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Giving Feedback



So you read that script and now you need to provide feedback. Wait a second. I told you to relax and just be entertained. Don't worry, our analytical mind is never far away. Even if you watched the movie, I'm sure you have a few comments for the writer.

First, you need to know that feedback is just a perspective. An opinion. It's not to be taken as the law of the land. Are you a master of story? I know there are plenty of self-proclaimed gurus who think they are. But William Goldman was right. Nobody knows anything.

So here is what feedback should never be. Insulting. Arrogant. Dream crushing. That is why the best people for feedback are writers who know what it's like from both sides. You should always, always be constructive. I look back at some of my feedback from early writing groups and I'm embarrassed that I treated a fellow artist that way. In one example I started out with a compliment and then proceeded to list everything in detail that I thought was wrong with his script. Then I ended with a useless pat on the back - “keep working at it”. What an ass that guy was.

There are three parts to constructive feedback. Identify something that isn't working for you, then explain why, and then provide a fix. This lets the writer know how well you understood their script and gives them a path to follow with any rewrite. If you can only offer the first step, then you're either not good enough to provide feedback or not willing to do the work.

I once had a connection to one of the channels that produces a ton of Christmas movies. So I created a lengthy treatment and a shorter one page summary. If all went well, I could have a solid draft in less than a month because I worked so hard on that treatment. Instead, I got three sentences in an email. It wasn't Christmas enough. It didn't have enough heart. And the main character wasn't likable.

The reader didn't watch my movie. She was lazy and there's nothing worse than a lazy reader. She didn't give me anywhere to go with her feedback. Every scene had something to do with Christmas so I have no idea what she meant. As far as the heart, without an explanation or suggestions, I'm in the dark. And whenever they tell you a character isn't likable, there's usually one or two scenes that cause that reaction. If she gave me just that much information, I could go back and see if it was really a problem. So should you take that opinion and throw your story in the garbage? That's for our next talk on receiving feedback.

Just remember, giving notes means you're “giving” something more than a confidence problem. Don't ever get so cocky that you can't put yourself in their shoes. You entered this industry because you love movies. Take that love and put it into your feedback.

Next time I'll talk about getting notes...

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