A friend of mine has this project in production, one I was curious about and really wanted to read. He’s not the writer, but being the generous soul he is, he said yes.
So he sent it, I read it and I thought that was that … but he asked me what I thought. Now, I wasn’t going to say anything, since I’d asked him to send it to me and was pretty certain my opinions were unsolicited and unwanted. However, he asked, so I told him.
I didn’t like it.
It was just a first draft, but I thought it had a lot of problems and said so. I tend to be fairly frank with my opinions – I think it’s a waste of time and insulting to fob someone off with pointless platitudes.
My friend disagreed with my opinions, which is fair enough, they are just opinions after all. He told me everyone else involved in the project loved the script – which, to be honest, surprised me, I really did think it had a lot of problems.
My friend sent me the list of notes the writer was actioning for the second draft and I was even more surprised – the notes written by the people who loved the script were exactly the same as the ones I wrote. They covered exactly the same points and flagged up problems in exactly the same areas.
The only difference was in the tone of the notes, these people are heavily invested in the project and intend to make it; hence their notes are very positive. I have no interest in the project, beyond wanting my friend to do well, and my notes honestly pointed out what I saw as the flaws.
So where I’d said it wasn’t dramatic enough to be interesting; they’d said the plot needed a few more twists.
Where I’d said the main character spontaneously changes personality halfway through; they’d said the character’s journey needed to be a little more gradual.
And where I’d said the supporting characters didn’t have any character; they’d said perhaps more can be made of the main character’s relationship with the supporting characters.
Basically, they were nice, I wasn’t.
My notes were written like a viewer who wanted the project to be good, but ultimately didn’t care if it wasn’t; theirs were written from the perspective of people who’ve invested time and money in the project and desperately want it to succeed.
Personally, I think their notes are better.
Their notes lead to a better script, mine lead to a binned project and a pissed off writer. It’s been a bit of an eye opener for me and something I want to learn from. From now on, whenever I read and comment on a script, I’m going to put myself in that frame of mind – someone who wants the script to be better.
It’s a simple change for me, but it makes a massive difference to the resulting notes. From now on, I’m going to phrase all my notes in positivity; from now on I’m going to spread the love.