Getting feedback from a screenplay consultant or reader can be humbling, and confusing. Maybe even a little demoralizing.
Knowing what to do with screenplay feedback can be crippling.
Partly because it’s just words on a page. Just like an email or a text message, written feedback doesn’t provide an opportunity to discuss and clarify, so if the screenplay consultant misunderstood something, or isn’t clear in their recommendations, you’ve got no recourse. You’re left to interpret (or misinterpret) to the best of your meager ability… or simply discard what could be valuable feedback.
What can you do about it?
* This post was recommended and redistributed by the fine folks at BlueCat Screenplay Competition.
We hear it all the time. If you want to write a better screenplay, get feedback and listen to it.
But I promise you this: the feedback you get from contest readers, other writers, and even friends and family will not be consistent. Readers will contradict one another, you’ll get mixed messages even from single readers, and figuring out how to use any of it to build a better screenplay will be overwhelming.
A few years ago I attended a talk with Sony’s Sam Dickerman. My favorite observation of his was that when producers say “That’s great, but can we add aliens somewhere?” they don’t literally mean “add aliens”. They mean they’re looking for something spectacular and unexpected, and it’s your job to understand what result they’re looking for, and find ways to deliver on that while remaining true to your story (and yourself).
So what do you do?
In my original article “10 Things To Think About When You Option Your Screenplay” I included the passage:
“…negotiate the rights to any changes or alternative versions created by the producer or on behalf of the producer during the option period. In other words, if the script reverts back to you, so should the rights to any changes made to the script while the producer had it. Otherwise, you’ve got your script back, but the producer potentially still has rights to their version… and now you’re in competition with another version of your script that you don’t control. That’s not a place you want to be.”
But was I right?
I recently received some guidance on that point from Adam Levenberg of HireAHollywoodExec.com.
“Technically what you wrote is not correct. In the case of rights reversion, you are not competing with the ‘producer’s draft’ because the producer does not have the rights to shop, sell, or produce their version. But you are correct that without proper language in the contract, the producer does hold on to the rights to those ‘producer drafts’.”
I thought you should hear more from Adam, so I’m turning the blog over to him. Here’s what he’s got to say.
“beautifully written … unusual and unique … terrifying, gruesome and disgusting … well-rounded, complex characters”
[Faeries is a feature length horror screenplay, and is available for option or purchase.]
We’ve received a third round of notes from another Bluecat Screenplay Competition judge. We received our first feedback from Bluecat (see it here) a few weeks ago, and took the opportunity to make some adjustments based on those notes, and resubmit (Bluecat is great about that… your first submission gets notes from two readers, and writers can resubmit their screenplays for a third opinion after making modifications if they choose).
This third set of notes confirmed the success of the adjustments we’d made, and echoed the positive comments of those first readers. We’re proud of the terrific reception the screenplay is getting, and wanted to share the notes here. Emphasis mine.
“…awesome, intense, unusual and original … sickly satisfying … [keeps] the audience at the edge of their seats … the only way to do horror movies”
Our horror screenplay Faeries has received coverage from the BlueCat Screenplay Competition … two sets, actually, from two different readers.
The BlueCat competition is a terrific contest, and the dual coverage makes it well worth the submission price. They’ve got a great philosophy of dedication to improving the writer’s craft, and I consider them to be one of the top 5 competitions worth submitting to. This note from founder Gordy Hoffman says it all:
What can you take from feedback from two people? Will it actually provoke more questions than answers? Perhaps. It’s profoundly revealing to me the very serious principle of subjectivity, the idea that everyone is simply a person providing a reaction. Take what you can, look again in a week, and take some more. Keep pressing yourself to learn how to listen to your audience. It’s the most overlooked skill of the screenwriter, and highly invaluable. – Gordy Hoffman
So what did BlueCat have to say? Here are a few selective excerpts*.
“…the horror builds … an unusual creature … well written … above average … there is much to like here.” Faeries gets some lovin’ from the SlamDance judges panel. Faeries, possibly the best unproduced horror screenplay about pack hunting, echo…
“Compelling, terrifying, disturbing, beautifully written.”
We’ve recently submitted the as-yet-unproduced Faeries horror screenplay to a few competitions, and just got the first set of coverage notes back. We think we did pretty well, and it only makes us more confident about the script.
This is from the WildSound Screenplay Competition. We appreciate their kind words!
**** SPOILERS ****
If you haven’t read the blog post Birth Of A Genre: Cowboys and Aliens, read it now.
Since that posting, we’ve seen Jonah Hex:
The U.S. military makes a scarred bounty hunter with warrants on his own head an offer he cannot refuse: in exchange for his freedom, he must stop a terrorist who is ready to unleash Hell on Earth.
Followed by Priest:
Chip Street gets small (but very much appreciated) mention in Script Magazine
Jeanne Veillette Bowerman wrote an article on the Script Magazine website, profiling two of my very favorite Twitter buddies, Julie Keck and Jessica King, a writing team collectively known as King is a Fink.
Julie and Jessica have been incredibly successful building a social media presence, and it’s led to some real successes that otherwise may never have been available to them.
Color me incredibly appreciative. The BlueCat Screenplay Competition Newsletter featured a synopsis and link to my 10 Things To Think About When You Option Your Screenplay blog posting. Can’t thank BlueCat enough … for the extra traffic, and for the…