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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hear Your Script

Okay, so Alex beat me to it on this one, but what else would you expect from someone who posts 2-3 times a day on average!

Anyway, there's a new service out there called iScript. Interesting. For $175 they will have a professional voiceover actor read your screenplay, record it professionally, and send you an MP3. And as part of a launch promo, you can also get a CD of the file or a flash drive with it preloaded. They just offered me a sample to try it out.

I sent them the first draft of Hell on Wheels, even though it is only a first draft. I'm a big fan of hearing a screenplay read as a tool to help identify flaws or weaknesses. Sure, Final Draft has a built in feature, but that electronic voice gets annoying quickly, and doesn't really get the proper inflections. I think the best option, of course, is to have a staged reading with a number of actors, preferably reading it cold (i.e. seeing the script for the first time). And you can record this if you like.

But the iScript option is still a very good one. First of all, let me specify that it is not the same as a staged reading. You don't get multiple readers for different characters. There isn't even a lot of acting out the emotions, though there is definitely some of that. Think of it more as a book-on-tape version (though of course, those things are rarely on tape anymore). One reader (your choice of male or female) reading the script, including slug lines and action descriptions.

I chose a male voice, and he did a pretty good job. I definitely got some good ideas just listening to the full reading, that I hadn't had before, just by reading it through myself. And he did alter his voice somewhat for different characters, which helped.

On the "room for improvement" side, there were some errors in the reading. A few mispronounced words, and some parts which were read a bit too fast, and faster than the rest, making it feel rushed. But I think these things could improve with a slightly longer turnaround time. Currently, they promise a 2-business-day turnaround time. I think the product could be better with more of a 4-5 business day turnaround. Most writers shouldn't mind the extra few days, and if so, they can offer the 2-day rush at a premium.

Another option for a "premium" addition might be to have 2 or more readers. Perhaps just one male and one female. But I don't think this is the end of the world. However, in a romantic comedy type of script, for example, the single reader could be more of an issue. Hard to show the chemistry.

Okay, so what about the price? $175 ain't cheap, is it? And you might say, well I could just do it myself with a recorder. Well, on that I'll say that it is a lot of money, but I think it is worth it overall. Yes, you could do it yourself, but it would likely be less instructive and of lower quality in most people's cases. Furthermore, I think the price is fair. I know professional voiceover artists, and based on hourly rates, you are getting a lot for your money.

The iScript folks suggest you can use the recording to submit to producers. I'll say that while that's not impossible, I doubt this will be a major use of the recordings. But I wouldn't rule it out entirely. Instead, I'd see this as another step in developing a script. Earlier drafts might be worth paying someone for feedback (like me, if you like). And once you're close to a final draft, iScript might be a good way to work out some of the final kinks.

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Blogger E.C. Henry said...

Think I'll stick with Final Draft's voice, it's free. I also have a copy of Dragon's Naturally Speaking on my computer. I use that to hear back my query letters before I send them out. Dragon's "Naturally Speaking" has a default femine voice. Its MUCH more soothing to hear that Final Draft's computer voice.

Great informative post, Funjoel.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

9:09 PM  
Blogger Nic said...

Man, ouch. That's two or three competition fees and a registration right there. Readings certainly can be helpful depending on the quality of your reader. Staged with Theater Undergrads or bribing friends with booze and food for reading parties- it's good exercise to take your writing and expose it to fresh air. Hard to grow in a vacuum and sometimes it just takes hearing someone ELSE voice something before you realize it's all wrong or right.

It might be a little bit of Russian roulette, get what you pay for as they say. But I'm curious- I've got all the equipment and hey I'm mostly literate. Would you be game for a little comparison, free random stranger vs. the $175?

7:11 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

E.C. -- thanks for stopping by periodically and commenting. I hope you'll keep coming back for more.

Nic -- I hear you. It certainly isn't chump change, and therefore I don't think it will ever be for every developing screenwriter. But I do think that it can be helpful for some people, and though not a necessary expense, I still think you get your money's worth.

re: your proposal, if you're asking me to send you a copy of the script and have you record it and send back to me, so I can compare the two, I might consider that. Let me know if that was what you meant.

7:17 PM  

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