What does a script analyst do?
An interview with script doctor and screenwriter Mercedes Rodrigo
A figure that is growing more established in our industry — especially abroad from the US and Great Britain — is the script analyst. However, it remains a somewhat confusing figure in terms of their role and involvement in a script’s development. In part, this is due to the differing nomenclature that can be a broth for festering confusion. This is why we held an interview with script doctor, screenwriter, and member of the Jury of our 2021 Screenwriting TV Pilot Contest in Spanish, Mercedes Rodrigo to better understand her job.
Mercedes Rodrigo started her career as a screenwriter in daily series, such as Al salir de clase, Yo soy Bea, Centro Medico, among others. For a number of years, she worked in the fiction development department of Mediaset and has taken part in series such as White Lines or Sky Rojo, available on Netflix.
What differentiates a script doctor, from a script consultant, from a script analyst?
A script doctor’s job is to repair a script. When a proposal or a script has an issue — the screenwriters are stuck and don’t know how to go on — the script doctor intervenes, analyzes their work, identifies the problem, and proposes solutions so they can move on.
A script analyst is the closest to a script consultant. This is a professional who analyzes a film or a TV pilot script, or dossier in its best version prior to being sent to a producer, etc. Their work is to identify strengths, problems, and offer assessment and advice in response.
Should a script consultant also have experience as a screenwriter?
I always defend that a script consultant doesn’t have to know how to write, the process of analysis is a very different one from writing. However, a script doctor should have writing experience in addition to analysis.
The writing experience is especially useful to better understand the screenwriter, to be able to say I’ve been there, I know what you’re going through. When working with any kind of writer, it’s important to be very delicate. He’s giving you their work, trusting you to see its value. You can’t stampede your feedback with duck feet.
When should a screenwriter send their work for an analysis?
I always ask them to give me their best version, the cleanest one. To make sure everything has a coherence so their money is well invested.
What elements do you look for when analyzing a script? What do you pay more attention to?
The most common and substantial points I will be thorough with are the structure, characters and the overall coherence. An exercise I always recommend is to read the script out loud, it’s the best way to make sure you have the tempo right and that the dialogues are agile.
What are the most common mistakes you find in scripts?
I almost always find raccord mistakes. Suddenly certain things are not as clear on the page as they are in the writer’s head and that’s because he/she hasn’t had the time to really think it through.
Another really common issue is an inadequate use of the audiovisual language. Suddenly you get a very literary and lengthy description without there being a need for it. This is a very, very common mistake. Similarly, descriptions that are not written in the order you are seeing them, which is a cornerstone to ensure you’re using the right visual language.
This is also really common with the character’s scene direction, but also as being too brief. As the reader and audience, you’re left wondering how the character is receiving it, how he/she is stating it. The trick is to find an equilibrium, you can be a little literary but it has to be visual. You have to make the reader see your film and its action with the same tempo you want to transmit.
To make an analysis, do you use the same criteria all the time? Or depending on the format or genre, do you use others?
It depends on what the writer, author or producer who contracts me needs. However, if I detect a problem, let’s say for instance on relations between characters, I’ll make a specific section on it. I organically adapt to the necessities.
How do you get a job from production houses to make an analysis? How to you build a prolific career?
I’ve always enjoyed making analysis. When I studied Dramaturgy and Scene Direction, I contacted Sergio Barrejon who offered me to make an analysis for a script he was working on. That convinced me to join Mediaset as an analyst, and since I left Mediaset, I’ve kept getting work thanks to word of mouth.
Do you have any advice for screenwriters to face criticism to get most out of it?
What I always tell to the screenwriters is that I’m going to turn their work around as much as possible. I’m going to ask a lot of questions. They will see thoughts, processes…Take what touches you. If you one of my observations doesn’t make you feel anything, forget it. If I make a comment that gives you a jolt of something, stop there and take a closer look, because there might be something there.
As Filmarket, our objective is to find new emerging voices and connect them and their scripts with the industry. At this moment we’re presenting our new International TV Pilot Screenwriting Contest for fiction Spanish-writing screenwriters.
The contest will be open until the 24th of March and has two categories: Spain and Latin America. The prizes are composed of a total of €5.000 and opportunities to get assessment on your scripts from production companies (Corte y Confeccion de Películas, Diagonal TV, Veranda TV and Cattleya Producciones for the selected Spaniards and Cattleya, CMO Producciones, Caponeto and The Lift for the selected Latin American screenwriters). In addition to invitations to take part in our pitch events, Madrid Pitchbox and Latam Pitchbox later this year.
Additionally, we will soon announce new pitch opportunities for English-speaking screenwriters, as well as our Screenwriting Contests in English language.