You know, it’s funny. When the New York Times e-mailed to say they were doing a piece on Scriptshadow, I wasn’t as thrilled as someone being contacted by the New York Times should probably be. I knew an article meant more exposure. Which is usually a good thing. But I also knew that every time the site gained awareness, detractors used it as an opportunity to preach their dislike of the blog. Which was never a fun thing to deal with! So I was reluctant. But the implication was the Times was going to do the article anyway, so I at least wanted to give my side of the story.
Unfortunately, as I anticipated, the chirping about Scriptshadow grew louder after the article, with the usual suspects saying the site was hurting writers. This is something I never agreed with. At worst, Scriptshadow was a minor inconvenience to writers I didn’t give a favorable review to. At best, it was teaching thousands of screenwriters via the dissection of the latest script sales/assignments, and helping numerous writers get into the business. It may have operated in a gray area, but the site was doing a lot more good for writers than it was doing bad.
But I also recognize that the growth of the site has changed things. Scriptshadow used to be this little underground blog. And when you’re that guy, it’s easier to take chances, to do and say things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to say or do. I think people see the site as more “official” now, and that’s an issue they have with its current iteration. If it’s “official,” I shouldn’t be operating in this gray area anymore. But I believed so strongly in what could be learned from professional writing, I tried to keep it going as long as I could. I’m just not sure it’s worth taking the risk anymore. My life is pretty great at the moment, and I’d like to keep the headaches to a minimum.
So what does this mean for the site? Well, depending on how you look at it, some potentially good things. New spec reviews won’t disappear completely, but they’ll be pretty sparse, as there will be more of a process involved in reviewing them. I might review stuff that’s been produced but not yet released. We’ll see about that. I have a lot of ideas for posts, and I’m looking forward to experimenting and seeing what clicks with you guys. I want to try and dust off the occasional older spec sale and see if we can revive a few scripts that way. We’ll be delving into recent movies, popular movies, classics, and more amateur screenplays. We’ll also be doing more theme weeks.
But what actually excites me about this change is that I’ll be able to focus more on Scriptshadow Labs and The Scriptshadow Social Experiment. I’ve got about 20 amateur writers I’ve found over the years here at the site who I really believe in. They just haven’t written the right script yet. I want to develop a community with these writers where not only am I helping them where I can, but they’re helping each other. Kind of like the best writer’s group in Hollywood. My goal is to review multiple versions of their scripts on the site, using all of the great Scriptshadow readers to crowd-source suggestions and help these scripts become better. We’d then review the new drafts as they come in, so we can see “in real time” how scripts are developed and how good notes (or bad notes) can affect the improvement of a draft. Hopefully, we’ll get the best of these scripts either purchased, produced, or both, and you guys will learn a lot more about the process in the interim.
The Social Experiment is a much bigger project, something I’ve been saving up for. The idea behind it is similar to the Labs, just on a larger scale, with writers interacting and learning from each other. It will also feed writers into the Labs. I know that sounds similar to some stuff out there, but I don’t want to reveal all my ideas for it just yet, as I’d like to keep some secrets until it’s released. Almost every penny I’ve made has gone back into the site. And I’m going to need a lot of pennies to get this going. But when I do, I expect it to be a game changer.
In other words, I want to restructure Scriptshadow into the best site on the web for amateur screenwriters to learn the craft of screenwriting, while ALSO giving them a chance to BECOME professional screenwriters. To that end, I think change is good. I still don’t think there’s any learning tool better than reading current spec sales, but I’ll try to provide the best backup plan I can.
In closing, I’d just like to say that everybody is entitled to their opinion on the reading and reviewing of professional screenplays. It’s not a black and white issue so I try and listen when someone comes to me with an opposing viewpoint (like e-mails me. Not yells at me on Twitter). What bums me out is that I started this site to promote that amazing tool, and I still think reading and discussing professional scripts is the best way to learn screenwriting outside of writing itself. But at a certain point, it was irritating too many people, and that wasn’t fun to deal with. I still plan to incorporate recent spec sales into the site in some capacity. It just won’t be as reviews.
I guess this means the transition starts now. It’ll probably be a rocky one until I figure out what works, but hopefully something better comes of it on the other side. Thanks for all of your support guys! 2013’s going to be fun. :)