Day in the life of
Script Consultant – Dimitri Vorontzov
My name is Dimitri Vorontzov, a New York-based narratologist, screenwriting instructor, and film production consultant.
My perspective on working in the film industry is somewhat unusual because I work not on a movie set, and not even in a production company office, but in my own very quiet Manhattan office that’s deliberately kept away from the hustle and bustle of the film production environment or pre-production/post-production process.
My job typically involves one of four things:
1. “Punching up” screenplays
This means helping screenwriters and filmmakers bring their projects to the highest quality, where a story can make the maximum impact on the target audience. Typically, I work either with filmmakers who were offered a big break, and want to make it count – or with established filmmakers who want their next project to exceed their audience’s expectations.
For example, currently, I am working with a writer-director whose recent debut film is among the most popular on Netflix within its category, and had very strong reviews. But the filmmaker wants his next project to reach a whole next level, and he reached out to me because he simply needed a “second brain” on the story or an extra pair of eyes. We’ve had the luxury of no deadline – the quality of the story is more important than speed in this case, so we’ve been working on it since last October. The story was already very good when he brought it to me – I mean, most screenwriters would be jealous of that quality. But we both saw the potential for something even stronger, so we started peeling off story layers and looking for areas of improvement. It’s been nearly half a year and by now we both finally begin to feel that it’s getting where it’s supposed to be.
2. Guiding a writer or a producer and a team of writers through the project, from the inception all the way into the production
In this case, I help the producer, a director, and/or a writer find the story in their raw material, and stay in contact with them throughout the entire pre-production period, including several iterations of the script, and some production strategies. Sometimes my job is to solve a business problem that holds a project back. For example, I once helped a filmmaker remove roadblocks and launch a production company, which now has several projects to its name.
My work is mostly done online, via email. I write a lot of emails! I find email communication ideal for the creative process because it can be spontaneous – but every idea we come up with is saved in writing and can be searched when we need to take a look at it again.
I read a lot of new screenplays – maybe too many! Usually, at least a couple of hours in my workday is spent reading a screenplay or several. I also watch some footage.
I get to watch quite a lot of semi-finished or finished movies or TV show episodes – which makes my job awesome. I pretty much get paid for watching movies. Usually, the clients offer me examples of movies or TV shows that are in some ways similar to what they want to create – and I watch them so that I have a common frame of reference with the client. But I also do my research on movies that are within the same market niche as the project the client wants to create. So I watch those as well, and make copious notes, trying to reverse-engineer some of the narrative patterns used in those stories. (For example, I am working with a talented Japanese anime director at the moment, and I get to watch a lot of anime – I am fascinated with that style of storytelling and my goal is to make myself an expert in its narrative techniques).
3. Teaching emerging screenwriters or helping working screenwriters upgrade their skill set
Quite a bit of my work is this. I approach screenwriter training similarly to how I would train musicians or martial artists: Screenwriting is the craft that needs to be constantly maintained, polished and improved. Almost as if it’s a physical skill. Without daily or almost daily practice, screenwriters can become “rusty” and acquire “bad habits”.
So my job is to help them be their best. I train screenwriters individually or in groups – but in both cases, I lead by example – showing how I would approach a certain creative problem, before asking them to try doing it their own way.
So I get to write a lot of stories or screenplay scenes – doing it every day, for years.
I estimate that in the course of one year I deal with tens of thousands of story ideas, thousands of stories, hundreds of screenplays, and write at least half a million words worth of creative material.
This is intense but gratifying. I feel that rather than living in “reality”, I live in the world of my clients’ imagination – and since every client or student is a unique person with a unique vision, I get to visit countless detailed, fascinating, colorful alternate realities.
To help to bring students in, I maintain an active social media presence – so part of my daily routine involves posting things on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and so on.
4. Study of storytelling
To be able to help my clients and students, I have to continuously grow and improve my own skills. I study cinema and television every day, and just as it is the case with my work on client’s projects, I analyze the narrative patterns and make notes, distilling useful creative techniques and principles that I can later use to the maximum advantage of my students and clients.
Sometimes I turn my observations into articles, which I publish in industry magazines.
That’s pretty much it.
Screenwriters write screenplays which includes movie scripts, short films, television episodes, and indie flicks in addition to your big summer blockbuster. As a screenwriter, it's your job to write engaging stories with interesting characters that your audience can relate to.