A script doctor is a very specialized screenplay writer, having years of experience to back him, and is proficient at the art. Television or film production houses hire him to polish an existing script or re-write one that has been given the “green” signal. The doctor is expected to make positive changes in the theme, characterization, dialogues, plot, pacing structure or all of them. The work of a screenplay doctor generally goes unsolicited, and no doctor has ever received credit for the work done. There is a slight difference between a doctor for cinema and TV industry. In the case of latter, there is a need for just one doctor, who is also referred to as script editor. There may be several script doctors needed for a cinematic screenplay. The script doctors for the film industry are more qualified than those for the TV. These professionals may be brought into the picture during the phases of development, pre-production or editing to address any particular issue acknowledged by the crew, cast, financiers, and directors. A script doctor works to fine-tune the screenplay and make it more acceptable by the intended audience.
A script doctor is seldom given an important position to avoid overshadowing the original screenplay writer. It has been stipulated by the WGA’s (Writers Guild of America) credit system that if the work of a doctor has to be given the credit, he must contribute at least 50% or more to the entire story. If he does have ample involvement in the screenplay, he becomes eligible for WGA Awards or Academy Award for Best Screenplay. In most cases, the skilled writer doctoring the screenplay is provided with the digital copy of the composition requiring his attention. This eases his burden considerably as he need not retype the entire script. Many successful filmmakers have put in their toil and sweat to doctor scripts and reach the higher rungs eventually. There are dozens of top-tier script doctors who earn handsomely but prefer to don cloaks of anonymity. In fact, it has become trendy in Hollywood to send a screenplay through the hands of several doctors before beginning the filming process. A script doctor might be a big help, but some persons opine that doctoring and re-writing produces a poor and disjointed picture of the intended script.
On the part of a script doctor, he enjoys reading other people’s work and picking out the flaws. This work is far from easy and needs hours or perhaps months of strenuous work. Pulling apart and piecing somebody else’s work is seldom as simple as it may sound. The joy of the knowledge that he has made a difference is its own reward. By itself, a script is not a piece of completed work. It is definitely a map of the work and has to be refined by a script doctor. The doctors work more with their eyes and less with their ears. Like a medical doctor, the script doctors decide on the best editorial measures that may be taken to guide the screenplay to its highest potential. The professionals dedicate their services to perfect screenplays that have already been composed.