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Old 02-12-2011, 10:43 AM   #1
Derek Haas
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Default Asking for Notes Etiquette

I wrote this a long time ago on Artful Writer, but I think it is worth repeating here:

One of the things we crave as writers is feedback on our screenplays. And we know that we should get tough criticism from impartial readers, definitely not our friends or loved ones who will just tell us how genius we are.

But I think we should keep these things in mind when we ask someone to give us notes:

1. If the person says "no," we don't get mad.

2. If the person says "yes," and then never gets back to us, we don't get mad. In fact, we should swallow our pride and expectations, and never bring up the script again.

3. If the person agrees to read it, we shouldn't say, "don't forget that it is registered with the guild."

4. If the person finally gives us notes, we shouldn't argue on why his or her notes are wrong.

5. If the person tells us to work on something, we shouldn't keep on defending the choice that we made. We should try to understand the thinking behind the note and try to come at what we wrote from a different angle.

6. If we disagree with the note, instead of arguing, we can always just choose to ignore the note.

7. If the person gives us a few non-specific critiques, we can probably guess that he or she didn't like the script and just didn't want to get into specifics. So we shouldn't ask them to be more specific unless we are willing to get the hell beat out of us. And REALLY willing not just partially willing.

8. If the script is more than 120 pages, we shouldn't expect the reader to read them all unless he or she really wants to... because at 120+ pages, there is definitely some fat that we should have trimmed.

9. If the person is not a professional screenwriter, reader, producer, agent, agent's assistent, studio exec, or someone in the business, we should know that the notes we are receiving may not be any better than if we had gotten them from our friends or loved ones. And yet, if we hear the same notes over and over and over, even from the biggest beginner, we should probably realize that there is a major problem in that part of the script.

10. If the person says "yes," actually reads the script, and gives us thoughtful, carefully considered notes... we should thank that person profusely.
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Old 02-12-2011, 10:59 AM   #2
Hamboogul
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Default Re: Asking for Notes Etiquette

Great post.

The only thing I want to add is that you are not allowed to guilt trip the reader. "But I read your last script..."

It should be free-will.
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Old 02-12-2011, 11:01 AM   #3
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Default Re: Asking for Notes Etiquette

Amen.

It takes time to understand and appreciate another's point of view on something very personal, like writing.

Another set of eyes and instincts, even if you don't agree with what "They See" sends you on the track of at least thinking what on the page elicited their reaction. For that alone there are many not so apparent reasons to be thankful, even when notes and opinions aren't what you wanted to hear or read.

I think, deep down, when we send a script out for notes, we are almost half expecting the validation of a "Great Job! Don't Change a Word!" It rarely happens that way.
Besides, as with most things in life, if you and I agree, one of us is irrelevant.

Thanks for sharing D.
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Old 02-12-2011, 11:05 AM   #4
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Default Re: Asking for Notes Etiquette

A lot of common-sense points that hopefully everyone would follow.

Thanks Derek.
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Old 02-12-2011, 11:10 AM   #5
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Default Re: Asking for Notes Etiquette

Really great list. I would like to add: Once you've given up the script to be read, don't revise and resend (sometimes several times), while the person is reading it.
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Old 02-12-2011, 11:46 AM   #6
emily blake
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Default Re: Asking for Notes Etiquette

Derek, can I post this on my blog? With credit, of course.
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Old 02-12-2011, 11:55 AM   #7
Derek Haas
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Default Re: Asking for Notes Etiquette

Sure.
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Old 02-12-2011, 11:55 AM   #8
NikeeGoddess
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Default Re: Asking for Notes Etiquette

adding to the list:

11. if that person is local take them out to lunch. it will also give you time to talk more about your script AND find out what they're doing too.
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Old 02-12-2011, 12:00 PM   #9
roscoegino
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Default Re: Asking for Notes Etiquette

I owe u notes, Nikee. And just so u know, I love salmon sandwiches.
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Old 02-12-2011, 12:21 PM   #10
Brian Koppelman
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Default Re: Asking for Notes Etiquette

Derek, I am sending this out as a contract to anyone who asks me to read from now on. Awesome.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Derek Haas View Post
I wrote this a long time ago on Artful Writer, but I think it is worth repeating here:

One of the things we crave as writers is feedback on our screenplays. And we know that we should get tough criticism from impartial readers, definitely not our friends or loved ones who will just tell us how genius we are.

But I think we should keep these things in mind when we ask someone to give us notes:

1. If the person says "no," we don't get mad.

2. If the person says "yes," and then never gets back to us, we don't get mad. In fact, we should swallow our pride and expectations, and never bring up the script again.

3. If the person agrees to read it, we shouldn't say, "don't forget that it is registered with the guild."

4. If the person finally gives us notes, we shouldn't argue on why his or her notes are wrong.

5. If the person tells us to work on something, we shouldn't keep on defending the choice that we made. We should try to understand the thinking behind the note and try to come at what we wrote from a different angle.

6. If we disagree with the note, instead of arguing, we can always just choose to ignore the note.

7. If the person gives us a few non-specific critiques, we can probably guess that he or she didn't like the script and just didn't want to get into specifics. So we shouldn't ask them to be more specific unless we are willing to get the hell beat out of us. And REALLY willing not just partially willing.

8. If the script is more than 120 pages, we shouldn't expect the reader to read them all unless he or she really wants to... because at 120+ pages, there is definitely some fat that we should have trimmed.

9. If the person is not a professional screenwriter, reader, producer, agent, agent's assistent, studio exec, or someone in the business, we should know that the notes we are receiving may not be any better than if we had gotten them from our friends or loved ones. And yet, if we hear the same notes over and over and over, even from the biggest beginner, we should probably realize that there is a major problem in that part of the script.

10. If the person says "yes," actually reads the script, and gives us thoughtful, carefully considered notes... we should thank that person profusely.
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