Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On Feedback; Part 2: Making it work for you

When someone takes the time to read a script, their feedback is a gift and greatly appreciated. That they go to the trouble to try to help you see where, for them, the problems lie, is generous and immensely useful, even when you don’t agree with all the points. That these points have been raised may be a clue to other problematic issues that lie underneath the story.

But it is their perspective and if they are not a professional script reader or consultant – and sometimes even if they are and have become a little jaded – they may not find your type of story compelling and then find it hard to give you constructive feedback. If you're really unlucky they could just be in a bad mood or alternatively see a way of telling the

My mother’s only comment, over 20 years of reading my output, was always along the lines of well, you certainly can write dialogue and you write great characters, but couldn’t you write something cheerful?

I did, eventually. It was a rom-com built out of cream cakes called Tasty Morsels and was produced as an afternoon play by BBC4 in 2001. The research was fun.

But you have put a huge amount of time into your script; you’re so close even the trees look edible and the squirrels have started talking back in Japanese. So you need all the constructive feedback you can get and you really, really want to make it work this time. This is the point when you can blindly accept other people's feedback and end up with a script you neither like nor ever intended to write and that sort of script pleases no-one.

So, before you re-write, type up all the notes your readers have made and let them sit. Ponder the points raised. Ponder what you wanted your story to say, to be about, to feel like for an audience. Think about who your audience is and why the questions were raised.

Only then, when you’ve been away long enough from your script for it to feel fresh again, read it through. Find the time and space to do it without interruption. Don’t rewrite individual scenes at this stage. If compelling lines/ scenes/ fixes come to you during this process, write them down somewhere separately but for this first read-through, you need to try to feel the emotional flow of the entire story.

Then sit back and work out what isn’t working for you.

Make note of when you left the desk to make a cup of tea. Is that where the problem lies? Where you lost interest? Do all the questions come back to a story starting too late or too soon, a character or characters that aren’t fully formed or aren’t fully realised on the page? A plot twist that is pulling you away from your original intention as a storyteller of this tale?

Compare your own notes with your feedback notes and brainstorm what might solve the issues raised.

By the time you return to the script to rewrite, you should know what you want to achieve and how to go about it.

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