In a previous column, I wrote about Criticism and how it is an effective tool that can bring your writing to a new level. In this article we’ll talk more about how to Read Between the Lines. Many times the issue that people have with your script is not the real issue. Here’s how you can avoid criticism that can turn your script into something completely different and hinder your progress as a contest winning screenwriter.
There are Four Things you should keep in mind when taking in any critique of your script. But, before we get into that, realize this; the story you write is your creation, it’s your product. You can make changes to your story based on all the comments you’ve received; you can ignore them all or find some balance in between. There is no set of rules to go by, the choice is yours.
What you should keep in mind is that if several people are suggesting the same changes, you may want to take that to heart. For example, if several production companies explain that your character development is a little slow getting off the ground, it would be worth it for you to revisit that aspect of your script.
So how do you take the criticism that will actually help you improve upon your work, without losing the core of your story? Let’s begin.
First, understand what the person reading your script wants. Everyone has an agenda. It’s quite possible that a producer is culling through a sea of screenplays to find a specific script for a certain actor. In that case, they are giving you feedback on your script that would help tailor it to that talent.
This isn’t easy, but ask questions – when possible – to glean their strategy. It may be win-win for both of you, or a losing proposition on your end. Either way, recognize that certain genres of scripts appeal to different audiences and a producer has to play that game in order to take it from script to screen.
Second, if there are massive changes being made to your script’s scenes, with little impact on your characters or dialogue, it could be for budgetary concerns.
As an example, I had a script that a director was interested in, but had pages of notes that covered changes throughout the entire script. I finally asked why they were requesting changes that had little to do with characters, and more to do with the actual scenes.
The answer; they had a friend who had access to a specific location and wanted the script to be tailored (for free) so it could be shot there. The deal didn’t go through because many of my locations were germane to the story and it was clear they were interested in a “location first, story second” approach to making a movie. In the end, what they wanted was a completely different story than the one I had written. No harm, no foul; that’s just how it is at times.
Coming up next: We’ll finish up the final Two Things that will round out you mastering the ability to Read Between the Lines to help you craft a quality script.