So last weekend I taught my “Breaking Into Script Reading Course” for LondonSWF … And what a weekend! I had a terrific time with some really switched-on delegates who brought their energy and enthusiasm to the room, two days just FLEW by and I had a blast.
If you missed the class, please check out the fantastic live tweet my scripty sisters @SoFluid & @BrideofChrist provided … Their thumbs must have been ON FIRE because they did approx 70% of the nearly ONE THOUSAND #Bang2write tweets over the weekend! Amazing. View the live tweet HERE and find out about other courses I’ve done HERE.
With script reading on the brain, I’m handing over to Pinar aka @zoeyclark for her thoughts on dealing with feedback effectively … Over to you, Pinar!
So you wrote your script. Edited and polished it. It’s something of a 4th or a later draft. You sent it to professional readers. And you finally, after what felt like years, you got back your coverage.
If you got a recommend, congratulations! If you have two recommends, congratulations squared. Please, work on rocking that one page pitch!
But chances are you didn’t get two recommends or two of anything. YIKES!
Saying your feedback was mixed is a major understatement. Well, welcome to the confusing world of script evaluations. Before you attempt at a rewrite, you’ll just have to accept some facts:
– Some notes will be more on the positive side.
– Some will hang on the negative side.
– But generally, it’ll be somewhere in between.
SO: Your script has strengths; it has weaknesses. No surprises there. What’s more likely to confuse you, however, is if you get evaluations from multiple readers. You will realize they can (wildly) disagree.
It happened to me. Out of the many different readers, including Lucy, I got a huge variety of reactions. How much variety do you ask? They should at least agree on certain things, surely? Like dialogue? Structure? Originality? Premise?
Nope. Not so much.
So, which people are right? The ones that gave you a consider? Or the ones that gave you a pass?
Before you panic, get on the defensive or get depressed, take a deep breath. Acknowledge this as a confusing, albeit extremely beneficial thing. It means your script has potential. It also means you still have work to do.
I can hear you. Aargh!!! But don’t start pulling your hair out yet. After distancing yourself from the story and characters for a while, you need to evaluate your evaluation(s) first. Below are my tips and observations on how to do just that:
1) Follow the “2 Or More” Rule
As Lucy points out in 5 Ways to Use Feedback Effectively, if 2 or more people point out a problem, there probably is a problem. But what if four people read it, and only 2 think there is a problem? Then you have to follow your gut. Still not sure? Maybe it’s time for a fifth lot of feedback.
Yes, it is expensive, especially if you don’t have seasoned screenwriter friends who will read your script as a favor. But this is one of the best forms of education you can get. Just make sure you know who your readers are and what to expect from them in terms of feedback. Luckily, most readers provide sample feedback on their site. MORE: Check out B2W’s sample overview script reports on the B2W Downloads page
2) Focus on the stuff your readers agree on
Pay attention to the suggestions on the good stuff and implement the suggestions on how to make them even better. The good thing about a mixed reaction is that there are positive comments. You did some things right. However, even good notes come with a “but”.
Here’s how I made the ultimate list of things to change, fix or improve:
I printed out all the feedback and highlighted the agreements. Then I counted how many made the same point, noted the degree it concerned them and why.
I did the same for disagreed on points, with a different color highlighter.
Then I got to work. MORE: All about rewriting & feedback
3) Always listen to YOUR gut!
Following up on the tip above, I listen to my gut. Chances are, some of the points will confirm your own suspicions about what worked and what didn’t.
When readers confirm your doubts, it’s time to take a deeper look into those issues. On the other hand, when they reaffirm the strengths you know your story has, it’s a good idea to stop the rewriting process on those parts. MORE: Why self belief and “can do” attitude is SO important
4) Don’t obsess over the official result
A pass doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to sell it. A recommend doesn’t mean you will. But when pitching, it helps to have a consider or a recommend. MORE: What PASS, CONSIDER and RECOMMEND really mean on script reports
5) Accept the inevitable
It took me a while to accept the reality, but I finally came to terms with all of the possibilities:
– The script may or may not be optioned or sold.
– It may or may not be made into a movie.
– You might give up on the story, or introduce it in another medium (as in a novel, a graphic novel, etc…
There are of course many other possibilities, but you get the idea. It all comes down to doing the best you can with the story and then moving on (at least temporarily) if you have to. MORE: 5 Ways To Keep Up Stamina For Rewrites (And How To Know When It’s Done)
Remember, your script has to remain YOUR story. You have to like it. You have to believe in it. Improve it to the best of your ability, but don’t change it to the point you don’t recognize it anymore. You can’t please everyone. And you can’t wow people with your pitches if you’re not in love with the script yourself.
After many evaluations, I can say that my screenplay has in fact improved a great deal. I’m currently working on the agreed weaknesses. And most importantly, I still love the damn script.
One pass didn’t cause me to ball up and cry. One consider didn’t have me running to the producers. There’s still work to be done and I’m happy to do it!
BIO: Pinar Tarhan is a freelance screenwriter. She’s currently working on the final drafts of a feature drama and a TV pilot. You can catch up with her on her blog, Addicted to Writing and @zoeyclark on Twitter.
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