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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Assistant Files

You know that Making It daydream you have? The one where someone has given you a huge amount of money for your totally awesome spec? And now you're meeting with the execs and producers, and they're fawning over your unrivaled genius? Yeah. That fawning? Lasts for about five minutes. It comes right after they shake your hand and offer you a beverage, and right before they start telling you all the things in your script that need to be changed.

It's true: once you're in business with a production company or studio, you're going to get notes on your script. Prepare yourself.

"Oh, Andy!" You say. "I can take notes! OF COURSE I can take notes. Done it a million times. How else do you think my work of pure genius came to be?"

Yes, well. I'm guessing the way you usually get notes is from one person at a time. You send your draft to a couple of aspiring-writer friends, maybe your mom, and then they come back with comments that range from, "I really liked it!" to "It's your best work yet!"

Not anymore! Now you're going to get notes from several people in tandem, people who are not your friends. It's the Hollywood equivalent of being jumped into a gang. Fun, huh?

A lot is made of the fact that this business is a collaborative one. Which just means you're going to get a lot of input thrown at you. Everyone involved will have something to say about the script (no longer YOUR script so much as THE script). Some of the input will be annoying. Some of it will be confusing. But some of it just might be helpful.

I once dated a guy, a baby screenwriter, who had sold a project and was meeting with the involved parties about the first rewrite. Your average cynical Hollywood type, Boyfriend was stunned when someone in the meeting actually had a good idea. An idea that fixed a little thing in the script that had always bugged him, but he'd never quite worked out. Now, don't worry writers-- I'm not giving all your credit away. It was a minor thing that the suit had managed to fix. And I'm not sure he even realized he was fixing it. But Boyfriend was thrilled with the idea. And had the good sense to recognize it, and to incorporate it. His attitude about taking notes was forever changed. (By 'forever' I mean 'until the next meeting'.) As he said, "Hey, they can give me all the ideas they want. The only person who's going to get credit for them is me!"

…I didn't want to snuff out the mad glint in his eye by reminding him that it was entirely possible he'd be rewritten and have to share credit.

Then again, if he took all of their notes as ungrudgingly, they'd be much less likely to replace him. Hey, I'm not saying roll over and sell out. But keep in mind that a good idea can come from anywhere. And, as absurd as they might sometimes be, producers and studio execs aren't idiots.

Smart writers take notes with grace. Not only does it earn you the reputation of being pleasant to work with, but that way when a good idea shows up, you're open to it.

Until next time, Wavers!

Andy Sachs

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1 comment:

E.C. Henry said...

Taking notes sounds like a nice problem to have.

I'm of the opinion that IF I ever even make a sale, I'm going to get fired right off the bat, and taking notes is something I won't have to worry about.

IF that's not the case, their always drafts. You can impliment their ideas and see if they really make the script better. IF they don't you can always go back to the previous draft.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA