You’ve just finished your first feature film script and now what do you do? How do you know if it’s any good? Where can you get advice? This is a tough one because generally you’re not going to get someone with experience to read your script for free. But to become a better writer, you need feedback.
For new screenwriters, taking a screenwriting course can have a couple of benefits. Not only will you get feedback on structure, dialogue, character, etc. from your instructor, but also you will meet other screenwriters who will be willing to read your script for free after the course is over and who will help you begin to build a community of writers where you live. Online writing courses can be a good alternative for those living in smaller or remote regions. Most cities with colleges or universities have continuing education programs, and they often offer screenwriting courses. And if they don’t, suggest that they do. These classes will fill. Local independent filmmaking co-ops such as LIFT, AFC, CSIF, FEMA, IFCO, and others found on AFC’s resource page often offer screenwriting classes and workshops.
Another option is to do an undergraduate or graduate degree in screenwriting. Humber has both degree and non-degree programs in screenwriting. UBC and York have MFA programs in screenwriting and there are many others in Canada and in the US. Some universities have low-residency MFA programs for those who are unable to relocate. NSI has a variety of professional development opportunities for writers, and the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) offers a feature film writing residency and a TV writing program for those with a little more writing experience.
You certainly don’t need a screenwriting class to become a screenwriter, but the support, encouragement, and feedback found in these courses can often be invaluable.
If you’re beyond the beginner stage and have already taken classes and have a few screenwriting buddies but want more in-depth or critical feedback, then you may consider paying someone to read your script. Be careful about scams especially online. Many people claim to be experts and charge big fees.
A great resource in Canada is the Praxis Centre for Screenwriters. They offer a reading service at reasonable rates. All of the readers are professional story editors or working screenwriters. Praxis also holds two screenwriting competitions a year where 4-6 writers receive individual workshops with a veteran story editor or screenwriter.
The Editors’ Association of Canada lists editors who are willing to provide feedback on scripts (also called coverage).
Make sure you check the credentials of anyone claiming to be a story editor or professional script reader. IMDb should be your first stop. Does the writer have screen or story editing credits? Don’t be afraid to ask for references. Are the clients satisfied with the feedback they have received? Fees for reading feature films in Canada can range from $200 to $500.
The fees for veteran story editors with lots of film and TV credits can be in the thousands. Editors at this level are usually hired by production companies—once they’ve optioned your film.
Some screenwriting contests offer coverage for an additional fee. Proceed with caution with contests and coverage as you have no way of checking the credentials of an anonymous reader.
Before you send out your script to anyone, it’s a good idea to register it with the Writers Guild of Canada.
Written by Kathryn Mockler