. I attended several film festivals as a Final Draft representative.

I’m currently the Creative Executive for Barnyard Media. A small up and coming production company. While no big hits have come from us yet, we are on the cusp of having several projects take off. (The development game is a slow one.)

I am also a full-time writer. I have never sold a script, but I have two scripts in development with producers. I do not have a manager and I do not have an agent. So far, that has been by choice. I have had opportunities but didn’t feel the managers and agents I have met with were a good fit for me.

Why give my resume? Couple of reasons…

The biggest reason is to showcase the fact that I’m not an idiot. I know my shit. My entire experience, in school and in Hollywood, has been in development. I have never worked on the production side of things (besides student films) nor have I ever worked in a talent agency. Although I have met with and spoken to a slew of managers and agents who have tried to get me their client’s material.

My point is… screenwriting is my thing. I know it. I love it. I breath it.

Think of Hollywood like the government. There are three branches. Development (Executive), Production (Judicial) and Agencies (Legislative). Each is its own beast with its own rules and own way of doing things. Yet all of them fall under the same umbrella of government. You can KNOW things about another branch, but it doesn’t mean that you can offer any advice to people IN THAT branch.

Sure, production folks know themselves a script, and maybe have even written one, but it’s not what they do day in and day out. They don’t interact with agents and managers. They don’t really deal with other writers unless it’s with other writers who are usually in the same boat they are. (a.k.a. writer’s groups… more on this later.)

The other reason is: I’m about to destroy all of those credentials.

Stay tuned for part 2…