Not a Script Writer, but a Script Reviser

After almost every movie or television show I ever see, I think to myself “If I had just been given a week with that script…”

I.E. I am always convinced that I have spotted some places where just a minor tweak would have made the movie a whole lot better.

As an example (the only one that comes to mind right now), once I was watching an episode of Enterprise where the vulcan lady said, to someone who was making some sacrifice for her, “You don’t have to do this.” I thought it would have been much better for her to say “That is… not required.” Or something like that.

Another example: In Batman Begins, upon seeing the Batmobile for the first time, Gordon says, “I gotta get me one of those!” Stupid cliche. My suggestion would be (if you must have a reaction from Gordon) to have him stare after it agape for half a second or a second or so, then turn to look down at his own appropriately sad-looking or beat-up car for a second or two. Should get a chuckle, and even though it might be considered still a bit cliche, still it seems to me to be more humorous and more appropriate to the movie to me and (I haven’t put my finger yet on why) it feels more respectful towards the audience than the “gotta get me one of those” line.

Anyway. Stuff like that is what I’m talking about. Just changing the wording here, replacing a cliche there, and so on.

I suspect there are people involved in the production of a script of a movie whose role is basically to do just what I described.

How could I get to be one of those people?

Note that I am barely interested at all, if interested at all, in actually writing whole scripts of my own. I’m not a writer. I’m a critic. But a constructive critc… :slight_smile:


The Godfather.

"I’m going to give him an offer he…probably should consider.

Because I’m the Godfather, and all."
sorry, being an ass and hijacking your thread

It’s okay since it was funny. :slight_smile:


I’m sorry to tell you that those people are . . . screenwriters. Most (Hollywood) movies go through multiple screenwriters, most of whom are brought on to change the plot, tweak the tone to the director’s or stars’ sensibilities, punch up the humor, change a few words around, and otherwise tinker with an already existing structure.

So to become one of those people, you’ll probably need to go the typical screenwriter route – write your own screenplay that gets optioned and thrown in a desk drawer, but brings you to the attention of people willing to let you tweak lines on other screenplays.


Oh well.



(Or maybe I can have the good luck to befriend some screenwriter who does make it, and who lets me do with his scripts what I want to do with scripts, and then if I’m any good I gain a reputation for doing that kind of thing. Yeah, that’s the ticket…)

Yeah. “Script doctors” or people who do uncredited rewrites are just other screenwriters. I read that Tom Stoppard did that on Revenge of the Sith, so obviously it’s not all uncredited glory… nor does it always help.

As far as Batman Begins goes: like several other Dopers, I thought it was a pretty well-written film aside from the ridiculous overuse of (attempted) poetic justice.

What Interrobang said.

The common term for these script revision specialists is script doctors. Script doctors are typically the highest paid screenwriters in the industry, sometimes earning hunreds of thousands a week.
See also:

There are dozens of reasons why these lines remain in movies, despite dozens of rewrites and rewriters.

They range from the simple, as in the actor couldn’t get the better line out of his or her mouth so they substituted one that was literally speakable, to the need to get a certain number of lines or screen time for an actor, to ensuring that the producer’s brother-in-law gets to stick a line in, to more complicated situations in which camera set-ups limit ability to do reaction shots like the one suggested for Commissioner Gordon. Who probably was given that line by Diamond Select’s advertising agency so that some teens in the audience would repeat it after they got out of the theater and buy their model.

Sure, a lot of these lines come from ineptness, but they aren’t called throwaway lines for nothing. You fight the battles you can win and save your bargaining chips for the ones that make a difference to the movie.

Also, some of these lines -like the “I gotta get me one of those” line- are clearly there to look snappy in a trailer and give the kids a catchphrase to say (remember when every kid said “Hasta la vista, baby” every ten seconds?)

It’s crappy and degrades the movie, yeah, but it was decided on by a team of marketing experts adn there really isn’t much to be done about it.

Terry Gross was interviewing Don Roos, who penned The Opposite of Sex, and one of her questions was “You wrote X, Y, and Z, and you also helped doctor the script on A, B, C, D, and E… what projects do you feel most proud of?” And he answered that she can quote other sources about his doctoring jobs, but the industry standard is to remain anonymous when doctoring a script, and Roos feels like he owes a debt to all of the great writers who touched up his earlier works (and didn’t brag when it was well-received). The pay is great because you’re expected to ply your trade mostly in secret.

BTW, if Tom Stoppard revised Revenge of the Sith, that implies that the script was actually worse at some point. “Padme, I lurve you like Jar-Jar lurves fish sammiches? I’m sorry, George, that line has to go.”

For the record, sometimes scripts for TV shows get revised overnight, and actors only get their lines in the wee hours. What looks good on paper etc…

Depending on the director, lines can get changed by the actors too. But usually you have to be a special actor for that kind of treatment. (Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, or any # of funnny people; Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Will Ferrell

Also, if you are footing the bill as a producer, you get to offer advice for changes. Although you get poo-pooed behind your back by the ‘professionals’.

Another problem is there are 20 of “you” on a committee who go over the script and everybody is making changes and by the time the script gets back, it is a total, unrecognizable mess.

Remember the game “telephone” when you were a kid? Same theory.
For example, let’s take Casablanca. And let’s add a few script doctors in committee.

Original: “Here’s looking at ya, kid.”
Rewrite 1: “Here’s looking at you, darling.”
Rewrite 2:“Here’s to you, love.”
Rewrite 3:“To your health, my love.”
Rewrite 4:“Cheers, dear.”
Rewrite 5:“Over the lips and past the gums, look out stomach, here it comes - poopsy.”
Rewrite 6: (delete drinking scene. cut to fist fight in background.)

And you wonder why scriptwriters want to commit suicide when they see their scripts massacred after a committee starts to get involved.

Rose bush
Rose petal
Ring around the rosie
Ring of Fire
Fire when ready
Ready, Steady, Go

Charles Foster Kane’s sled was THAT CLOSE to being named after a legendary '60s TV music show!

Here is an example that I thinks better illustrates the OP idea.
(I’m rewriting the OP!)

In The Nightmare Before Christmas, after Jack comes back from being missing he calls a town meeting. He does this to explain what Christmas is to the people of Halloweentown.
Then he does his expierments on the Christmas items. It makes more sense to me that he would first do the expierments and then have the town meeting.