I tried to stay out of it, but I can't. I give a shit about the screenwriting community, and I don't like what's happening. I have to say something.
Scriptshadow started as a blog for analyzing professional screenplays. It's run by a man who goes by the name Carson Reeves. In this business, many people represent themselves with pseudonyms, so for the purpose of this article, I will continue to respect Carson's choice by referring to him by his chosen public name.
When Carson started, his goal was to review scripts publicly and share the files over the Internet as a way to break down the barriers between amateurs and Hollywood - an admirable goal. I was right where he was then, still trying to figure out the screenplay thing, and still trying to figure out where one got copies of all those scripts everyone else seemed to be able to find. Carson provided a source for these scripts and a thoughtful analysis of how to make your work more like that work. I didn't always agree with his opinion, but it seemed like a wonderful gift to a young screenwriter.
He also seemed like a really reasonable guy. I remember explaining to him why I loved a script he hated - Tonight, He Comes - and he was completely open to considering alternative viewpoints. I supported him completely.
I took his cue and started reviewing scripts on my own here and there. Then screenwriter John August posted his now-famous rant about why Scriptshadow is bad for the community. Gary Whitta (Book of Eli) was still posting to the screenwriting board Done Deal Pro then, and he agreed with August's sentiments. I asked Gary, what if I LOVED The Book of Eli? (which I did) Wouldn't you be okay with me posting a positive review of your script? Gary said he didn't want ANYONE posting about an unfinished work, as a script inevitably is. I didn't get it at the time, but he was the professional and I was the nobody, so I listened. I haven't posted a script review since. And now that I have had a script hit the tracking boards, I can completely understand Gary's perspective. I wouldn't want my script reviewed either, positive or negative. It's not a published novel - not a public document for the entire Internet to peruse. I worked on a script recently - if it got out before it was ready, while I was still sending it to a couple of people for notes - it could sabotage a potential deal.
But I digress.
I still took the scripts Carson offered, and read them on my own, keeping most of my thoughts to myself or only sharing them with friends. I still read his blog, and occasionally commented.
He had a few little contests that were fun - I entered and did ok, got a few pages up on the site. Carson and some of the commenters gave me really helpful notes that I ended up using. I was grateful.
I don't know exactly when it happened, but one day Carson stopped trying to figure out how to be a better writer, and starting thinking about how to monetize his good idea. Nothing wrong with that, really. People do it all the time. But it's the way he did it that bugs me.
At some point, he started offering notes for money. It makes sense. He gave notes all the time on professional scripts, and eventually started posting reviews of amateur scripts, which was actually great for the community. Plenty of people give notes for money. I've thought about doing it, except I hate reading shitty scripts. But when Carson started charging for notes I thought, "Okay, I don't usually agree with his opinion so his notes probably aren't for me, but good for him if people are willing to pay him for his thoughts."
Then came The Disciple Program. This is a script written by the talented Tyler Marceca. Marceca submitted this script to Carson after already winning one high profile contest, and Carson sent it to his contacts.
The script blew up. It went everywhere. It got Tyler repped at WME and a deal. The Disciple Program was just named #1 on this year's Blood List.
This was all great for Tyler, but also great for Carson. He got a writer exposure. He helped the community. I was elated.
But 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.
Then came this post about Carson wanting to become a producer, but not being entirely sure about what a producer does. His conclusion is that he should find a script and a producer with a big name and a bank account and attach Carson's name to the project.
He's found talent at least once and introduced it to the town, which sounds like a manager's job. So why not become a manager, you may ask?
In the comments of the above linked post, Carson said this: "Thought about it but I tried managing for a little while and it sucked
up way more time than I thought it would. So I think I'm focused more
on the producing end."
So managing is hard, but producing - that's something any old nobody can do with no experience or time?
I know more than one actual producer who takes great offense to that comment.
Carson will still review your script for free in his Amateur Friday posts if he chooses it out of his multitude of submissions. Maybe he'll even send it to his contacts - those same contacts that launched Marceca. Or, if he doesn't pick your script from the logline, you can pay him or his employees a small fortune for notes. It's not difficult to see the problem that arises here.
Let me be perfectly clear, and if you get nothing else out of this long post, remember this: Any producer who charges for notes is not someone with whom you want to be in business. Real producers make their money by making movies.
Now Carson has his own official website, where he advertises artists who charge a hefty fee to design a poster for your movie. I'm certain he gets a cut of their take. You do NOT need a poster to sell your script. Ever. If you want to design one, go for it, but no legit producer will ever expect this of you. They might even think it superfluous.
But back to this producer thing.
If Carson took some of his reader earnings to finance a micro-budget picture from a script he found and loved, or even went around to possible financiers and begged the money out of them - then I'd be in full support. That's what an actual producer does. An actual producer also puts together a team that will make a film by recruiting talented directors, actors,writers, and anyone else who can make it happen.
But that's not what he claims to do. He wants to attach his name to a script and use someone else's money, time and name to get it made without actually doing anything at all.
Friday he posted about a script he liked called Sanctuary, announcing his intention to attach himself if anyone will let him. Here's what he said about the script hitting the marketplace: "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
What does he bring to the table? He knows a few people. He can read.
Shit, I know people. Go on Done Deal Pro and hang out for a while, you'll know people too. Take a UCLA extension class. Enter a contest. Get a job as a PA. Please don't pay ANYONE $1,000 for notes, no matter who he knows, no matter how great you think your script is. There are other, cheaper, better note givers out there, some of whom have actually been involved in making an actual film.
Carson used to want to be a better writer. That's where he started. He was a good dude with good intentions. Now he's an overpriced reader and fake producer who loves to call successful professional writers "lazy" any time Carson doesn't pay attention to a plot point.
Honestly, it makes me sad. I used to believe in this guy. I admired his gumption. I thought he really believed in learning how to make scripts better, how to help new writers break down the barriers and find a new way into the business. Now? Now he's just another cog in the wheel.