Q&A with Hayley McKenzie (Script Editor, Script Angel)
We are delighted to be able to fire some questions at the 'Script Angel' herself, Hayley Mckenzie. With over 15 years in the film and TV industry as a Script Editor, Hayley is founder and CEO of Script Angel and one of the UK's top script editors. She was a guest speaker at the London Screenwriters Festival, Raindance and Cannes Film Festival.
Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. First off, not everyone will have used a script editor so could you explain what it is you do and what Script Angel can offer?
Sure. We’re a screenwriter training and development company, so the focus of our work is helping screenwriters to produce the best possible version of their script and the story they want to tell. All our screenwriting coaches are experienced film and TV script editors so we’re used to both nurturing screenwriters and helping them deliver their best, but have also got one eye on the real-world film and TV market and what’s actually getting commissioned and made.
What are the most common mistakes you find when editing scripts?
Lots of set-up (these are our characters, this is their ‘normal’) and not enough intrigue or story questions being raised from the outset. Scripts have to make us want to turn the page from the very beginning – you have to compel the reader to keep reading and the viewer to keep watching.
The film industry is traditionally cyclical with its genre and trends, what are you seeing in the spec pile at the moment?
There’s always demand for original thrillers and horrors, just as in TV there is always demand for crime drama! I’m seeing a lot of specs about AI, particularly following the success of ‘The Machine’ and ‘Ex Machina’ and on TV with ‘Humans’.
Exit 6 showcases some of the best short films from all over the world and you have experience with short film when your project Love in the Afternoon secured distribution. Can you tell us about your experience on this?
I was working with a really exciting new writer named Lou Gerring and the short film script we developed together was selected for production funding by the Film London Best of Boroughs scheme, and having helped Lou developed the script I went on to produce the film. It was great to have the support and encouragement from Film London and we had a fantastic Executive Producer in Brek Taylor, who went to be Head of Film at Creative England. It was also a terrific opportunity to connect with other emerging filmmaking teams who were selected from the other London boroughs. Shorts International approached us and asked to be our distributor after they saw the film at the Best of Boroughs screening.
What advice would you give to someone who is just about to start their first script?
Get it written, then get it right! Although outlining and planning the story in advance are the most time-effective ways to work through the process, don’t let it get you stuck. Just keep writing the script through to the end; don’t get stuck endlessly rewriting the first few scenes. You can always go back and change stuff you don’t like afterwards but you can’t edit a blank page!
Once someone has a nice portfolio of scripts, what should they do to get them out into the world?
I’d always recommend trying to connect with other emerging film-making talent, like producers and directors, as it’s not enough to have great scripts if no-one in the industry is reading them!
If you're interested in getting help with your script, or maybe some training in script writing, why not give Script Angel a call or message.