On the topic of "NOTES"



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  • On the topic of "NOTES"


    A story about the production notes that almost destroyed Willie Loman.

  • #2
    I like my notes green with a picture of a former president on them.


    • #3
      Re: NOTES and MILLER

      Interesting article - especially the first part.
      The latter half gets a little preachy.

      To use Arthur Miller's experience of rewriting
      DEATH OF A SALESMAN and compare it - in
      such a general fashion - to the experiences
      of all other writers seems pretty bold.

      Most writers are not Arthur Miller. No work
      of drama can be compared to DOAS.

      Miller was a genius. Our modern day
      Chekhov and Ibsen. (Only he was more

      DEATH OF A SALESMAN is the best play
      written in the 20th century.

      Miller's use of flashbacks in DEATH OF A
      SALESMAN was the first time flashbacks
      were devised to advance the story -
      instead of solely delivering expository info.

      Nowadays, writers will always hear, "The
      flashback must advance the story, not
      stop it." Well, no one said that before
      Arthur Miller did it.

      Many writing boards have had tributes to
      Johnny Carson and the likes upon their
      passing - but most didn't seem to notice
      the passing of Arthur Miller.

      I first met Miller when I was a grad student
      and, after the initial shock of shaking hands
      with a man that @#%$ Marilyn Monroe,
      I was amazed that such a brilliant writer
      would talk with a New York accent. It
      made him seem so real to me. He was
      an amazing teacher and - remains to this
      day - my idol.



      • #4
        Re: NOTES and MILLER

        The NY Times ran a feature obituary, and it was kind of sad to think that Miller's career wound up the way it did. (Kind of like if Johnny Carson wound up on Nebraska public access tv).
        Their theatre section still has a nice tribute section up.

        When I was in high school, I took remedial English classes (I was not dumb, just a JD). The funny thing was, the teacher would never ask us to read (he knew better), but he would bring in videos of things he had taped off of tv to enlighten us, like the episode of Moonlighting where they did 'The Taming Of The Shrew'.

        He also brought in the Dustin Hoffman version of Death Of A Salesman, and that was probably the first time I can remember wanting to be a writer.


        • #5
          The cheapest shot of them all...

          Wow. Elia Kazan betraying someone he's worked with? What a surprise...

          (Sorry. Couldn't help it).


          • #6
            Re: NOTES and MILLER

            from the article:

            Let me be clear. I don't mean to suggest here--to do so would be absurd--that every screenplay is a cinematic equivalent of Death of a Salesman.
            so yeah, i don't think nicholas kazaan was trying to compare most writers to arthur miller.


            • #7

              Then why bother telling that story? It seems like he used it as a catalyst to step up on his soapbox but then back peddled with that sentence.


              • #8
                Re: Article

                I knew a guy who was the head of development "notegiver" at a production company run by a big action star - It was a vanity deal, they never made any movies - He left and went on his own to be a producer.

                One day while driving down the 405 with him, we started discussing classic films of a certain genre; "Three Days of the Condor" The Parallax View" and "Marathon Man." He had not seen any of them. But what was worse, he never even heard of them. I was dumbfounded. He was a former head "notegiver" and wants to be a producer, and never heard of these films? I mean he was young, but not 3. I couldn't believe it, but it crystallized my notion that the town was full of people on all levels that weren't really film lovers. But I can assume there are a lot of people doing things in life they weren't really meant to do; lawyers, doctors, postal workers, nannies and house painters.

                Oh yeah, my friend's revelation came while we were coming up to the exit for LAX. I swear, I almost had him exit the freeway and take me to the airport, so I could get the hell out of this crazy town. But I didn't.


                • #9
                  Re: Article

                  There are good notes and there are bad notes, but it is often uncertain which is which.

                  True detachment - as a writer - it one of the hardest things to master, because, everyone has some kind of an ego, fear, desire to be loved. Seperating criticism of the work, from criticism of the person, even when none is intended, can be very hard.

                  Does this improve the story?
                  Is this better than what I have before?
                  Is this changing a message I am passionate about?
                  Do I really care?
                  Do I care if I lose this cheque and never work again because people consider me a "difficult writer"?
                  Why am I writing?

                  These - and questions like them - are the sorts of things writers should be asking themselves when they get notes.

                  I have yet to write a script that couldn't be improved in some way, whether the notes come from producers, seasoned readers or the guy that collects my garbage.

                  I suppose it depends on how attached you are to you work, and how much you want the money on offer. Those are the things that will determine whether you take on board notes you don't believe in.

                  Miller was a genius whose like we'll probably not see again, but even he probably took notes from time to time


                  • #10
                    Let's see your masterpiece

                    The next time someone gives you a bunch of notes about your screenplay, ask to see his/her masterpiece screenplay to use as a guide. Also, ask him/her, "If I make every change suggested, will you guarantee me a sale?"

                    Anyone who has ever worked in sales knows the guy who comes in and says, "If you only had one in red, I'd buy it."
                    Of course, the guy wouldn't buy it in any color. You have to know a "real" buyer when you talk to one.

                    When I was learning to fly an airplane, I had a flight instructor who wore a t-shirt that said, "If you ain't a pilot, you ain't @#%$."

                    Screenwriters need a t-shirt.


                    • #11
                      Re: Let's see your masterpiece

                      The other thing to keep in mind is a good portion of notes are subjective.


                      • #12
                        Re: Let's see your masterpiece

                        The next time someone gives you a bunch of notes about your screenplay, ask to see his/her masterpiece screenplay to use as a guide. Also, ask him/her, "If I make every change suggested, will you guarantee me a sale?"
                        That's possibly the worst advice I've seen on this board.


                        • #13

                          The problem with this sort of thinking is that
                          you'd have to dismiss notes from producers
                          like David Brown or Jerry Bruckheimer (to
                          name two of many) - simply because they
                          have never written a screenplay.


                          • #14
                            Re: Masterpiece...

                            In the advertising business, there's always a tension between 'the suits' (execs) and 'the creatives' (writers and artists). One side thinking the other side is 'not getting it.'

                            But I've always looked at it like a 'checks and balances' system that turns out a more effective ad campaign. By effective I mean, successfully makes the cash register ring.

                            A good writer or artist has a gut instinct for knowing when a "Suit's" input improves the end product or when it's time to stand firm.

                            And a good exec will know when it's wise not to over-ride a writer's or an artists' vision.

                            Then again, not everyone is 'good' at their job.


                            • #15
                              Re: Masterpiece...

                              I'm going through this with a producer that recently optioned one of my screenplays, which we're polishing to go out to studio and financers.

                              Luckily it isn't a case of "do this cause I think it's the right thing". Most his notes are pretty bang on... the odd one I've come back and said it can't make work, explained why and he will agree. His notes usually start with "is it possible..."

                              In a way it's the "checks and balances" notion at work.

                              I'm not sure how I might react to the "not so good exec" I've had run ins with a few in the oil business and uh, well, what's the expression

                              Don't suffer fools gladly....