How to deal with notes

So you’ve finished the first draft of your latest script and sent it off. It was a difficult process fraught with many pitfalls and as the day of the deadline dawned you realised you hadn’t actually written anything.

After watching eight or nine hours of TV, you finally knuckled down and furiously scribbled whatever random words popped into your head in a blaze of panic induced creativity, finally emailing the script on time – because 11.59 pm is technically still the same day.

Well done, you can relax and fanny around on the Internet … until the notes arrive. Here’s a quick guide to dealing with notes. Once you’ve identified these simple steps you can move through them quickly and deal with the notes in a calm and effective manner:

STEP ONE – RAGE

How fucking dare they criticise your masterpiece? These fucking idiots wouldn’t know a good script if you shoved it up their arse and set fire to it. They shouldn’t be allowed to make sandwiches, let alone fucking films. You’ve a good mind to ring them up and tell them all what a bunch of talentless cunts they really are.

STEP TWO – RELUCTANT ACCEPTANCE

Once the fires of indignation have burnt out you can re-read the notes and consider them in a new light. Okay, so maybe some of the notes have some worth to them. Less than half, mind you; but they’re not all as stupid as they first appear. One of them even makes sense, in an odd sort of way.

STEP THREE – MORE RAGE

Oh fucking hell, changing these things is going to mean actually doing some writing. Can’t these fucking people understand how difficult that is? The A-Team’s back on Bravo, how the hell are you expected to get any work done under those kind of conditions? They probably think it’s just a few hours work, but they don’t understand the creative process, once you add on all the procrastination this thing could take weeks. They’re fucking vampires, just because they’re paying you doesn’t mean they own your soul.

 STEP FOUR – COUNTER ARGUMENT

Apparently they do own your soul, it’s in your contract. You sit down and write notes on their notes, arguing against every point. The more times you can use phrases like ‘character arc’, ‘remaining true to the underlying theme’ and ‘intrinsic logic of the character’s psyche’ the better. Cite films which don’t bother explaining the character’s motivation or avoid the clichéd notion of ‘making sense’. The more detailed your notes are, the less likely it is you’ll have to do any real work. True, writing these notes takes longer than it would to re-write the script; but it’s the principle god damn it.

STEP FIVE – BELLIGERENCE

The nagging suspicion sets in that their notes make sense and are beneficial to the story. By dissecting them and arguing against them you’ve slowly realised their true worth: half of them add to the story, the other half are personal choice and make no difference whatsoever – except the person paying your wages wants them to be like that. When the producer rings you up to discuss your notes, you want to apologise for calling his mother names and reach a sensible middle ground.

However, that would mean admitting you’re wrong and there’s no fucking way that’s going to happen. Instead you discuss the relative merits of the script until you manage to suggest a third way forward – one which addresses his concerns without using his ideas. There’s nothing wrong with his ideas, but you’re not going to let the fucker think he knows what he’s talking about. That way lies madness and leads to producers writing their own scripts. Even when they’re right, tell them they’re wrong.

STEP SIX – EVEN MORE RAGE

Oh for fuck’s sake! You’ve just talked yourself into doing the fucking re-writes. Okay, not exactly as they were first noted, but you’re still actually going to have to do some fucking work. This is fucking intolerable. There must be something in your contract which says you don’t have to do any more work. Why is life so fucking difficult?

STEP SEVEN – PROCRASTINATION

You know you have to do the re-writes, you know the deadline is fast approaching but you just don’t feel like doing any writing. There are hundreds of TV channels, if you keep flicking long enough you’re bound to find something to watch. Maybe there’s an episode of ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ you haven’t seen more than twice? Ooh! There’s a documentary on the history of cheese on the Cheese channel, that might be interesting!

It’s not.

When you’ve watched as much Simpsons as you can bear, it’s finally time to retreat to the computer and knuckle down to some proper procrastination.

Write a blog post, browse for some porn, sign up to some random forums and slag everyone off. This is an important part of the writing process, it’s like a venturi, building up the twin pressures of guilt and panic until they erupt in literary genius. The longer you can avoid writing, the better it will be.

STEP EIGHT – PANIC

Holy fuck! The deadline’s in three hours and you haven’t written a fucking word. The most important thing at this point is to find someone to blame. If you’re in the house on your own, text someone asking them to ring you urgently then scream at them for interrupting you. You can always claim you sent the text two days ago and they obviously don’t care about your well-being. Finally – after one last check of the news, just in case there’s been some terrorist attack you can claim a friend died in; or perhaps a nuclear war has broken out and your script won’t be needed until next week? – you make the changes you were asked to do and deliver the script at 11.59 pm.

These eight simple steps are vital to the writing process. You need to pass through each one in order to reach your goal. Now that you know what they are, hopefully you can shorten how long you spend on each step and free up your time for more important things. Like sleeping fourteen hours a day, or looking up the origins of rude words … until the next set of notes arrive and the process begins all over again.

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Categories: Uncategorized | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “How to deal with notes

  1. Lol, so true.

  2. I suspect the same holds true for book notes from your editor.

    I shall print this post out and stick it on the wall above my monitor so that when those pesky notes come in I know exactly how to react! 🙂

    Cheers Phil!

    Hopefully one day I can apply them to screenplay notes. … One day …

  3. crustynomad

    The step titles alone could be used as a way of dealing with every day life not just writer notes. You ARE a prophet, Phill.

  4. Pingback: How To Rewrite A Screenplay | The Ultimate Screenwriting Rewrite & Problem Solving Guide | The Screenwriting Spark

  5. Pingback: What do producer’s notes look like? | The Jobbing Scriptwriter

  6. Pingback: #PhonePhill – Conversation #14: Calum Chalmers (The Revenge) | The Jobbing Scriptwriter

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