The Role of the Story Editor...

The title of story editor has many definitions depending on the venue in which it's used. In the world of episodic television, a story editor functions as a manager, compiling notes and revisions from writers working on an active script or from a team of writers working on several scripts. In the world of feature film development, a story editor might manage script submissions and a team of readers, sending work out for coverage and notes. Or they may work with a screenwriter, delivering notes from various creatives and managing the revision process. As a creative position, a story editor might act as a sort of ghost writer, suggesting or even executing changes to a screenplay at the behest of the writer, director, producer or other creatives involved. The changes are usually by degrees intended to enhance the original execution of the writer's work in the screenplay.

Script readers, story analysts, script analysts, et. al, evaluate screenplays. A story editor does this but has the capacity and experience to execute.

As a freelance story editor, I offer you the writer a glimpse of the story development process. A coverage report is usually the first step toward constructive criticism. Rejected screenplays are not usually offered a second chance with the same company and you'll never see their coverage of your work; you'll never know why you were dissed. So it's important - even critical - to make your first impression the best it can be. In addition to having your work "covered", I can also give you the more detailed notes that are generated further into the typical development process, suggesting revisions to directly impact that first impression.

Who am I to have such an opinion of your work? At the basic level, I am simply the audience. My opinion of the work is as valid as anyone else's, regardless of my experience or position in the entertainment industry - or any industry. It's true that having written so many coverages for so many different companies over the last 15 years, I have gained a sharp perspective on what will work and not work in your screenplay, on what appeals to development executives, on what works technically in format and execution to create an engaging reading experience. Despite certain claims, there are no script readers that are more “real” than any others; anyone hired to read scripts is a scriptreader. Given all that, I'm still just an audience member. That's a good thing because screenplays are written and movies are made for the audience.

There is no ironclad formula for writing or selling a great screenplay despite the myriad of books you can search on Amazon telling you otherwise. Screenwriter William Goldman still has the best quote on this branch of Hollywood wisdom: "Nobody knows anything." Yes, there are things you can do to help tell a solid screen story and there are time-honored principles to follow, etc.-- but no magic pill. Art is subjective. Preference rules. So many factors are involved that it's just not possible for anyone, experts included, to have the definitive answer. Even those of us well-versed in the subject know that, ultimately, it comes down to the audience member in all of us.