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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Are You REALLY All That?

Another good question arrived in ye olde mailbag:


When I last consulted with an analyst on one of my scripts, we talked about my readiness for market. She was of the opinion that my material was good enough to start sending out, and I naturally agreed with her view that I should try to land a manager this year.

Since then, two pro writers have read the script independent of each other and given me feedback... and the only thing they agreed on is that the writing is good. One loves the concept and finds it an interesting take on the detective genre... while the other thinks it's not original (at the risk of sounding arrogant, I think he's wrong -- I worked hard to make sure the concept was unique).

One gave me permission to tell managers and agents he enjoyed the script when I query. The other suggested I move on to another concept. I'm not giving up on the script, but I am a few pages away from finishing the first draft of another. My concern here is that I don't want to rush to market, and I'm being told different things.

The mixed messages are quite perplexing -- and I'm starting to suspect this is what working in the business will be like. Which is fine, I can handle it, but boy is it frustrating. I think the consultant was right to say that this won't be everyone's cup of tea, and I'm proud of the script even as I go to rewrite, so I'm not giving up *or* spinning my wheels.

Why do you think there's so much difference in notes on scripts in general? Is it really what Goldman said?

Matt in Muncie


Well. This is a really annoying but not uncommon situation. Someone tells you your script is good and of course it feels amazing. And it should. Validation of this kind is very valuable for your mojo. However. Yes, opinions are totally subjective.

The best thing to do when getting what feels like conflicting advice or opinions about your script is to take what feels right, allow yourself to feel good about it - or conversely, do not allow yourself to sink into a black hole about it, and keep on keeping on. Look, if somebody really, really thinks your script is all that, they are going to open some doors for you by way of making some introductions or phone calls on your behalf. If they do anything short of that, just take the compliment, enjoy that good feeling, and be on your way.

So my advice is really two-fold:

One: A lot of smoke gets blown up - um, behinds in this town. So if someone says your script is really SO amazing, don't let it go to your head too much. Is that person literally picking up the phone on your behalf? If not, reduce their compliments by about 38% because sure, they like it, but not enough to throw their name and time behind it. Which - hey look, there are a lot of "pretty good" scripts out there and not everyone has time in the day to make you a priority when they're busy stayin' alive themselves. When somebody really does go to the mat for you - wow, that's saying A LOT. For someone to say that you can say in your query that they liked it, is unfortunately in my book, a pretty empty gesture. How does the recipient of that query know you didn't make that up? I mean - that really doesn't carry any weight. If Tony Gilroy said yeah sure you can tell someone I liked the script - that is nothing like Tony picking up the phone and saying, hey, there's this kid with a good script...Do you see what I'm saying?

Two: Look, tastes are subjective. Is your script unique? Or not unique? Too racy? Too violent, too focused on the roasting of marshmallows? Who the heck knows. What you are looking for is some kind of consensus - which you got. The writing is good. Follow your North Star - the writing is good, you like the premise, do your thing and query with the script. Don't allow a single naysayer, or even two or three, to derail your belief in the script. Of course, I'm talking about high-level naysaying, as in the script isn't unique enough, or it's not commercial - comments like that are particularly subjective. Comments about the writing itself, or the execution of the script, that's a bit easier to measure objectively. So in other words, if someone says look, your script is full of typos and your action lines are terrible - uh, probably they have a point. You don't really need a big consensus on basic execution notes.

So Matt - bottom line, yes, that's the way this town is. Different opinions. Smoke blowing. Confusion. Follow your internal compass rose, know that you did receive validation and mentoring and some pretty nice reads all gratis, send thank you notes and keep writing.

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Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

scripts are subjective. I think you should go ahead and put it on the market. 10 people might love it, while 5 people will think it' so-so or awful.

Luzid said...

Some dynamite advice. Thank you, Julie.