1) Consider the Source
If I hear one more person tell me that a friend of theirs who “works as a coordinator at XYZ and said...” I’m going to lose my mind. I’m not even sure what a coordinator does, but I’ve never seen one at a creative meeting. Years ago, my dad knew a producer named Arnold Kopelson who produced The Fugitive and Eraser. I’d written a script about a boy trying to get to Fenway Park for Opening Day. He didn’t like my script and I put it in a drawer. I realize now that asking a producer of action movies to look at your family comedy is like asking a psychiatrist to perform surgery on your knee. And then there are bitter people who just give terrible notes, which leads us to...
2) “I Will Not Chase Every Note I Get”
Repeat this three times before you get your notes. I see too many writers that feel they need to address every single note and then they’re surprised to find a hot mess when they’re done. I have an edict in all of my classes: “If you take none of my notes, your script will not get better and if you take all of my notes your script will not get better. “ Nobody knows your script better than you. Address the notes that make sense to you.
3) If Two Different People Have A Problem, It’s a Problem
Many times, a reader knows that there’s something wrong with a scene, but can’t quite put their finger on it. I usually ignore these notes. However, if two people or more have a problem with a scene and can’t put their fingers on it, that means the scene is not working. Rework the scene.
4) Don’t Be a Baby If They Don’t Love It
You asked somebody to read your script, not burp you. The more busy the producer, the less time they’re going to have to tell you how fantastic you are. Also, you asked them for notes to make your script better. If what you want is for somebody to love it, show it to your Mom. If you go into the fetal position every time somebody says something you don’t like, this business is not for you. There are many writers out there I know who are mediocre, but succeed simply because they can take a punch, get back up and get the job done.
5) You Wrote A Great Scene, You Can Write Another
Ah, the proverbial “Kill your babies...” This is an industry term for having to cut stuff that you love. What comes from being an experienced writer is the confidence that you wrote a great scene and you can write another. More than that, you can take out the one you love and put it in a file marked “Cut Scenes I Love” and recycle it later.
Lastly, getting notes is never fun and always means more work. It’s also part of the job. Writing for a studio can mean two rewrites (and those are just the ones they’ve contracted you for). Taking it personally is an enormous waste of both time and energy.
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