Chronicles 4 - Feedback - Unadulterated Praise Please!
The Script Consultant
Somewhere around the:
5th October 2001
I sent out a polished, first draft to my trusted script consultant. I had used him on a previous, (first ever), screenplay and, on that script, I had made the mistake of sending it out too early. That first-time script got me meetings in Hollywood but the feedback that I got mirrored the feedback that I got from the script consultant. The lesson here for me was to make sure I send it to the script consultant first so that the problems are fixed before getting 'notes' directly from the market place.
The script consultant is a former Hollywood development exective, writer and producer. He's not a micro-detail, line-by-line feedback man but he has a good sense of story and charges a relatively low fee i.e. under 200 bucks.
So a week or two later I get an email back with the main 'notes'.
"Finished your script. GOOD WORK! Here's the headlines:
* Your writing is of course SUPERIOR. Funny, deft, witty etc. I enjoyed it a lot."
Wow, great! Bring on the unadulterated, uninhibited praise! I've made it! Time to send this baby out there, right?
"The script though is long, sometimes "bumpy," overly literate (you're too smart for most of the world-I'd lose a few big words especially the foreign ones.). It needs tightening/ grooming/clarity".
Okay I can do that...damn, there's more...
"* The protagonist's trajectory may need a bit of streamlining. At times the effort's for unfulfilled ambition, then it seems to be for love. His decision to abstain from his ruse then getting sucked in again may lack a certain discernibility (ie: sometime hard to follow his trail). He hustles the money too fast and maybe even out of context/order of events. Sometimes hard to pinpoint the core arc throughout in this regard. (can you send me a quickie "beat sheet" on his arc for our call?)"
...this is starting to sound like hard work...
"* Things often come off too silly in this script thus infringing on story credibility. Some examples cited on tape. COULD USE MORE REALITY THROUGHOUT. THIS MAY MAKE YOU SICK BUT I'D LIKE TO FEEL HIS PAIN AND FUTILITY A BIT MORE. AND EXPERIENCE THE DISCOVERY OF THIS CRAZY IDEA OF HIS (BORN OUT OF DESPERATION) AND WATCH IT EVOLVE IN A MORE CREDIBLE WAY. HE HAS NO CHOICE. EVEN HE DOUBTS IT WILL WORK. HE HOLDS HIS BREATH AS HE TRIES. IT BEGINS TO HAPPEN. IT WORKS. HE BENEFITS. IT'S "BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR" TIME. IT GOES TO HIS HEAD. THINGS ESCALATE. IT'S REAL. IT COULD HAPPEN TO US".
God, does this ever end?
"* THERE'S TOO MUCH SUBTEXTUAL "SNICKERING" IN THIS SCRIPT. AREN'T WE CUTE--LET'S LAMPOON EVERYONE WITH OUR SUPERIOR WIT (forgive me). AS IN MOVIES LIKE TOOTSIE & SOME LIKE IT HOT, YOU NEED A SMART COMBO OF OFF THE WALL COMEDY AND ENOUGH DRAMA TO MAKE US CARE.. AND BELIEVE WHAT'S HAPPENING'S REAL".
"* The protagonist's shennanigins (towards the end) somehow begin to feel unattractive. We need to get a sense of conscience and (coming) growth".
What happened to the unadulterated praise?
"* I'm pretty lost towards the end".
Jeez. It was all looking so good a few seconds ago.
"Anyway we obviously have some things to discuss".
The bold emphasis is mine.
"Again good work!".
Yeah, right, thanks for nothing! Hey, I pay for praise not criticism!
I'm (half) joking of course. What I really would have liked, at the time, is a few polish-like notes that would have entailed a few superficial tweakings before I send it out on an eagerly awaiting army of assistants, readers, agents and producers who are short of a script or two to read. " A script! Wow. Haven't read one of those in months. Sure, send it over, I'll read it tonight".
Dream on, buddy. It's back to the drawing board for you. See Chronicles 3