006 – Script Feedback

In today’s episode I discuss the process of receiving script notes and how you should implement them.  And trust me, the advice is as varied as the feedback people can provide on a script.

I didn’t set out to create definitive labels for the various types of notes a writer can get, but I did try to set them apart from one another. This isn’t a comprehensive list, just ones I thought of while preparing for this episode:

TYPES OF SCRIPT FEEDBACK

  • Surface Level
  • Actionable
  • No Proper Context
  • Story Spine
  • Personal BS
  • Tools/Craft
  • Valuable
  • Preferential Bias
  • Trustworthy
  • Note Beneath The Note
  • Do This  – But No Explanation As To Why
  • Voice/Style
  • Scene Specific

If there are any more you can think of, or have some thoughts on the ones I’ve listed, put them in the comments section.  Or even better, discuss a time/situation when you received notes you weren’t sure how to process or implement.

EMAIL: eclipsethescript@gmail.com

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  • Scott Serradell

    You know. I realized something about the screenplay while listening to this: There is NOTHING to scrutinize until the screenwriter has labored to materialize it. After that, everyone has their fucking opinion…

    For myself, it probably took me a good year/year and a half of writing consistent feedback before I started wising up and really began to pay attention to — not only what I was saying — but how I was delivering it. My initial reviews on Scriptshadow were nothing more than the ejaculatory pretentions from a bloated ego. My posts may have gotten a reaction — but it was the wrong reaction; not only did it not service the writer but, for younger writers — those fresh off the boat, as it were — it probably did a lot of deflating harm — because here’s this articulate asshole who thinks the writer’s work is oozy shit; meaningless drivel exactly when it needs to do the opposite.

    So perhaps to expand on a previous post here, let’s ask, as readers: Who are you READING for?

    The problem with a majority of amateur readers is bound in the saying: A little bit of knowledge is dangerous. Meaning basically: They THINK they know what they’re talking about. They’ve read a book; they’ve taken a class. They’ve basically dipped their feet in the ocean and believed they swam in it — and that leap from knowing nothing to knowing a little something is intoxicating — and suddenly you want to share it with everyone. I get it; I’ve been there and done that. It’s a hard and long lesson to learn, but you get through it.

    On the other hand I’ve received amateur reviews for my OWN work that drilled directly into my themes, my possible intentions, and presented ideas (not SOLUTIONS) that deeply resonated with what I was trying to say. AND they gave me fresh perspectives. These reviews are rare and I was pretty floored after reading them (and, ironically, each one of those started with “I’m new to critiquing a script so bear with me…)

    So. When I read a script from an amateur writer now I try to find as much information as I can beforehand; the “overall story intention” you mentioned. I figure if I know that — along with any influences or genre aims — I can only do my best to steer them to towards their goal. That’s not my opinion, that’s using my knowledge and experience. Big fucking difference.

    In sum: All feedback is meaningless unless it can be applied. And do you, the writer, feel it can be applied to the story you want to tell?

    • Linkthis83

      Really enjoyed this post, Scott!

  • Kirk Diggler

    Anyone who gets the same note 5 times on their script and ignores it should reconsider, because I think that is highly unusual. It’s easy to tell yourself, “one reader understood my intent” so i guess that means keep it.

    Not so sure, and since we are only talking about the hypothetical and don’t have a working example it’s hard to truly form an opinion. But I do think saying, “well the gatekeepers will unilaterally reject your script without giving a reason, so what difference does it make? I’m sticking to my guns.” I disagree.

    The readers kind enough to give you notes are the gatekeepers before the gatekeepers. They’re telling you something isn’t working. Ignore it at your own peril.

    This sounds like the ‘I can’t kill my darlings syndrome’. Five separate notes targeting a specific scene is a lot. Sometimes ‘intent’ doesn’t matter when your measure the macro vs the micro. Favoring the micro because you’ve become attached to a sequence that the majority of readers tell you isn’t working is not a good strategy for spec writers.

    • Linkthis83

      I sure hope you got that my stance is to do all the other note assessing advice before choosing to ignore a note. And that the writer should take into account those who are giving the similar note.

      I even gave an example where I got repeated notes about an opening I wanted that was ultimately not landing, and deciding that I should make the change regardless of how excited I was about the opening.

      Mostly, I was just saying there are going to be times where you are allowed to stick to your guns because of something you believe in. Maybe I expressed that part poorly.

      • Kirk Diggler

        I don’t think you expressed it poorly, probably more about my listening comprehension. Sometimes when i listen to podcasts, I do so while doing other things as well. So at the end of the podcast one of things that stuck in my head was the ignoring of a repeating note and the ‘sticking to your guns’ meme. So I didn’t have the full context of everything you said. 😉

  • Levres de Sang

    Enjoyed the show, Mike. Also want to thank you for mentioning loglines and your “first act” belief; because while I also felt this way I realized that I wasn’t actually applying it in practice!

    As for feedback, one thing that intrigues me is how long should we wait before implementing multiple notes? I guess it differs from writer to writer and from project to project, but I do sometimes wonder if people tend to action notes too quickly? I’m sure that being able to do so is a necessary skill at the professional level, but personally I prefer to let notes marinate for a week or two. Let the dust settle, so to speak. This ‘cooling-off’ period also means we’re more likely to view them without any of the negative associations we may have felt on first look (as you mentioned in the show).

    • PQOTD

      From one marinater to another, the longer the better, imho. Not just because of negative associations, but so I don’t reach for the first thing that comes to mind.

    • Paul Clarke

      I would definitely recommend against any knee-jerk changes. They always feel patched on and incomplete and break up the overall flow and tone. And in the end it’s like patching the sinking Titanic with a band-aid.

      I can tell you, as a reader there is no greater feeling than giving some constructive notes and having the writer come back a couple of weeks later with a new draft and they corrected all the issues pointed out with their own unique ideas that fit with the overall story. They are the writer, it is their story, and so they come up with solutions that work.

      The problem with many notes is that they come from writers, who tend to offer solutions of their own. Whereas the true purpose of a good set of notes is to highlight the issues. The problems. And suggest solutions or techniques, but to ultimately leave that part to the writer.

      The other difficulty is knowing the difference between a problem and a symptom of a problem. Many do not differentiate between the two, and so they end up running in circles patching up symptoms, while the true problem lies unresolved.

      (Keep up the great work Mike!)

      • Linkthis83

        Thanks, Paul.

        I’m definitely one of those people that offer suggestions to things I see as story problems. And I’m quite specific with the suggestions too. I can’t help it. If their work has inspired me to make a suggestion that I think may better their script – I gotta make it. Because I feel it’s completely up to the writer to decide if it’s useful or not.

        I don’t want to rob the writer of any credibility, or imply they won’t be able to come up with it, but I don’t know – I would feel remiss if I didn’t offer the suggestions. Plus, I have the tendency to read scripts like they’ve been assigned to me.

        I first read to let the writer do what they are trying to do – but once those bumps occur that slow me down – I start noting. And noting leads to solving. It’s how I’m wired. But I do always try to add the caveat that they are merely suggestions.

        Thus far, I’ve had good experiences with it too. I boldly posted to Steffan what I feel the setting, structure, and character intro should be for his script. He basically used all of it, with his writing flair/ability. Carson even gave him a shout out about his character introductions.

        I certainly know that he would’ve solved it on his own, but I feel like I helped. And that’s why I did it.

        Essentially, my reply here is to justify why I’m allowed to do it 🙂

    • Linkthis83

      I’m with you on waiting. Sometimes I feel there is this disconnect in the writer’s mind between understanding how much work took them to get the script where it is and how they should take time to understand how to implement the feedback. It takes just as much thoughtful effort to be effecting in applying feedback.

      I really dislike when writers try to update their drafts between AOW and AF based on the feedback (minus typos and obvious stuff). Most of the times those changes aren’t done well and take away from the things I like about the script to begin with. I think the thing it effects the most is TONE – the tone of the note implementations don’t fit with the overall tone of the script.

  • Edward

    “I think that you should write to represent you, not popular feedback”

    Great point Mike. A writer should take as much feedback as they can get and try out the varying notes on their script. But at the end of the day, if you’re confident in your choices, you have to stand by what you’ve written despite what others say. Otherwise you’ll end up with something bland that pleases no one.

    Looking forward to your next episode.

    • Linkthis83

      Thanks, Edward.

      All of this stuff is a risk. Even all the stuff readers agree are working for your script could be held against you when in the hands of people that make decisions about this stuff. That’s why I don’t worry about it so much. Maybe I should be more restrained when doling out the advice, but, it’s not a science. And I know the majority of feedback comes from a good place of what people think are best for other people’s scripts/stories.

      But we gotta write what we want, the way we want…right? Just makes sense to me.