Enter the Gauntlet

Written by Brian Austin on February 27th, 2024

Brian Austin is a co-founder and CEO of ScriptHop. A technologist and entrepreneur, Brian has created products used by Fortune 100 companies, government, military, and entertainment. Being a massive fan of film and television, he occasionally shares his thoughts on this blog.

I'm excited to announce a new product that the ScriptHop team has been working very hard on over the last 17 months. We painstakingly fixated on every possible detail.

Our goal was to solve the problem most screenwriters face: getting their script read by someone who matters — someone who can make something happen for that script. Adding to that, there's also the great Hollywood conundrum: how many reps, execs, and producers does it take to read a script? None — their assistants do it.

ScriptHop's new product is a gateway into the industry that works with this dynamic. It grants screenwriters access to a pool of professional readers that also work for well-known agencies, studios, and production companies. These are the analysts who matter — the true gatekeepers of the industry who can tell you if your script is ready for Hollywood.

We call it the Gauntlet.

The Gauntlet crowdsources professional readers throughout the industry using a structured approach to give the best results at a manageable cost. There are three levels of assessment. Scripts climb to the next level when the majority of readers on the current level recommend the script.

Scripts start at Level 1 with a guarantee of 7 industry readers. On this level, the first 20 pages of the script are read (up to 30 if the reader needs to read more to make a decision) in addition to reading the logline, hook, and a short synopsis. The seven readers help ensure that the script's journey doesn't end because of one person's opinion or taste. Again, these are freelance readers who must also be working for an agency, studio, or production company. Even established writers are often lucky to get their script in front of seven people of this caliber.

Level 2 offers a new set of professional readers — 5 readers who read at least half of the script, and those who like it will continue to read the entire script. Readers on both Level 1 and 2 provide notes as they read and a final assessment in which they rate the Concept, Story, Characters, Dialogue, Writing, Structure, and Marketability of the script, along with potential additional commentary for each.

Scripts that make it to Level 3, receive a mix of 5 of our highest level analysts. Two of the readers will be established writers and development execs that can give expert notes to help improve the script. The remaining three readers will be agents, managers, and producers who are participating because they want to find the next great script or writer to sign. Scripts that make it to them have been vetted by the majority of 12 pro analysts at this point, so they are incentivized to take a look at the script, give their feedback, and they have the potential to take much more of a vested interest in the project.

Each script that enters the Gauntlet has the potential to receive this total of 17 readers. And if ANY reader likes the script, they have the option of hitting a veritable "golden buzzer"; doing so will temporarily pause the script's progress through the Gauntlet while they take it to a company they work with.

Scripts that make it through the Gauntlet potentially qualify for the Seal of Consensus. This is a certified group endorsement that includes both blurbs and signatures of all the readers who have chosen to champion a script — something with real power to potentially propel your project even beyond a greenlight.

For the script that didn't make it through, even if it didn't pass Level 1, the writer still gets the invaluable insight of an interactive report. This report will help them navigate a minimum of 7 reviews (17 if it went to Level 3) and script notes that will help them improve their script and their writing in general. We will even be offering those writers an opportunity to get that script in front of a small number of new readers (for FREE) to see if the script has progressed to the point that they should consider entering again. Everything we do is to help writers get to the next level with their script.

This is not A.I.

We see the incursion A.I. is making into the space of analyzing scripts and making decisions on which scripts go forward. With the Gauntlet, we wanted to offer something instead that provides better results, costs the industry less money, and protects human creativity in the process. That's how we fight A.I. The Gauntlet harnesses human intelligence from respected individuals throughout the industry, combatting traditional siloed decision making.

Why readers really dig this

Innovate - Innovate - Innovate. That's one of ScriptHop's core values, and we wanted to do something groundbreaking for this process. The readers love how the Gauntlet works. They don't have to deal with emails, Word documents for coverage, having several applications open at once, or any of the other unnecessary pains their normal reading day jobs confront them with. The system simply queues up their next script and they're good to go.

We've introduced amazing software that makes Gauntlet analysts' reading process seamlessly accommodate their own personal approach; much like writing, analysis is a creative process, and the Gauntlet's software ensures that each individual's approach to analysis remains just that. As analysts tap on a selection of text, they open an interface to leave a note, reuse a note, drop a pin to return later, or even leave an emoji. Emojis might seem simplistic, but receiving a laugh-out-loud emoji from an A-list writer about your comedy is one of the most satisfyingly visceral reactions you will receive.

When leaving a note, the system walks the reader through quick tap panels to easily identify the issue and either, check a box, if it's a common issue, or, leave a manual note if they want some nuance. This helps the Gauntlet categorize and find commonalities between reviewers. All of these tools are designed to keep the reader in the moment as much as possible, yet give them the flexibility to add nuance to their process. It also then allows the system to provide guidance for the writer in the writer's final report. This guidance offers the writer lot of information about the issue and suggestions for how to solve for it.

At the end of the read, the platform takes the reader through an interview process, reminds them of notes they left, and makes it easy for them to review and leave final thoughts. It even cross checks and suggests if they may be grading too harshly or too generously given their notes. The final stage is to RECOMMEND or PASS on the script, which helps determine if the script goes up to the next level of The Gauntlet.

What readers really like is that the Gauntlet doesn't require them to do the laborious and less illuminating parts of typical script coverage. They don't have to write loglines, synopses, or character breakdowns. They reserve their creative energies for their analytical process, giving their full attention to the script's assessment and the effort of helping to improve the script.

Knowing the analysts' value, we also strive to pay readers well and offer incentives to encourage them to promote scripts they like. Via pooling the consensus of their opinion, these individuals become true tastemakers of the industry.

Other notable things

All Gauntlet scripts are intelligently matched with readers. So, if you have a sci-fi script, it will go to those eager to read science fiction, and perhaps not the romcom enthusiast. We strive to align for age, gender, race, and LGTBQ+ pairings, as well. It's not that those are the only readers we want reading those scripts (i.e. there's value in "cross-pollinating" with an analyst or two who love character-driven dramas), but we want to make sure people who love your genre are in the mix of readers on that script's Gauntlet structure.

Those who participate as readers in the Gauntlet get first looks at scripts that perform well. We pay analysts for their service, and we also pay the established writers (functioning as Level 3 Analysts) and development execs a very fair wage to give good notes on a script. The agents, managers, and producers participate so they can get that first look to find the next great script or talent. These analysts see how the scripts they read perform, but they are also alerted as to how other scripts in the Gauntlet are doing — especially those performing well. Any reader can search for scripts that have completed their run through the Gauntlet, which is helpful for organizations they work for. If an actor is looking for a 'golf' script, an agent participating can search for one.

After a script has had an opportunity to be discovered within the group of Gauntlet readers, it will then be made available to vetted industry professionals looking for scripts. They will be able to search the Gauntlet for scripts via score, genre, or keywords. They can also subscribe to "The Gauntlet Weekend Read," which is an email that will go out every Friday afternoon with the scripts that scored well for that week. This weekly resource can be finely tuned to their interests. For example, all horror scripts with a Gauntlet Score of 70 or above.

Where is this going?

This is just the first iteration of The Gauntlet, and plans we have on board will be taking this platform in new directions. Our current focus is to scale the system, however: we'll be gearing up more vetted readers and optimizations that allow us to handle 20K scripts per year, if needed. Another goal is to achieve cost reductions that make it more affordable for the writer but also allow us to pay readers more. This means revenue streams from the industry itself, which we are working on.

In the near future, we will go beyond features and venture into television. TV has become a more complicated process than simply writing the pilot, these days. Most shows need more substantiating materials (like a pitch deck) than a pilot script to get off the ground. We also plan to welcome novels into the Gauntlet, as there is so much overlap with I.P. and books turning into films or series. This will require a bit of a different skillset and a different bandwidth from our analysts, as there are different parameters to consider.

With all this growth, we look to fortify walls that protect the industry against AI that threatens everyone (even, and perhaps especially, the execs who seem far too flat-footed as they face the same ramifications).

What does it cost?

Our introductory pricing is $380 per script entry. This might seem more expensive than the average coverage service or contest, but if you compare it to the costs of submitting to several script competitions or other services, it quickly becomes apparent that you get what you pay for with those services, and that the Gauntlet is on another level in terms of its offerings. The Gauntlet is, as we mention on our website, for those readers who want to "get real." We pay our professional readers a more-than-competitive rate and a good script could get up to 17 readers! Even scripts that don't climb the Gauntlet, all get at least 7 people who actually work in the industry to look at their script. These are industry insiders that most people never get access to.

Changing the game

ScriptHop and its supporting Advisory Board wanted to offer writers a system for discovery that is different from any other service out there — one that really is a part of Hollywood. With the Gauntlet, you're not getting a bunch of unpaid interns reading your scripts (while advertising big name readers). The readers listed on the Gauntlet page of our website are the ONLY people reading scripts. The Gauntlet is an honest reflection of Hollywood and that can amount to tough love, at times. However, we want to offer the tools to learn and do better so the Gauntlet is not only a potential path to industry success but also a safe one that offers the unrelenting truth in a positive way encouraging growth.

I wish everyone great luck and can't wait to report our first success stories.


Brian Austin
ScriptHop CEO