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Group Script Swap

September 26, 2010

I originally set up this blog with a “Script Swap” page with the idea that writers could post their info and find other writers to swap scripts.  Although the page has a gotten about a hundred views, not one person has wanted to post anything.  In hindsight, it wasn’t the greatest idea and I blame myself for thinking that anyone would want to post their info for anyone/everyone to see.  Honestly, I don’t think I’d do it, if I stumbled across some random nobody’s blog…  However, despite the lack of participation on that page, I have been in touch with a few writers with whom have found my blog and we’ve swapped scripts resulting in tremendously helpful notes (at least from what I can tell).  I can’t say that the notes are as good as the expensive “consultants” out there, but the notes were 100% free and were thoughtful enough to have been beneficial to everyone.  In fact, even if you plan to hire a script consultant, wouldn’t it make sense to make the script as good as it can be before they read it to maximize their value?  Another set of eyes never hurt anyone.

In effort to try to maximize the amount of notes that aspiring writers can receive, I’m re-tooling the “Script Swap” idea and instead of having everyone post their info online for the world (and spammers) to see, I want to see if the same idea will work by having everything filter through me.  Assuming I get enough participants, the details for how the first annual (or “semi-annual” if all goes well, or even “only ever” if all does not go well) sitcom script swap will go down.

Want to participate?  Send me an e-mail (eshawcomedy@gmail.com) on or before October 1st to let me know you’re interested.  Include in your email:

  1. Type of script you want notes on (pilot or spec script of existing show).
  2. Which sitcoms you’re familiar with and would be able to give good notes on.
  3. What level writer you feel you are.  We’re all amateurs, but some people may have been writing for a while and if you’ve even won a contest or two, let me know.  I want to try to match people up fairly – If two inexperienced writers give each other notes, it probably won’t be as helpful as the process could be if one of them had some experience.  (Trying to avoid “the blind leading the blind” type of situation.)
  4. How many scripts you’re willing to read and give notes on.  obviously, only one is expected, but if everyone agrees to read two scripts, then that means everyone will be able to get two sets of notes on their own script.  If you have a lot of free time and want to read four, well great, let me know! 
  5. Feel free to include anything else about yourself that might be relevant, including where you live, what your day job is, how many scripts you’ve written, etc. 

How it works:  Assuming I get some responses, I’ll email everyone sometime on Saturday, October 2nd either confirming that there’s enough people to participate OR I’ll apologize for wasting everyone’s time and that maybe it’ll work some other time.  My goal is to have ten people participate (including myself).  Assuming that goal is met, then this is how it will work:

  1. After confirming that the Sitcom Script Swap is going to happen, everyone will have about a week to touch up their scripts and email them to me.  Within a day or so, I will match people up and send everyone an email with their assignment attached.  You will then have one week to read, review, and write up notes on the script.  When you’re finished, email the notes to me and I will distribute the notes to everyone (approximately one week from day you received your assignment), but note that you will only get notes on your script if you have completed your assignment!  I’ve never had any issues with anyone not following through on their notes, but I just want to put that rule in place to prevent any unfairness.
  2. I’m not setting any rules on the format or length of notes, but keep in mind to write helpful notes!  Based on my experience “good notes” run about 2-4 pages, but it really depends on what kind of shape the script is in.  Typically, I’ll write a few paragraphs discussing the overall script, general fixes needed, characters, story, general suggestions, etc.  Then I’ll go page by page and point out jokes that did work, jokes that didn’t, glaring typos, awkward scenes, suggestions, etc.  It’s very important to back up critiques and praise with actual  examples from the script.  Don’t just say, “This is good” or “I hate your main character;” tell the writer why and even provide some tips on fixing the problem.  Everyone has their own methods, but I typically read a script quickly (as if a reader would) just to see how the script feels upon first impression.  Then, I’ll go back and read it a second time while I take notes and offer suggestions. 
  3. Once everyone has read the notes for their script, I’d encourage everyone to correspond with their note-giver to ask any follow-up questions, thank them, and to even see if they’re willing to take a look at any future re-writes.  Notice I didn’t mention “defend your script.”  Do not try and defend choices you made in your script.  If you disagree with the reviewer, then just don’t listen to the note and move on.  The reason being is that you can’t defend your script to a real studio reader; your script should stand alone.  Arguing that your script is brilliant as-is will get you nowhere.  On the flip side, if it’s obvious that the note-giver didn’t read the script, let me know and I’ll step-in to give you notes myself and I’ll remove him from the swap for next time. 

 I realize that this script swap won’t make it in time for the Scriptapalooza October 1st deadline, so I apologize for the poor timing.  If all goes well, I’ll definitely try to set up script swaps to occur about a month before major contest and fellowship deadlines.  If I get more than ten participants, maybe I’ll even make a cheesy Sitcom Script Swap logo…or have my girlfriend make a good logo.  No promises, though.

Suggestions, comments, and complaints are welcome – Even if you can’t participate for this first one, but you’d be interested in the next script swap, let me know and I’ll keep a list of potential participants.

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