If you’ve added a script listing to Script Revolution in the past few months, you’ll have likely noticed that you have the option to add a link to what’s called a ScriptHop Packet and you may have noticed my listing for Blueberry Special includes one. So what’s the deal? Why have I been so quick to implement this relatively unknown platform?— CJ
Something happened in October of 2020 which I personally feel is momentous. Like a ship launching silently in the night, the ScriptHop platform slipped into the waters of the internet to very little ceremony other than a few casual glances over the shoulder from most screenwriters yet what it displaces is potentially massive. A few did get excited but it was for all the wrong reasons. They mistook ScriptHop’s USP as a script discovery platform, a new market database, a free opportunity to break into the industry, and their energy quickly fizzled out when they found out it was something less promotional and more logistical. They missed the point.
The easiest way I can get you to pay attention to ScriptHop is to tell you one thing — Shane Black is on their board of advisors. If that doesn’t get you to take what they’re doing seriously, I don’t know what will. The bigger question is, do you understand what they are doing, why, and how it may impact us all in the long term?
But first, the problem…
Hollywood and the greater industry has been facing a significant problem for some time. Email changed everything or, more specifically, the widespread access to email and cheap computing technology changed everything. Until email became available to everyone, the barrier to entry for anyone wanting to send a script to an industry member was the physical act of mailing it. Now we can send a script to thousands of people with the click of a button from anywhere in the world providing we know (or can guess) their email address. That’s good for us but terrible for those on the receiving end who now have to deal with a tsunami of email submissions from first time writers to WGA accredited agents.
I know a producer who recently shared one of this email addresses online and broadcast that people can send him submissions. He now has a person dedicated to managing that one email address on a daily basis as dozens of hopeful screenwriters a day send in their queries.
But that’s the tip of the iceberg. Those working in the industry will know there’s a multitude of additional documents any project needs from short and long synopses to writer bios to character breakdowns and more. A lot of paperwork has to circulate and that management problem becomes exponentially worse as newer revisions are created. What we have as a result is a swarming chaos of paperwork clogging up inboxes and folders with everyone having to constantly check-in and ask if they have the latest version of something before they do anything with it. Every production company is effectively in state of ongoing triage to try and find those diamonds in the rough.
I have only a few years experience writing professionally and producing movies. I’m also a very organised person when it comes to documents. It’s amazing how quickly it all becomes a mess even when you try your best to stop it happening.
It‘s an organisational nightmare and no way for an industry to run. Nobody has effectively attempted to tackle the problem with free software as a service until now.
Enter the ScriptHop Packet
ScriptHop’s “Packet” solution is a bundle of data filed online and accessed via a link. The recipient doesn’t need to install any software or have to sign up to anything. The concept is simple but, a lot like script-writing, the magic is in the execution. Let’s look at two scenarios;
Scenario 1: Two producers, a casting agent, and an attached actor need a script’s synopsis, latest draft, and character breakdown document. You circulate an email with this all attached and check-in with everyone later to ask if they have received it. You then realise you’ve sent a script pdf with the wrong draft date and repeat the process, hoping everyone sees your new email and re-downloads the correct files to replace the old ones.
Scenario 2: Two producers, a casting agent, and an attached actor need a script’s synopsis, latest draft, and character breakdown document. You upload all of this to a Packet on ScriptHop and share the link via email, later checking the stats to see if people have clicked it. You then realise you’ve sent a script pdf with the wrong draft date and re-upload that, knowing that your collaborators will only see the new file from now on.
Now repeat those a few thousand times and see which you prefer.
That alone is a good enough reason to be looking at ScriptHop but some will say, why not simply use something like DropBox to achieve the same thing? Well, this is where ScriptHop gets particularly impressive.
The key people behind ScriptHop, Brian Austin, Scott Foster, and Jory Weitz, have been developing the system with film schools and studio story departments to maximise its workflow potential and the result is an interface that’s remarkably dynamic and intuitive. For a start, simply uploading a script pdf to your Packet immediately populates it with information such as page count, genre, characters, locations and more along with pulling out dialogue snippets to highlight to viewers. It then guides you through adding more detail with the following sections;
WGA / USCO Registration
Locations, Budget, and More
There’s more to come too but adding your material to ScriptHop is like a bootcamp in providing people with what they need to fully appreciate what you have to offer.
The result is something that allows decision makers of all kinds from agents, to talent, to producers to quickly digest the information that’s critical to them and make a decision wether or not to move forward in five minutes rather than five hours (the time it’s realistically going to take them to schedule the read of a full script and get it broken down).
So, will it change the world?
As ever, new concepts like this is at the mercy of adoption and plenty of great ideas have failed because potential users wouldn’t change their behaviour. Even Google couldn’t pull us away from Facebook with their alternative (and look where we are now).
When ScriptHop launched, I created a Packet and shared it on various social media platforms. The response was mixed but mainly apathetic, the worst being Reddit’s r/screenwriting group who seemed so angry it existed I ended up deleting my post before I got lynched! However, the break-in side of the screenwriting world is oddly stuck in its ways at the best of times — just look at the attitude to alternative writing software. I saw the likes of Writer Duet being treated with just as much skepticism at first.
If the Packet system flourishes anywhere, it will be in the film schools and film production offices where the benefits of using it will be both laid out clearly and felt directly. Those that are taught to use it are likely going to want to implement into the companies they go on to work for rather than going back to the chaos of emails. It will be then that aspiring screenwriters (and their reps) may be expected to submit a fleshed out Packet link rather than a bunch of attached files. That’s why I feel it’s worth all of us becoming familiar with it ahead of time just like we should all know how to mark changes and lock scripts in Final Draft before we start writing professionally.
What can we learn from this?
Nothing changes fast. It’s going to be years before something like ScriptHop becomes ubiquitous within the industry. So, what can we learn from its development to help us move forward right now?
Synopses are the new king — This was actually highlighted recently by my co-producer Shane Stanley in a Film Courage interview. The most effective way to pitch a project right now is a detailed synopsis that encapsulates the story and characters.
Lookbooks and bibles aren’t working — They’re messy, inconsistent, rambling, and too focused on the superficial. Decision makers need facts and details to act on, not pomp and ceremony.
Characters need proper descriptions — A brief couple of lines within a script doesn’t cut it. We need to be able to tell the full story and describe a character in detail so casting and attaching talent can happen quickly.
You can’t have too much detail ready— Attachment lists, copyright details, budget breakdowns, writer bio, location lists, sizzle reels, etc are all powerful assets that can be within easy reach to the recipient.
Artificial Intelligence is not the answer — Some companies are trying to fix the problem with machines reading scripts. This is wrong. I’ve written about the dehumanisation of script reading before.
Ultimately, it’s becoming clear that writers who think they can get by on nothing but a script and a logline and who see writing any associated documents as a chore are going to be seen as lazy and uncommitted. Pitching a script is like pitching a business plan and, as the market becomes more competitive, more details are going to be needed to pull people in and convince them a project is worthwhile.