Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Being sanguine about notes

Got a plethora of notes on the first draft of a project I'm writing. My script editor was a bit worried I'd throw a wobbly about them, but I've learned to disengage any prima donna tendencies my ego may harbour. The notes were full of tough questions I need to answer, intriguing suggestions of ways to improve the script and not one of my weaker scenes got through unscathed. It means a massive, page one rewrite - but I don't mind a bit.

Because it's all about making the script better.

The opening sequence can be tighter and tauter? Great. Let's pump the conflict between two characters who spend most of their time together? Cool. The protagonist's reason for getting involved needs to be clearer and more consistent? Yes, couldn't agree more. I've got no objection to any of the notes given because they all make sense. Finding solutions for the problems highlighted - that's down to me, with the help of the production team.

When I first started writing, I expected every first draft to be perfect. I'd get irked when people gave notes or expected rewrites. Looking back at how naive I was, I can't help smiling. My attitude's completely changed, especially in the last few years. To me, a first draft is now nothing more than a work in progress, a rough diamond in need of polishing. The structure should be solid, it's the details that need honing and refining.

Got a big batch of notes? Welcome them, it's a chance to make the script better. That's what everybody wants, the best possible script. Remove your ego from the equation and rewriting becomes a much happier experience. Chances are there was a voice nagging at the back of your head when you were writing the first draft, telling you certain scenes weren't working or some characters lack drive or motivation. Good notes spotlight such flaws.

Got a bunch of notes? Get sanguine. Onwards!


Lucy said...

Another script editor?????

Were you thinking of me the whole time??????????????????

script doc said...

Sometimes, the best notes are the simplest. I've spent whole days in conference with script editors, emerging with page after page of detailed script notes. Nothing crushes a script more. The best producers I've ever worked with have been masters of the pithy, to-the-point script note. Two favourites: 'Where's the Southfork' (said of a complex, interwoven melodrama set in the business world); 'Take the brakes off' (said just before work started on the third draft of the script).
There's a difference between notes that are simply picky, overly fussy, and those that get right to the heart of the problem. Sadly, the latter kind are something of a dying art.

Jason Arnopp said...

To my mind, notes are a win-win proposition.

If they make sense to you, then great - they'll help you improve your script.

If they don't make sense to you, then ignore them. What's the problem?

I often agree with Julian Fellowes' suggestion, too: "Pay attention when someone tells you what's wrong with your script, but not when they tell you how to fix it."