Script Doctors Can Polish Up A Script

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Among the open secrets of the movie industry is the use of a script doctor. A script doctor is a highly-skilled writer who is brought in to make certain improvements to a movie script or tv script. The consultant is usually not credited for his or her modifications to the film. Following the rules of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), the union for screenwriters in the film industry, a screenwriter must contribute over fifty percent of the plot or character development in order to qualify for credit. Getting a credit on a project means the writer is publicly credited for the script, plus able to win accolades such as the Oscars.

Most often, the film consultant is retained for the purposes of improving dialogue, script continuity, or developing characters. Among the first notable instances of this sort of film consulting was Robert Towne's work on the movie The Godfather. Although the official credit for the script went to Mario Puzo and director Francis Ford Coppola, Towne was the writer for one of the key scenes in the movie. This was the part on the patio with conversation between Al Pacino (Michael Corleone) and Marlon Brando (Vito Corleone). The scene has two key purposes - both exposition (plot development) and characterization. From a technical point of view, it's hard to pull off, since there is no similar scene in the book as a reference.


Another famous example of hiring a script consultant is in the movie Crimson Tide which had Denzel Washington as the star. Script doctor and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino was brought in to make the dialogue better in some scenes of the film. His contributions are fairly evident to any fan - the instances of Tarantino dialogue discuss pop culture references like Star Trek and the movie The Enemy Below. Tarantino was also a film consultant for the action movie The Rock.

This practice is very common, but unless the script doctor is a famous writer, hard to find out who has polished up a script. Usually, the consultant is hired for a project fee and is not publicly acknowledged.

Another well-known practice is the hiring of a technical expert to review the authenticity of the dialogue or plot developments. Since audiences demand a realistic script, producers will often hire a qualified professional in areas such as medicine or law. A successful and long-running franchise such as House or General Hospital may have a longtime deal with a medical doctor to review each episode's script. Other projects may just require a few lines of dialogue to be tuned up.


For more information about film consulting, visit the author's website. The site contains information about working as a medical film consultant for the film and tv industry.

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