No stupid notes

I know I sometimes go off on long rambling rants about stupid notes and how annoying they are, but the truth is very few notes are stupid.

Sometimes, the ones that sound stupid, the ones that you think prove the idiot giving you them hasn’t read your script, actually highlight sections which either aren’t clear or are just badly written.

If someone asks you why a character doesn’t help in a particular scene when they’ve been dead for thirty pages – it could be the note-giver hasn’t read the script properly; but it’s more likely they just haven’t understood what you’ve written.

There’s a crucial difference there. One is their fault, the other is yours.

Yes, you could argue that if someone is too stupid to understand the script, then they’re the wrong person to make it. But equally, if they’re not getting it, maybe other people won’t either?

Maybe, instead of calling them names, you should just make the script clearer and … well, better.

I’m not saying you have to simplify the story (although you should certainly consider it – you should at least consider every option) but rather you should ensure the events of the story are written in a way which make them memorable and understandable.

If a note-giver can’t remember a character is dead, then maybe that character’s death isn’t entirely obvious on the page? Maybe you’ve had someone loom out of the shadows behind the character with an axe … and then cut to something else. In your mind, they’re dead; but to the note-giver … maybe not. Maybe they escpaed or are locked up somewhere?

Maybe the problem is that the character dies so quickly it’s just not memorable? Or even worse, the character wasn’t memorable to begin with?

And this isn’t limited to just characters being dead or not-dead; it refers to everything you write down. There’s no point getting upset because you think it’s obvious. If any aspect of your script fails to lodge in the note-giver’s mind … then it needs to be re-worked until it does.

I’ve often heard (and used myself) the argument: it’ll be less confusing on screen. The problem with that is it isn’t on screen. Not yet. It has to get from script to screen and to do that, people (investors, producers, actors, directors, distributors) have to like it. People tend not to like things they don’t understand*, it would be like admitting they’re stupid.

Or maybe the note-giver is just an idiot after all? Maybe they are incapable of remembering something which happened two pages ago? Maybe they struggle to breathe and read at the same time?

But you shouldn’t automatically dismiss someone’s criticism as stupid. They had a problem with your script – take that seriously and see if there’s room for improvement.

The bottom line is, someone didn’t understand what you wrote. What’s clear to you isn’t always clear to everyone else and sometimes it takes an idiot to point out the obvious.


* This is isn’t true.

Some people love things they don’t understand.

I’ve had conversations with people who love a film but can’t explain exactly what happened or hadn’t realised the plot made no sense at all.

I’ve done it myself, I thought Transformers was great; but I haven’t got a fucking clue what it was about. All I know is, every time it got bogged down with plot, a giant fucking robot burst into the room and smashed shit up. That’s the kind of confusing I like.

Categories: Industry Musings, Things I've Learnt Recently | 4 Comments

Post navigation

4 thoughts on “No stupid notes

  1. Very good points. Sometmes it’s too easy to get miffed by notes… particularly when they are so solidly obvious in your head…. so much so, you may not have actually notice it…. then they suddendly become neon-lit with a massive pointy arrow.

    So yes, Notes. VALUABLE! Take heed. However, don’t be too afraid to stick by some things if you think necessary. 🙂

  2. Pingback: 2011 « The Jobbing Scriptwriter

  3. Pingback: Tuesday numb-nuttery « The Jobbing Scriptwriter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: