Script Editors provide a critical overview of the screenwriting process, and liaise between the Producer or Development Executive and the Screenwriter. Script Editors do not offer solutions, but instead use their analytical skills to help Screenwriters identify problems, explain the potential consequences of Screenwriters' choices, and thereby help to strengthen and develop screenplays. Script Editors are sometimes full-time employees of a Production company, but more often they are employed on a freelance basis, and their fees and levels of involvement are negotiable.
Script Editors have a particular insight into the structure of screenplays, and the effect that different types of narrative have on audiences. Script Editors must not only be able to form a clear, objective opinion about the premise, synopsis, treatment or screenplay, but they must also be able to give detailed explanations of their reasoning. Their opinions must be valid within the context of the entire filmmaking process, and they should be able to assist Screenwriters and Producers to realise the potential of their screenplays. Script Editors must mediate between the Screenwriter's creative desires and impulses, and the commercial imperatives of the marketplace. Because of the varied nature of their work, Script Editors often have a keener insight into the structure of screenplays than Screenwriters, and should help them to explore the various possibilities open to them. Script Editors are also responsible for helping Screenwriters to develop a route map for their story, and for reminding them of this map when they write scenes that deviate from the narrative. To work effectively, Script Editors must agree a development schedule with Producers and Screenwriters. This schedule typically comprises a number of development meetings, one-to-one editorial meetings, and regular email feedback. Script Editors assess and support relationships between Screenwriters and Producers, and must be present at all script development meetings to ensure that all parties share the same vision for the project, and to record any decisions made. Script Editors should negotiate their contracts before they start work, setting out fees and delivery deadlines for each stage of the process. The nature and remit of the editorial role varies, depending on whether Script Editors are engaged on a freelance basis, or if they are working in-house for a production company.
Script Editors should have a keen insight into all aspects of screenplay tone, genre, style, structure, character, plot, action and dialogue. They must understand the various development stages, including: log lines, premises, synopses, beat outlines, step-outlines, treatments and rough drafts. They should also have a keen understanding of how to use the dramatist's tools, including comic irony, suspense, mystery and dramatic tension, and of the different ways that screen works affect audiences. The best Script Editors provide Screenwriters with a different perspective on their story, as well as reminding them of the production company's requirements, and the market for films. They need shrewd interpersonal and negotiation skills, and must be capable of liaising effectively between Screenwriters and Producers or Development Executives.
Script Editors are usually highly educated graduates, and experienced Script Readers, with proven analytical skills, who have taken an industry respected Script Editing course. They may also have attended a number of Screenwriting Courses, and should have a comprehensive knowledge of the dramatic and screenwriting theories used by Screenwriters and Producers to guide their work.