What is a Script Doctor?

A script doctor is an experienced screenwriter hired film studios to make changes to the screenplay of another writer. Generally, writers who perform this type of work agree to keep their services private. Typically, a script doctor meets with the film’s production team to discuss specific issues rather than rewriting the entire treatment. Certain scenes may not seem to fit a character’s logical progression, or a test audience may find the solution to a key plot line to be too contrived.

A script doctor is usually known for a particular type of writing. Some people are hired to write realistic dialogue, while others are hired to write alternate endings. In extreme cases, a script doctor may decide to remove ineffective characters entirely. The removal of a subplot at the last minute has resulted in some interesting changes in well-known films. A key character in the 1983 film The Big Chill is only seen at his funeral, as the rest of the cast gathers to mourn him. Several flashback scenes were included in the original script, but a script doctor believed they slowed the film’s pacing. Instead of trying to recreate the character, it was more effective to talk about him. This is a common decision made a script doctor in order to save the filmmaker’s vision.

The original screenwriter of a screenplay may not be well-versed in writing for a visual medium like film. The source material’s author may be asked to write a film treatment for his or her novel, but the results may not be satisfactory to the producers. A script doctor can help you turn an unfilmable series of scenes into something that can be filmed. As a result, many experienced script doctors must be able to understand the needs of filmmakers while maintaining the overall story arc of the original author. This has caused some controversy in the past, as completed films have been known to bear little resemblance to the literary works that inspired them. Others may take dramatic license with the characters in order to appeal to a specific demographic. A script doctor may rewrite dialogue or add scenes to make the film seem more adult-oriented in order to achieve a PG-13 rating.