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The Madness of Scriptwriting

Here’s interesting feedback I have received this week so far (and it’s only Tuesday):

“What I like about this script is it’s tightly structured and draws to a satisfying conclusion.”

Compared with:

“I had no idea what was going on here, you need to decide on a path for your characters – and give them a destination too, there was no dramatic satisifaction to your ending.”

These were both for the same script by the way.

This WAS going to be an inspirational post about not letting the bastards grind you down, not everyone will like your stuff even if you’re good, etc etc, but sometimes it’s MORE fun to consider the responses your friends and colleagues make when you forward them feedback on your scripts (though these are not about the feedback above by the way, but other ones – some recent, some not):

“And who is this guy? Let him hope that I never meet him… Not because I am actually any physical threat whatsoever, but because I’ll definitely stare him out and make him feel weird, least I can do.”

“This is why anonymous, bitter readers should be outlawed… Or at least rounded up and shot.”

“I’m so angry on your behalf, I think I weed my pants a little.”

“Don’t sweat it. You needed this gig like you need a hole in the head – along with several rounds of dynamite and a crack pipe. Actually, I need the crack pipe just for reading that email. GIVE IT BACK.”

“Really, I’m impressed how helpful they’ve been… If indeed being helpful means stabbing your eyes out with daggers.”

My favourite bit of scriptwriting-related madness though has to be this one (though technically this wasn’t actually about script feedback). I was having a beer with a friend of mine, another writer, who took a phone call whilst we were in a bar. It went something like this:

FRIEND ON PHONE: Right, right. I remember you.

(Mimes to me: who the fuck is this guy?)

FRIEND ON PHONE: Oh, right. Yeah. Sounds an interesting, erm, project.

(Mimes to me: yeah right!!!)

FRIEND ON PHONE: Yeah, sure, sure. Yeah. Well, let’s set something up. My people will call your people. ‘Bye.

(Puts phone down, grins at me)

FRIEND: I have no people. He will never hear from me again.

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15 thoughts on “The Madness of Scriptwriting”

  1. Maybe it’s the responses from friends that need to be pinned on walls. Not the rejections and duff feedback?

    Makes a change from those posters of hanging kittens.

    And just remember. One day you will be rich and famous, or really rich and infamous. You can then get the ultimate revenge and make money off that bad feedback by publishing it in a nice little book.

  2. “…but because I’ll definitely stare him out and make him feel weird”

    Ah the subtle approach. Yep that would freak me out.

  3. Ah, feedback.

    Yes, Lucy. Feedback.



    Don’t worry, I still luv ya.

    Anyway your post put me in mind of when I was a editor of a magazine that had been going for a good few years and design-wise it was ancient. The Publisher didn’t want to change it but eventually we persuaded him (or maybe it was the falling sales).

    So we re-vamped it completely, made it bright, shiny and modern.

    And we got complaints from the readers: “How dare you increase the games coverage!” “How dare you reduce the games coverage!” and the truth was, of course, we hadn’t changed the games coverage at all.

    Incidentally, the statistic showing sales reverted from a monthly decline to a monthly increase.

  4. Two feedback letters from the same company:

    “There are very few serials in the television schedules, please send us something self contained.”

    “This felt very self contained, and we feel that without a serial element the audience will find it hard to engage.”

  5. Hah, I got similar feedback when I sent the same script twice to one particular place by accident back in the mists of time, just a couple of months apart. The first lot of feedback said:

    “This is visceral look at love and its consequences… The writer’s experimentation with structure and 1980s backdrop give this script a vital, intriguing feel.”

    Compared with the second:

    “This supposed love story suffers from its own state of depression in that very little appears to happen. Plus its 1980s arena seemed a bizarre choice if the writer were trying to comment on today’s youth.”

    YOUTH OF TODAY, hey???

  6. I just got feedback for a short story I wrote saying i should lessen the influence of Minority Report, which I’ve never seen or read.

  7. Yes iyt’s funny when that happens though not always something to be ignored I think – if people can see a very heavy influence even from something you aren’t aware of, there’s still the possibility you picked it up somehow? I was shocked to find once that I had written a chunk of The Shining into one of my scripts once – when the report came back, I hadn’t seen it but upon watching it, it did ring a few bells. It was the one where the lift is full of blood – I may have seen it as a kid or something maybe.

  8. Ironically, Will, that means you’re going to have to watch Minority Report in order to lessen its influence on your script.

    I’ve never been a reader, but getting paid to crush the dreams of others seems like my kind of job.

  9. Maryan – That’s certainly true, but upon watching The Shining sequence I did realise I had seen it before because I recognised it! Yet years later I still have no idea where I saw it.

    J&C – readers don’t crush the dreams of others, or shouldn’t do anyway. They *should* give constructive criticism. Since you hate everything, might that be a stretch for you? ; )

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