This is a true story: it happened about two years ago.
Phone rings. I pick up.
PRODUCER: I’m going to kill you. And then I’m going to kill all your progeny to make sure your inherited evil does not infect the rest of the universe.
I’m unfazed, naturally. That’s just how I roll.
ME: What’s the problem?
PRODUCER: I have a writer here CRYING.
PRODUCER: Because you said the character of the mother in the script was a shrieking banshee with the subtlety of being hit round the head with a hammer. And a brick.
ME: She asked me for my honest opinion.
PRODUCER: You weren’t supposed to give it!
This is an interesting one. As one of the foundations of our society, it’s always thought “honesty is the best policy” – but is it really? My writer here wanted to be told her character was brilliant, for it was based on her own (dead) mother. I didn’t know this at the time of course – and actually, I hadn’t mentioned how terrible I thought the mother was in the actual notes. I’d said instead that the mother “required some work” and made a couple of recommendations on how *I thought* best to do this, as is customary in note-giving. It was only later, when said writer phoned me on my mobile to ask me my “honest opinion” that I gave it. Well, she DID ask.
Seems to me that we put so much of ourselves and our own experiences in our drafts that it’s hard sometimes to separate that from personal feelings about the notes we get. Notes are never an attack on the writer – it’s how a reader feels about the SCRIPT, not you. We all hear about vitriolic readers making personal attacks but in my experience this is quite rare. Most readers want to help a writer, give them a springboard on which to get new ideas and new approaches to a draft.
Yet we all fall into this trap. We all want to use our scripts as an extension of ourselves – if the script is received well, we must be “good”. If a script is received poorly (or an aspect of it is), then we must be “bad”. But this is not the case. I will never forget the tears I shed over one script that was “ripped apart” by a reader when I was about twenty one. I was DISTRAUGHT. Now I revisit the script and that reader’s report and see not a personal attack, but actually a very helpful set of recommendations on how to reapproach the story.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Your script is FROM you, but it’s not actually YOU. It’s a script.