Once a screenwriter sends their work out for feedback, their mind will undoubtedly start churning. The anticipation that comes with waiting for feedback can be anxiety-inducing.
A screenplay is never really finished until the film is wrapped, and even then the story evolves in during production. So it’s vital that writers learn to receive and apply notes with humility and grace, recognizing that it's a collaborative effort with many creative minds. When receiving notes, a screenwriter needs to leave their ego at the door and accept feedback with an open mind. Sure, not every note will need to be (or should be) applied — all notes should all be considered with a proverbial grain of salt.
Take the notes as simply one reader's reaction to your material. Just as every film has people who love it and people who dislike it, so will your script. Don't take any praise or criticism personally.
Most scripts undergo dozens of rounds of notes and rewrites before going into production. It's true that writing is re-writing.
To help manage your expectations, here is an example of the general format most script analysts follow when reviewing your screenplay:
Basic screenplay coverage usually touches upon the top portion of the graphic, providing you with the title, format, budget, genre, setting, logline, summary, and comments.
For more in-depth coverage, the script analyst will break down the strengths and weaknesses of each story trait found in the bottom of the graphic. These analyses can range from 5-10 pages. Traits evaluated could include Concept, Story, Characters, Structure, Pacing and Originality.
As you break into the industry, one of the first lessons you’ll learn is that film is collaboration. There are many reasons an idea might work on the page but cannot practically be produced.
A producer may provide notes that ask you to cut back on an action sequence because the budget just won’t allow two car chases. Or the director may not believe a character’s goal is clear enough. It’s the writer’s job to fix these issues, and a writer will fix them. If your partners trust in your adaptability, hopefully you’ll be the one making the changes.
Over the course of your career, you’ll learn that a film is made through collaboration and that combining excitable minds will only make the final product that much better. Practice embracing notes now with peer-to-peer script exchanges and coverage services to help improve your work.
Here’s what you should NOT expect from your coverage.
- All the Answers: A script analyst might provide some general suggestions, but they will not give you answers to the issues they highlight. That’s your job.
- Ultimate Praise: Although a reader will hopefully lend some encouragement, don’t expect them to laud your work as the next great masterpiece. It’s their job to pick it apart.
- Ridicule: Even if you really miss the mark, you should never be subjected to ridicule or demeaning language from your script analyst. If the abuse is coming from an organization, be sure to report it. If it is coming from a fellow writer or friend — you deserve to be surrounded by people who exude positive energy.
- Subpar Coverage: You’ve invested plenty of time into writing the script, and you’re investing hard earned cash to get constructive feedback. So it’s only right to expect analysis that shows the reader actually read your work. Most reputable services will provide thorough and insightful critiques of your script. If you feel a coverage falls woefully short, politely reach out to the organization and they’ll most likely work with you to rectify the issue.
And another main reason that writers get feedback on their scripts is to increase their Coverfly Score. As a project improves with re-writes, each subsequent evaluation can count toward the aggregate weighted average of your Coverfly Score which in turns can help your project attract attention of industry professionals.