New horror project: feedback

Well, we’ve gotten feedback from two of our first-draft readers so far.

It was great!! Wow. You guys really put some work into this piece and it shows. Excellent job on many levels … I was intrigued, involved and enjoyed the ride. Felt like a mash-up between Gremlins and The Descent. I don’t think you’ll have any problems getting the right people behind this script!

Of course I lead with the most positive points, and leave out the dumb things he said like “make it better” and whatnot. 🙂 Seriously, he gave us some great feedback, pointed out the weak spots, gave us direction for the second draft but overall, the review was pretty positive.

Then came:

I think it’s a great first draft. No real notes on structure, some scenes need to be a little more kinetic though.

Somewhat more reserved, as you can see. This reader is an asshole, obviously, and doesn’t realize just how groundbreaking this script is.

He’s actually another good friend whose opinion is much respected and appreciated. While overall he feels the structure is good, he likewise pointed out some specific scenes that needed their pencils sharpened, and has set us on a path of unbound betterization.

Interestingly, both readers focused on similar issues:

The opening scene, which is a flashback to “crazy old lady’s” childhood and introduces the creatures (without actually showing them) needs to be bigger. Interestingly, we didn’t intend the scene to function as an “origin story” for her obvious psychosis… we just thought it was a tasty mood setter. But of course to an outside reader, when you’ve got one crazy whackjob character who’s obviously been emotionally traumatized and you don’t offer any other clear explanation as to why, then the one flashback scene of her as a child witnessing scary creatures will be percieved as her “origin story”. As well it should.

Let’s be clear… hers is the kind of psychosis that could function quite handily in the film without any “watershed event” explanation (she is a secondary character, and what’s important is that she IS crazy, not WHY is she crazy). But if you DO offer a flashback, it will be so assumed. Thus, since we want to keep the opening flashback scene, we aim to make it function as her “origin story”, which means it’s gonna get longer, nastier, and more explicit.

Mmmmm. Juicy goodness.

Next, both readers expressed dissatisfaction with the pacing of the final action sequences. Which was to be expected… as you may recall, we slammed out the last 35 or 40 pages in record time… like 5 or 6 days. So while our left margin in the early half of the script was more artistic (more “haiku”) our latter half read more “Hemingway”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… short declarative statements in the left margin move the action, set up the beat/shot rythm, and keep things moving. But we rushed through it and could have been more artful in our vocabulary and structure… could have presented more of the “good Hemingway” and less of the “lazy Hemingway”. This would have made the action and resolution more engaging to read and invest in and (hopefully) more successful for the readers.

One interesting point of feedback was on our “rusty plot device” moment… the harrowing crossing of the gorge. One reader said that for him, it did feel “deus ex machina”, and that although it was the most dynamic and dramatic scene in the juggernaut through the woods, we should lose it because it felt contrived.

We found it hard to understand why one would want to remove the most dynamic and dramatic scene one has going in a series of action scenes. It’s clearly doing 98% of what it needs to do. Why not rather tweak the scene to make it feel less contrived? We appreciate the feedback… it’s good to know the scene isn’t settling into the story structure quite as seamlessly as it might. But remove it? Okay, bath water’s gone… anybody seen the baby?

So we’re looking closely at that scene to ensure that it continues to deliver on dynamism and drama, while also “working” in an organic manner.

There were other more specific points of feedback and clarification from both readers, but ultimately we’re pretty pleased so far. The things we knew were weak or rushed are what stood out for them, and there were no real surprises. The story is solid, the structure is sound, and the characters are mostly working. Time for some  minor remodeling; it’s not a tear-down.

We’re still pending feedback from a couple of other readers but we’re ready to start working any day now.

Title and synopsis to be posted soon!

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