September 17

WAITING….

There is a guy you know who knows a guy. You called him and he agreed to give you some feedback on your script. You worked for a year on this script; you know it’s a killer story. And you know it’s ready. So you sent it to him for feedback.

Unfortunately, the dumb S.O.B. isn’t giving you feedback. You’ve been waiting for nine days. Doesn’t he know you are on a schedule? Doesn’t he know you’re going to make whatever few changes are needed and have it ready right away to submit to that other guy you heard might be looking for something just like it? Doesn’t this guy care at all? I mean, he’s had it for nine days!!!! Christ, how long does it take to read a script? He’s screwing up your big opportunity. Right?!?

WRONG!

Try a reality check. First, reading somebody’s screenplay and giving notes as a favor is not on the top of anyone’s list. If it took you a year to write, why should someone feel compelled to give you notes in a few days? Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the script stinks and the reader has to figure out how to say something constructive when, if it were a professional read, he or she would just say, “Pass.”

Second, you don’t really need it immediately, anyway. You are going to get notes – you always get them. And the notes will send you into another month or six of revisions.

Third, the guy who is looking for something just like it isn’t really looking for anything like it, nor does he really have the ability to move on anything anyway. If he did, he’d have a thousand things just like it already. (Don’t write to the market. You will always be behind it.)

Fourth, this reader’s opinion is just one opinion. If you rewrite to satisfy the comments for each casual read someone gives your material, your story will be turned to mush quickly.

Here’s a better approach.

(i) Treat each draft as if it were the final draft. Submitting it for notes should be a significant event for which you have put in a fair amount of work to line up your readers.

(ii) Do not rewrite based on one set of notes that were given to you as a favor. Look at the body of notes and make decisions yourself. You will see a pattern to all of them that will reveal a great deal to you. (Of course, the advice is different if you are working on developing the script with a producer. His or her notes count, all by themselves. Even so, don’t be a robot. It’s your script.)

(iii) Take time between each reading draft. Count on your note-givers to take time to get you their comments. Work on another story while you’re waiting for all of the comments to come in. Count on taking time to think about all of these comments before you make changes.

(iv) Accept the fact that some people who promised to read your script will never get around to it. It’s okay. Do not be a jerk about it.

(v) Do not be anxious and make nonsensical changes every time someone gives you comments. Changes should be thoughtful and make a real advancement in the quality of the story. The difference between a serious first draft and a serious second draft should be substantial and dramatic.

Okay. Relax. It’s a process.

Enough. Now go write.



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Posted September 17, 2006 by TW in category "The Craft

2 COMMENTS :

  1. By odocoileus on

    So holding her at gunpoint til she gives it a recommend is wrong?

    (Good advice, as usual. Thanks.)

  2. By Dante Kleinberg on

    I agree completely. I find the best thing to do when I give someone something to read to just forget about it and keep working on something else. If/when they do get back to you, it’s like a little unexpected treat.

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