I've written this blog for over three years now and one of the more frequent email questions I get is: "What are your rates?" On one hand I appreciate that by-and-large, people recognize that my time is valuable and I'm not interested in reading their scripts purely out of the goodness of my heart.
But on the other hand, it makes me aware of how eager people are to plunk down cash for the opinion of a self-proclaimed (and at least in my case, anonymous) expert. Though that's seemed odd to me, I know that some other readers out there are quite reputable people. I always refer those willing to pay for notes to Amanda Pendolino, for example. I've gotten notes from Amanda, and have corresponded with her enough that I have no reservations about her motives and professionalism.
Unfortunately, not everyone is like Amanda. The web is full of unscrupulous consultants and services. I don't have time to check up on all of them. I can offer a few rules of thumb to avoid the most unsavory of the bunch.
If someone charges you $75 to "evaluate" your logline and/or query, they're probably taking advantage of you.
If' you're stupid enough to pay good money - say $75 - for a "brainstorming session," you might lack the hardware necessary for such an interface.
And if you are being asked to pay $500 or more for a few pages of notes, you're wasting your money. I don't care who this person is or what connections they claim to have - NO ONE'S notes are worth that much. High rates like that are indefensible to the point of taking advantage of a writer's desperation and naivete.
Services like this stay in business because it's hard breaking into the industry. Usually, the more expensive the service, the more they're taking advantage of you. Many of you reading this blog are so far outside the industry that it might seem like a good deal to plunk down a few weeks pay on the slim hope you can penetrate the Fort Knox that is Hollywood. That saddens me because I wish there was more I was in a position to do to help. Instead, all I can say is "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."
With one exception.
Scott Myers has been wrestling with some of the same questions I've faced. The difference between us is that he did something about it. For a while now, he's offered Screenwriting Master Class, a series of classes that range in cost from $95 to $495. For some of you, that might be a lot of money to part with.
Yesterday, his blog carried this announcement.
[I have considered] How to create an alternate route into Hollywood for aspiring screenwriters, especially those of you who are outsiders [no industry connections]. I was a complete outsider to the movie business when I broke in, so my sensitivity to this issue is real and longstanding. Moreover it seems like every day I interface with someone who, lacking connections in Hollywood, expresses frustration about not knowing how to go about getting their foot in the door.
I have kicked around a lot of ideas over the last year, then a few months ago, I hit on something that struck me as being either brilliant — or totally nuts.
I did due diligence and consulted with many people inside the industry as well as writers who have taken classes with me, and every single one of them thought it was a great idea.
So next Monday, I will be announcing Go Into The Story: The Quest.
Bottom line: I will be looking to work with up to four writers in a 24-week Screenwriting Master Class intensive in which they will learn my comprehensive theoretical approach to the craft, then put that knowledge to use prepping and writing a full-length screenplay.
The cost? Nothing.
That’s right, a 6-month deep immersion in screenwriting theory and scriptwriting workshop where you end up with an original screenplay with me as your mentor for the entire process, and you don’t have to spend even a dime.
And if at the end of the process you have written a great script… you will have direct access to industry insiders.
I think this is brilliant. This is Scott putting his money where his mouth is. He believes in his method so much that he'll put it out there for free to four people. It's the antithesis of a lot of the scammers out there - total transparency AND generosity.
This is a great opportunity - in fact, it might be the best opportunity for amateurs that I've seen in a long time. In a worst case scenario, you emerge from this with a very comprehensive education in screenwriting. The connections are merely a bonus. This is your chance to work with one of the best mentors in the business and have motivation to finish a screenplay.
Usually, I make it a point not to strongly endorse any product or service I wouldn't use myself. Because of that, my conscience is clear when I say that anyone reading this blog who's serious about being a writer should submit themselves for consideration as one of Scott's Fortunate Four. If I wasn't personally acquainted with Scott, I'd be spending the next several days getting my submission ready.
I hate the word "guru." I hate gurus who are in it either for self-aggrandizement, or who come up with bizarre and cockamamie theories of writing solely to sell you on a writing seminar or book. I wince when (well-meaning) people call me a "guru."
Scott's not a guru - he's a mentor. And a damn good one at that. He's long been a great supporter of this blog and I consider him one of the most decent people I've "met" during my time in L.A. (And Scott, the next time you're in town, we WILL have to meet face-to-face finally.) He created these programs not for himself - but for you. The altruism and commitment he's shown towards aspiring writers has no equal.
Even if you can't get his services for free, maybe you can consider taking that money you were ready to throw at me (or the opportunists I lambasted earlier) and make an investment in your education and screenwriting future by enrolling in Screenwriting Master Class.
But for now, work on making a kickass case for why you should be the one to get all that at no charge.