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How to Deal with Script Notes and Criticism

Criticism, rejection and failure might not be what you sign up for when you go into screenwriting for a career, but you will inevitably have to deal with them time and time again.

Learning to listen to, appreciate and on-board constructive and even destructive criticism—while difficult to master—is a crucial part of the process. That said, it never gets any easier, with more and more riding on the line as you work your way up.

Minimising the Risk of Destructive Criticism

Of course you can limit your exposure to criticism by being careful about whom you choose to work with and the idea put forth by David Hare in his recent article, ‘For every hour you write a screenplay, you spend 10 defending it’ is an interesting one to say the least.

In situations where you are contracted to a film project and receive seemingly critical script notes, remember that the industry is a business with a shared goal of producing the best stories possible. And this leads us on to our first point.

Don’t Take Any Kind of Feedback Personally

The first thing to realise is that a script is never finished. There is always something to tweak, change or rewrite. The second is that the extent of such alterations will often depend on the opinions and experience of whomever you send your script to.

And while you have the right to be upset with others for ‘not seeing your vision’, readers of your screenplay are just doing their job and doing you a service. There is no big conspiracy about script notes. They are intended to help you not hurt you.

Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Much is expected of professional screenwriters, including how to write and deliver quality material under tight time constraints, being a team player and yes, being able to merge script notes without an ego.

Typically there is never time to dwell on the negative emotions dredged up by any criticism your work attracts. The best thing you can do is to be open to those suggestions that will make you a better screenwriter and on-board what will strengthen your script.

Make Sure You Are Emotionally Ready

Script doctors, editors and consultants—whatever you want to call them—deal with countless script submissions on a daily basis, many of them underdeveloped. I get it. You want to get some feedback before you really commit to a specific direction.

However, by sending your material out prematurely, you are inviting potentially destructive script notes and criticism that can upheave your process and cause you a great deal of distress.

Remember that rewrites are your friend no matter how many you have to do. Even when you think you’ve got everything right, do another pass just to be on the safe side.

In other words, only send your script out when you are confident you can defend the ideas you think matter most so you can be flexible on points elsewhere in the script other people have a problem with.

If you are confident in your screenplay or TV pilot script and are ready for a second opinion, do not hesitate to take us up on our Script Development services and get in touch!

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