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Friday 19 February 2010

The Nightmare Of Script Feedback

When I give you my screenplay to read; I desperately desperately need you to say "wow, this is GENIUS! Are you Billy Wilder in disguise?!!?!?!" It's the only thing that will do, I must be told how wonderful I am. But, paradoxically, I know the script is far from perfect so if you do give me anything remotely resembling praise, I will shut you down, scream at you, and tell you you're insane.

What you might say, is that this is all a bit tricky.

I have a trusted group of friends who I show my screenplays to before I send them out on a wider scale. Feedback from each of them varies. For example, on my feature script this week, one person gave me a seven page analysis detailing every thing she loved and hated. Another friend told me an anecodotal amusing story, before telling me I'm very wonderful. Another friend jumped immediately into what was wrong with the script, which made me immediately confirm with myself that, yes, I am the world's worst writer and should give up writing and become a babysitter or a person who says "Can I help you?" when you're browsing for shoes. It took me a while to realise that her feedback was pretty correct, and that I am still a writer, I just need to fix some little errors. Another reader thought the script was great but my lead character was an asshole. That wasn't quite what I wanted, especially by the end after he's meant to have, y'know, learned life lessons and become wonderful.

I find it hard to figure out what is personal taste/preference, and what is bad writing. For example, I wrote one character as a really crazy, weird therapist. When you read it, you can't help but have an opinion about him. The thing is, half of the readers have said "it doesn't work, he's not realistic," and half of them have said "oh my god! The therapist scenes are amazing!" So what do you do? The problem is that it's scenes like this which could turn off a reader/producer/studio, but then again, those scenes could be the very thing that that is different and exciting about your script. It just depends who reads it.

I think that everyone having such wide and varied opinions is a good thing. If everyone came back and said the same scenes were awful, or that all the characters were boring; then there'd be a problem. But the fact that people focus on different bits and pieces they are not sure about; I don't mind so much, it's exactly how it is when you come out of a movie theater. I do, however, have a clearer idea of some of the areas where I've messed up, or given too much information, or not enough information.

And I'm now about to embark on a second draft; but with the confidence of knowing I've written something that, for the most part, is very good and quite moving, which was what I was hoping for.


  1. I have no clue if this is a helpful comment, but:
    I read that things such as screen plays and songs have a better chance of success when people have a love it/hate it reaction than if everyone just "likes" it. Passion about something is key.

  2. The whole "taste/bad writing" thing is what made school very difficult. It gets to a point where you really have to start be harsh with yourself with a script along with sending it out to certain people. Post first-draft is the most difficult, emotionally.

  3. I know what you're sayin'. I feel the same way about my English essays.

    Best of luck on your second draft!

  4. Regarding your therapist character--I think that when something is so polarizing and creates so much discussion then it's a good thing! To me that's usually a sign that something is good, it's getting people talking!