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  • Writer's pictureLee Hamilton

The Feedback Dilemma: How Handling Feedback Can Make or Break Your Chances

No one likes to be told that the screenplay they’ve spent countless hours writing needs more work, that things don’t work, or worse, that the concept just isn’t original enough.

No one.

Getting feedback on a script can be a real mood killer because I’m pretty sure that every writer believes that their script is totally awesome. in reality, they very rarely are. 

I’ve been there.

Getting notes from producers, directors, even DOP’s, always feels like someone else is trying to take over and change the script for the worse. But after that initial burst of anger, the “how dare they”, and the “I’m not doing it!” dies down, common sense prevails and you can start to see that maybe some of the points being made are perfectly valid.

Most professionals in the business know story. Sure, everyone has their own little biases and preferences (it’s what makes it so subjective), but if a pro reader is telling you that it’s hard to root for a character because the stakes are too low, they’re probably right. If in doubt, get feedback from numerous sources. If everyone’s mentioning the same issues, then like it or lump it, there’s an issue.

Now, not every note or comment should be taken as gospel. If recommendations are going to take a story off into a direction you don’t want to go, you need to stand your ground. Too many cooks spoil the broth, as they say. It’s through experience that you’ll learn which battles to fight and which to let go. Sometimes sacrifices need to be made if it means actually getting a script produced. Being able to justify a story decision will help you win those battles, so always know why the element you want to keep is essential to the entire story.

I’ve found, that in general, I’m usually telling writers stuff that deep down, they already know. They just needed conformation that yeah, there’s a lull in the drama after the midpoint, that some character motivations are a bit iffy, or whatever the core issue that’s holding the script back is. If you’re able to take constructive criticism (the bits that are going to improve the story at least), take other people’s knowledge and make it your own, you and your writing are going to come on leaps and bounds.

On the flip side, other, less experienced writers, have a hard time swallowing good advice. They take it personally. They know better. The reader “just doesn’t get it” (almost always because they didn’t make it clear in the script). These are the writers that are going to have a hard time collaborating on projects, making industry contacts, or writing anything decent. No one wants to work with someone who’s inflexible, stubborn, unrealistic, or a diva, and film production takes years. That’s a long time to spend with someone you don’t get on with and the real reason that filmmakers usually work with the same crew/friends throughout their career.

Don’t be that writer!

Do people give bad coverage? Absolutely. Even script readers have to start somewhere, and it’s practically a minimum wage job, so you get what you pay for a lot of the time. But keep in mind that most script readers only have one objective – and it’s the same as yours – to make the script excellent. They’re not making a personal critique about you, they’re assessing the marketability, production value, and enjoyability of a product you've created. It’s only ever about discovering what serves a story best.

Now, go be the writer that everyone wants to work with!

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