View Full Version : FEEDBACK
11-19-2001, 06:40 PM
I had an experience at Zoetrope, which I’ll explain further on. First, I’d like to set it up.
When I first joined Zoetrope, I realized the reviewers I got were inexperienced writers, who were no help. They just rambled on to reach their two hundred-word minimums, so they could get the four required reviews they needed to post their own script.
By the time I realized this, I only had a few days left before my script’s time on the site was up. Desperate, I zipped a zmail over to an experience writer and made an offer to exchange reviews. He agreed. His feedback was very helpful, as mine was for him.
Now, I keep a list of the top reviewers, those who score a rating of 4.5 and higher. Each month, Zoetrope post the names of the top reviewers. So far, my list has the names of about fifty members. At any given time, about five to ten of these members will have a screenplay that’s live on the site.
Okay, that gets us to the meat of this post. I sent off a zmail to five of those members, who have scripts that are live. I told them I’m an experience writer, who knows how to give an exhaustive and insightful critique. That I’m available to analyze their script, if they’re available to review mine, when I post it in December.
Four members replied yes, and one member asked for a logline and how many pages. I’ve been on other Internet workshops in the past, where I’ve received this type of request before... and it bugs me.
I rather receive, “No, I’m not available.” Then, “Yes, I’m available, but I’m picky.” Now, I know what you’re going to say, “That member is smart to ask.” My feeling is a workshop is where members are supposed to help each other to improve their work.
Some of you will say, “Maybe a member would feel they lack certain strengths in a particular genre or story to give valid feedback.”
-- Nonsense. I’ve heard this excuse before too. If you’re a competent, experience writer, you should be able to identify problems in any genre or story. Problems such as: structure, plot holes, boring or unnecessary scenes, underdeveloped characters, over/underwritten scenes, dialogue, and descriptions, etc.
If someone gave me a story about gay men to review, should I say, “I’m not able to critique this, because I’m not gay. I feel, not being familiar with that subject, I won’t be able to point out problems and offer suggestions that would improve your story.” Nonsense.
Like you don’t have to be an expert in the comedy genre to review comedies, because of the reasons I’ve stated earlier. Also, you’ll know if it’s funny or not, by if it makes you laugh.
Same with the Horror genre, if it spooks and scares you, it works.
My feeling, for a workshop to function, as a member, you must be subjective enough to handle many different genres and stories. To be successful in a workshop environment, you must develop relationships with other experience writers.
The point I’m trying to get across to the aspiring writer is that before you send your script out to the professionals in the business, feedback is crucial... crucial... crucial. Did I mention it’s crucial?
To achieve this, offer to critique another writer’s script, which, if done correctly, will consist of multiple pages of feedback.
Don’t be picky, or you might end up like the woman who asked me for my logline and page count, no reviews.
11-19-2001, 07:23 PM
Are you saying that we should post on AZ or not?
I, for one, stopped going there because i found a closer network of folks (many who are regular posters of this site) who provide feedback. I always found the AZ concept, while noble, quite flawed. There's almost a tacit agreement, I think, that the hardcore AZers give each other good ratings and such.
I might be wrong. But I've not gone back in four months since I found out that I put much more time into it than I got back.
11-19-2001, 07:39 PM
I know it's frustrating when you can't get all the reads you want. But right now I'm looking at it from the point of view of the people who wanted to see the logline first. Those people, highly-rated reviewers, get asked to review a whole lot of scripts, and most of them are an unpleasant chore to read. We all have some scripts we are required to read for various reasons. For instance, I belong to a couple live, in-person writers' groups where everybody has to read everything another member submits, regardless of genre. On Zoetrope, those top rewiewers you want to get to have done their required reviews, and probably many more above and beyond the call of duty. Under the rules of that organization, they've earned the right to spare themselves some reading they have reason to believe they're not going to like, because they don't like the genre, or because the writer didn't know how to choose an inviting concept.
When you pay somebody, they have to read your script, like the idea or not. But when you're trying to get a favor read, just like when you're trying to get an agent or prodco read, you have to convince them that your script is going to be a positive experience and not an excruciating one. That's why choosing a good concept and writing a good logline are so important. It makes all the difference in whether or not people who have a choice in the matter will choose to read your script.
11-19-2001, 08:21 PM
I was just giving advice on the importance of quality feedback and how to develop relationships to obtain it.
It sounds like you already have develop relationships, where you won’t need workshops like AZ.
For those who do, the best way to get it is by what I described above.
I’ve found the members who are on the top reviewer’s list, were able to identify problems and give sound advice to fix it. Almost on the same level as a professional analyst that you would pay 500 dollars for.
I’m just pointing out, these top reviewers would like to get 3-5 thorough reviews of their scripts also. To get that, they would have to review another experience writer’s script. Unless they accept an offer from someone, who says they got the experience to give it to them, they might end up with insufficient feedback.
Of course, if they have developed relationships at AZ and don’t need to line up component reviewers, they could afford to be picky. But my guess is some who have an attitude about it, and are picky, are going to end up with no reviews.
11-19-2001, 09:17 PM
I've been on AZ for two years. I've reviewed over a hundred scripts, although a half dozen or so were informally by email. In the beginning my reviews weren't good. I skimmed and I hurried, but as much out of lack of experience and fear of sounding like an idiot as anything. I got better at reviewing as I improved my writing. I have also gotten some worthless reviews--but if I get one thing that stands out for me, I count it as a winner, even if the rest the review is horseshit.
I have a number of people who read me regularly and I assure you I haven't had the good (or bad?) fortune of them pasting high scores on scripts that didn't merit it. The people who work me over the hardest are the ones I encourage to read me again, and I try to read them. A half dozen people or so writers have received more than two reviews from me. The rest the reviews I've done are a mishmash of new writers or repeats who've requested me to take a look.
I've gotten choosier because I learn less from the bad scripts than I used to. Yes, I wade through some even though they're painful because there's a promise I see or an idea I enjoy even if the execution is bad. And sometimes I read the bio or see the person's posts on the boards and want to be supportive. But by and large, I look and think carefully before I review. Why?
Because every review is a commitment of 4-5 hours of my time. As my writing has improved, I learn less from the bad scripts and want to spend more time reading the pros. It's like playing tennis. You don't mind playing with a complete beginner sometimes, but it's not very stimulating once you're at an advanced level. So you do a few good turns, remembering you were there once. But you also look for people a couple swings ahead of you so you can be challenged while you review.
There's nothing nefarious about most people there. They're looking to get feedback and improve their writing. Like life, some people take their commitments more seriously. But nobody owes anybody and nobody's entitled. Any review given conscientiously--even short or inexperienced--should be received graciously. Make like AA. Take what you like and leave the rest.
Always give twice what you expect. If you receive half what you hope for, you'll be light years ahead.
And if AZ doesn't meet your needs, so be it. It's one option. Not the only door.
11-19-2001, 11:00 PM
Joe's advice is good. I used to use Zoe. But it was WAY too time consuming. (Sorry I sent you there, Blue.)
IMHO, the only way to get something out of it, is to get to know the better writers, like Joe said. I was fortunate enough to attend a conference where I met a lot of the writers face to face. We still keep in touch and review each other's work.
HOWEVER, I have found certain writers right here at DD to be much more helpful.
11-19-2001, 11:41 PM
Janea, don't apologize...in fact, your feedback of my initial rough script was the basis of my first rewrite.
I just got lucky, i suppose, because i ran into lots of folks since then who have been very supportive and helpful in my development process.
on AZ, i just didn't get very candid feedback. however, i do agree that it is helpful if you get back what you put in and...if you don't know many people who can provide you feedback, a good source to get initial reaction.
11-20-2001, 08:26 AM
You try to do WAY TO MUCH mindreading, which is bad for your mental health. You presume to know why this person asked for the logline and length. You presume to know counter-arguments to your post. Maybe this person is competent AND experienced and just doesn't want to review certain genres or long stories. Who are you to tell them what they should want? The critique police? If you are good (as apparently this person was based on her scores), you get to pick and choose.
I'm available and I'm picky.
11-20-2001, 09:51 AM
And on a different subject, it looks like there really are some producers trolling the water at AZ.
From moviebytes ezine vol. 5, number 23:
Bruce Meade has been a member of Francis Ford
Coppola’s American Zoetrope "Virtual Studio"
workshop since June 22, 2000. In August 2001, his
original comedy feature, "In A Nutshell," was
optioned by Custom Productions due to exposure on
the Zoetrope web site.
11-20-2001, 05:59 PM
RayGivler, you missed the point to what I was saying to the experience writers out there. I’ll repeat it again, and this time I'll try to be more clearer.
Feedback is crucial, before you send your script out to the professionals in the business. You need to develop relationships with other experience writers to get valid feedback. One way to do that would be to make contact with other experience writers and offer to exchange reviews.
Those top reviewers are aspiring writers just like you and me, who also need feedback for their stories.
If I have my story posted on AZ, because I need feedback, and I was contacted by someone, who said, “I’m an experience writer, who knows how to give an exhaustive and insightful critique, are you interested in swapping reviews?”
My answer would be, “Hell yes!” Just like the 5 out of the six, who jumped at this offer when I contacted them.
Now, for the 6th member, who asked for a logline and page count. This tells me she’s picky, which means she’s not someone worth developing a relationship with. If everything meets her criteria, then she might bless you with her review. You don’t want to establish relationships with writers you can’t count on. It’s a waste of time and effort.
The point I’m trying to make to the aspiring writers is what to do and not to do, in order to develop a relationship with another writer.
Oh, by the way, the 5 reviewers that I lined up to review my story, already have 3-6 reviews on their own stories.
The 6th member, who was picky, has 0 reviews for her story.
11-20-2001, 06:39 PM
The problem i found with AZ is that it's somewhat forced feedback. lemme read 4 scripts so that i can upload another.
joe, your assumption that this one person who didn't read your script because of logline and length issue seems odd. you seem to fault her for rejecting your spec.
i have the opposite view. i'm always so grateful when someone offers to read my specs...no matter whether that is just one page (and spends like 2 hours on that one page) or the whole spec or somewhere in between. as far as my feelings go, them reading the script is doing you a favor and not the other way around. so your feeling of being jilted is unfair since this 6th person may be quite busy.
now you are also equating lots of reviews on AZ as a positive sign. i disagree. sure, more opinions may be good. but when i posted my old specs, i consistently got ratings of Very Good or higher (and this was when i was bad). so i stopped going, not because i didn't like the ego boost from the readers but because their reviews didn't teach me how to improve my technique.
that being said, being on AZ (i've been told by those who endorse it) helps someone's development. just not my cup of tea.
11-20-2001, 07:36 PM
Blue: I didn’t say she rejected me. She asked for a logline and page count. I ignored her request and moved on, because like I stated above, she wouldn’t be worth developing a relationship with. If someone is going to be interested in only in reviewing a certain genre or page count, they won’t be worth establishing a relationship with. That’s all I’m saying. This isn’t about rejection.
I’m just using my experience with that 6th member as an example to point out to experience writers, what to do, and not do, if you want to make connections and get good feedback for a story you have posted, or for a future story you plan to post. You don't want to end up isolated with no reviews like that 6th member.
Well, I just don't see why it's so wrong to ask for logline and number of pages. So easy to make a first good impression when you have a good logline and 95 - 120 pages. This question you will hear many times. And it bugs you...
I'm a picky one too. Couple of times I agreed with two different writers to swap rewiews. I diligently pointed at all flaws and... got lambasted for doing this. No feedback on my script, naturally.
Now I prefer to send my scripts to a professional consultant, so far, I'm happy with that.
Recently I agreed to read a script of another MB member and as a result my rewiews from "Very helpful" dropped to "Somewhat helpful". I couldn't care less, it's not my goal to be a top reviewer.
And I still review scripts on Zoe when I feel I can help to writer to improve the story or format. My rewievs are rarely flattering, because, I don't beg for swapping.
Joe, you are an experience writer, BTW, shouldn't it be "an experienced writer"? but you are new on Zoe, one might assume, that you are new to screenwriting.
Giving to that lady your logline, you could have one more helpful review. I'm off to Zoe to find her script, read it and review it.
11-21-2001, 06:41 AM
Olga: Of course you have the right to be picky; I’m not saying no one does. I can’t believe after all I’ve written about this they’re still some people who don’t comprehend the point I’m making.
I’m just giving advice on the best way to make and keep connections. If your too picky, experience writers, who are the people you want to give you feedback, are not going to have a relationship with you. It would be a waste of time and effort. “You can send me this one, but don’t ever send me that one. I despise comedies.”
You may find yourself with o reviews, like that 6th member. This is exactly the position I’m trying to advise other writers not to get in. When you have a screenplay you need to get to a producer or agent, but you must get helpful feedback before you send it. You don’t want to end up with 0 reviews.
I’m not new to screenwriting. In fact, I’m one of those top reviewers. Also, I can prove this.
I gave a review to a Zoetrope member, by the name of James Barrett, who said, “I’ve been a member at Zoetrope for two years, and your review is the best I’ve every received.”
If you still don’t believe me, contact me in the one and one forum, and leave me your email address. I’ll send you the exact copy of the review I gave him, or you can zmail Barrett and ask him yourself.
11-21-2001, 07:55 AM
<!--EZCODE QUOTE START--><blockquote>Quote:<hr> Now, for the 6th member, who asked for a logline and page count. This tells me she’s picky, which means she’s not someone worth developing a relationship with. If everything meets her criteria, then she might bless you with her review. You don’t want to establish relationships with writers you can’t count on. It’s a waste of time and effort.<hr></blockquote><!--EZCODE QUOTE END-->
Hmmm, I don't think being 'picky' necessarily translates into someone 'not worth developing a relationship with.' Picky could mean- my time is limited and I don't want to review 200 page scripts. Picky could mean - I really really hate stupid teenage comedies filled with juvenile sexual gags and the ever-present breast shots of whatever starlet they hired to show them. Picky could mean- I'm busy working 50 hours a week as a proofreader/copy editor, commuting another 10, working on my own material and I really don't have the energy to devote to newbie writers.
I'm new to screenwriting, but I'm an experienced editor when it comes to prose fiction. I've learned my lesson over the years; when a writer <!--EZCODE BOLD START--> I don't know personally<!--EZCODE BOLD END--> contacts me and asks me to review their story, I have my own set of questions for them. 1- How long have you been writing? 2- How much editing have you had in the past? 3- How old are you? and 4- How much education have you had?. Once those questions are answered, then I'll let someone send me <!--EZCODE BOLD START--> no more than<!--EZCODE BOLD END--> 10 pages of work for an intial review. Believe me, I can tell in six paragraphs how experienced a writer is, but with 10 pages I can determine the gist of whatever they're trying do and determine how much time and effort they're going to require.
Maybe Miss Picky was just being careful about how she spent her time, Joe. And I'm not sure I follow the whole 'establishing relationships' vibe you mentioned. Yes, if you're going to trade reviews back and forth, you <!--EZCODE BOLD START--> hope<!--EZCODE BOLD END--> to find someone as dedicated and serious and committed as you are. But, let's be honest- not everyone is as driven as we are. I think it's a little harsh to be judging her based on her own (unknown to you) criteria for accepting scripts.
She probably has her reasons.
11-21-2001, 10:02 AM
Also, Olga, one of my scripts was good enough to be a semi-finalist in a competition, and at this moment, another one of my scripts is at Broder Kurland Webb Uffner (BKWU) being considered for representation. I don’t know what gave you the impression that I’m a beginner. Do my past post sound that unknowledgeable?
My views on the points you made, I've already discussed.
I'm not going over them again.
Anyway, the last thing I would like to say, which should be obvious, is that when an experience writer, someone who could help you improve your story, contacts you, and you’re busy with 5 other reviews lined up, it’s okay to say you’re not available at this time, but maybe we’ll be able to connect in the future.
The advice I gave on one of the ways to develop relationships is available for you to use or ignore.
E J Pennypacker
11-21-2001, 10:10 AM
I've personally joined AZ a couple of times, but still haven't found the time and commitment to read one script let alone four.
When I go there I just feel a pang in my head that says "you should be reading and writing your own stuff not other peoples". Yes, we all need feedback and comments, and if you can get legit sources to throw them at you, then that's okay.
I think if I had the time, I would expect AZ to be a hit-and-miss affair. Yeah, sometimes you get some good reviews and sometimes they are horseshit. It would be just like paid script coverage. Some companies are rip offs, some on the other hand, aren't. You take your chances and roll the dices.
Joe, I understand what you want to say. But...
"I'm just giving advice on the best way to make and keep connections."
And you post that you just ignored someone, which is not very polite thing to do.
" If your too picky, experience writers, who are the people you want to give you feedback, are not going to have a relationship with you."
"If you're too picky, experienced writers..." Did I just pissed you off? I'm afraid, I did. Yet it wasn't my intentions.
I just wonder, what is your reaction on a negative review, if one simple request of your logline bugs you so much. I do have relationships with writers via private e-mail. Opinions on my reviews are always welcome. I might be wrong, stating something.
Before a reader opens a script, he reads a logline. It's natural. You said, she didn't reject you, just asked for logline and number of pages. And you ignored her and furthermore, rambled on public board about this. Why to take it so negatively?
I'm not new to screenwriting. In fact, I'm one of those top reviewers. Also, I can prove this.
I believe you. Why should you lie? Why shouldn't I believe? And I wish you best of luck to get an offer. :)
11-21-2001, 02:00 PM
I'm going to point something out. Many of you have the luxury of being a full-time screenwriter. Personally, I work 50 hours a week at a day job. Add to that a social life and family obligations, it leaves me very little time for writing.
I completely understand the importance of feedback and reciprocal feedback. And I would not ask someone to read my script if I was unwilling to read theirs. However, I would not critique a stranger's script unless the logline appealed to me.
If it appealed to me, I could read the script easily, it would be a way to relax after work. Read it a second time, write a review. If it was a story that even written wonderfully would not appeal to me, it would feel like work, and it would take much longer, and my review would be less flattering. I don't have that extra time, I don't want the extra work, and they don't want my unfavorably biased critique.
11-21-2001, 03:48 PM
actually few here have the luxury of being full time screenwriters. most of the posters here do have jobs and families and what not. the number of people here i know who write full time, i could count on one hand.
11-21-2001, 06:35 PM
If you wrote to her and said you were an "experience" writer who gave insightful reviews, why the hell should she believe it?
In fact, I think you should develop a relationship with her because she demonstrated discretion. You're taking her reasonable request for a logline and page count too personally. I mean, dude, I'd hate to see how you react when you get the Heisman at a bar.
11-21-2001, 07:29 PM
I said I wasn’t going to go over it again, but I hate being misunderstood.
Let’s not lose focus for the purpose of this thread, which is developing relationships to get quality feedback.
At workshops like Zoetrope members put their scripts up live on the site in order to get feedback from other members.
If you just put your story up for reviews and sit back and wait for them, from my experience, they’re mostly no help. If you want quality feedback, without paying for it, then you’re going to have to work for it.
I’ve suggested keeping a list of all the names of the members, who score a rating of 4.5 and higher. A reviewer, who has a rating of 4.5 and higher, has proven, according to their peers, that they could be helpful in improving your story.
BlueParrot feels the ratings could be misleading, because of agreements, where members would inflate the numbers for each other. From my experience, I’ve seen no evidence of that. These reviewers do deserve the rating they get.
I admit there are groups of members that work together, but that’s because they’ve developed relationships through zmail and chat room contacts. Don’t be surprised to see these members get 8-13 reviews for their story. When you’re searching to swap reviews, and you notice this, I would skip contacting them, only because they have so much feedback, they probably wouldn’t need your offer to swap reviews.
The next step would be, say after 6 months you have a screenplay that’s ready for feedback. Meanwhile, during those 6 months you’ve been collecting names of the top reviewers. Let’s say you have 50 names on your list. Out of that 50, only 5 to 10 will have a script that’s live. These are the members you start contacting, because they’re searching for help to improve their script also. You don’t contact all 50 members.
Contact these 5 to 10 members by sending a zmail. You tell them you’re an experienced (thank you, Olga) writer, who knows how to give a thorough review. Would they be interested in swapping reviews? You’ll get a high percentage that will accept.
If you contact a member who’s picky about the genre, page count, or whatever, I would pass on them. They have every right in the world to be picky. All I’m saying is you got 9 other names on your list, who might be more flexible and accommodating to help you improve your work, now and in the future.
Now, of course, if you boast that you’re an experienced writer, who could give an exhaustive and insightful review, you better be able to back that up.
If someone takes you up on your offer, and they realize you’re bogus. You could find your name slandered in the chat room, and a warning about you spread around by zmail, where other writers will run for the hills when they see you coming.
It’s important that you gain experience and knowledge in the craft of screenwriting, so you’ll be effective in the process of swapping feedback.
This doesn’t mean just because you don’t have the knowledge to give a thorough review that you shouldn’t contact other members. By all means, contact them, just be honest about your experience and that you’d appreciate any help.
The advice I gave on developing relationships is just my opinion. If you decide to go about it differently, and it works, cool. Whatever gets you quality feedback, that’s what important.
11-21-2001, 10:16 PM
That could be a good way of getting helpful feedback.
11-22-2001, 06:11 AM
Bless you, Joan. You’re truly the Mother Teresa of this site. Now I can get some sleep.
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