Interesting post over at John August site re: friends/people who read your work

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  • Interesting post over at John August site re: friends/people who read your work

    What are your thoughts on choosing readers for first drafts? I've noticed that, for example, giving a Disney movie to a Fincher fan can turn a favor into a chore and leave the writer lacking in constructive feedback. Better to give it to someone who knows and enjoys the genre and is aware of that marketplace, past and present. You're asking them to work for free, after all.
    I've also made the mistake of allowing someone unfamiliar with screenwriting to read a script because they asked me to. You end up explaining everything to death and they still don't get it which can feed your rampant first-draft-phase insecurity. Was there a strategy you followed back in the day to get the best feedback or did it just happen organically?
    I looked but didn't see anything on the site to help with this. May be helpful to myself and others.
    - Matt
    The screenplay format is so unlike traditional fiction that it's hard for newcomers to offer much useful feedback. They often can't distinguish between the strange experience of reading a movie on paper and the story they just read. You may feel a social obligation to let non-screenwriting friends read your work, but don't plan your rewrite based on their reactions.
    With friends and colleagues who are familiar with screenplays - by which I mean they've read at least a dozen, and can talk about them comfortably - you may still need to pick carefully. Certain people and certain genres just don't mix.
    A thoughtful reader, though, can often offer constructive feedback even when it's not her type of movie.
    Back when I was in the Stark Program, we all read each other's scripts. Al Gough and Miles Millar made their first sale with a script about a cop and an orangutan - a very high-concept comedy. That's not in my wheelhouse, but I went through two or three drafts with them, offering very specific notes about trims and clarifications. They did the same for me on my overwritten romantic tragedy. Regardless of the genre, a good reader can help a writer see problems and find solutions. More than anything, you want a second smart brain to bounce ideas off of. That's why you ask people to read your work-in-progress.
    And for the praise. You want people to tell you you're great.
    Another thing to keep in mind: Don't burn out your readers. Unless they actively ask to read the next draft, give them a break. You may even want to keep one or two reader friends "fresh- for the inevitable rewrite.


    http://johnaugust.com/archives/2008/...ad-your-script

    EJ

  • #2
    Re: Interesting post over at John August site re: friends/people who read your work

    As far as the whole "non-screenwriting savvy friends for feedback" thing - I know you probably shouldn't attach too much weight to what they say, but aren't "non-screenwriting savvy" people your audience should the thing get produced?

    Maybe it's bad to have to "explain everything to death." If it works on the page for people who know about screenwriting, but doesn't for others, that's a problem in my book.

    Thoughts?

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    • #3
      Re: Interesting post over at John August site re: friends/people who read your work

      I've given scripts to non-scriptwriting friends to read and the only thing I ever had to explain was what V.O. and O.S. meant. You can see if the story resonates with your target audience. But it's true that you're not going to get the same kind of constructive feedback from them that you would from another screenwriter or script reader.

      "We're all immigrants now, man."
      - Zia (Patrick Fugit), "Wristcutters: A Love Story"

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      • #4
        Re: Interesting post over at John August site re: friends/people who read your work

        Originally posted by Hazeem View Post
        As far as the whole "non-screenwriting savvy friends for feedback" thing - I know you probably shouldn't attach too much weight to what they say, but aren't "non-screenwriting savvy" people your audience should the thing get produced?

        Maybe it's bad to have to "explain everything to death." If it works on the page for people who know about screenwriting, but doesn't for others, that's a problem in my book.

        Thoughts?
        There's a big difference between letting these people watch your movie and letting them read your script.
        Sent from my iPhone. Because I'm better than you.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Interesting post over at John August site re: friends/people who read your work

          Originally posted by Hazeem View Post
          Maybe it's bad to have to "explain everything to death." If it works on the page for people who know about screenwriting, but doesn't for others, that's a problem in my book.
          I completely disagree. A screenplay is a specialized document designed to provoke specific reactions in specific people -- namely, people who are in the movie business.

          If you want to know how your non-screenwriter/industry audience would react to one of your stories, pitch it to them. "Hey, would you like to see a movie about blah blah blah?"

          But I wouldn't seek feedback on your screenplay from people who don't know the format.

          I think John summed it up pretty well: "The screenplay format is so unlike traditional fiction that it's hard for newcomers to offer much useful feedback. They often can't distinguish between the strange experience of reading a movie on paper and the story they just read."
          "Tone is now engaged in a furious Google search for Leighton Meester's keester." -- A friend of mine

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Interesting post over at John August site re: friends/people who read your work

            August: "The screenplay format is so unlike traditional fiction that it's hard for newcomers to offer much useful feedback. They often can't distinguish between the strange experience of reading a movie on paper and the story they just read."


            I agree with the above comment. Screenplays CAN be hard to read. I know it took me a while to get the hang of them when I first started studying--and I was highly motivated to learn all about them.

            You really do have to pick your readers carefully.

            "Trust your stuff." -- Dave Righetti, Pitching Coach

            ( Formerly "stvnlra" )

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            • #7
              Re: Interesting post over at John August site re: friends/people who read your work

              And don't forget that your friends are your friends and having read no other scripts they will be inclined to praise you because they care about you and they can be (overly) impressed by the format simply because wow, it LOOKS like a pro script - even if you have screwed up loglines and no structure - they don't know from those technicalities and can't comment on them.

              Interestingly, every time I have had a client use my services and say, as a prerequisite, that they had some friends read it and they loved it - the script was in pretty bad shape.

              Friends mean well - they want to be supportive - but that's not exactly what you need, you need real feedback.

              So you have to ask yourself - do you want validation and loving support or do you want to hear the actual truth stated in a respectful way?

              Julie Gray



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              • #8
                Re: Interesting post over at John August site re: friends/people who read your work

                Well, a friend can give you more honest critique about your STORY. Another screenwriter is likely to point out errors, structure, page length, etc.

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                • #9
                  Re: Interesting post over at John August site re: friends/people who read your work

                  Originally posted by La Femme Joyeuse View Post
                  And don't forget that your friends are your friends and having read no other scripts they will be inclined to praise you because they care about you and they can be (overly) impressed by the format simply because wow, it LOOKS like a pro script - even if you have screwed up loglines and no structure - they don't know from those technicalities and can't comment on them.

                  Interestingly, every time I have had a client use my services and say, as a prerequisite, that they had some friends read it and they loved it - the script was in pretty bad shape.

                  Friends mean well - they want to be supportive - but that's not exactly what you need, you need real feedback.

                  So you have to ask yourself - do you want validation and loving support or do you want to hear the actual truth stated in a respectful way?
                  A buddy of mine read one of my short stories a while back and told me, "This is good, but I'm not going to blow smoke up your ass -- it's not great. It's not even very good. It's just good. I don't think you'll get it published."

                  So much for "validation and loving support."
                  Ralphy W
                  Member
                  Last edited by Ralphy W; 04-19-2008, 01:56 PM.
                  "Tone is now engaged in a furious Google search for Leighton Meester's keester." -- A friend of mine

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Interesting post over at John August site re: friends/people who read your work

                    <sigh> Ralphy, you just can't let it go, can you? I'm a different person now!

                    Julie Gray



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                    • #11
                      Re: Interesting post over at John August site re: friends/people who read your work

                      With my novels, my wife has always been my first and only reader before I decide to send them along to agent or editor. She is brutally honest (pencil and pad always nearby, making notes), and has in the past told me some pretty painful truths.

                      When I'd finished what would end up being my first published novel she said, "Don't send it out with that ending. It doesn't make any sense." I did anyway, and the book was accepted--with the proviso that if I didn't change the ending the deal might not go through. Why? I asked. "This makes absolutely no sense," my editor told me.

                      That clinched it for me.

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