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Old 03-17-2008, 04:01 PM   #1
Eyeclipse
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Default How far should you go to please a reader...

...if the reader has a different view on what your script is/should be?

I wrote a script that I handed to my rep who sent it out for coverage. The reader tore that first draft apart, so I did a fairly major overhaul of it. I just got the coverage back for this new draft, reviewed by the same reader.

In a nutshell, he liked this draft much better. He had few issues overall= some of the supporting characters were too flat (possibly true) and he thought there was a flaw in logic re: a murder investigation (there isn't, but he thinks there is because he doesn't know the law as much as he thinks he does). Still, I'm tweaking that element too to clarify it for him.

That said, I wrote a pulpy melodrama that he seems to want to make into a more realistic drama. It may seem like a trifling difference, but it would change the tone of the entire script, and not, IMO, for the better.

So, my question is, how far have writers gone to please a reader? At what point do you chalk it up to just a difference of opinion versus a legit note that you should address? And do you address a difference-of-opinion note to make the reader happy, writer's intentions be damned?

Funny thing is, I've received much more negative coverage for other scripts I've written that still received a CONSIDER. Seems like this reader expects it to be exactly the way he thinks it should be before he'll raise it above a PASS.
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Old 03-17-2008, 04:27 PM   #2
jojofromsoflo
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Default Re: How far should you go to please a reader...

Hey. I'm a reader for a fairly major prodco, and I can address your question from my perspective.

Part of a reader's job is to be objective. Some aren't, some are. By the job's very nature, it is impossible to be 100% objective, but the reader is supposed to make an attempt to do so. He (or she) is supposed to assess weaknesses in the script

A major part of a reader's job is to assess scripts for their company. If the guy works for a company that generally makes realistic dramas, he may give you notes that would move you toward that tone if you implemented them. it is not the reader's job to tell you what genre to write in on a whim. If he reads a teen comedy and says it would work better as a war movie just because he thinks so, he is making a subjective judgment and has possibly overstepped his task.

The key question you should ask yourself is "Have I received similar notes from other readers?" A sample of one is not sufficient to judge your work by, unless you recognize immediately that the noites are correct. If you're repeatedly getting similar notes, consider implementing them. If one guy tells you some characters are dry, he may just be attempting to find faults. A big part of a reader's job is finding legitimate reasons to pass on things (sad but true), and some readers don't know story well enough to give useful notes on what to fix (also sad but true). So you may get vague notes like "the characters are too dry" when in reality there's a much more fundamental problem with your screenplay that they're failing to recognize.

That being said, it's not easy getting a job as a reader. Interns read a lot, and they're often incompetent, but getting paid to read usually means you know your stuff.

Ultimately, readers are not very high up the food chain. Unless this person is a story editor or higher, it's probably not a good diea to spend a lot of time shaping your work to their tastes. A single reader -- if that is indeed the job title of the person you're talking about -- can't make anything happen for you. They can only decide not to prevent you from having access to their bosses.

I hope that's somewhat helpful.
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Old 03-17-2008, 04:48 PM   #3
Eyeclipse
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Default Re: How far should you go to please a reader...

Quote:
Originally Posted by jojofromsoflo View Post
Ultimately, readers are not very high up the food chain. Unless this person is a story editor or higher, it's probably not a good diea to spend a lot of time shaping your work to their tastes. A single reader -- if that is indeed the job title of the person you're talking about -- can't make anything happen for you. They can only decide not to prevent you from having access to their bosses.
Great insight, Jojo.

The credentials of this particular reader are long and impeccable. That's not to say he's always right-- he's passed on a few fine scripts that went on to become successful movies.

My main concern here is pleasing him just to please my agent. I don't want to fix something that ain't broke. I'm not saying the script can't be tinkered with, but an issue with tone is a blanket note. I should also add that my agent wants to attach me to the approved script as director (it's low budget), so I imagine my vision/voice should carry some weight. Or maybe not.

My one consolation here is having some validation that I have a reasonably good script that might appeal to a producer who gets my take on it. I could market the script myself, tone as is, and my agent (assuming he agrees with the reader's opinion) would still be willing to send out through his office any requests I get for the script.

Or am I just being a prima donna, taking too much of a don't-f*ck-with-my-work stance?
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Old 03-17-2008, 05:39 PM   #4
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Default Re: How far should you go to please a reader...

Okay, so he's your agent's reader? That's helpful to know. In that case, his suggestion that you change the tone of your script is not motivated by what his company is looking for. Either it's just a subjective note, or he's trying to push the script in a more marketable direction. If it's the latter, it may be a good idea to heed his suggestion. I think you probably already know whether that's his motivation or not.

Again, I don't think it's ever apt to make sweeping changes to a screenplay based on the opinion of one person, especially if that person is just a reader. If the reader's making notes that make sense to you, and you think that implementing these notes will improve the work, then definitely follow the reader's suggestions. However, if you're happy with the writing and you haven't received similar notes from other sources, it's probably imprudent to jump wholeheartedly into making grand script changes. It's one person's opinion.

If your doctor told you during a routine checkup that you had eye cancer even though you felt fine, and he wanted to remove your eye and replace it with a glass one, you would seek a second opinion. If you feel like your script is as good as it should be -- that changing it will lower its quality -- then seeking a second opinion is probably a good idea.

Just my thoughts.
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Old 03-17-2008, 10:03 PM   #5
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Default Re: How far should you go to please a reader...

you might also consider that he's sugesting you change the tone of the script because it's not working for him, or maybe he's just not getting it.

In either case, it might behoove you to look at your first ten pages and ask yourself how clearly are you establishing the particular tone you want for your script? Is there a way to more clearly tell that reader and any other that it's this kind of movie?

other than that - fvck him - not really - talk to your agent about the tone you're trying to achieve and assure him that it's the right way to go.

If the goal is low-budget indie - making shifts or compromises to perhaps appeal to a broader audience is pointless and not why you're going low budget indie in the first place.
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Old 03-18-2008, 08:37 AM   #6
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Default Re: How far should you go to please a reader...

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Originally Posted by jimjimgrande View Post
you might also consider that he's sugesting you change the tone of the script because it's not working for him, or maybe he's just not getting it.
I think he gets it, but it's more a matter of personal preference regarding tone. He was most impressed with my few moments of honesty and poignancy in the script, and really wants me to aim for it to be a true-to-life drama. As I said, I was aiming for something more melodramatic, something of a potboiler (it is a tale of obsessive love and, ultimately, murder).

So he prefers one tone, while I wrote another. But, once again, ofttimes tone IS the writer's voice, and changing tone would alter the writer's intentions for his/her story.

I see no resolution for this, unless I do what the reader wants. And that, honestly, leaves me feeling a bit like a hack. As you said, Jim, that's not why I'm going the low-budget indie route.
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Old 03-18-2008, 11:18 AM   #7
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Default Re: How far should you go to please a reader...

You have to decide if it's worth it to make someone's changes. It's not always an easy decision. Sometimes you may think it's worth it to please a particular person, figuring you can always go back to your original draft if it doesn't work out with the person who wants it changed. When you do that, you may even make some changes you would want to keep in any circumstances because you like them so much.

Or, you can be willing to walk instead of making changes you strongly disagree with.
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Old 03-18-2008, 04:01 PM   #8
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Default Re: How far should you go to please a reader...

Joan's right - in this situation, you need to sort of Be Still and ask yourself whether this is the direction you want to take your script. It is ultimately up to you. This reader is being more like a development exec - which can be great, but if you're starting to feel like you're taking dictation, it's good that it's giving you pause.
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Old 03-19-2008, 01:18 AM   #9
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Default Re: How far should you go to please a reader...

Clear his changes with your agent first. That's the person who has to sell it.
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Old 03-19-2008, 11:46 AM   #10
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Default Re: How far should you go to please a reader...

Get as much feedback as possible. Compare notes. If the notes keep repeating things, it's something you should look into. A script I wrote nearly 3 years ago went through major overhauls, and still many people didn't get it, and the comments were too different to justify making changes. I submitted that script to a Slamdance competition and it made it to the quarter finals, beating out something like 600 other scripts. While it did not win, what it did for me is tell me that at least I'm going in the right direction. I'll revisit the story later this month and re-write it yet again, but not because of any comments...it's just that I've grown as a writer and now have better techniques and voice to use.
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