Screenwriting : Two personal feed-back "rules"...:) by Victor Titimas

Two personal feed-back "rules"...:)

It's based on a post I read here, but I also remembered about some feed-back I received myself back when I was a member of peer-to-peer review sites.

Not all feed-back there was awful, and I did receive lots of awesome feed-back that was so great, it really made me think and it showed me things about the screenplays I never saw before. When this happens, it's wonderful. Sometimes it's not, and I apologize if it's too long, these are just a few ideas..:)

1. DON'T TELL ME IT SUCKS. DON'T TELL ME HOW MUCH IT SUCKS.
When I decide to submit a screenplay for feed-back, it's usually because I know there is something wrong with my screenplay. Had I been truly so sure I wrote the best screenplay since these were called scenarios, why bother with seeking feed-back at all?

Wouldn't I just jump in and submit my screenplay to major studios and wonder why I never get any success? So I think when you submit a screenplay for feed-back is like going to a doctor. It's similar in many ways.

Nobody sees a doctor because he/she feels awesome or there is nothing wrong. The same goes when seeking feed-back. And no doctor(I hope) goes around humilliating his patients about how they got into that situation.

I recently watched a show about people who had serious weight problems and needed to see a doctor. But the doctor didn't belittle them or humilliated them or told them:"You look like shit! You eat like a pig, you filthy bastard! What did you expect?".

No, he was more like:"Ok, let's see what we can do. I think you should lose some weight, you need to follow this diet and we'll see if you need surgery".

Same goes for a dentist. I've been to a dentist and he didn't come across as arrogant or scolded me about the state-of-mouth. He was(like the show doctor) more like:"Ok, we need to fill this cavity, this tooth needs an extraction. This one can still be saved, but might need some filling later on, etc.".

Same for screenwriting review. Give competent advice, critique if need be, but always treat the writer with respect. Always remember that behind the screenplay you received, there was a writer who tried his best, but still needs to do some work. So don't tell them it sucks. Rather, tell them why does it suck and how to make it better.

I don't know about you, but if I ever come across a doctor who starts to insult me and really give a harsh review of my condition and how I got there, I would do my best to never see him/her again!

2. NEVER GET PERSONAL. NO PERSONAL QUESTIONS.

This one happened and it's usually related to the first one. "What do you do for a living, I hope it's not writing?", or "You need to either improve your writing really fast or find a non-writing job asap". Hold on a sec, who are you exactly? We're not friends. This isn't a date.

So what's with these questions? You don't ask them because you care about me, you ask them to support your oppinions or confirm biases. Unless I come forward and give you really personal details, you have no right to ask. Not unless we become close friends. And never make assumptions.

Owen Mowatt


Question:

Why submit your work to a peer review website, expecting qualified professional responses from people you don't even know??

Would you submit your health to a person who isn't a qualified doctor?

The ONLY lesson you should be learning from this experience, Victor, is DO NOT give your work to people you don't know. Even the advice you consider "good" could be BAD and set you back years in understanding and learning the craft.

Victor Titimas

Owen, thank you for answering this post! Those websites were free and many people submitted their screenplays there for review.

I just "discovered" screenwriting and it seemed(I think it still seems) to me that just about everyone knows about screenwriting more than I am, so I really believed they can help and give reviews that would help me improve my scripts. You're also right about everything else you wrote here, for which I thank you again!:)

Laura Scheiner

When you put your work out there for public review you have no control over the type of feedback you receive or who you'll receive it from. The best thing to do is just take and apply what resonates with you and shake off the rest - including the insults and rude comments. If you don't want someone insulting you or your work then I suggest you don't request feedback on a public forum.

Steve Cleary

I see no problem with posting material onto these types of boards. If anything, it's a good way to develop "rhino skin" and be discerning of helpful feedback against blatant opinions and empty criticisms. Like Laura says above, shake off what doesn't serve you :^}

Tony S.

I find a fallacy of logic in correlating a professional to amateurs. Professionals are educated, trained and hold licenses in their profession. Amateurs are not.

If seriously ill, one goes to a doctor not someone with training in First Aid. Same for a dentist. Who would have a neighbor who read books on dentistry rooting around in their mouth.

I have a CPR/AED/Basic Life Support/First Aid certification. The first thing you learn is call 911, do CPR/AED as needed until the EMTs arrive. I saw the study guide for the advanced ACLS certification and my head was spinning. There are dozens of EKG traces with minor differences requiring different drug pushes and procedures. The ACLS cert is limited to EMTs, RNs and doctors, and for good reason.

We're in complete agreement about the nature of providing feedback when asked, but people are people. Feedback about my work from readers has been mostly positive, but sometimes I've been mercilessly trashed. (I paid for that!) However, I take reader's notes far more seriously than from a peer, and no longer seek peer review.

There's a peer review website out there where the feedback is pure, ill-informed twaddle.

There have also been reverse situations when peers crowed about a script that lulled me into believing the work was "Citizen Kane" only to find out that competition readers did not share that outlook.

Dan Guardino

There are two kinds of people that ask for feedback. There are those that really want help and there are those that just want someone to tell them how talented they are. There are two types of people that like to offer feedback. Those that want to help other screenwriters and those that just want to put other people down to make themselves appear more knowledgeable and successful than they really are . Those people just tell them the negative stuff that they are doing and often criticize the screenwriter. If people want to give helpful screenwriting advice they should say what the screenwriter is doing right along with what the screenwriter might want to change or work on. People should critique the material not the screenwriter if they want people to listen to their advice. That is just an opinion from someone that doesn't ask for feedback and doesn't like offering feedback.

Tony S.

We all inhabit one of four categories. What a relief. I'm pleased to live in a such a reductive community.

Martina Cook

It’s a shame you don’t give more feedback Dan Guardino, because your help was a stepping stone for me. I learned more thanks to your feedback than reading books and attending courses on screenwriting. We need more pleople like you, less talk and more do, who shows us how it’s done and we can learn from. If you start a feedback business let me know because I’ll be your client! Joke aside, I’ll be forever greatful (you are in my Oscar acceptance speech, lol) :)

Phil Mitchell

Is posting a Log-line, a Synopsis, and a full script a good idea?

Dan Guardino

Martina. I am glad to hear you found my feedback helpful.

Kevin Carothers

Phil M; Be sure to copyright before putting something "out there". And make sure it's marked as copyrighted. You can even watermark each page with the copyright ID if using Final Draft (even MS Word, if you're using that.)

Dan Guardino

Kevin. I would not read a screenplay if someone watermarked each page. It is like saying please read my screenplay but I don't trust you.

John Ellis

I agree with Dan Guardino . Emphasis on protecting the rights, esp. to someone you've asked to read your stuff puts a bad taste in my mouth. Sets the wrong tone for the relationship. And in reality, two things: no matter how unique you think your story is, it's NOT. There really is nothing new under the sun. And, the chances of someone plagiarizing your story is so slim as to not be a concern - it's too much work and too risky to attempt.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Sigh. Your screenplay is already and immediately protected under "copyright" the very moment you write it, the very moment you create a fixed work. When you register a work with the LOC you are registering a claim of copyright, not getting or purchasing a copyright — a common misconception. Sure, many people prefer to register a claim before making a work public, but it is voluntary. AnyHOO... agree with Dan G and John Ellis. :)

Phil Mitchell

Is placing your script with a lawyer the same as registering a "claim of copyright", or just another method of "registering copyright"?

Kevin Carothers

Phil Mitchell I AM NOT A LAWER.... But; as I understand it, you must register a copyright in order to sue someone for copyright infringement. Yes, you automatically claim "copyright" to a work, but if you send off a copy to your lawyer, (s)he will probably file your work anyway with WGA or copyright.gov and charge you a ton of money. but by filing, you enjoy the following;

Evidence of Validity.

Bringing a possible Infringement to a federal court
If you sue and win, you can claim Damages and Attorneys’ Fees.
It Creates a Public Record.

At least, this is what I vaguely remember when working on a patent - I had to know the difference between the two.

Phil Mitchell

The thing is kevin Carothers, I'm in the UK I am wondering if the laws of copyright in the hands of British lawyers are different from the USA.

Kevin Carothers

Ah! Phil Mitchell, that is just slightly different!
Interestingly, the U.S. used to offer copyright protection with its copyright office to British subjects. Back in the 30's, lots of British writers would purposefully have a US "partner" to get this protection.

These days, I think most writers go to
https://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/protect
It's almost the same cost as what we pay here.

Hope this helps. Again, I'm not a lawyer.
But, I'm assuming British lawyers are as expensive as U.S. lawyers.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Phil M, check the LOC website, you can register yourself, easy peasy. And UK/US copyright is recognized by each country — there's a treaty. Here's LOC: https://www.copyright.gov/registration/. And check UK registration. Ask a local lawyer to help with any questions that you might have. ;)

Beth Fox Heisinger

Getting back to feedback... personally speaking, I struggle with the whole health or doctor comparison thing... not really the same... and it rather implies there's "one way" to write. Or that there are a fixed set of "right" answers—a diagnosis—which is not necessarily true in such a subjective field. But... me, I'm not looking for anyone to "fix" anything. I don't ask for feedback with that in mind. I'm just asking for general thoughts or opinions from specific people, not the general public. Or I'll seek feedback if I have a specific question. Or if I need help with aspects outside my purview. But with all things, it depends on context. For example, if you are hired then feedback takes on a whole different relevance. Lol! ;) So, Victor, perhaps ask yourself... why are you seeking feedback? Is there a specific element you are struggling with?

Phillip "The Man Who Can'" Hardy

Victor:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. In 2012, I began using the now defunct Trigger Street Labs. This website allowed the screenwriter to upload and review other writer's scripts, as well has have their scripts reviewed after reading a set amount of peer scripts. If I remember correctly, you were allowed to pick a preferred genre. Otherwise, what you received to review was random. I remember thoroughly reading other scripts and providing generally positive feedback. And, I always attempted to be mindful of people's feelings.

As with the scripts I read, the Trigger Street feedback I received was all over the map. Though nothing was overtly insulting, there were clearly differing levels of effort made by the readers. One of the most surprising reviews was from a reader that wrote many pages of notes. This clearly took the them many hours of their time to do that. And, the feedback was very thoughtful. However, since my script was about Angela Davis, a controversial public figure, many people that committed to read my script never followed through on it. And Trigger Street allowed readers to changes scripts if they didn't want to read what they received. However, one man that did review of the Angela script has become a dear friend. He lives in Germany and visited me during the 2016 Austin Film Festival.

In my desire to be sensitive and constructive with my Trigger Street reviews, I read a script and provided the writer with some very positive encouragement. Apparently, I was the only one who did, as he told me in a thank you note. My reward for this was receiving initial gratitude, which morphed into exceedingly strange emails and letters to my PO box, which morphed into the obsessive behaviors of a stalker. This person also sent me an inappropriate artifact and their letter's became nearly indecipherable. I remained patient and encouraged this troubled person to seek help.

As several other posters have stated, when you put your work out there to strangers you meet online, you're opening yourself a myriad of experiences, good and bad. This also goes for working with other writers, producers, directors, agents, managers and actors. Therefore, it's always advisable to vet people out (if info is available) before working with them. On the flip-side, over the years I've met some tremendously talented writers who are now friends and confidants. Though I don't often share my work with them, when I do I know I'll receive feedback delivered with respect.

Dan Guardino

Phil. Years ago I sent a couple of scripts to Trigger Street only to get some nasty feedback from some rank amateurs. I optioned the WEB OF DECEPTION screenplay to Jonathan D. Krane (John Travolta's Manager/Producer). Unfortunate for me Travolta had some studio commitments so my screenplay died in development.

The other one that received negative feedback on was called GLASS HOUSE and that one was optioned by Justin Henry company. Justin Henry played the son in the film "Kramer vs. Kramer" and Molly Ringwald's brother in the film "Sixteen Candles."

Personally I don't usually ask for feedback unless I am working with them but in reality nobody knows what will sell or when so people should take feedback with a grain of salt especially if it is coming from someone you don't know on the internet.


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