I was at the monthly Chicago Screenwriters Network (CSN) meeting this past Sunday and was chatting with a guy who asked me to read his script awhile back. For the purpose of this post, the original conversation went something like this:
Do you want to read my script?
I’d be glad to! I’ll read it, then we can get together before
the next meeting and go over the script and my notes.
Oh, I don’t want any feedback… it’s done.
Oh, it’s done? Okay.
… back to this past Sunday…
While I was chatting with this writer, he dropped a couple of hints like “Oh, I think I sent it to you, right?”
I finally said, “Listen, you said you didn’t want any feedback so, to be honest, I put it on the back burner.”
He seemed a little taken aback — which is understandable — and admitted he probably shouldn’t have said that. I shared with him how I have paid for professional coverage in the past and have actually gotten even better notes from members of the CSN group on the same material that got a “professional” CONSIDER rating! In fact, based on those later notes, I’m surprised the earlier version of that script got a CONSIDER rating from one of Hollywood’s top coverage services. But that’s a topic for a whole other post…
So, he said he’d like for me to read his script and give him honest feedback. That night, he sent me an updated version with one line in the email:
“Be gentle lol. “
So you can just feel good about your script and not grow? So I can spend hours reading material by another aspiring writer only to be put in a position where I can’t be totally honest? How does that help either of us?
That’s right, I said “us.”
Look, I’m not here to be preachy, but at this stage of my development as a screenwriter, I learn a ton by reading screenplays and putting together notes for fellow writers. It seems when I’m focused on someone else’s material, my shortcomings as a writer — along with flaws/plot problems in what I’m currently working on — always float to the surface and the process of helping someone else becomes an amazing opportunity for personal growth. It’s a win/win in my opinion.
I have no illusions that I’m any kind of expert on the subject of screenwriting. But I do know one thing: I certainly know a helluva lot more about story and screenwriting than the average Joe. Ironically, trading scripts to provide brutally honest feedback is one of the main purposes of the CSN group!
Coincidentally, I drove home from the meeting that night with another writer who has sold scripts and had his material produced, and he said, “By the way, thanks for your notes on <SCRIPT>, it just won <SUCH AND SUCH> contest.”
Because I agreed to, I will spend the hours it takes to read and put together honest, coherent thoughts on this writer’s script. I can only hope that my time and effort will help him. Regardless, I know it will help me.
On a positive note, I also got a script from another friend of mine who wants nothing less than painfully honest notes.
I felt a little like Josh Olson there for a minute. Except he’s a talented, successful screenwriter and I’m, well… feeling a bit better for having written this. :)