Monday, November 05, 2012

The Scriptshadow: How I lost my faith in Carson Reeves

Most of you have heard of Scriptshadow.

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 on board."

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.


  1. When who doesn't pay attention to the plot point, the writer, or Carson?

  2. Carson. See his Looper review.

  3. His blog got me reading your blog...I didnt have to pay for that either ;).

    Very honest post. Good read.


  4. Great post! I've gone through more or less the same arc regarding Carson. I'd like to see him switch to reviewing amateur scripts and films.

    A film is created for mass consumption, spec scripts (and scripts in development) are not.

    If you apply the golden rule you see how what he does is wrong. I wouldn't want someone disseminating my script en masse and reviewing it without my permission, therefore it's wrong to do it to someone else.

    Carson, please stop reviewing scripts without the writer's permission.

  5. Well said. Thank you for speaking out. The more information on Scriptshadow that's out there, the less likely newbie writers will follow like lambs to the slaughter.

  6. Anonymous11:00 AM

    I agree with you. Recently Carson has become more like a gatekeeper than a helpful guy: OK, if you pay me 1,000 $ I'll give you some insightful notes and maybe, MAYBE I'll slip your script through the door of a real producer. And don't forget your old friend Carson, dude!

    It's worst than an Internet scam...

  7. Thanks for the comments, guys.

  8. Agreed.

    The guy's gone from helping unsigned writers break in to exploiting these souls for profit.

    The real reason he's unexcited about Managerdom is not because he's lazy, it's that he wants the money, power and notoriety that comes from being a big shot Producer. Without doing the work of course.

    His only true value in this business is story analysis. But if the script is sellable, it's past that stage.

    He'd be better off not publicly begging for attachment. And this wishing a no sale - even tongue and cheek - on a writers to get himself on board comes off as uber douchey.

    Shark Jumped.

  9. Great breakdown of the still- running-its-course epic soap called "The Rise and Fall of Scriptshadow". FYI SS takes a whoping % off all fees headed to readers, poster artists, (coming soon I-Ching readings on your screenplay). Actualy coming next is "the contest" -- it went up on Tracking Board on Saturday night but got pulled down by Sunday AM.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Thanks, guys. I'm still on the fence about The Black List. Franklin is still toying with the setup, and it has already paid some dividends for a few writers, so when the smoke clears it may be a great new tool - exactly that tool we've all been looking for to get around the current system. I'm going to wait and see what happens.

    And I didn't mention the contest Tracking Board is sponsoring with Scriptshadow because we don't really know much about it yet. I'm interested to see what that will involve.

  12. Oh and just to clarify, because I've seen some confusion about this, the contest I placed in that helped me was TrackingB, which is different from Tracking Board. They are two separate boards. The first has had a contest for a few years, the second is just launching a contest this year in conjunction with Script Shadow.

  13. Definitely agree Carson wanting to be a producer is kind of silly. He seems much better suited for a manager position, and that "how do I get to be a producer?" post was a little embarrassing.

    But I can forgive the guy for missing plot points here and there. Carson reads more in a week I probably read in six months, I'm sure he does his fair share of glossing (even though Looper was a film review).

    As far as his reviews go, I'm probably still in the class of "If it's gonna be favorable, then by all means post a review of my script". But I can definitely see how just the exposure could lead to hesitations or the like in a coinciding deal or development.

    Nice post.

  14. Thank you. And that's a fair point that he does read a TON of material. I can see where he'd miss something.

    But I did balk at the use of the word "lazy" to describe writers, particularly Rian Johnson, who worked his butt off on that film.

  15. Totally agree, Emily! Good for you for posting this. I am also a former SS fan turned off by its transformation over the last year. What's funny is how much the story of Scriptshadow/Carson Reeves can teach you about screenwriting. Want to learn how to write a good character arc? Read the Carson Reeves story.

  16. Great post!

    Man, I was a fan of Carson as well. He should just stick to reading scripts!

    Charging screenwriters $1,000 for "notes" is just taking advantage of/perpetuating the myth that Hollywood is an impenetrable fortress...

    It's strong myth, too, that I'm constantly fighting...People ask all the time, "I don't need notes, I just need you to pass this along..."

    As Emily's not that hard to get your script in the hands of people with good contacts.

    I know, it seems impossible if you're outside of LA, but you have a phone, email, fax machine...start pitching people. And now with the internet, message boards, Twitter...make some contacts!

    It's not impossible. In fact, it just takes a little persistence and professionalism. Hell, if you ask all your friends right now, no matter where you live in the country, I bet you know at least one person who has a Hollywood contact. Seriously.

    And if you live in LA, there's really NO excuse.

    Here's the big secret: The most difficult part of selling your screenplay is...writing a good screenplay!

    Seriously. It's not easy. It takes real work and dedication. Not everyone is up for it.

    So please, please don't pay $1,000 to have your script passed along. Instead, take that money and time and work on your craft! Have fun! Write something great!

    Then rewrite it.


    Great post again, Emily. Sorry for the rant...


  17. Excellent comments, Eric.

    Eric is a script consultant who used to host an awesome podcast called Scriptcast, which will hopefully return some day.


  18. Here's the thing, people. Scriptshadow provides a forum for a focused, daily discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of a particular script, whether professional or amateur. (Usually it's professional scripts from Monday to Wednesday, a how-to article on Thursdays, and an amateur script on Fridays.)

    Do you know what the cumulative effect of reading, critiquing, discussing, arguing about hundreds of scripts is?

    I can speak only for myself, but I think my experience is typical and is what keeps the ScriptShadow community so vibrant; you learn a TON about what works and what doesn't in many different screen stories over every genre.

    I recently finished a script where the revelation of the killer was, I'd hoped, a huge shock. But then I read Carson's review of a script where the killer only appears in a couple of early scenes, just like mine. And Carson went on to point out that that's not going to work because we're just not going to care about this minor character. You need, in his words, four to five spaced out scenes with this character before revealing him/her as being the killer.

    Now maybe that seems obvious to you, but with the million balls we all juggle in the air when we write a script, well, I needed to hear that.

    So now, thanks to that little piece of advice, I've revising my script for the better.

    That's one little tidbit out of hundreds I've picked up over the years thanks to Scriptshadow, which means, thanks to Carson.

    And I haven't given the guy a penny. This incredible learning resource is absolutely free.

    So I frankly don't care if he's made some bad decisions (hey, I often disagree with his reviews -- that's part of life's rich tapestry, no?). Carson's Scriptshadow website has been and continues to be an invaluable and, I'd suggest, unique community where you actually LEARN screenwriting skills.

    I don't know Carson from Adam. Maybe in real life he's a total jerk. But I'm smart enough to separate the man from the free service his reviews and the subsequent discussions provide every day.

  19. I appreciate that perspective. I am do glad readers of Scriptshadow learn from his posts. I don't think every writer can separate his notes service from his mission to produce, which is my main issue.

    But as for the posting of professional scripts - there really is no reason you couldn't have learned that lesson from a script that has already been turned into a film.

    Or do you think the lesson you learned from that post is worth the risk of sabotaging a potential deal for a writer like me?

    Carson's articles and reviews of produced and amateur scripts are not a problem for me. If that was all he was doing, I would not have posted this.

  20. Anonymous3:43 PM

    I totally agree with you, Emily. From my time in this community I know that there are far too many people who will believe that this is their way in -- and at that price, may make considerable sacrifices to do so -- for me to feel comfortable with what Carson is doing. If he was doing real legwork/financing, I would feel differently.

  21. hi Emily -- you make a lot of thoughtful points; I do however disagree that from a learning perspective, produced scripts are equally valuable to ones that are currently moving/selling in the marketplace. Yes, you have "learning the fundamentals" stuff, which you can learn by reading CHINATOWN, etc...and then there is "learning about the scripts in the current marketplace," which means you have to be knowledgeable of and reading scripts that are moving NOW.

    If you are a repped writer you should know this. My reps are constantly sending me scripts that just sold or have heat or are being set up and telling me to read them. Constantly. I have changed/dropped/resumed many projects because they were rendered extra relevant or extra irrelevant based on what's happening in the CURRENT script market, not on scripts that sold three years ago and are now produce movies.

    Unrepped writers do not have this advantage, and Scriptshadow gives many aspiring (and unrepped) writers access to scripts and trends they otherwise would not have. I'm not necessarily arguing that Scriptshadow is a net positive in how it's currently operated, I'm just saying there is a real, tangible difference between scripts already produced (i.e. several years old and ancient by industry standards) and ones that are moving right now.

    A lot of Scriptshadow's critics make a similar claim -- that old scripts are just as valuable as learning tools as scripts-in-development -- and I think this is just not true. Writers -- repped or not -- should be knowledgeable of what's going on in the market,and this means actually reading and not just reading about scripts, and getting your hands on these scripts can be hard if you're not connected or repped. Again, I'm not necessarily saying that justifies the posting of these scripts, just saying I don't dismiss the idea that these scripts are more valuable to aspiring writers than older scripts.

  22. Sorry to keep rambling, I did just want to question you a bit more on your worry that a Scriptshadow post could sabotage a potential deal for a writer like you. This has always struck me more as a theoretical threat than an actual threat. Do we have any evidence that this kind of thing has happened to an actual writer? All I've heard are anecdotal evidence or this "could happen" or rumors of so-and-so executive getting angry when they learn that a script is being shared publicly. It has sort of an urban legend-y vibe to it. I've never actually heard a real live writer cite an actual instance that they were harmed in a material way by something posted on Scriptshadow.

    In fact, that fear seems to place a lot of weight and import on Scriptshadow that most of his critics turn around and deny he has at all. A lot of his critics seem to simultaneously hold the conflicting positions that Scriptshadow is a nobody, but that he is also extremely powerful. "Scriptshadow is a nobody, nobody big or powerful in my circles have ever heard of the guy, but he's a bad guy because his opinion will kill your project on the spot."

    A lot of critics parrot the line that Scriptshadow "hurts writers," but then you really look at what they're saying, they're saying the idea that sharing "in development" (a term that can mean anything, by the way) scripts is bad for writers, they're not pointing to specific writers who were actually harmed in a tangible way. And you'd think these writers would be happy to stand up publicly and be counted.

    Even John August's famous rant and fears seem to have been unfounded -- it's been several years now since his original post, and Scriptshadow (and many others) have continued doing their thing and none of August's dire predictions have come to pass. And again, if you really look at what John August was saying, it wasn't that Scriptshadow "hurts writers," it's that Scriptshadow, based on John August's anecdotal evidence of an angry exec, has the POTENTIAL to be an INCONVENIENCE for very rich and successful writers based on the feared reactions of a few paranoid studio execs. Yet, the August line has still seem to have become gospel for many of Scriptshadow's critics.

    Anyway, I am honestly not a Scriptshadow apologist, but I do see some sloppy thinking (not necessarily by you) on the part of his critics. Whether or not posting scripts online is a good thing (to whom? working writers? aspiring writers?) or whether or not Scriptshadow has a good story sense or charges too much for notes or may or not become a competent producer are all entirely separate questions. But, too often you see it reduced to "Scriptshadow good v. Scriptshadow bad," which muddies the waters a bit.

    Anyway, just a few thoughts to add to your very thoughtful comments. FWIW.

  23. SuperSned: "Unrepped writers do not have this advantage, and Scriptshadow gives many aspiring (and unrepped) writers access to scripts and trends they otherwise would not have."

    That's not true. Check out the "forum" section of Tracking-Board. It's all there...

    1. That's a good point, the DD forums are a great resource. I shouldn't have said SS provides some aspiring writers with their only resource, just that he's one resource.

  24. @Emily

    First, for aspiring screenwriters it's invaluable to read and evaluate a script pure, as a producer reads it -- i.e. with no trailers, clips, posters, stars in the roles, set design, music added, etc. When you have ONLY the words and your brain isn't filling in a lot of other elements that's when you can judge what is really working on the page and what is not.

    Second, we're not part of the same community, Emily. Our interests are fundamentally different. You are a repped writer, I and most of Scriptshadow are not. Yours is the argument of the rich to the poor -- vote for policies which benefit us because maybe, someday, you'll be in our position.

    If I ever get into the position of having projects in development, my attitude towards Scriptshadow may change. But at the moment it's in my interests and the interests of thousands of other aspiring screenwriters to read professional unproduced scripts.

    Does that sound cynical? Surely it's simply being a realist in a harsh, competitive world.

    After all, Emily, you were happy to submit your work to Scriptshadow and associate yourself with a site that openly reviewed development scripts when you were unrepped, and now your position has shifted and you see the dangers in the site to you.

    That's completely fine. Only don't judge the rest of us at Scriptshadow for taking the same position.

    1. "Yours is the argument of the rich to the poor -- vote for policies which benefit us because maybe, someday, you'll be in our position.

      If I ever get into the position of having projects in development, my attitude towards Scriptshadow may change."

      Do you realize that Emily was a school teacher up until recently? I don't know about her finances, but I'm guessing she's not exactly rich.

      Your attitude may change if you're in the position to have scripts in development? So your moral compass moves depending on how it benefits you?

      The online screenwriting community is the online screenwriting community, whether you've just written your first scene or just sold your first spec.

      What don't you get? This is not a matter of opinion. Taking someone's unpublished work, disseminating it en masse and reviewing it publicly is WRONG!

  25. I was happy to submit SOME of my work to Carson when he was a guy trying to help new writers. I never submitted an entire script to him, largely because I didn't want to risk sabotaging any future for that script in the marketplace.

    As for the need to read unproduced scripts:

    1) You are often reading early drafts. I recently sent a draft of a project to someone
    I don't know that well for notes. It was not ready - that's why I needed the notes. Imagine if that guy decided to send the script to Carson, and Carson reviewed it and sent it around to his readers. Not only would you be reading an unfinished draft that was never meant for the public to see, but now the draft that's out there already has some possible negative spin on it, before a single producer has had a chance to read it. Deal killed. That's why writers have become more paranoid about their work.

    2) There really is nothing you can learn from an unproduced script that you can't learn from a produced one. I actually don't read a lot of unproduced scripts, myself. I like to read them right before a movie comes out. Sometimes I'll read Black List scripts. My reps have only ever sent me one script to read, and it was for a film that had been released months before. If I were never able to read another unproduced script, I'd still be learning plenty from the rest of the scripts out there.

    Really, the only reason people are uncomfortable with admitting that Carson is in the wrong is because they want the scripts. I want money, but I'm not going to be pissed off at Terry Rossio for having it.

    But don't just listen to me. Bitter Script Reader has his own post:

  26. I will also add this: Any time someone asks me to recommend a script with great fight scenes, I still send them The Matrix.

  27. Scott8:40 AM


    I don't think anyone is saying writers can't read unproduced scripts. I don't think anyone is saying writers can't share said scripts. All anyone is saying is don't do it in public. SS wants to have a private group, be my guest. SS wants to dissect scripts in private for the benefit of his following, fucking awesome. SS wants to share scripts in private, well that's a little more murky, but still not horrible...

    But doing it in public... Doing it while shouting to the rafters on twitter about how Screenwriter X is "the worst working screenwriter in Hollywood..." Doing it with a middle-finger raised to the ARTISTS whose careers he's standing on to get ahead...

    If you don't see anything wrong with any of that, our moral compasses are pointed in opposite directions, and this isn't so much a dialogue as it is two brick walls shouting back and forth.

    SS could very easily take everything private, god knows I'm a member of a number of secret online groups where scripts are traded and discussed on a daily basis.

    But he doesn't.

    Because as we're all coming to learn, his website has become a MARKETING TOOL to sell more widgets. Yes, along the way he helps some writers. And to that I say "Awesome!" But the amount of good he's putting into the world does not cancel out the bad.

    And Jake, you and Emily *are* part of the same community. You're both writers. She may be a little further along, but that doesn't mean you are against each other, it doesn't mean you are competing with each other. Hollywood is *not* a zero-sum game. You two are definitely a part of the community, you are part of the same profession, you are both following the same muse...

    There is, however, one person involved in this conversation who *isn't* a writer.

  28. Well said. It isn't "us vs them". Scott is WAY further ahead of me in this business. WAY. But I don't sit around thinking about how unfair it is that he gets meetings I don't, or that he gets the chance to pitch for projects I don't. I'm not there yet. I'll work to get where he is.

    Listen to the people who are where you want to be. Is Carson where you want to be? If he is, then by all means, take his advice.


  29. Frankly, SuperSned put it so well, I'll just quote him/her:

    "If you are a repped writer you should know this. My reps are constantly sending me scripts that just sold or have heat or are being set up and telling me to read them. Constantly. I have changed/dropped/resumed many projects because they were rendered extra relevant or extra irrelevant based on what's happening in the CURRENT script market, not on scripts that sold three years ago and are now produce movies."

    So while you, Emily, and other repped writers get access to the latest scripts in Hollywood FOR FREE, you want us unrepped schmucks to pay $79 a year for sites like "The Tracking Board?"

    And we're on the same side? Gimme a break.

    Meanwhile, you're ignoring SuperSned's point that YOU can change or abandon projects based on what's CURRENTLY out there, whereas we unrepped writers should content ourselves with learning from "The Matrix" and other old movie scripts?

    You further ignore my point that when it suited you you were happy to associate yourself (doesn't matter if it was ten pages or a hundred) with a website engaging in what you knew full well was publicly critiquing in development scripts, and now you're on the other side of the fence and that practice potentially threatens YOUR work, you are shocked, shocked to find out that gambling is going on in the establishment.

    As I said, I admire your hard-nosed cynicism.

    And I intend to follow your example. :)

    1. Call me crazy, but I'd bet that there are plenty of professional screenwriters who were able to break in without having access to the very latest scripts on the market.

      If the only way you can learn anything from a script is by reading it completely unspoiled by any stills, casting details and the like, you might consider that's a sign of a deeper issue with your aptitude that has little to do with "access."

  30. Read the post again, man. I traded scripts privately after Gary Whitta said he didn't want his work publicly reviewed. I never posted another review again. This was long before I had a rep.

    I don't adjust my writing based what I read in a script that hit the marketplace. Why would I? I might adjust it based on the concept, which I can find out without reading the script. And more importantly, I don't post my analysis of the script online for all to see.

    But the worst thing about Carson, to me, was never the public script trading. In fact, that wasn't the majority of my post. The majority of my post was about my concern for the way he is using writers to further his own interests.

    That's the point the defenders seem to keep ignoring.

  31. @ Emily -- just wanted to follow up on a couple points.

    "There really is nothing you can learn from an unproduced script that you can't learn from a produced one." Well, this may be true for you, it is not true for all writers. Example: remember the contained thriller craze from a few years ago? I was diving headlong into the craze, was actually working on two simultaneously, two which it turns out had a lot of similar elements to two other contained thrillers which sold at the same time I was working on my own. The concepts were similar, not identical, the set-ups were similar, not identical, and really the only way for me to know if it's worth pursuing either or both of my own projects is to read the scripts that just sold. That is something I learned by reading them. So, when you ask why you would change any of your writing based on what hit the marketplace, well, that's why. You may not have been in that position yet, but it doesn't mean you won't be.

    Learning through reading is not only about craft, it's also about the market.

    And again, curious about the scenario you present with an "unfinished" draft being reviewed and summarily killed. In general these are just not the types of script he reviews. I don't think I've seen him post a script and say "Hey, here's an early draft of a script by an unproduced writer a friend slipped me."

    The "in development" scripts he reviews are not rough drafts of unproduced writers, they're usually scripts that have been purchased and/or set up with major attachments. Sure, they're "in development," which means they're in development, it doesn't mean they're rough drafts. And of course, professional writers may prefer or demand these scripts be taken down, which is fine, but that means Carson Reeves is annoying professional writesr, it doesn't mean he's killing careers.

    But, I am genuinely curious to hear actual writers share their actual experiences on this front ("Scriptshadow killed my project") -- namely, I'd like to see more evidence to settle the "Scriptshadow is a nobody" vs. "Scriptshadow can kill your project" question.

  32. We can keep going around in circles on this, but it's clear to me that you're not changing your mind.

    You want free access to unproduced scripts. That's it. You can justify it all you want, but you continue to ignore the long and ever-growing list of things that should give you pause about Scriptshadow because of the advantage you personally get from being a part of his email distribution list.

    And that's fine. You want free access to unproduced scripts. That's your what you want.

    If that's what you want, by all means, keep at it. But don't try to pretend you have the moral high ground. You don't.

    1. SuperSned makes specific rebuttals and you have nothing but ad hominem attacks.

      Clearly illustrates the weakness of your claims that reading unproduced scripts isn't extremely helpful.

    2. The argument is brutally simple: It is not up to you or Scriptshadow whether or not you should have access. It's up to the owner of the material. It doesn't matter if it helps you. It's not Scriptshadow's to give. That's why it's wrong.

  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

  34. I agree with everything you said, Emily.

    My biggest problems with "Carson" are: A) He doesn't use his real name. If you are behind your work and what you are doing you don't have to hide behind a phantom name. Anyone who does that is sketchy in my book. B) He is charging way too much money for someone with zero credits in the industry and/or no teaching credentials. He's a glorified reader who has (admirably) built up his brand. However it's unfortunate that what started out as a site with good intentions has grown into a money grubbing, ego-boosting business for someone seeking cultish guru like status. C) As Emily mentioned it is a huge conflict of interest (and a scam) to be a "producer" and charge someone for looking at his or her work.

    One more thing, how can Carson call a professional writer lazy when he isn't a professional writer himself? This guy doesn't have the goods as a writer or a as producer so he's trying to ride into the biz on the coattails of those who do have the goods. Welcome to Hollywood.

    Former Script Shadow Fan.

  35. @ Bitter

    "If the ONLY WAY YOU CAN LEARN ANYTHING from a script is by reading it completely unspoiled by any stills, casting details and the like, you might consider that's a sign of A DEEPER ISSUE WITH YOUR APTITUDE that has little to do with "access.""

    Really, Bitter, straw man and ad hominem?

    I'm crushed.

  36. Well said Emily. I was thinking for a while that I was alone in thinking, "Has Carson Gone Off The Rails?"

    SOOOO Happy you said this.

    I remember getting the Red Flag tingles when Carson posted about seeing "Looper" and hated it. I found it SO ODD, because, despite some elements of the story, I thought the storytelling was fairly flawless. And he gave it a "What the Hell Did I Just See?" I was like, whoa whoa whoa, how can I trust this guys taste if he's giving a pretty great film a "WTHDIJS?" That on top of the self aggrandizing, and the pleas for help creating his website.

    One other thing, and this is why i love John August and Craig Mazen so much on their podcast... they STRONGLY stress: DO NOT PAY A LOT OF MONEY FOR NOTES. Find people you trust who are not afraid to give you critiques, and have them read it. DON'T waste your money. And now that Carson thinks he's worth $1000 a read, I would smack anyone I heard that payed him for notes I can get from my writers group.

  37. hey Emily -- not sure if your above post was in re: to some of my thoughts, if so, just thought I should clarify. I don't think we're going around in circles, I'm just making two specific points that Scriptshadow's critics seem reluctant to address (and as a side note, I personally don't need or use Scriptshadow's email blasts so much. I get most any script I'm curious about from my reps. Which is fine for me, but I also recognize a lot of writers don't have that opportunity).

    1) I think it's clear there is indeed value to writers reading unproduced scripts over already-produced scripts. "You can learn everything you need by reading old scripts" really rings false to me. This business in general and the script market in particular move very fast, and if you're reading three- and four-year old scripts you are at a disadvantage. Not saying this justifies everything about what SS is doing, I just don't see a true equivalency between old scripts and market-current scripts.

    2) I'm also genuinely open to hearing more about actual, real harm done to writers from Scriptshadow. I hear a lot about theoretical and hypothetical harm and "this is a bad idea" but I haven't heard specific writers personally attest to being harmed by something he's done.

    This is important because I suspect in the future script-sharing (and reviewing) will only become more common and transparent. And honestly, as it becomes more common and transparent, the perceived threats to aspiring writers become less and less dire and probably non-existent altogether.

    With professional (and pre-pro) writers trying so hard to clamp down on this, it feels a little like we're on the wrong side of bigger, more powerful trends (of increased access and transparency in all areas of the industry), and honestly, are a little insecure about our place in the world. Much in the same way the studios used to freak out about online reviews of new releases being leaked before Friday ("One early negative review will sink this film!"), it's now the new normal and everyone's forgotten there was ever a controversy in the first place.

    1. I appreciate the mature response.

      I have two responses to this:

      1) The passing around of unproduced scripts is an issue, but I think we've gotten off track by focusing so much on it. This is not the biggest concern for me. The far bigger concern is the way Carson is now using writers.

      2) Scott's response to this is much better than mine. He's right. There is nothing wrong with passing around scripts. It has always been done. But there was always an understanding that it was a private endeavor. You can read a script and talk about it among your friends, but you don't post it on the Internet and let the world know what you thought of it, ESPECIALLY when you have no actual experience in the industry.

      "But repped writers have an advantage!" is the war cry. Well yes, we do, because we also have higher stakes. The unrepped, uninitiated writer has absolutely nothing to lose from reading unproduced scripts. The risk is all on the side of the writer.

      I'm not sure you'll ever get CONCRETE evidence of actual harm to writers from this, because nobody is going to admit that they heard a script wasn't good from somebody who read it on a website. They'll come up with other reasons. But the fact that the danger is there - isn't that enough?

      But again, this is overshadowing the larger point. Carson built up his fan base by passing around the work of professional writers; now he's using the work of amateur writers to make a hell of a living. This is the problem.

    2. Part 1 of 3. I had to break this up into three replies, because I guess I’m incredibly long-winded. This is in reply to SuperSned, and I guess the general defense of Script Shadow.

      “1) I think it's clear there is indeed value to writers reading unproduced scripts over already-produced scripts. "You can learn everything you need by reading old scripts" really rings false to me. This business in general and the script market in particular move very fast, and if you're reading three- and four-year old scripts you are at a disadvantage. Not saying this justifies everything about what SS is doing, I just don't see a true equivalency between old scripts and market-current scripts.”

      I think that it’s very important for aspiring writers to read screenplays, primarily as methods of picking up the craft and technique of screenwriting. However, I don’t think it’s particularly important for writers to be reading unproduced screenplays. I think that you can get everything you need to know about writing a marketable screenplay by reading screenplays for recently produced films (which are readily available) and keeping track of overall trends in the concepts and genres of recently purchased screenplays. You don’t actually have to *read* these unproduced screenplays to figure out the current fads in the spec market. In fact, I would argue that your time is better spent analyzing overall trends, reading great produced scripts, or (god forbid) actually *writing* something.

      But let’s look at this in some more detail. Why do you think it’s important that they read unproduced screenplays? Let’s say that they read a hot spec on the day that it sells. What now? How do they capitalize on this knowledge? What specific steps actually lead to them selling a script or getting representation? Because I’ve worked in the film industry for over a decade, and I don’t get it... If the script market moves so fast, then how can it be helpful? Surely it will still take them two to three months to have a solid draft of a new script based on information they gleaned from reading this hot script. Won’t the market have changed in those two to three months? How can you assume that an aspiring writer can even understand the market forces that lead to the hot script being sold?

      Earlier in this thread you joked about how you can learn the fundamentals of craft by reading CHINATOWN but you need to read unproduced scripts to learn about the scripts in the current marketplace. But guess what? If you wrote a script as good as CHINATOWN you would have no problem getting an agent and getting work. If you wrote a script as good as a recent spec sale, that doesn’t mean anything. You and I both know that any given spec sale is about a handful of people deciding that they see value for them specifically in a script or in a concept or in a relationship. It might mean that they love the concept and are lukewarm on the execution. It might mean that they have a mandate to work with that writer (or other attached element). It might mean that it fits a genre hole they were trying to fill, and is now filled. It might mean they know the lead role would appeal to an actor they want to work with. It might mean they want someone else not to own it because they have a competing project. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the writing exhibited in that spec script is of the caliber that it would guarantee success for an aspiring writer. However, writing something as good as CHINATOWN does come pretty damn close to guaranteeing success. That’s the main reason why I suggest aspiring writers focus on reading classic screenplays, and their favorite recently produced screenplays. Aim for what you know to be great, not for things that sold for reasons unknown to you. There are a lot of people in the business chasing fads, and I don’t believe it’s the path to lasting success.

      - keith

    3. Part 2 of 3.

      “2) I'm also genuinely open to hearing more about actual, real harm done to writers from Scriptshadow. I hear a lot about theoretical and hypothetical harm and "this is a bad idea" but I haven't heard specific writers personally attest to being harmed by something he's done.”

      Here’s a comment on John August’s blog from 2009.

      “As a working writer in Hollywood, I can verify everything John has said. I had my first big sale in 2009 and my reps have not been allowed to show the material to ANY prospective producers or execs for assignments specifically because of the Reeves site. The script is on studio lockdown for 18 months until the option expires.”

      So basically a writer has his first big sale, and his reps can’t use it as a sample to get him new work because the studio is scared that the script will end up on Script Shadow. That has a direct obvious impact on a writer’s career.

      I’ve also read comments from Marianne Wibberley, Gary Whitta, and Michael Gilvary that talk about the personal problems they’ve faced due to Script Shadow leaking and reviewing their scripts. It’s hard to say if there was any direct harm to the writers’ careers from these incidents. However, it feels a little crazy that I have to find a direct financial impact when talking about the hurt an artist feels at the unwanted mass distribution of their unpublished and unfinished work.

      But if you really need specific proof, there is a comment on Done Deal Pro from a manager who had a studio pull back on a deal because of “bad buzz” from a review on Script Shadow. That’s about as specific as you can get.

      “This is important because I suspect in the future script-sharing (and reviewing) will only become more common and transparent. And honestly, as it becomes more common and transparent, the perceived threats to aspiring writers become less and less dire and probably non-existent altogether.”

      That certainly appears to be your opinion. Hard to really argue with your guess of what will happen in the future.

      - keith

    4. Part 3 of 3.
      “With professional (and pre-pro) writers trying so hard to clamp down on this, it feels a little like we're on the wrong side of bigger, more powerful trends (of increased access and transparency in all areas of the industry), and honestly, are a little insecure about our place in the world. Much in the same way the studios used to freak out about online reviews of new releases being leaked before Friday ("One early negative review will sink this film!"), it's now the new normal and everyone's forgotten there was ever a controversy in the first place.”

      Actually, this is not what happened. The “new normal” is that online critics are held to embargo dates for their reviews, and well over 99% of the time online critics honor these embargoes. We have stopped seeing a flood of early reviews leaking online before embargo dates. Oddly, one of the major perpetrators of breaking embargoes right now is an MTV website which is actually owned by a movie studio. And the rest of the online press hate that they keep getting invited to screenings. And the idea of it not being a controversy anymore? That’s ridiculous. It’s an ongoing controversy in the critic community, with the biggest example being last year when David Denby from The New Yorker broke the review embargo for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Do some googling on it. It’s quite entertaining, and clearly is a huge issue as Scott Rudin banned Denby from future early press screenings for his movies.

      I’m a big fan of increased access and transparency. But I’m a big opponent of it being initiated and enforced by people who do not have the rights to the material. I think that writers and producers and directors should open up their process more. It would be helpful for aspiring filmmakers, and interesting for movie fans. But only if that’s what they actually want to do. I don’t think they should be forced to have their process open to the public just because a bunch of aspiring filmmakers managed to get access to things that weren’t designed for public consumption. This can cause direct and indirect damage that the aspirants are in no position to accurately gauge.

      I don’t blame aspiring writers for wanting access to unproduced screenplays. It seems like a step towards becoming a professional screenwriter. It seems like a step towards parity with people who are already in the film industry. But it’s really not. People who are in the film industry have access to unproduced screenplays because they have relationships with people in the industry that are built on trust. The real value is these relationships, not the screenplays.

      Carson Reeves is building a business based on violating the trust of people in the film industry. He is violating the trust of professional screenwriters to benefit aspiring screenwriters. And as a middle-man, he’s trying to convince aspiring screenwriters to pay for his “script notes” service, to pay for ludicrous “screenplay posters” that he gets a commission on, or to attach Mr. Carson Reeves (no producing credits or experience) as a producer to their projects. This is the most laughable part of all. He might actually be able to scam some aspiring writers into legally attaching him as a “producer”, and those scripts might be good enough to get set up or even made with another real producer making the movie. Hell, that’s even what Carson says his goal is. But it’s a joke if he thinks that actually makes him a producer.

      That said, Carson Reeves isn’t all bad. I don’t want this to just seem like a total bash against him. I think it’s good that Carson promotes and supports aspiring screenwriters. I just suspect it’s a bit like a farmer making sure his cows are well fed, because that’s where he gets his milk. And now he’s trying to figure out other ways to monetize the herd...

      - keith

    5. Well, if you're citing anonymous posts on John August's site from 3 years ago, I think it undercuts the notion that SS is actively hurting writers. But that particular anecdote makes no sense -- writers cannot as a matter of course use a script as a sample once it's been sold to a studio (or a studio-level) buyer.

      The industry is acutely aware of high-profile sales. That equals more opportunities for the writer regardless of whether or not the script is "on lockdown" or the reps can "officially" use it as a "sample." (they will). Nothing about that anecdote makes much sense, nor does the other anecdote (see comment on that further down the page).

      I'm not talking about embargoes or the Denby-Rudin brouhaha, I'm going back 10 years when online reviews seemed like the Wild West ("Some of these people aren't even "real" critics! Gasp!").

      Review embargoes are a different issue entirely, and don't have much to do with the fact that Joe Schmoe bloggers publish online reviews of TEST SCREENINGS all the time. And yet, somehow, a negative review of a SKYFALL test screening published online in July will not stop it from earning a gajillion dollars this weekend.

    6. I'm citing the first things that came up with I did a cursory search. You just asked for any examples, and those are some examples. Honestly, I'm not going to put more work into it because I think it's ludicrous that anyone should have to search for examples for why it's bad for someone to VIOLATE COPYRIGHT ON UNPUBLISHED CREATIVE WORKS. There isn't even a fair use case to make here, as the scripts aren't available to the public through any authorized means.

      I would think breaking the law (initially providing scripts for download, then providing them for download until asked to remove, and then sending to his "private" list) and violating the trust of writers (who have complained multiple times, as mentioned above) would be enough of an answer on this point.

      And with regards to the screenings, I don't know what to say. Nothing you wrote in your initial post matches what you wrote in this follow up.

      "Much in the same way the studios used to freak out about online reviews of new releases being leaked before Friday ("One early negative review will sink this film!"), it's now the new normal and everyone's forgotten there was ever a controversy in the first place."

      That's your original point. And it's demonstrably false because of the Denby/Rudin squabble. Which is higher profile than any of the things that happened a decade ago. The controversy is still here. Studios still care when bloggers publish online reviews of test screenings. It can still have a big impact on the fate of the film (if the reviews spread in popularity). These test screening reviews can still have a big impact on the creative content of a film in the ongoing conversations between studios and filmmakers. I've seen it happen to friends of mine several times in the last couple years.

      "And yet, somehow, a negative review of a SKYFALL test screening published online in July will not stop it from earning a gajillion dollars this weekend."

      Isn't this a moot point? We aren't talking about whether Script Shadow impacts the final box-office of a film. We're talking about whether it negatively impacts the life of the writer of the screenplay. That isn't just about they money they are paid, and as a working writer you should know that.

      I look forward to your response to the rest of my comments, or should I assume you're just going to cherry pick?

    7. Ugh, it's annoying when the columns shrink to this width! Couple points: yes, you make a great point about unauthorized use of copyrighted material, but my point is the contours of that argument pretty much mirror the same reasoning and arguments that have been hashed out and rehashed many times over the past few decades every time scary new capabilities to share intellectual properties rear their heads and people aren't sure what it's going to mean.

      It's scary at first, it angers and upsets people, they use the same basic argument you use about the wrongness of copying or sharing material you don't own, but the forecasts of doom never come to pass. Home video didn't kill the theaters, VHS didn't kill TV, DVR hasn't killed cable, DRM issues pertaining to e-books hasn't killed publishing (e-books are changing publishing, but no on the DMR side), etc...etc...(yes, you can say Napster killed the record industry, but you can also say the record industry killed itself with its horrible response to Napster). People never had a "right" to record VHS copies of LAW & ORDER and share it with a friend, yet they did, and LAW & ORDER continued. The industry adapts. Sometimes slowly and painfully, but it does.

      It is telling the few instances that have surfaced of alleged SS-induced career damage are several years old, which seems to support the above ideas. The industry is learning how to cope with SS and people like him. SS has been around doing his thing now for several years after the initial flurry of outrage (2008 and 2009), and people seem to now be outraged about other elements of his operation and less and less so with the script reviewing (he has stopped script-linking, something his critics usually fail to point out).

      I'm just saying a focused effort on clamping down of the script sharing and discussion is likely a doomed enterprise and will likely not have much an impact on the industry either way. Whether or not SS is an exploitative jerk doesn't really have much to do with whether aspiring writers dreams are crushed because a powerful executive ignored all of his trusted professional colleagues who were advocating for said script and instead trusted a blogger no one at that level seems to pay attention to anyway.

      The SKYFALL analogy was accurate; it was not about whether SS impacts the b.o. of a film, it's whether an unauthorized early negative review of a product equals a negative impact on that product.

      Again, I'm not talking about Denby-Rudin and screening date embargoes. That incident was really an Old Media fight. Maybe I'm aging myself, but what I am talking about is the initial fear about online reviews by people who aren't even "real critics" being published at all on the scary new internet any time before the Friday morning papers, which is where movie reviews "belonged" for many decades. That was a real fear at the time and it turned out to be totally unfounded and it has nothing to do with Denby-Rudin.

  38. Anonymous1:21 PM

    The real problem was ever thinking Carson was anything more than a leech.

  39. I have zero problem with people trying to branch out and learn new things, but Carson's "maybe I'll be a producer" post made me almost physically ill.

    I mentor a fair number of folks, and we've talked about how to reach out to people you admire, how to ask for help, and especially in this industry, how to present yourself as capable and self-reliant, because the more successful someone is, the less interested they'll be in holding your hand while you figure stuff out.

    Carson's post was a horrifying example of how not to do any of this. Why didn't he talk to even one producer before writing that post? Why didn't he do any research about what a producer does? For a guy who seemingly wants to help other aspiring professionals to model that kind of grotesquely incompetent career management was kind of sickening.

    Let me be blunt: I have seen that kind of clumsy approach executed in person and not only does it not work, but it makes the object of the approach even more reluctant to help anyone else in the future. It taints the pool of available mentors and guidance for everyone. About the only good thing I can say about that post is that Carson unwittingly did to himself what he's done to so many others before him: He publicly exposed his shortcomings in a way that is likely to haunt him for months or years to come.

    And just to second Emily's comments about producers: The good ones are worth their weight in gold, and they work harder than anyone else in this city. Key grips and best boys have it hard, but they work 12 hours and then they go home. The best producers never stop -- you get emails from them at 3 a.m., 4 p.m., on Thanksgiving night and minutes after they've won an award. I HIGHLY recommend getting to know some working producers -- or some aspiring producers, who can usually be found about 12 feet away from a working producer, or covering a desk in a production office or development company -- and asking them about their work, their projects, what they're excited about. Not because maybe they'll hire you, but because they can tell you something about the industry you're not going to learn anywhere else. (Also, a really good producer has a razor sharp mind for what has to happen, when it has to happen by, and what you'll need to get it done -- they are the life coaches of the creative process, and even 15 minutes conversation with a good one can be as energizing as a B12 shot.)

  40. Awright, people, I'm outta here. One time only, we've had our coffee shop talk.

    You do what you do best trying to stop guys like me.

    But there's a flip side to that coin. What if you got me boxed in and I gotta put you down?

    'Cause no matter what, you will not get in my way.

    Now that we been face to face, I would not feel good about that.

    But I won't hesitate.

    Not for one second.

    Any of you mothers could write dialogue like that, you wouldn't be sh*ttin' your pants about a little public scrutiny.

    Peace. :)

    1. "You do what you do best trying to stop guys like me."

      I don't think anyone on this thread is trying to stop you from being a screenwriter. We're just trying to stop you from giving $1000 to Carson Reeves for a set of notes, paying an artist to do a "screenplay poster" for you, or attaching Carson as a producer to your project.

      "But there's a flip side to that coin. What if you got me boxed in and I gotta put you down?"

      I'm not sure why you'd have to kill any of us, or why any of us would be boxing you in. Or even how either of those things are like the flip side of the coin of not wanting Carson Reeves to prey on aspiring writers under the guise of helping them.

      "Any of you mothers could write dialogue like that, you wouldn't be sh*ttin' your pants about a little public scrutiny."

      This doesn't even make sense. How could a screenwriter be afraid of public scrutiny? Their sole job is to create things that are viewed by the public. A much larger public than the audience of the Script Shadow website. The hope is just that the audience looks at the finished work, and not unfinished preliminary versions.

      - keith

  41. @Supersned (4:17pm)
    You asked "Do we have any evidence that this kind of thing has happened to an actual writer?"
    The answer is yes - absolutely 100% yes.

    To quote Darryl Yo: "This particular client of mine had a deal go south DIRECTLY because of this .." (Ref: )

    It isn't a theoretical concern.

    1. I wouldn't assign 100% value to this anecdote. Or really much value at all. For starters, I think writers can make informed opinions about this particular manager and his place in the industry, and how much weight to place in his war stories. Not much of this anecdote has the ring of truth, a lot of it is almost laughable.

      Any writer who's been around for a reasonable amount of time has seen many, many, "so-close-you-can-taste-it" deals fall through. They fall through for many, many reasons, some of them tangible and clear and some of them vague and some of them you will never know. I've had "almost there" deals fall through because (supposedly) a similar project was tracking poorly at a rival studio, because the stars they would target were suddenly unavailable, because they lost their production window, because they lost their potential release date, because the producer felt screwed by the studio on a different project and no longer wanted to do business with them, because the studio is souring on the producer, because the executive on the project is going to be fired any minute, because the executive on the project felt a tingling sensation in their toe, and on and on and on and on....

      I've heard all of these excuses and more on many deals that almost happened. One constant is it is NEVER the reps fault (and it's generally not, actually), the other constant is producers promise you the fvcking moon when it comes to their dealings with the studio. Oh, they have the power to make this happen, they have amazing relationships at the studio, they snap their fingers and it's a go project, they're closing in on a great deal for you, they're SO CLOSE just hang in there, etc...etc...

      And then the deal vanishes. For one of a thousand reasons you may never really know -- one of the more ridiculous I've heard being because they're worried an obscure fanboy review will dictate what studio projects A-List movie stars and their teams choose (if you didn't laugh out loud at that part of the story, you need to read it again; this is not how the studios' relationships with movie stars work).

      The other part of the story that should make you laugh out loud: "So the studio decided to hold off, just for a little while, to see how things developed."

      This is not how studios behave when they want a property. At all.

      I honestly don't mean to be bashing on this manager, but the reality in this town is 1 in a 1,000 deals comes together and 999 out of 1,000 ALMOST come together. 999 came so close you could taste it. ..

  42. Hey Emily,

    I enjoyed this blog post. I was thinking about sending my script to ScriptShadow once it was completed, but now feel I should just query managers and keep it simple for the time being.

    I have a serious question for you that I hope you could answer when time gives you the opportunity. I wanted to post it on DoneDealPro but I just signed up last week so I dont think I can make new threads yet.

    Now I am really trying to focus on crafting a professional screenplay. Eventually I want to branch out into directing and so forth.

    This morning my folks (mom) said to me that "writing films, doing this film thing, trying to do any business, trying to get some big hit was all a fantasy. I'm living in a fantasy world." Then she implied I need to wake up and give up fantasies altogether.

    How would you feel if your folks or someone important to you said something like that to you?

    I'm hurt, I'm not a lazy person. I have worked at about 5-6 jobs, thru school since 2003. I have been homeless, a host of traumatic things occurred in my life, and I just feel what she said to me was out of line. Maybe Im overreacting, but honestly, as much I have done for my family, provided at times of dire need for them, I'm pissed.

    How would you feel and how would you respond to something like that?

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    1. Hello Mr. Billings!

      Your comment provoked some pretty strong feelings in me so I figured I'd offer you an unsolicited response, though I'm sure Emily would be far more eloquent than I on this matter...

      Your stories, your "fantasies," as you put it, can never be taken away from you. That's the beautiful thing about this racket. The producers, the "system," the machine, even your loved ones...they can deride your creativity all they want. And trust me on this...they will.

      I've been at this for over 25 years and have experienced limited success, at best. (1 short film to my name, a lot of near misses) Most of that is my own doing (no intention on moving to L.A. anytime soon) but here's the deal: I continue to love the craft and work at it every day simply out of love of story and the actual act of screenwriting.

      And that's yours. It's free. And THEY can't have that.

      So continue to enjoy it, in spite of what THEY tell you. The chips are so terribly stacked against a writer in ANY medium that to do it other than for love of the craft is folly.

      Best of luck to you!

    2. Thank you Jeffrey. I appreciate your kind, uplifting words very much right now. I'm out here beating pavement looking for work in rain, snow flurries.

      I just couldnt believe she said it, and in an at-matter-fact sort of way. She said it like it was fact, as if reciting ingredients from a recipe.

      I've been thru a lot with my family. Not to long ago my stepfather used to beat me up every other day.

      The fact she knows what I have been thru and to say something like that with such apathy, I'm like WTF?!?! My enemies say something like that to wow.

      Thanks again and I send my blessings to you as well. Keep persevering to let your dreams live.

      Live Long and be Blest!

    3. Hello Astan,
      Please keep in mind that unlike competitive sports and many other endeavors, getting older does not diminish the chances of breaking through. All you really need to break in is a great script! (easier said than done) Preferably one with broad appeal and great roles for star talent. All doable, but not something you should be banking on to put food on your table in the near future. I think what you might consider is how you can structure your life so you have a survival job that you don't hate, and that could even help you in your writing career, while you keep your dream alive and continue to write and work on the craft in whatever spare time you can muster. (Ron Bass wrote every morning from 5AM to 7AM before going to his job as an LA lawyer before he wrote "Rain Man". When I realized I wanted to write films and TV shows (something I've had mixed success at over the decades) I got involved backstage -- literally, doing theater, then TV and movies -- the joke on set was "The carpenter has a script. Ha ha ha!" Then it was "The props guy has a script. Tee hee hee." Then it became "The art director has a script. Hmmm." Eventually it was "The production designer has a script. Maybe we should take a look at it" It got easier to get things read, and the quality of my writing improved. More importantly, I was writing with experience in what goes into making a movie. Then in the middle of development hell, getting paid well to rewrite a script I was getting substantial option money on I was screamed at to "Go study acting and find out what the actors need!" Which I did and the writing got better again. Not to say it was all rosy after that -- like many in the business I came crashing down. After a decade of making a living just writing for TV and Film the joke became "The guy renovating my basement has a script, hahaha." But I haven't given up. And I never will. So if you can apply any of this to your own life -- if you can't or don't want to break into production maybe something else that holds writing possibilities -- there's always going to be interest in medical emergency type shows -- working as an EMT would give you a world of dramatic possibilities. A thousand other jobs hold promise. I wish you all the best.
      PS If someone telling you you'll never make it is enough to convince you that you'll never make it, then you probably won't make it. Even if that's your mother. But if it hardens your resolve, while perhaps getting you to look at alternate sources of income while you write, rewrite, and rewrite some more, then your chances of making it go up dramatically.
      PPS acting class is highly recommended even if you have no desire to ever act. If you want to direct you absolutely should.
      PPPS -- "acting lessons" can be self taught -- any kind of video camera together with a couple of people who want to act for whatever reason, shoot scenes and watch them, then shoot more scenes. No need to pay a fortune. And there are adequate cameras to be had for $25.00!

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  44. Keith, pretty sure that what's-his-name was quoting Heat with the "boxed in, put you down" line, for some odd reason... not sure why it's appropriate or how (but fitting, perhaps, that he takes someone else's words to try and make his own point) but that's how it reads to me.

  45. Astan, I can actually relate to where you're coming from. Sometimes family members say things to you that cuts deeper than anything an enemy does. There was one day that I kind of realized that I loved this particular family member and they thought they were just helping me. When I looked at it from that standpoint, the words didn't sting as much anymore. I've come to realize that people will never be 100% in agreement...and things will rarely be 100% perfect. I was just going to take my own destiny in my own hands. It already sounds like you have a lot of resolve for what you want to do. If you look at many of the filmmakers and writers, they all faced similar hardships. Yes, it's a bit like hitting the mega millions, but the difference is you do have some control over what happens. You can always get better with each script, learn more with each entertainment job, become wise with each disappointment. There's always one thing, or a million things, that you can do to get closer to your dream.

  46. The best part about all the pro ss responses? They don't even come close to addressing the out of this world fee he is charging for implied access. Which by the way is the vast majority of the reason for this post.

    1. Correct, but discussing/sharing scripts online and charging exorbitant fees-for-notes (or worse, implied industry access) are two entirely separate issues. You can whole-heartedly support one and whole-heartedly detest the other.

      There are other blogs that review/discuss unproduced scripts and have absolutely no fee or service or anything else associated with them.

  47. Excellent fucking post, Emily. Carson is a crook, a fraud, and he has really bad taste.

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  49. Anonymous1:50 AM

    I'll pick up on a few things.

    @Emily - I agree completely with the conflict of interests argument. Everyone knows the pluses and minuses of what ScriptShadow has done in the past and you highlight these well. Your article is well worded, but your replies come off as a little defensive (which is understandable as they're below your post, on your website).

    @TheBitterScriptReader - You were a little sharp with Jake a while back, unnecessarily in my view. I disagree wholeheartedly with your idea that he must be in some way less apt to read scripts because they have been made. I review scripts for my own site and they come with baggage because of my preconception about the end product. It is unavoidable. So to try underline your argument with this seems strange.

    On a personal note, I agree that it should be down to the writer to share their work or not (or a production company if they have the rights). I often approach companies who are happy to send me old scripts, others are less forthcoming. I don't think we have any right to analyse ongoing work, the same way we wouldn't review a film based on a rough cut. I am in the camp that believes a deal could be scuppered based on a review of something half done and this acts counter to the idea of enhancing the role of the writer (something I am sure ScriptShadow's following would be interested in).

    We all have to take responsibility for our actions and be open to being critiqued when we do or say something others don't agree with. That goes for ScriptShadow, Emily, TheBitterScriptReader, me and anyone else. Let's be more open and not resort to snide comments. A lot of ground has been covered and it would be a shame if it broke down to infighting.

  50. Anonymous11:46 AM

    Part 1 of 2

    For all that is being written about Carson Reeves, I think the one thing that the overwhelming majority of us can agree on is that $1000 for a script review from someone with limited industry experience is really out of whack. He's grossly overcharging. I've used good readers who have had similar or better backgrounds and they all charged a fraction of that -- Craig Kellem, Scott Mullen, Barb Doyon, etc... In fact, I could get all THREE of them, COMBINED, to read my script for under $400! Yes, Carson seems to be a good reader, but so are many other people, including all of the aforementioned. With that being said, if you really want to use a reader who has a REALLY impressive background -- definitely better than Carson's and most script consultants out there, then you might want to check out John Schimmel -- I would venture to guess that most people here do not know him, but he has produced actual films with big stars and really knows the business. I wrote about him on, and I copied and pasted some of what I wrote on Moviebytes, and put it here. (Note, he used to have a website, but I believe he doesn't have it anymore. Anyone interested can e-mail me at Fairly recently, a guy who read my post on Moviebytes, asked about how to get in contact with John, and I did wind up connecting him with John. This ends part 1 of 2.

  51. Anonymous11:49 AM

    Part 2 of 2

    Anyway, here's what I wrote on Moviebytes a long time ago...

    I'm writing this post to let people know about John Schimmel. I'm sure most of you have not heard of John Schimmel's script consulting service — that's because it's new. Here are his credentials (I copied and pasted this.):

    Producer; formerly President of Production at Ascendant Pictures (Lord of War, Lucky Number Slevin). Before joining ASCENDANT, Schimmel was Executive Vice President of Production for Bel-Air Entertainment where he CO-produced COLLATERAL DAMAGE starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. While at Bel-Air, Schimmel also supervised the productions of SWEET NOVEMBER starring Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves; THE REPLACEMENTS starring Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman; and the wrestling comedy, READY TO RUMBLE. Prior to his employment with Bel-Air, Schimmel was President of Michael Douglas's Universal-based Further Films, which he helped Michael establish. Schimmel came to Further from Paramount-based Douglas/Reuther Productions, a venture between partners Michael Douglas and producer Steve Reuther. Schimmel served as Senior Vice President of Production for Douglas/Reuther Productions, where he supervised the production of John Woo's FACE/OFF and post-production of Francis Coppola's THE RAINMAKER. Schimmel began his film career as a reader and soon became a production executive at Warner Bros. There he worked on such films as THE FUGITIVE, OUTBREAK, UNDER SIEGE, BATMAN, THE LAST BOY SCOUT and INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. He also did all of the early planning, hiring and buying for Warner Feature Animation.

    I had the pleasure of taking one of his classes through UCLA Extension and now he's decided to do some work as a script consultant. Like most of the readers on this board, I have used many different script consultants — Barb Doyon, Craig Kellem, etc& (And by the way, Barb and Craig are definitely good.) So, I just want to add another possible name to the ''trusted'' list of good readers. But if you are still not ''sold'' on this, let me give you more info&

    John really likes writers and writing. He even recently finished an MFA in writing because he likes it that much. He really cares about writers and their work. When I took his UCLA class, he offered to meet with the entire class as a group AFTER the end of the quarter for free just because he cared about our work that much. (We never did meet, or at least I wasn't there — but the point is that he actually offered — how many screenwriting instructors would even offer to do that for free?)

    Finally, with his extensive background, he can give you the perspective of a person who was not just a reader or a low-level development executive, but from someone who was the president of TWO production companies. He can give his professional advice on what will sell and what will not.

    John was going to charge more than double what his current fee of $250 is right now for a standard consultation, but I helped convince him to lower it to $250. The price may or may not increase in the future. (You can see his website for a list of prices / services.) As a person who has used lots of different consultants, I can tell you that this is a bargain considering his skills, his caring nature with regards to writers, and of course, his considerable experience. In case you are wondering how I got him to lower his price, he and I have been working together on one of my scripts. We have gotten to know each other, and I offered some advice about his new script consulting business — since I have paid a decent amount of money for readers / contests in the past, I felt I could help advise him a bit about his new venture. And please note, I'm not getting a percentage or any finder's fee from this. I just want to help him because he's a really good guy.

  52. So I used Reeves' script service when it was cheap, on three scripts. The coverage was passable, but not especially helpful. Truth to tell, I was hoping that it would be an "in" to Amateur Friday, but that didn't happen. Maybe if I'd paid a thousand ...

    Ray Morton is without a doubt the best reader, regardless of price, I've ever contracted. Joel Haber and Leilani Squire are also excellent. All are in the ballpark of Carson's former fee -- and all three added together would cost you several hundred less than a thousand.

    Scott Mullen, Barb Doyon, and Bart Gold are in no wise less insightful than Reeves, and each of them in the past have offered coverage for less than a hundred bucks.

    As for the continuing controversy about ScriptShadows, I would never attach a script to someone who promotes themselves as a producer and consultant both at once. How would you know what hat they would be wearing, if your script turns out to have a future? And how do you know that, if it turned out to be a breakthrough piece, they wouldn't come calling on you with their hat in their hand?

  53. It's America, capitalism, a free market, people can charge whatever they want unless monopolies and price-fixing are involved. Each potential customer sets the value of a given price or service. It's not really the peer or competitor's task to valuate the product or service of another business or individual, unless they are potential customers, in which case they can decide to buy or pass. They may, however, offer a form of consumer advocacy or opinion, in which case the given person or business usually has no concern for -- peers don't pay their bills.


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