What I can offer you as a script consultant

I’m ready to meet you where you are with your project.  If you have a completed draft, then that’s where we’ll start.  And what I’ll give you is in-depth feedback as to what’s working and what might not be, and offer suggestions as to how you might strengthen the key elements of the story you’re telling.  In other words, I’ll make a thorough analysis of your script from a structural standpoint, both in terms of plot and character development, in an effort to help you make your script as compelling and riveting as it can be.

Here are some reasons to consider hiring me to work with you on your script:

  • My strength is as a story structuralist and my experience working with the script writing process spans over three decades as a playwright and screenwriter, film and theatre producer, professional dramaturg, script doctor, and scriptwriting teacher.
  • I’ve worked with hundreds of writers—both playwrights and screenwriters—from beginners to established professionals, in hands-on professional production settings (in both theatre and film), the university classroom, in workshops, and with scripts of all shapes and sizes.
  • I founded Writers Theatre of New Jersey (formerly Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey), a professional Equity theatre that for 32 years was dedicated to developing new scripts by both established and emerging writers.
  • I conducted a four-year, in-depth interview series at the Dramatists Guild in New York City with many of the most successful scriptwriters of the last half century (winners of Academy Awards, Pulitzer Prizes, and Tonys), mining their secrets, how they work, what process they use—including Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, John Patrick Shanley, Lanford Wilson, Horton Foote, and many others.
  • I’ve written a best-selling book on the subject called The Playwright’s Process and have written a number of screenplays and award-winning plays including Sister Calling My Name, winner of the National Repertory Theatre Foundation’s National Play Award, and the upcoming feature film Sight, starring Greg Kinnear and Terry Chen.
  • I’m an independent feature film producer and partner in Either/Or Films that produced the award-winning film The Sensation of Sight (www.thesensationofsight.com) starring Academy Award nominee David Strathairn.
  • I hold a Ph.D degree in dramatic literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and have been a Professor of Theatre and Playwright-in-residence at the University of Virginia and Drew University.  I also created the low-residency MFA program in Writing for Stage and Screen offered by the New Hampshire Institute of Art and served as its Program Director for six years and then taught playwriting and screenwriting at New England College in their low-residency Creative Writing MFA program.

What writers have to say about my consulting work:

“Over twenty years ago, with absolutely no education, training, or experience, I embarked upon becoming a playwright/screenwriter. After being taken advantage of by every “script consultant” out there, abused by directors, and driven to hysteria by actors I dragged myself to the Drama Book Store and found a book called, The Playwright’s Process by Buzz Mclaughlin. After reading the first paragraph I realized I had met the answer to my dream. I called Buzz and began a long-term professional relationship. Unlike many consultants, Buzz helps you to write the story you want to tell, not the story he wants to tell. Always supportive, sometimes painfully honest, he doesn’t pull punches and will push you to the best of your ability. His expertise transcends the page with his years of experience in dealing with directors, actors and other members of the creative team who may impose their ideas on the naive, inexperienced writer who can fall victim to changes that will ultimately hurt the process and the play. I would recommend Buzz to any writer, at any level, who desires to create a perfect draft and move the words from the page into an actor’s mouth and ultimately to a full production.”

“So many things I would like to say—that all mean the same thing: Thank you. This journey has been so incredible, educational, and…well, fun! I look back to the first draft of my script that I sent for your feedback and I am amazed at the changes in shape and cadence that have resulted from your ‘touch.’ All of the passion, hurt, isolation and growth that I experienced living the story now bleeds off of every page, really telling the story and allowing for the reader/audience to be me for a bit. I am humbled and amazed and so very thankful for your guidance and friendship. I feel pretty darn fortunate…it’s sort of like I hit the lottery!
Cate Buchanan, Los Angeles
“We found Buzz McLaughlin to be a storehouse of wisdom and inspiration in consulting. We learned so much about word placement and the importance of flow in writing. His attention to detail and patience were invaluable to our continuing growth as writers”
Pat and Gary Denson, Roughest Crew Pictures, Los Angeles

My services & rates

For analysis and notes on a draft of a script

In most cases, writers are looking for professional feedback on the draft of a script already written.  What I can offer is a careful read and structural analysis of your play or screenplay and an in-depth story conference call to give you my feedback. Turn around time is two to three weeks once I’ve received your script.  Analysis and notes on each subsequent draft would be structured the same as for the initial draft.

Another way of working together is to journey through a step-by-step process of developing a new story idea with solid structural underpinnings before the writing of the first draft.  This would involve such steps as:

  • My guidance, via phone and/or email, on the preliminary structuring of your story idea beforeyou plunge into your first draft, including offering suggestions on character exploration and backstory investigation.
  • Analysis and further development of the story structural elements, including feedback on your initial plot outline, how well the story fits into the three-act paradigm, and how it might unfold scene by scene.
  • Thorough feedback on an extended pre-draft treatment of your project.

This approach to a consultancy has to remain necessarily flexible in terms of the time I put in working with you on the various story development phases. It demands keeping an open mind to new discoveries and explorations as you proceed–what you think at one point is the best road map for a script might change considerably as you dig deeper into the exploratory process and the various levels of your story are revealed.

My rate is $95/hour, with a $300 retainer to get us started. I keep you informed of how much time I’m putting in and invoice you accordingly as we proceed with our work together. And, of course, it’s always your call if you want to continue working with me or not.

My commitment to you

If you decide to bring me on in some capacity, I will join you on this adventure as a guide and will enter this process thoroughly with you.  I will offer you my insights, ideas, and suggestions along the way in an effort to have your story land where you want it to land and to have you reach your ultimate destination of creating an exciting, compelling, and producible play or screenplay.  Finally, I will always be conscious of the fact that this is your script—that you are the writer and I am the consultant and that my job is to guide and give feedback and your job is to write the damn thing.

I’m ready to meet you where you’re at with your project.  Just know that what you’re getting with me is an in-depth, process-oriented approach to constructing (or reconstructing) a script that really works.

So how do we get started?

If you’re interested in pursuing the possibility of bringing me on board, email me at buzzmclaughlin@gmai­l.com with a short description of the project you’re interested in developing further and we can schedule a brief no charge initial phone call to discuss how we might work together.  If what we discuss sounds attractive to you, you’ll send me your script and/or any other pertinent material and we can begin the process of working together.