Ellin Stein - Script Consultant

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WHY SHOULD YOU LISTEN TO HER…? Because she operates a script consultancy business and has worked as a story analyst for some of the major studios.

Miramax, Zoetrope and New Line.


Ellin Stein operates script consultancy Solid Script Services (http://www.solidscripts.co.uk) and teaches screenwriting at Roehampton University.

Previously a story analyst for companies including Miramax, Zoetrope and New Line, she has led a double life as a journalist, contributing to publications including The Times, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian, The New York Times, Variety, and salon.com. She has also written for Radio 4’s The News Quiz.

Ellin began her career writing plays with music (since moving to Britain she has realized these were actually pantos for adults) that were produced in San Francisco and New York as well as two shorts that have won prizes from several international festivals and been shown on TV in New York, Los Angeles, Japan, Holland, and Nicaragua.

Q:  What was your favourite film as a kid?

A:  The ST TRINIAN’S movie the original black and white. I went to an all girls school. Devoted my life to making those changes. As roles models, I felt more comfortable with them than Disney princesses.

Q:  Who inspired you when you were starting out?

A:  I had no idea how you got into movies or even that it was possible. One day somebody said to me, film studios hire people to read and assess scripts! I was working as a theatre critic for a newspaper in San Fransico and I walked in and they said yes! Which was unusual as I was 5 years older than I should have been! Once I got there I met Lucy Fisher Head of Development. She went on to Warners in the end– one of the first women to do big things on the producing side, and she was just normal, not 24 hours on the job. I thought ‘wow’ its possible - it was the first wave of women doing this.

Q:  What was your big break?

A:  It’s right around the corner.

Q:  What was the best day in your career?

A:  The day my short film DEBATE OF THE DEAD, a lively comedy about the effects of nuclear radiation, won the Governor's Prize at the Hiroshima Film and Video Festival.  I thought they'd either really like it or else be really, really offended and fortunately they got it.

Q:  What has been your most important lesson?

A:  Keep going.

Q:  If a niece or nephew wanted to be in the business, what would you advise them?

A:  Get a better connected aunt - network like a loon and it’s not necessary to be a jerk

Q:  What is the hardest part of your job and how do you overcome it?

A:  Well, as a script editor its not that hard, as a writer; rejection obviously. Don’t take it too personally, working on the other side showed me what the odds are.  It’s a fools errand, there are so many factors but amazing things do happen. Having a good product is the first step but beyond that it’s a crap shoot. You overcome it by always working on the next idea.

Q:  What do you feel is a writers’ or filmmakers' key responsibility?

A:  Keeping the audience engaged.

Q:  What mistakes do you see writers or film makers making over and over?

A:  Everyone makes different mistakes but what irritates me the most are the easy ones to fix - like presentation or proof reading.  You don’t have to be creative or smart you just have to do it and when people cant be bothered to get that right it’s just ignorant or sloppy, and I’d put it on the bottom of the pile.

Character and story really matter so sort the stupid stuff out. Make the time to give it your best shot

Q:  What advice would you offer a writer?

A:  Persistence and the more you write the better you get strangely enough.  Don’t just sit alone in your room, get out and schmooze, there’s lots of free stuff you can go to. Have an idea of what’s going on in the business and who is who.

Have an idea of why a person’s attention might be engaged; these people’s job is to sniff out talent. But balance it. Come to things like the London Screenwriting Festival, for example.