Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Interview with Script Consultant Mina Zaher - Part 2

And now, what the writer should expect from the reader, and a bit more. But before the conclusion, I want to thank Mina for taking the time to do this interview. Generous people like Mina make having a blog fun and informative.
And you can reach Mina here: http://screenwriterjourney.blogspot.com/

Now, Part 2:

What should the writer expect from the consultant?

The writer should expect objectivity from the consultant. It doesn’t matter whether the consultant likes horror or hates comedy. The consultant’s job is to work in the best interest of the story. Personal opinions should be left at the door.

I know you are in the UK but is the UK so different from the US in scripts? Does that make any difference when a writer is looking for a consultant?

I don’t there is a difference with film. Films should have a universal appeal and a good story is a good story. There was no question from Braven Films, which is based in New York that I couldn’t read for them because I was based in London.

However, it might be different with television because British television and US television have different structures and practices, such as the spec script process. UK writers are encouraged not to write scripts from existing shows.

Do you offer the script a PASS, CONSIDER, or RECOMMEND?

I don’t because I don’t think it’s fair at the script’s early stage to judge the script. Also, script reading is so subjective. I can’t predict how one producer or agent will react to the script; I wouldn’t want to. My job would be to help make the writer make their story and characters the strongest they can.

Is there something you think screenwriters should know before submitting a script to you or any reader for consultation?

When the writer looks for a consultant they need to understand that the reader may not provide the magic answer for their script. A good consultant however will allow the writer to see that there are possibilities in their stories and characters; that solutions are possible, even if the writer can’t see them immediately.

I know when you read my RomCom, you seemed to know as much if not more about US features than I did. I thought this was great. Would it be the same for TV?

I do watch more films than television admittedly and so try to see as much as I can. With television, I don’t see everything but I do try to watch the good stuff. Battlestar Galactica is in my top three ever and I’m a huge fan of Gossip Girl. The other two television dramas in my top three are Traffik and The Wire.

When you give notes, what areas do you usually discuss? I ask this because I had a consultant who wouldn’t even discuss my dialogue, and I consider that a very important part of the writing.

Seriously? Wow.

I attempt a logline first. This will help the writer see how the consultant has interpreted their script. Sometimes the story the writer thinks they have written isn’t the one that’s on the page. The logline will help the writer see where their script is focused.

Narrative, structure, characters and dialogue are key elements that I would cover. I would acknowledge how these elements work and also look at the areas for development. If I do highlight an area that needs developing, I would suggest possible solutions that the writer could consider or use to reach another solution.

The script’s genre will also be covered. In the same vein as the logline, it’s important for the writer to see which genre the consultant sees on the page. For example, is the comedy actually a drama? Is the thriller really a horror?

The tone and pacing of the script will also be addressed. These are crucial elements of the script, which are sometimes overlooked.

Finally, I will add AOB to my notes just in case there are other issues that need to be addressed. I might also use this section to suggest scripts to read or titles to watch that could help the writer with their script.

How can a screenwriter know that the reader is legit? There are so many people who claim to be qualified to take a writer’s money.

Totally. You can’t beat word of mouth. Though what works for one writer may not work for another writer. Companies ask readers for sample reports so I don’t see why an individual couldn’t do the same.

What would you like potential screenwriting customers to know that isn’t on your blog?
Reading is crucial to writing. You can learn craft from books and courses but reading scripts and novels will teach you how to tell a great story.
Also, just write. I know this advice may sound tired but it’s true. Writing is a craft like any other and as my piano teacher used to say practice makes perfect. Whether you’re a dancer, a musician or a writer, you have to practice. It’s that simple. 

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Jamie for a thorough interview, and thanks to Mina for providing such honest and helpful information. Cheers to you both! ~Mike

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  2. Thanks for commenting Mike, I appreciate it.

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