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Michael Ray Brown (Story Sense)
Michael Ray Brown (Story Sense)

Michael Ray Brown, a top Hollywood script doctor and the founder of Story Sense, has more than 30 years’ experience helping writers create successful screenplays. A story analyst for seven major studios, Michael contributed to the development of such films as Lethal Weapon, Braveheart, Red Corner, Contact, Hart’s War, and many more. Since leaving MGM in 1999, Michael has been much in demand as a script consultant to writers and producers. A working screenwriter, he has written more than 50 hours of prime-time television, including seven made-for-TV movies.

Michael has lectured on screenwriting at Screenwriting Expo, Sherwood Oaks Experimental College, and the Hollywood Scriptwriting Institute. Recruited as a contributing editor to the Independent Feature Project/west newsletter, he wrote a series of articles on film financing and distribution. He is a member of Story Analysts, Local 700S, I.A.T.S.E.; Filmmakers Alliance; Film Independent (FIND); Scriptwriters Network; and the Production Executives peer group of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Creative Screenwriting magazine, in their March/April 2003 review of script analysts, rated Michael “Highly Recommended” and their #1 Best Buy. “Brown writes intelligently and coherently, his command of language helping to illuminate his command of craft.” — Nancy Hendrickson (For her complete review, click here.)

A comprehensive evaluation of your script starts with its theme, and how successfully that theme has been expressed in conflict and action. Michael discusses your story’s uniqueness, consistency of tone, depth of characterization, quality of dialogue, structure, pacing, production values, castability, marketability, and other qualities. Format errors are flagged, as well. (For a sample analysis, click here.)

Michael understands the kernel of truth that lies at the heart of every story, even those which are imperfectly rendered on the page. Believing that a consultant should be a collaborator, not just a critic, he guides the writer, proposing alternate scenarios for developing this truth into a tale that resonates emotionally. He brainstorms with his clients, stimulating them to create their best work.

Having run a story department and worked in development at most of the major studios, Michael knows what producers and studio executives look for in a script. When he consults with writers, he’s able to inform them what it will take for their script to survive coverage.

The Story Sense website has several interviews with Michael, a checklist of what a good script should have, and samples of all his services. It also has a complete guide to screenplay formatting.

SERVICES
Development Notes - $495
A seven-page (minimum) evaluation of your screenplay, with detailed, bullet-point suggestions for improvements. Line and scene notes are written on your screenplay. Includes an hour-long personal consultation.

Oral Consultation - $215
A one-hour discussion by telephone or in person, exploring various ways your screenplay or treatment can be improved. It’s recorded and sent to you on a CD.

Studio-style Coverage - $165
A cover sheet with a rating grid and a log line, followed by a one-page synopsis and a half- to three-quarters-page comment on your script, written as a studio reader might see it.

Selling Synopsis - $180
A brief synopsis promoting your screenplay, focusing on its most salable qualities. It tells only enough to tantalize the reader, enticing them to read your script.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Some script doctors try to shoehorn your story into a one-size-fits-all paradigm. When you read their analysis, it's as if they've gone through the script with a checklist, and reported whether it fits a certain formula. This can lead to a cookie-cutter screenplay devoid of freshness.

Michael’s approach is more flexible. Every story has its own unique dynamics. What he does is identify the script’s theme, analyze how well each story element serves that theme, and then show the writer how to express it more dramatically. His clients usually come away amazed by his insights and excited by the possibilities. Here are some of their comments:

“Occasionally a script just stumps you. After 12 years of writing professionally, this was my first experiment in turning to a consultant and I wish I had tried it sooner. Getting a take from someone who doesn’t know you or your work, someone who will read the script without preconceptions, just as any producer would, is invaluable. When you work on a script for months, you can write yourself into a box and it takes the eye of an outsider to help you break out of the box. Your feedback was most helpful in that respect. I have, in fact, incorporated many of your suggestions.” — Kat Smith, screenwriter

“Your consultation was instrumental in my contest successes. I even attended the Worldfest Houston, where my script won first place in the family division.” — Erna Mueller, novelist and screenwriter

“From the first e-mail to our final consultation, Michael provided clear and intelligent input. He was a great help in getting me over the rough spots in my story. All this, and he does it with great talent and humor.” — Katherine M. Francis, screenwriter

“I highly recommend the services of Michael Ray Brown of Story Sense. If you need someone to help you develop your script, he’s the guy. His background is unbelievable, and yet he takes such pride and heart in helping writers. After talking with him, I couldn’t wait to start rewriting. Before you show your work to anyone, contact him first!” — Phyliss Esposito, playwright and screenwriter

“Michael’s Development Notes have proven invaluable as I head toward a rewrite. His insights and guidance showed me blind spots and deficiencies which I was having trouble seeing. More importantly, Michael offered constructive and creative solutions which would work organically within the context of my story. It’s a good feeling to know someone of Michael’s caliber and savvy is available to help me develop my voice and craft.” — Jay Caldwell, private art dealer and screenwriter

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES
The Technique of Screen & Television Writing by Eugene Vale, Prentice-Hall 1982. The absolute best book on structure for the movies, covering every possible mistake a screenwriter can make.

Lew Hunter's Screenwriting 434 by Lew Hunter, Perigee 1995. A practical and inspiring guide by the former chair of U.C.L.A.'s screenwriting department.

AFI Guide to Writing Great Screenplays for Film and TV by Dona Cooper, IDG Books Worldwide 1994. A unique and refreshingly flexible examination of films as roller coasters.

Creative Screenwriting (creativescreenwriting.com). Voted best screenwriting publication by screenwritersutopia.com, here you can read incisive comments on the scripts of current movies and interviews with their writers.

The Writer's Store (writersstore.com). The specialty source for screenwriting books and software, with a low-price guarantee and free shipping on Web orders.

Hollywood Network (hollywoodnet.com). A serious, heavily trafficked stomping ground for showbiz professionals of all disciplines.

Screenwriting Expo (screenwritingexpo.com). This not-to-be-missed annual event features workshops, a pitch fest, and lectures by noted Industry insiders, including Michael Ray Brown. One of Michael’s most popular classes from the Expo, “A Structure Checklist,” is now available on DVD.

CONTACT INFORMATION
P.O. Box 3757
Santa Monica, CA 90408-3757
Tel.: (310) 394-0994
Fax: (866) 629-0199
E-mail: info@storysense.com
www.storysense.com