Amy M. Le, CEO of Quill Hawk Publishing, talks to Phil Clarke, founder of Philmscribe, about his work as a script consultant and screenwriter.
QHP: Phil, can you walk us through how you got to where you are today?
Phil Clarke with Philmscribe: Hi Amy. How about a quick sprint, as to walk through would take rather too long! The bullet points are that I grew up a huge film fan and lover of writing. Following university, where I studied Film, and desperate to get my foot in the door to the industry, I peppered production companies and studios for that elusive chance. This perseverance eventually paid off and I was asked to interview for the lowly studio runner's job at Leavesden Film Studios. Two interviews later and the position was mine. I quickly moved up the ladder to become sole Production Liaison to all films and TV shows making Leavesden their temporary home. I then chose to go freelance and worked in the production offices and later on set on a host of films including Enigma, The Beach, Sleepy Hollow and two of the biggest franchises: Star Wars and Harry Potter. Not only was this the best film school one could ever dream of (working with the likes of Tim Burton, George Lucas and Chris Columbus), but it made it clear to me that writing was to be my chosen career path. I wrote a few true crime books published worldwide, sold a few scripts, and got into script development. This then led to me eventually going freelance within this field and starting up my own business to assist writers of all levels with their work. That brings us pretty much up to date. Philmscribe Script Consultancy has been helping writers develop for well over a decade now.
QHP: What services do you provide?
Phil Clarke with Philmscribe: I offer a range of services, split into two categories: First, I have a host of reading services to suit all pockets, that vary in size, depth, and length to help a writer see where their project is working and where it needs improvement. And then there are the writing services, which utilize more directly my skill as a multi-optioned writer. For those who feel they need more hands-on help with their project, I can perform a polish or rewrite of an existing script. I can even create a first draft of a story based on notes if the originator of the idea doesn't have the time, inclination or ability to do so themselves. And then there's also a service that might be particularly up your subscribers' streets - if you're an author who has written a book and wish to have it adapted for the screen, then I can do this for you too. All the services are available via my site.
QHP: Tell us something about your industry that is not generally known.
Phil Clarke with Philmscribe: If we're talking about the film industry, then the thing that comes to mind - specifically about being on set - is that it's not as glamorous as people think it is. There's a lot of hanging around, waiting, standing by the craft table drinking coffee and eating sandwiches, but then when the moment is open to us, it can get very exciting. Action stations. Go Go Go.
If we're talking about the screenwriting industry, then one aspect that many don't realise is that a lot of screenwriters making a living have never had a film produced. I know many writers in Hollywood and here in the UK who have yet to see their script up on screen, and yet they make a very good living selling their specs or working on other people's projects that never come to fruition. Because they still get paid for the job.
QHP: What makes you unique from other script consultancy companies or screenwriters?
Phil Clarke with Philmscribe: This is quite hard to say as I don't make a point of checking up on what other consultants provide. However, I do know a number of my services go into extreme detail -- I have been known to write script reports of 60+ pages -- and I know of no other script consultant who provides this level of focus.
I do know there are many of what I call hobbyist script consultants out there, who provide feedback services but have very little proven industry experience behind them. And it's these individuals and companies who give the professional and proven a bad name. I am not joking when I say I've been contacted by many people who have decided they want to be a script consultant, and when I have asked what experience they have, they answer that they watch a lot of movies. I'm afraid this is not enough to provide the real help many writers need. I love riding my bike but I wouldn't ever think of entering the Tour de France!
QHP: Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Phil Clarke with Philmscribe: The pursuit of any tough career path is always beset by challenges. Not having anyone I knew in film or TV made it difficult to get a foot in the door, and this ultimately taught me how key perseverance is in this game. If you don't have platinum-level persistence, then you're not going to get very far.
When it comes to screenwriting, I had to go through a learning process back in the day just like everyone who has ever written. One lesson I particularly needed to learn was the idea of getting a rough draft down. When I started out, I would agonise over every line when I was writing my first draft and would make little progress. Consequently, I struggled to complete many scripts. The better approach is to get that first draft complete no matter how rough it is. This is why it's often referred to as "the vomit draft." You need to give yourself permission to write sh**. This way, you're more likely to not lose willpower and drive, and stand a greater chance of finishing the draft. Then you can go back over this first draft and rewrite.
QHP: What can writers in the Quill Hawk Publishing family expect when they work with you?
Phil Clarke with Philmscribe: They can expect someone who takes their role very seriously in the development of their project and craft. I am not someone who is going to blow smoke. As I often say, if you want guaranteed love for your screenplay, give it to your mom. If you want honest feedback guaranteed to improve your script, give it to me.
They can also expect attention to detail, a pinnacle of professionalism, total dedication to helping you develop your script and craft.
QHP: Are there accolades, awards, or appearances you’d like to share?
Phil Clarke with Philmscribe: Aside from a host of film credits (which can be viewed at https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0164947/), there's not much in the way of distinct awards that I can suggest. I mean, I haven't won an Oscar, if that's what you're asking! But then neither has Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp or even Tom Cruise! I've had several scripts optioned, had a few books published worldwide, written for the Ministry of Defense and other blue-chip companies in my time. However, I prefer to focus on the option deals, productions and comp wins that my clients achieve following my support and service. Many of my clients have gone on to be produced and even featured at festivals such as Cannes.