Who Reads The Readers?

Collapse

Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Who Reads The Readers?

    I talk to a lot of writers on and off this board. Each one of us has our own unique set of trusted readers. But how did they come to be this way? Some opt to pay only "professional" readers, some only trust 1 person, some have a cabal of 3-5 readers they give stuff too.... I'm sure others don't get any feedback at all.

    This is just a general thought about -- well make sure you are choosing those people right. Because I had a friend who always made bad choices. And I thought of this screenplay idea which was that type of person hires someone else to help her overcome her bad decisions. And it works. But at the Midpoint she realizes what a minute, I always make bad decisions so how can I trust my judgement on this? And then she realizes she hired a crazy person who is giving her terrible advice.

    My point - besides I love that screenplay idea still -- is that are you making sure the voices in your head/your feedback circle should be trusted to guide your creative process?

    Because when I talk to writers and they respond to my feedback with "well my most trusted reader thought it was great" -- that makes me concerned. Not because I think I'm 100% right (only 92% right) but because that means the writer may be closing themselves off too much and getting in that feedback loop.

    My point is, if you are giving your horror spec to your best friend who knows you and loves horror and is also a horror writer and even helped you think of it -- sure they are going to love it more than if you just handed it cold to me.

    If you are paying someone to read your work -- even if they are being 95% honest -- they are incentivized to be very encouraging and make you want to write more and come back for more business.

    It's great to have a encouragement, but at some point you also need readers who will tell you one spec you wrote is "amazing" and the next spec you write is "crap."

    I'm hard on myself. I like readers who are hard on me and more honest about what the industry will think not just their own personal opinions.

    The best feedback is the one that isn't saying what they think -- but more how they think your spec will connect with a general Hollywood audience.

    If you have readers who give only positive notes -- find someone else to give you the other side...

    If Craig Mazin can tell the Game of Thrones guys that their first HBO Pilot was terrible -- you can find someone that can tell you your spec needs some more work... A good writer friend helped save the show from being just a one season failure.

    Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 04-18-2021, 12:18 PM. Reason: Added tags

  • #2
    Like writers, different readers have different strengths. It helps if you know your readers' strengths and weaknesses so you can weight their notes accurately.
    Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

    Comment


    • #3

      Originally posted by Bono View Post
      Because when I talk to writers and they respond to my feedback with "well my most trusted reader thought it was great"
      I wouldn't worry about it as 87% of the time it's just face-saving bravado, 8% is citing dishonest-feedback-so-as-not-to-upset, and the remaining 5% is erroneously honing in on the few positive scraps amidst the meat of the feedback. Unless someone is getting confrontational, most level-headed (and decent) writers will listen to criticism and percolate on it. They have no need to justify themselves to critics and only offer such defenses when someone is trying to tear them down (eg: I laid out my script's 'credentials' when a certain poster wanted revenge on his pages receiving criticism).


      f you are paying someone to read your work -- even if they are being 95% honest -- they are incentivized to be very encouraging and make you want to write more and come back for more business.
      This may be true of some but not the real deals. I can vouch for TitanCreed, ExtH and Mechanic as being straight up and everyone knows how ruthless The Black List is.
      Last edited by SundownInRetreat; 04-20-2021, 02:02 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        It's a given that writers need a thick skin to handle notes and feedback.

        Readers also need a thick skin. If a writer gets defensive or says "yeah, but" with your notes, so what? You gave an honest take. If they reject it, that's their business.

        When I read, I have a couple things I look for with the top being, "After fade out, would I want to have coffee or a drink with the protag?"

        This is rooted to my belief that characters drive the story no matter what the genre may be. Dialogue spoken by those characters are the key to making them memorable or making me sympathetic with their plight.

        Other readers may set other aspects of a script at a higher priority. That's why it's worth having a few people give feedback.
        Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

        Comment


        • #5
          Volume. Send it out to 8-10 people and a consensus will develop.

          I look for broad patterns instead of isolating one data point. One person fixating on one thing can say more about that person than your script, but the wisdom of the crowd usually prevails. I've never had a situation where the response from the first 5-10 readers didn't mirror the eventual long-term performance of the script in terms of coverage, contest placements, etc.

          At risk of sounding like a pretentious douche, you can eventually reach a level of literacy/craft knowledge where you know much more about storytelling than most of the people who will be reading your script. However, this doesn't invalidate their feedback. It would be the same way if your movie was filmed and released. Not everyone in that crowd would be able to understand on a mechanical level why your 2nd act is a mess, but they could probably at least say, "That sucked." So I think almost all feedback from any source can have value.

          It should be noted that different scripts have different goals. I don't think Moonlight and Nomadland are aiming at the same target as Army of the Dead and John Wick. The idea of absolute objective quality is problematic because taste is subjective, so I try to judge a script based on whether or not achieved what it set out to do, rather than its performance with critics or in awards season. To me, something like Meet the Parents or Men in Black is near perfection because it hit its intended target. Not all films need to appeal to all people. If you are writing some niche horror movie, it may be that 70% of readers hate it and 30% love it, but that doesn't mean it can't work within its niche. That's a slight complication with my "wisdom of the crowd" approach. If you have something that's extremely targeted, the wisdom of the crowd may not apply (unless you've selected a very specific crowd).

          Comment


          • #6
            Being a judge in a contest must be hard. You have to read and pay attention to a script that probably has lots of problems, I don't know how many of you do that on a regular basis but that becomes tedious work real quick. Now you're asked to score the script based on whatever categories they use. So now there are degrees of not working which is where subjectivity comes in. I feel like subjectivity gets thrown around like the script works but the content is just not the readers thing. That's rarely the case in the amateur ranks, maybe on the open market I can see that being the case. A producer who likes thrillers reads a buddy comedy that he just doesn't connect with. I'm sure that goes on, but for an amateur to utter the word subjectivity the moment their script does not advance in an amateur competition, just sounds like sour grapes to me and sounds like someone who really want get any better on the next script.

            For me when I give notes, it depends on what shape the script is in. If the macro details are in place and a character is at least going through something as he/she chases something then I can talk about micro details that IMO are missing. If you've seen and read enough movies, especially if you concentrate in one or two genres then you get to know the necessary beats of the genre, the audience expecting beats and not that the beats are the same just that a version - your version - of the beat is necessary. Like when Lovers meet for the first time in a love story - this must happen - but how it happens is what's in your control. So, if macro is in place I try and talk about what beats I feel are missing from the story or if their version was confusing, unfocused, too on the nose. What have you. If Macro is not even in place and the script really has no form or it is clear the writer is not keeping the genre in mind as they write or even know what the beats of the genre are or even know that they need these beats then I just talk about macro things like a character in pursuit of something and obstacles and conflict. And I give movie examples from scripts in the same genre as theirs. I try to get them to understand that there's a template to a genre and that they fill that template in with their creativity .

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by DaltWisney View Post
              Volume. Send it out to 8-10 people and a consensus will develop.

              I look for broad patterns instead of isolating one data point. One person fixating on one thing can say more about that person than your script, but the wisdom of the crowd usually prevails. I've never had a situation where the response from the first 5-10 readers didn't mirror the eventual long-term performance of the script in terms of coverage, contest placements, etc.

              At risk of sounding like a pretentious douche, you can eventually reach a level of literacy/craft knowledge where you know much more about storytelling than most of the people who will be reading your script. However, this doesn't invalidate their feedback. It would be the same way if your movie was filmed and released. Not everyone in that crowd would be able to understand on a mechanical level why your 2nd act is a mess, but they could probably at least say, "That sucked." So I think almost all feedback from any source can have value.

              It should be noted that different scripts have different goals. I don't think Moonlight and Nomadland are aiming at the same target as Army of the Dead and John Wick. The idea of absolute objective quality is problematic because taste is subjective, so I try to judge a script based on whether or not achieved what it set out to do, rather than its performance with critics or in awards season. To me, something like Meet the Parents or Men in Black is near perfection because it hit its intended target. Not all films need to appeal to all people. If you are writing some niche horror movie, it may be that 70% of readers hate it and 30% love it, but that doesn't mean it can't work within its niche. That's a slight complication with my "wisdom of the crowd" approach. If you have something that's extremely targeted, the wisdom of the crowd may not apply (unless you've selected a very specific crowd).
              Volume is good when you are first starting out. When I was younger I would try to get as many reads as possible. If 3 people gave same note I knew it was an issue.

              But when you get older or you have trouble finding those 8-10 people to read your work -- many turn to paying for notes. Or giving it to their 2 friends who are also writing and trying to break in.

              I'm simply saying make sure you first get a good enough sense of your own ability before you narrow your readers down. And make sure that reader -- even if they have the best intentions isn't giving you bad advice. There can be the reader who props up a bad spec or writer and there can be a reader who craps all over a great writer and kills their confidence. Both are harmful.

              It gets even more painful when you are one on one with your rep and they don't like what you've written. That's when you have to decide if they are right or very wrong.

              But always be skeptical and critical of your work. And even the readers notes.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by sc111 View Post
                When I read, I have a couple things I look for with the top being, "After fade out, would I want to have coffee or a drink with the protag?"
                Could you expand upon this? I would not want to have a drink or a coffee with Travis Bickle.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Northbank View Post

                  Could you expand upon this? I would not want to have a drink or a coffee with Travis Bickle.
                  Me either. But I'm one of the few people that doesn't seem to like that movie. I know this because in film school every other dorm room had the Taxi Driver poster. I had a Howard the Duck poster.

                  Comment


                  • #10

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      By the way my post was not about what you do as a reader -- it's about thinking about the readers you pick for your own projects. And maybe if you aren't having success -- maybe there lies the problem... you are not getting the feedback you need to improve.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        IMO, I think what most struggling writers are missing is mentorship.

                        Getting getting feedback is one thing, but having the aptitude to improve on your own is something I think most people struggle with.

                        I've seen so many writers get feedback on their pages and the improvement on the craft over the years/decade is minimal. If any.

                        "This scene is a little slow. The character could be more aggressive." "Yeah, I agree." And they change the scene, which only marginally improves the scene but doesn't improve their overall writing ability. Why? Because the root issues aren't addressed. 9 times out of 10, feedback doesn't reveal bad habits and the missing skillsets of a writer. Nor does it tell them how to develop those missing skills.

                        And so they are destined to repeat their mistakes and bad habits in different ways, in different scenes, in different scripts.

                        It takes a certain type of person to be able to disseminate feedback and alter their process. These writers improve and make headway. Most, however, resist altering their process.

                        They learn to cook eggs a certain way and develop a process they like. It works for them. They enjoy getting feedback, and sure, they might add some extra butter, sprinkle some more salt here and there. But nobody's going into the kitchen, watching them cook, and telling them they've been using the wrong spatula the whole time.

                        And even if someone did, they'd probably shrug and say, "I like this spatula, it works for me."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Yeah but if you are the type of person that is out looking for a mentor, trying to improve, than you are also picking readers who challenge you to get better. And help you improve.

                          I'm trying to push the writer who is sitting on the edge -- to open themselves up to more feedback... to more of the world.

                          How can you find a mentor if you already think you know it all? That's what I'm trying to get at.

                          When I read posts like -- I know my script is going to win this contest because my one reader who I paid liked it -- I go insane!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by sc111 View Post
                            Like writers, different readers have different strengths. It helps if you know your readers' strengths and weaknesses so you can weight their notes accurately.
                            But most writers tend to go with easy route. Either they go to their 2 buddies or they pay a script reader to give them feedback that is usually positive and reassuring. Thus they never extra their network and the first outside people to judge their work are anonymous contest people or maybe they get rejected by a rep... and they don't know why -- it must be that other person because my reader told me my script was great.

                            The confirmation bubble. I wrote a spec. I showed it to my readers. Since I picked them, they must be smart. They liked my script. I am a great writer. Send out = failure. Oh well, it's not me, it's Hollywood.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The other issue I forgot to mention is calibre of reader. Outside of vouched-for script readers like TC and SM, it's hard to know who to trust. I mean, whilst many amateur DDP'ers have racked up thousands of posts, and I have high hopes for several and think are on the right track, there's actually only about three whose opinions I would trust. And to make it worse, they're all off-limits due to their own workload and priorities.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X