Emily Blake dropped a helluva post on her blog yesterday, entitled "The Scriptshadow: How I lost my faith in Carson Reeves." It's an incredibly well-written editorial that pretty much hits on a lot of the recent incidents that should give even former supporters of Carson Reeves pause. Her post is coming from the perspective of someone who used to support and - I believe - even defend Carson Reeves's practices and that makes her revulsion at what the site has become that much more potent.
For her, the sea change came after Carson's efforts to promote The Disciple Program landed its writer representation.
Suddenly, his cost for notes went up and up until he was charging $1,000 a pop. The ONLY reason you'd pay that much for notes is that you think he will pass your script onto his contacts.
(As a contrast, the well-respected Screenplay Mechanic's MAX price is $325.)
Then it started to feel like Carson was the one who made The Disciple Program happen. He posted entries less about Tyler's success and more about his own genius in finding a great script, as if this was somehow a really amazing skill, more amazing than actually writing the script. I'm pretty sure Marceca would have been found eventually, by someone.
Carson's tweets became more and more self-serving, until they started to make me uncomfortable.
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that I've had my issues with how Carson operates. Following John August's posts about Scriptshadow, I realized that there were unintended consequences to what Carson does. In fact, I wrote not one, but two posts about it.
That's one argument against him - that he harms working writers. And yes, if you dig through the history, you CAN find working writers attesting to how the site made difficult for them. Had John August not removed all the comments from his site, you could read an account from one writer of how an SS review torpedoed a pending deal. (Anyone know how to retrieve that somehow?)
[Update: someone did know how. Check out comment 100 here by Michael Gilvary and comment 44 by "Working Writer" might also be of interest too.]
There's also this testimony from Marianne Wibberly. Screenwriter Gary Whitta talks about feeling violated by an unauthorized review. And someone posting on Done Deal Pro claiming to be an agent talks about a deal directly going south because of Scriptshadow reviews.
Other pros have weighed in on these two threads on Done Deal Pro. PLENTY of pros have spoken out about how Scriptshadow makes their livelihoods difficult and how the dissemination and review of their intellectual property hurts them. So know this - I do not recognize the validity of any counterarguement that says "I don't believe these reviews and script leaks hurt anyone." Multiple people actually working in the industry at various levels have told you it does. Accept it.
But you know what? I'm gonna make it easy. You can completely ignore that arguement. There are plenty of other completely independent reasons why people in the business are not fans of Scriptshadow.
If you've read my blog for a while, you'll know I'm not a fan of people who charge insanely high fees for "coverage" while using the promise of access as bait. Well, Carson charges $1000 for a few pages of coverage, promising to push the script out to his contacts if he likes it. No one's notes are worth that much. And it may be your money to spend, but this is a clear demonstration of Carson's credibility lapse. Talk to any produced writer and they'll tell you you're a fool to pay that much for feedback (Justin Marks, Geoff LaTulippe and F. Scott Frazier are among those who have said so on Twitter) and only an unscrupulous opportunist would conduct themselves in such a manner.
But forget that too. Remember all my posts about slimy "Producers in Name Only" who just want to attach themselves to your work and ride your coattails? Scriptshadow wrote a post where he proudly declared he wanted to do just that.
Seriously, read that whole post. I want you to look at that through the eyes of an industry professional. Not only does Carson imply that being a producer is easy, but he flat out admits that he doesn't know what a producer does, then reveals his grand plan is to hook up with a bigger producer and take advantage of their hard work.
More than anything else, that post utterly destroys any credibility that Carson Reeves could hope to have in the industry. It reveals him as a poser who knows nothing about what he's trying to do, all while arrogantly declaring it'll be easy for him. He might as well have written a blog about how he planned on playing in the Super Bowl, so long as Tim Tebow took him under his wing.
Let's not forget that his notes service continued to be active even after this declaration. This now made Carson Reeves a producer who was charging for notes. That's one of the first things aspiring writers are told - "No reputable producer charges for access or notes." It's incredibly unethical, as it would be if Jerry Bruckheimer ran a service where he'd read your script and give you notes for $1000.
No one who considers themselves a professional would ever do business with a "producer" who represents himself in that manner. And then he doubled down on that last week by posting about how he'd gotten an early look at a script that was circulating town and thought it was brilliant. This is exactly what he said:
Really hoping something good comes of it. And if not, well, that's not so bad either. Maybe then I'll be able to convince Todd to let me jump on board. This is the kind of franchise potential project producers dream of. I want to be involved! :) :) :)
So he basically roots for this script to fail when it goes out wide so that he can attach himself as producer. But why? Just because he happened to look at it first? What does he bring to the table?
You'd never see a post like that from Jon Landau or Jerry Bruckheimer. But that's a bad analogy anyway - their attachment actually adds value to the package. Aspiring screenwriters - this is not a guy who can help your script by being attached to it.
I reiterate - no one in this town with any real power or professionalism would risk their reputation by pairing up with a guy who acts like that.
Which brings me to "The Industry Contest, presented by The Tracking Board and Scriptshadow."
Tracking Board has just announced their partnership with Carson Reeves for yet another opportunity for writers to separate themselves from their hard-earned cash for a shot at "breaking in." Full details have yet to be announced, but considering the many concerns about Scriptshadow's professional credibility, I'd be wary of any competition that uses a partnership with him as a selling point.
Most of you who are active in the screenwriting blogosphere are probably aware that the Scriptshadow debate has been a fairly persistant one in recent months - on Twitter, on message boards and on blogs. It's unlikely that someone could be active in the screenwriting community on the internet and not be aware of this. Ergo, unless they are completely oblivious, Tracking Board should have had an inkling of this.
And if they aren't oblivious, then they partnered with him in full awareness of the many ethical concerns and debate about Carson, his notes service, and his producing aspirations. It's worrying to me that none of that gave these so-called "professionals" pause, for it means that those legitimate concerns either meant nothing to them, or they were banking on people not raising those concerns.
Or to put it the way The Daily Show would - it seems that Tracking Board is either evil (for pairing up with someone who has huge ethical issues attached to them) or stupid (for not being aware of said issues.)
Other people have pointed out another concern with Carson's attachement. What assurances does any writer submitting to this contest have that their script won't end up on one of Carson's "super-secret mailing lists?" He sends out a weekly email with links to scripts he intends to review, as well as other desired scripts around town.
Let's say the next Tyler Marceca happens to submit to this Tracking Board competition. Heck, maybe the script doesn't win, but somehow it manages to get some heat around town thanks to the writer passing it to the right person. So it's the hottest spec in town, sells for six figures... and Carson Reeves has a PDF of it sitting in his hard drive.
How fast do you think he'd push that script out to his newsletter? Does anyone think he wouldn't review it for his site? It would be entirely consistent with his past behavior to do so.
There's too much potential impropriety here. Which is why I'm urging that so long as Scriptshadow is attached to this contest, you're better off avoiding it.
Scriptshadow no longer has the luxury of sticking his head in the sand and waiting for this storm to pass. His own words have left him more vulnerable than any attack from a John August or other blogger. This is not an operation that any reputable industry pro would want to do business with, and it is not to your benefit to associate yourself with such an individual.