A screenplay doctor has nothing to do with the health sector. A screenplay doctor works in the movie industry and refers to someone who has a particular writing skill and offers their services. Some of the most famous screenplay doctors in Hollywood are also renowned for their acting skills. The doctor is a professional screenwriter contracted to make changes in a previously written screenplay.
Almost all those who assigned as a screenplay doctor sign a confidentiality agreement or non-disclosure agreement. The work begins with several and tough discussions with the production team. Debates could focus on specific scenes that may not be pleasant for a specific audience. However, the script doctor is rarely assigned the task to rewrite the entire movie. He usually make sure that the overall progression of a character is logical, and give ideas on how to shoot scenes that seem unshootable. Several workers are contracted to rewrite dialogues in such a way that it fits more with a specific audience. Screenplay doctors are usually asked to suggest dialogues that could earn a specific PG-age rating; or are more adult-oriented when the movie targets this specific audience.
Screenplay doctors specialize themselves for specific assignments. Some are really gifted when it comes to creating realistic and comic dialogue, while others are contracted to create an unforgettable endings. Some script doctors have to eliminate unproductive characters, and this could lead to major changes within the screenplay. Executive producers are usually afraid of ending-minutes scrapings of screenplays, but this has led to remarkable changes in well-known Hollywood productions.
In 1983, the original screenplay of the movie The Big Chill had had flashback scenes of one of the main characters, and the overall effect slowed the movie pacing. A script doctor suggested speaking about the character without recreating the scenes, and the character was shot only at his funeral. Eventually, the film received excellent critical praise, and much of the praise was because of the doctor’s specific change. This is one of the decisions a screenplay doctor has to make without changing the director’s vision.
In some cases, a script doctor is hired to write or add changes from a different media. Most of them are asked to review a film treatment based on a book or a novel. He usually has to read the book and the first plot before undertaking any other change or suggest something. Books that are turned into movies are full of unfilmable scenes that can be changed into visible ones with the help of a skillful and qualified screenplay doctor . But even in that case, he should try to keep the author’s vision. In several cases, script doctors have suggested changes that have led to finished products that deviated greatly from the initial script. When doctors take extreme liberties with the plot and the characters, it could lead to controversy within the production team; it is crucial that the doctor follows the instructions and needs.