A. When a producer says all he needs is a polish.
A producer wants me to do a polish of his script. He's got a completed screenplay, but he needs someone familiar with the period and the culture of the time to do a polish on the script for authenticity. How much should I charge?
In my experience, every single time a producer has asked me for a polish, the script always needed a rewrite. Producers simply don't want to pay for rewrites, which cost about four to five times as much as polishes under the current WGC agreement. So they call a rewrite a polish.
Under these circumstances you would probably want to confirm that the producer does indeed have money available before you read the script; otherwise you're wasting your time. Then read the script and see what kind of work it needs.
I put a nifty formula in my book Crafty Screenwriting
explaining what I think you should charge as a non-Guild member; obviously as a Guild member you must charge at least scale, or you're screwing your Guild brothers and sisters, and you can, and deserve to, get a serious trouble. A reasonable fee for a rewrite by a non-Guild beginning writer is on the order of $5,000 to $15,000. At those rates you won't get rich but you will have more money in the bank when you stop writing than you did when you began. Just make sure you're only guaranteeing two drafts and a polish at most, or, if you prefer, a six month cutoff date at which they cannot expect further writing services for the price. At less than $5,000, you're probably taking a loss on the script. Which is okay, if you're considering it a learning experience. I once wrote a script for $800. I don't regret the $800; I only regret that I agreed to ghost write.
That sounds like sage advice for a wonderful question! I think I may pick up that book...what was it called again? lol
Personally, I would agree to read the script first. Maybe all it truly needs is a polish. Besides, reading a script is a bit of continuing education, which we all need. What is considered polish vs. rewrite? When I do a polish, it's basically dialogue and narrative fine-tuning only. No scene additions, deletions, or rearrangements. No character additions, deletions, or combining. I'll do a little window dressing, but no rearranging of the heavy furniture. If I really love the script, I'll do a heavy polish, which still means just more work on the dialogue and narrative. Anything beyond that is a rewrite, and frankly, some scripts are so unworkable, I'd not even offer to do a rewrite. Trust me, when you read the script, you'll know. Anything beyond that is just conjecture.
-- The Script Repairman
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