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Old 05-25-2018, 02:56 PM   #1
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 320
Default “Producer pass” and notes

Hey all – I just delivered my draft.

Two things that I’d love to get some thoughts on;

- what constitutes a “producer pass” ? I am running into some issues with this definition because the producers are asking me to do a second polish on the script in order to send it up the chain. It is not a huge re-write but it is certainly not a typo re-write either. Do I just get on with it or do I raise it with my rep?

When does a writer feel that he or she is in re-write mode (ie a new step) as opposed to clean up mode (ie doing what’s right for the project)? Is it tangible?

- Do you always follow notes in an attempt to, quite simply, be easy to work with and please? Because I find that some of these notes are very subjective. Eg The most senior exec raised an issue that nobody else in the team had previously found to be an issue. And yet now it is folded into a set of collective notes and treated as gospel. This is obviously a larger issue that we always face – how to incorporate notes diplomatically. But in a more general sense, when a company send you pages of notes do you have to follow them or can you bring your own sensibility to the table? Do you have to explain why you don’t agree or ignore the note all together?
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Old 05-25-2018, 04:41 PM   #2
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 415
Default Re: “Producer pass” and notes

I've done a lot of producer passes in my time, and it's something they will always ask of you. You can say no per the WGA, but realistically it puts them in a position of sending something up the chain that they don't feel is ready and won't commit their full enthusiasm behind. To me, keeping the train running as swiftly as possible is worth spending another day or two or three. I always make it clear, though, that I won't do anything more than a very easy polish. Larger notes will have to wait. Your reps can reiterate that for you. Plus, that's a great way of eliminating their biggest notes until your next step.

The other thing to consider is.... that their notes might be good, even if they don't seem so at first glance. I reflexively assume exec notes will suck because f*ck them, they didn't write it, they don't know it as well as I do. But sometimes I've ended up with a better script because of that polish, and I was glad that I did it. Remember, they're giving your script the fresh read that you're no longer able to give after being neck deep in it for months.

Go with your gut. You can say no, and they can't force you. They also don't have to hire you again. You have to find the balance that works for you.
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Old 05-26-2018, 08:53 AM   #3
Join Date: Nov 2016
Posts: 84
Default Re: “Producer pass” and notes

If you say "No" to doing passes/polishes, is there the possibility that they will find another writer who might then be able to work in more significant changes to the point where you'll now be sharing credit?

I've been going through a similar situation lately. I'm more than happy to do the small changes suggested, as they have made the story much better. But in the back of my mind I wondered what I'd do if they were significant changes that I didn't agree with. I don't have a step deal, so there's that, too. I just have a basic option.
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Old 05-26-2018, 12:16 PM   #4
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 320
Default Re: “Producer pass” and notes

On a practical level I think it depends on whether they are happy with your work or not. If you have laid out a strong draft and they build on that then it is very unlikely that they would push you aside so quickly. If however you “shat the bed“ right out of the gate, or kept drilling at a draft that simply was not getting very strong responses, then of course they would seek to replace you.

I will say this however. Sometimes the producers/executives searching for multiple writers on a project is not a sign of the draft being weak or the writers’ incompetence. There could be many other reasons. For example, I was just sent two drafts of a project by two separate writers that needs a rewrite. Draft number one was subpar. Draft number two however was excellent and frankly I don’t know how to better it. But the script has not been made and it is a somewhat DOA project. So to me it is obvious that the producers are just banging their heads against the wall hoping that writer # 3 with a magic wand will come around and convert it into gold. Essentially this is frustration with the project’s fate. Rather than something inherently wrong with the writing.

For me it is important to be flexible enough to incorporate great ideas and thoughts that are not my own - if I did not have the humility to do that then why am I even in this business?
But if I feel strongly about something and it is not something that every single person disagrees with me on, then I do think that it is important to have integrity and raise your Issues. I asked in my original post about “pleasing the producers”. And I think it is a fine line between doing just that but also having conviction in your own ideas. Keeping in mind of course that if you do it your way and they ask you to do it “their” way you will have two versions available and if you are lucky enough to have a director on board. Then you could easily revert back to your original version and see what he or she thinks of it
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Old 05-31-2018, 12:46 PM   #5
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 2,288
Default Re: “Producer pass” and notes

This is one of the hardest questions we face.

There are lots of factors: do you agree with the notes? Do you feel like they know what they're going for? Are the notes about better executing the ideas you already did or are they introducing whole new concepts? How much have you been paid, and how recently?

How do you feel about the project? What's your enthusiasm level like for their notes? Can you afford to take the time to do them? How many times have we been around on this already?

The most senior exec's notes matter the most, and one would hope he would have original insights, so the fact that other people didn't have the same note doesn't undercut it.

The best answer to have is that you can't do the notes because you've got another job. Obviously, this isn't always an option, but the more you're an in-demand writer, the more power you have. So part of your defense about this is to not sit around waiting for them to read the script - your rep should be proactively getting you out there on other jobs. Even if you're just saying, "I'm just been commenced on something else and am starting Monday, so why don't you focus these notes in on the one or two things I can do in three days," and you don't generally want to lie about having other work (it's a small town, people know) but the point is that if it takes them three weeks to read and get you notes, you've been out there doing something.

Also, insist on being paid for delivery of the previous step if they want free work. Your rep should have invoiced them (and make sure they do - sometimes they need to be prodded and don't want to invoice until the producer is happy). This is a subtle but important power shift: it's not, "I'm doing this hoping to be paid." It's "You owe me money and anything else I do is because I'm giving you something for free." Neither of those things are ever said, of course, but you will probably feel much better about doing a bit more work if you don't feel like you're being forced to in order to get money they already owe you.
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