If you’re developing a film or TV project as a producer or development exec and your writer(s) would like more than one-off script consulting but co-writing might be a step too far, or if as a commissioned writer you’d like ongoing guidance as you tackle a tricky rewrite, this new coaching opportunity could be just the ticket!
One-Off Consulting vs. Co-writing
Over the last few years, I’ve done mostly one-off consulting on projects. As a script consultant, my role is to help the development team to identify the main weaknesses and define with them a way forward that builds on the existing strengths of the project. In this situation, the team is simply seeking a better understanding of the problems so they can resolve them on their own. When a new draft is ready, usually a few months later, I read it and we discuss it again if necessary.
Occasionally, when the project is right for me and I’m right for the project, I have stepped in as a co-writer to help the process further. As a consultant, I sit in front of the team holding a mirror up to them so they see what can be difficult to spot without more distance from the material. If they invite me as a co-writer, I sit next to them and we share the burden: we design, write and come up with a new draft together.
Sometimes, co-writing isn’t an option. This could be for contractual reasons (too many writers have been involved already or there is no time to involve agents and lawyers), for financial reasons (not enough development funding to finance co-writing fees) or it could be for creative reasons (some writers aren’t keen to co-write or to share credit and backend with another writer). Often, it’s a combination of these.
Coaching to the rescue!
In these situations, coaching (or ongoing consulting) can be an ideal solution, especially for structural rewrites. It’s more than one-off consulting (we try to figure out the best solutions and we explore / implement them together as the new draft is written) but less than co-writing (I don’t write, we just explore / design together and I make myself available whenever the writer has a new step to discuss and work on). There can be many interim steps before we reach a new deliverable draft. In a nutshell, coaching as defined above is co-design invoiced and credited as consulting.
The fee is per project (feature film or TV series) for a three months retainer and guaranteed availability over 90 days to work on a structural rewrite, from the agreed start date. It can be renewed once, at an additional cost. In some cases, up to 50% of the fees can be deferred until the first day of principal photography, against a 100% premium. To insure a tight chain of rights, a simple consulting agreement will be signed.
Obviously, coaching is only an option if the writer is also available to work on the project during the agreed coaching window. If I’m not already familiar with the project and the writer, Advanced Script Notes are usually the best way to kick-off the process. Some of this one-off cost can be deducted from the coaching fee should we decide to go forward after the initial script meeting, following the delivery of the notes.