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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In Development: Script Editing Evening With Andrew Ellard & Paula Hines by Eleanor Ball

If you don't yet stalk the In Development bunch, get stalkin'! In Development is a frequent meet-up of friendly professionals who work in drama and comedy development. It's hosted by Sarah Olley and Hannah Billingham, who very kindly let me bound along to this month's get-together.

Despite random strangers giving me contrary directions (damn random strangers with their sabotage), I eventually made it to the cracking BFI Benugo bar, where I met lots of charming people with lovely complexions. The discussion of the evening was script editing comedy.

This is a topic I've always found fascinating, not only because I'd love to be a script editor myself, but because editing comedy has a whole time-consuming extra level to it. Joke control. Ensuring that the beginning of the episode is as funny as the end, nailing the consistency of comedy tone, and generally lending the all-important editor's angle to the terrifying subjective area of jokes.

But what I learned at In Development is that it's actually more the serious stuff that the comedy script editor has to deal with it. Making sure the funny bits actually contribute to the plot, or don't harm the structure, and encouraging the writers to put in that little bit of sincerity that keeps people coming back. There's nothing I love more than a subtle, quiet bit of seriousness in a very funny comedy. Remember in Black Books when Bernard throws his trench coat over a sleeping Fran?

The guests at Tuesday evening's event were Paula Hines and Andrew Ellard, both of whom were extremely friendly and approachable. I didn't get to spend much time with Paula, marvellous script editor of The Smoking Room and After You’ve Gone, but I did shamelessly monopolise Andrew Ellard for a while, such a funny fella that it's no wonder Red Dwarf and The IT Crowd are so good. I got to geek out about Red Dwarf, which was great fun. I was born on the day the very first episode was broadcast, ya know.

Andrew is very keen to see more funny female characters in TV, a beautifully Bang2write agenda. Let's get it done. A female character saying funny things doesn't mean those things are JUST for female ears.

Very enjoyable and informative evening, and unique in that In Development is aimed not at writers but at those working in, and interested in, TV and film development. Check out the blog and don't forget to stalk.
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Eleanor is on the MA Scriptwriting degree at Goldsmith's, specialising in comedy drama. Join her on Facebook here and read her own blog, here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Criticism Sandwich by Eleanor Ball

Don't know about you, but I can be cripplingly sensitive when it comes to feedback. Actually, to hell with it, I DO know about you, dearest new bang2writer chums, because we're all creative and therefore much of what we do comes from deep within, unless we manage to roboticise the process. A cold word about something that I've poured my soul into (even though my soul is currently on the market if you're interested) can turn me from confidently chipper to wildly scribbling down plans to leave the industry and run away to raise mustangs in the Nevada mountains.

Of course you can harden with experience. There's all these blogs in which the writers share what stony criticism they've received that day, only to blissfully announce the very next day that they have a great new idea. Even though the LAW says they're supposed to have committed suicide by then. All I can do is stare at the screen in dazzled hero-worship and yearn for the day when I'll have their hard skin. But I've also heard from seasoned writers who throw themselves under a boat the moment they hear the slightest hint of criticism, so unfortunately experience isn't a sure-fire remedy for creative sensitivity.

As for giving criticism without puncturing the heart (ego?!) of a writer, one of the most common pieces of advice is THE CRITICISM SANDWICH. Self-evidently, the idea is to “sandwich” your criticism between two slices of good feedback. Great setting, crap idea, and well done for using recycled paper. Criticism sandwich. But what an ambiguous term. You wouldn't normally eat two pieces of bread on their own. But surely we gobble up good feedback?! Good feedback is nourishing. But criticism is the vegetables on the side of the plate that you don't really want to eat, but you know you have to because you know they're good for you.

… Okay, I'm getting my food analogies muddled up. I'm going to break for lunch.

Anyway, when it comes to the criticism sandwich, don't we sort of know the game already? Yeah we got it figured. If we hear some good feedback we know the bad stuff is on its way, especially when the good feedback is suspiciously irrelevant, or even decadent, as if they're scraping the barrel a bit. I really liked that bit on page 15 where Sam is wearing orange trousers. I loved that there wasn't much swearing. I enjoyed that the vampire was a lesbian.

Maybe it's a wee bit patronising to assume that we need a bit of ego-strokage before we can handle some important and constructive criticism, but then again, maybe that's a good assumption. I certainly feel better after a bout of useless compliments, even if they are just token and tact.

But putting aside potentially condescending tactfulness, maybe the real problem with the criticism sandwich is that it puts “positivity” and “negativity” in two completely different camps, telling us that we can hear only “good” things and “bad” things. So the issue is a writer's approach to feedback, and the tendency of some to hear constructive criticism as a dire personal insult worthy of leaving the industry and running away to live with wild mustangs.

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Eleanor is on the MA Scriptwriting degree at Goldsmith's, specialising in comedy drama. Join her on Facebook here and read her own blog, here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Q: Aren't *All* Movies "Character-Driven"?

Something came up on the Bang2writers page recently, which I thought was worth repeating/expanding on, since it's a question I get asked a lot:

When it comes to "character-driven" versus "event-driven" movies, aren't ALL movies character-driven on the basis that a character has to need/want something, else there is no movie?

My take? Yes. *And* no... Let me explain.

It's certainly true nearly all movies have a protagonist with a discernible need/want or goal. The obvious exception to this is the passive protagonist - though in these cases, someone else usually has to "take the reins" for this character (like a mentor figure, love interest or even antagonist), so really, it's still "character-driven" in that *a* character, somewhere in the narrative, is driving the action. Certainly audiences are interested most in characters over plot - which is why sequels, remakes & reboots etc are so popular: we want to see the SAME characters in DIFFERENT (though usually similar) scenarios - and of course Movie Execs are only too happy to oblige us in this with various franchises and whatnot.

So sure, all movies are "character-driven" in the above sense... HOWEVER:

When it comes to the traditional notion of a movie being "character-driven", basically we're talking about characters' own decisions driving the narrative - the minutiae of life, if you will, the little things that may seem to HUGE to oneself, but the world would not notice their passing. We're talking about broken relationships, family reunions, custody battles, searches for birth parents; sometimes life at school or work or in prison (dependant on story). Character-driven movies are often about relationships rekindled or coming back from the brink of *something*: sometimes with other people, sometimes alone, sometimes with the help of an animal or pet. Often character-driven movies are about taking chances, about identity or about family and its importance (or not).

In short... "Character driven" movies are very often about PERSONAL realisations about life and what it means, whether uplifting or sad. This is why drama is so often character-driven.

In comparison then, "event-driven" movies are very different. That protagonist may have an obvious need/want or goal - and in genre movies, it's spelt out in glorious technicolour, for that need is more often than not SURVIVAL, whether literal or metaphorical. In comparison to the "character-driven" drama where frequently a character STARTS the action themselves on the basis of a decision they need to make, the "event-driven" traditionally DRAWS a character into the problem (which they may otherwise not have had, had "fate" not got in the way).

This is why genre movies in comparison have a "call to arms" to its characters in a different way, ie:

The bank is foreclosing on Average Joe's gym, so the characters must get money from *somewhere* to keep evil corporate Globo Gym from making them into a car park (DODGEBALL).

A lawyer is in the wrong place, wrong time and receives highly classified information that turns his world upside down, which he must get into the RIGHT hands before the WRONG hands silence him (ENEMY OF THE STATE).

A gang of space truckers land on a planet infested with hostile alien life forms and accidentally bring one back on board the ship with them, which they must somehow destroy (ALIEN).


As you can see, that "call to arms" present a PROBLEM to the characters in the movie... Characters *would* have got on with their lives as normal *had this event not happened* (ie. kidnapping, crossing the path of a serial killer, the plane gets hijacked, etc).

CONCLUDING THEN:

"Character-driven" movies are traditionally those movies where the want/need comes from INSIDE the character/s, whereas "Event-Driven" movies, that "call to arms" is usually more EXTERNAL, most often a "beast" - literal or metaphorical - that needs vanquishing.

For more chat on stuff like this, join Bang2writers on Facebook.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Why You SHOULD Do A Course In Scriptwriting by Eleanor Ball

Last week Lucy penned a really useful post on media careers and what to do after a media course, which inspired me to churn out some thoughts as a meedja student about to face the abyss.

I'm in the final term of a scriptwriting MA, which means much less classes, and much more closing the curtains on warm sunny days. Not to get too personal or anything, but here is a snap of my Halls of Residence bedroom floor:


… So what that photo probably tells you is that when I've finished with something I literally just THROW it from my person with great force, but what I mean to say by the photo is that a scriptwriting course is lots and lots of work. Readers of this blog probably know this already from experience; but if there are any of you in the same scenario as I was a year ago, wondering if a scriptwriting course is worth the time, money and shrapnel, I'm gonna say yes.

It's annoying trying to decide if you should “study” scriptwriting, because there's contradictions and anomalies firing from all directions – and all cylinders. There's people who attach scriptwriting courses to a loss of individuality, then there's people who see it as vital for survival. Then there's all the bods in between. And even after wrapping our heads round all the contrasting opinions from all the loud-mouthed writers we admire, we're still left with the fact that WE'RE creative ourselves, and therefore we gotta annoy ourselves by philosophising before we come to a decision.

Which means worry about our integrity. Will a course iron out all the little kinks that make me my own writer? Will a course replace my opinions with someone elses? Will I get cookie-cutter feedback? Will a course trivialise the art of writing? Can you teach art? AND WHAT IS ART ANYWAY? WHY ARE WE HERE? Then you have to go to bed because you broke your brain, and you wake up the next morning only to find that you still can't come to a decision.

If you really really want to be a scriptwriter, do a (good) scriptwriting course. The idea is to go into it with confidence. Unless you sign up for a course ready to be beaten until you're a walking textbook, creative individuality is not so wispy as to be blown away by a gust of academia.

Scriptwriting courses teach you skills that increase the chances of getting your script read. I've also found the course very helpful in learning about the ways and faux pas of the industry, which is tortuously complex. Or, at least, it seems that way to me. I only really know about scriptwriting in the UK rather than globally, but such a teeny percentage of it seems to be about actual scriptwriting. As Lucy said, you can't just sit in your bedroom writing. Most of it is about socialising, attitude, flexibility, and whether or not you have little Batman-themed post-it notes.

So if you go into a scriptwriting course with faith in your individuality then you're reasonably safe from being stripped of it, and if you go into it free from the illusion that scriptwriting is just scriptwriting then you're likely to get loads out of it.

But what about if you get your soul destroyed by networking?! On a scriptwriting course, you have to network if you want to scriptwrite scripts after you scriptwrite the scriptwriting course. You flaunt “scriptwriting student” as a selling point, which makes you vaguely attractive to people in the industry because you might-be-the-next-big-thing-but-probably-not-but-just-in-case.

Confession time: I'm kind of naïve and optimistic (I don't know, maybe you picked that up already...), because I overdosed on cynicism as a teenager. As a result, I view networking with rose tinted glasses, insisting that everyone is being nice to one another because... well, they're nice and that's all. At a networking party, I don't stare at everyone's nametags looking for the biggest names; I drift over to the people whose company I enjoy the most. Everyone figures out what method of networking suits them personally, and, for people like me, I recommend the try-not-to-be-over-professional method. I'm not exactly a cool and crisp type, what with being perpetually terrified that I'm gonna crash into a table Miranda-style and the whole room will stare and I'll be exiled from London.

If fear of networking is stopping you from doing a scriptwriting course, then don't let it. You do have to network, but you don't have to approach it in the same way as everyone else. There's a billion books on networking, and loads of good advice about how to do it professionally and formally, and a number of training courses too, but I've been to a few events now when you come face to face with an aficionado on the subject. And as they charm you effortlessly and use all the correct hand gestures and gaze DEEP DEEP into your eyes, puncturing your very retinas with their charisma, you can tell you're being Networked.

But yes. Do a scriptwriting course. Yes yes yes. It might be intense, but it's practicable, it's enjoyably sociable, it's intensely motivating, it can teach you stuff you didn't even know were the basics, and it can make you a real life scriptwriter. If that's definitely what you want...

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Eleanor is on the MA Scriptwriting degree at Goldsmith's, specialising in comedy drama. Join her on Facebook here and read her own blog, here.

ON THIS BLOG BEFORE ABOUT SCRIPTWRITING COURSES:

Creating Your Career: Life After A Scriptwriting Course

University - worth the money?

Studying Writing: Being a "Lone Ranger" vs Going To University

My Writing Story: University

Friday, June 17, 2011

Personality Is Personality: Making Gender "Irrelevant" In Characterisation

Bang2write's fab intern, the mighty Eleanor Ball has decided to tackle a BIG subject for her first official blog post - and why not? Please direct any questions, comments, etc to her here in the relevant section or over at Bang2writers. Enjoy!

My script is about a group of girlies. People keep asking me if that would eliminate the male half of the audience. No, damnit!

It's an interesting challenge, trying to make a sitcom with mainly female characters appeal to all chromosomes, but it's a shame I took it for granted that it would indeed BE a challenge. It shouldn't be a challenge.

Both men and women watched The IT Crowd and Black Books, two sitcoms with predominantly male characters. And if basement-bound geek Roy or glowering book-seller Bernard had been female (I think Jessica Hynes could've played them both magnificently), surely the audience would've remained roughly the same. Unless we're just talking about fancying Dylan Moran.

So what's the challenge? Is it simply trying to make both genders feel represented? But I feel represented by plenty of characters, regardless of what gender they are. I actually feel more represented by male characters in TV and film, because often female characters are led by a mysterious personality trait known only as "Woman".

Besides, an all-female group in TV is pretty similar to an all-male group. Personality is personality. Take Sex and the City (all female) and Mad Dogs (all male). Sensible one, slutty one, innocent one, aggressive one...

It's the same in Desperate Housewives, another famous all-female group. Creator Marc Cherry once said the show is supposed to represent stereotypical women from old soap operas, but even that is outweighed by the fun drama of the show. I was talking to a classmate yesterday -- an action movie obsessed cagefighter who drinks those high protein meal replacement thingies -- and he shiftily mentioned that he loves Desperate Housewives. Men watch Desperate Housewives, I'm pretty sure everyone knows that. Desperate Housewives is not about women's issues, it's about revenge and lies and friendship and family and peer pressure and mob culture and unbridled entertainment so undiluted that you might as well inject it.

See, fun for all the family. Boys and girls alike. Being female isn't a "hook" or a "twist", and it's not "PC" to have female characters. Groups of female characters are just as likely and default as groups of male characters. I'd love to see a coincidentally all-female group of characters somewhere. But if that happened, they'd be marketed as "female con artists" or "female pirates" or "female Christian abseilers", as if 51% of the world's population is a minority.

So I'm going to get back to the challennnnnnnge of writing an all-female group of characters for a mixed-gender audience, by making it completely irrelevant that they're female.
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Eleanor is on the MA Scriptwriting degree at Goldsmith's, specialising in comedy drama. Join her on Facebook here and read her own blog, here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nemesis

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know I've fretting about the upcoming arrival of the bebe, aka MICROSPAWN. Not for any birthing trauma reasons (though that is obviously a *bit* of a factor!) but because of my family's GROUP DYNAMIC.

As one tweeter pointed out a while ago, introduce a new character too quickly MID-SEASON and it could lead to CANCELLATION! After all, like any good scriptwriter's family, we all have our CHARACTER ROLE FUNCTIONS:

ME - I'm the protagonist, **obviously**. There aren't enough female-driven comedies/tragedies/action-adventures/horrors/dramas and though the genre mixing is troubling, I'm hoping it will settle down somewhere in the second act. I'm not ENTIRELY sure what my mission is yet either but that should iron itself out too. (I blame myself, I should have prepared a beat sheet).

MR C - he's the love interest, natch and there to look pretty. A bit like Dex Dexter in DYNASTY actually, though without the roll top bath (one day....!) Oh and he fixes stuff, so if our spaceship breaks down, he's on hand with the tool box. We just better remember he's scared of the dark AND spiders, so he'll be the screaming damsel in distress should any monsters figure anywhere down the line.

MALE SPAWN - he's the mentor figure, always on hand to dispatch advice in our journey, like how to spot a Nimbus cloud or inform us how desperately uncool we are. He's not revealed any kick-ass martial arts skillz or the fact we're actually all trapped in a dream-within-a-dream Matrix-style yet, but I'm waiting.

WEE GIRL - - She's the best friend figure/voice of my conscience, obvs. Just this week she's reminded me I'm "like, well pretty" and to feed the cats so they "don't totally die". No doubt as she gets older she'll have lots of other sage advice for me, especially when I'm ruining other people's weddings.

If seven is the magic number when it comes to script characterisation, we still have a while to go in terms of fulfilling *all* the standard character role functions, but it's come to my attention we have one achingly OBVIOUS role missing:

AN ANTAGONIST!!!

As a family we mostly get on, so we've had to make do with an "antagonist of the week" for some time - neighbours, teachers, a friend from school, the postman at one house - which we have dispatched with relative ease during the "story of the week", though occasionally said antagonist has become a serial element that lead us towards the SEASON FINALE of that year. But we've always been victorious.

But if Microspawn IS the antagonist... She will walk amongst us! A bit like Boyd in JUSTIFIED... then what?!?

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

#scriptchat Meet the Lovely Eleanor Ball!

As you know, recently I advertised for the first official Bang2write social networking-style intern, so all you lovely Bang2writers won't go without your scriptwriting, industry & novels bloggage and linky-goodness while I take a few weeks off to have baby number 3. I was stunned by the number of interested parties and would love to thank everyone who got in touch, all of whom were completely 100% delicious in their own right! I know people **always** say "it was a hard decision" but it REALLY WAS, it was agony choosing!!!

Without further ado then, I'd like to introduce the marvellous Eleanor Ball. I've introduced some of you via Facebook, but please do friend her if you haven't already - or visit her own fabulous blog, here. I chose Eleanor because I felt her writing style matched that of Write Here, Write Now's the best. She will be writing blog entries here and finding you links etc over on the Facebook page - she will be the admin over at Bang2writers, so please do get in touch with her directly here or there. I will of course be checking in too and won't be gone for a while (unless the baby makes a surprise appearance!).

Here's ten fascinating facts about Eleanor, in her own words - enjoy and please give her a warm welcome!

ABOUT ELEANOR:

1. I'm from a little village in the Scottish Borders called Stow, whose inhabitants once devised a method of cleaning pipes by attaching an eel to a piece of string and putting the eel in the pipe. Gotta admire the imagination.

2. I'm a scriptwriter, but the first thing I wrote was a book called Adrian the Warrior. I was 7, and it was for my wee brother. There was a magic carpet and a sabre-toothed tiger. Arabian Nights eat your heart out.

3. My favourite genre to write and watch is comedy. Like many, I aspire to see women much better represented in comedy and in comedy audiences. Some stand-up comedians think their entire audience is male. "Tell your wife or girlfriend", they sometimes say. What, are we all men and lesbians? "Have you ever noticed when women..." Yes we've noticed! Half of us are female!

4. One of my favourite films is Mortal Kombat. And if you need to ask why, you need to see it first. "Your soul is mine!"

5. Back home I have a three-legged cat called Dorito. He tells me what to do.

6. I'm a great great granddaughter of Bulwer-Lytton, who first said the pen is mightier than the sword (because he was crap with a sword).

7. There's an apocalyptic thunderstorm (here in London) as I write this. Again! Not that I'm trying to turn the topic to the weather or anything...

8. I started writing scripts when I was a teenager because I saw in the credits of Green Wing that they wrote as a team, which I'd never seen before in British TV. I wanted to be one of them, so I wrote my own Green Wing scripts. I think at one point Guy dared Mac to perform a lung transplant without touching the ground.

9. I slavishly obey Charlie Brooker's Guardian column. If he told me to jump off a cliff, I'd... well, I wouldn't jump off the cliff, but I'd sit by the cliff and read his Guardian column.

10. I'm currently studying scriptwriting at Goldsmiths, but my undergraduate degree is in philosophy, which I studied in Aberdeen. I wrote my dissertation on the philosophy of humour, and largely concluded that we laugh in order to feel superior. I'm much less cynical now. I'm pretty sure we laugh because it's funny.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Deviation Poster

So... Feast your eyes on THIS:

... I know! SQUEEEEEE, etc.

You might have heard this is Danny Dyer "as you've never seen him before" - but HERE IS THE PROOF. Look at his eyes! Talk about channelling his inner serial killer. YIKES. And Anna is just awesome in human form, her face is so expressive, it's like you can SEE HER THOUGHTS. I love them both in this film so much and am so proud to be associated with Deviation, the movie and whole team is fabulous!

We're not far off now... See more pics and info on the Deviation Facebook Page by "Liking" it here. GO GO GO!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Creating Your Career

It's *that* time of year when scriptwriting, media and filmmaking students come to the end of their courses and find themselves looking for work. Whilst exhilarating, it's also a strange and frightening time; I remember it well. In comparison to many other courses - where you *are* what you trained for, 'cos there's a piece of paper with a degree on saying so (ie. a teacher, a doctor) - it feels as if you need to START ALL OVER AGAIN. And in some ways, this is exactly what you do: gone is the "safe environment" where you've explored the craft, your voice, what you think about things... Instead, it is replaced with the more unforgiving reality of the industry, where you and everyone else often feel as if you're feeling your way in the dark!

Now of course teachers, doctors etc work hard; there's no disputing that. And I've experienced the harshness of being an unemployed teacher in a land where people with PGCEs are all over the shop. That said, moving sideways *as* a teacher is considerably easier in my opinion than getting "started" as a writer. Though I *had* wanted to teach English at A Level some more, because I had a TEFL qualification, because I had a PGCE, I found myself a job in an English Language School. Sorted. In comparison as a writer, you have to CREATE your career - it doesn't matter what your piece of paper says - you need the EXPERIENCE to back it up, too. And this takes time. Sometimes LOADS of it. That's just the way it is.

Students and recent graduates often email me and ask what they should do next. My answer? I can't know, only they can. They know what their personal circumstances are; they know what they WANT to do and how to balance it with what they HAVE to do. This differs from person to person. However, there's plenty of things that unite every person who've just left uni with a media -based qualification:

Hardly any one will get what you're trying to do. Relatives, friends, people in the street will not really understand what you're doing. They'll assume your big career strategy is a whim and any work you write is a charming hobby at best. If you're interning, they won't really know what it is; any potentially exciting developments that happen to you will be met with a "Oh, lovely" before they launch into what happened to them at their own work. When you DO find someone who actually takes the time to find out what you're doing, HANG ON TO THEM.

Laypeople will constantly tell you Media Students are a bunch of lazy tossers. Despite the fact you've just worked your arse off for the last three years and have EVEN MORE WORK ahead of you in establishing yourself, you'll hear all the time how people who do media-based qualifications at uni don't actually do ANYTHING. These people will sometimes include those closest to you who should know better. IGNORE THEM ALL. It's their problem, not yours; you know how hard you work.

Media People will tell you talent can't be taught. Anyone who's gone to university to do media stuff will report being told by some in the industry that university degrees aren't that great or that they've wasted their time. Sometimes this will be by Bigwigs who never went (but still did well); other times it will be from people who went to university, didn't have a good time and believe *they* wasted their OWN time. But know this: things CHANGE and people's circumstances are INDIVIDUAL. Twenty five years ago there were no scriptwriting degrees; that doesn't mean ALL the ones available now are useless - any more than it means they're all good, either. But don't apologise for going to uni if you feel you got something out of it! And keep going, because that uni qualification is not a golden ticket.

It's about strategy, NOT overnight success. All the people I know who've carved themselves a niche in this industry - whatever that means - had a STRATEGY. They set themselves goals and followed them through - networking, blogging, creating their brand, etc. They did not sit in their bedrooms *just* writing.

Talent is important, perseverance is KEY. Everyone I've ever met has told me "it gets worse before it gets better". I always wondered what this meant until 2008 hit me, full on in the face, with the force of a concrete herring at 40mph. Before this, I had been making good, generally straightforward progress... Yet that year I was forced to run on the spot despite my best efforts NO MATTER WHAT I DID. It was hell!!! But it passed and now I'm making good progress again. I think everyone gets tested like this, probably multiple times, over the course of their career. You have to just keep going... Which is easily said, but until you've had to face those challenges, it's difficult to appreciate how hard that is, especially when you feel like your HEAD WILL EXPLODE.

Things do not happen straight away. You're MAKING a career here; this takes time. Never forget that. Everything I have now is a direct result of things I set in place YONKS ago. I don't earn stacks and I've still got ages to go. But that's half the fun. It's not all about the destination - if you think it is, maybe you're in the wrong game!!!

And finally:

When you do "make it", everyone will tell you they believed in you all along. That's right - all those laypeople without a clue will suddenly tell you how fab you are. Media People who *you know* said things like "what's s/he ever done??" will suddenly email or Facebook you with congratulations. Don't be bitter. Just enjoy your moment - cos you'll soon find yourself working mega hard for the next one.

GOOD LUCK!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Dealing With Feedback: Losses & Gains

Lots of Bang2writers say they know they should get feedback on their work - but confess that once they have, they're not always terribly illuminated by it. In fact, sometimes they feel even more confused. It should be noted this can happen whether they have paid for a reader like me or got their feedback via peer review. Surprisingly, this can happen with GOOD notes as much as bad too, so it also doesn't depend on the quality of the notes, either.

It depends wholly on the writer themselves.

Knowing how to deal with feedback is a skill in itself. In the ye olden days (of about a decade ago!), writers frequently sent out very obvious first drafts and often went BALLISTIC even at constructive criticism. In the past five years in particular, those obvious first drafts have more or less disappeared from the spec pile and writers seem able to better take constructive criticism. But like with anything writing-related, you chop the head off the Hydra and another one appears, because that original problem has been replaced with something else:

Writers often appear to have forgotten THEY are the authority on their own work.

If YOU wrote the work, then YOU know what's best for it: you conceived it, you know what story you're trying to tell. You know what first EXCITED you about this story or character (and if you don't, this is perhaps where you start looking - or abandon the project!). With the former in mind however, WRITER KNOWS BEST. End of.

Note this doesn't mean discarding feedback, but rather WORKING OUT how it fits with regards to YOUR VISION FOR THE PROJECT. That's right, YOUR VISION. If it's a spec, it's ALL ABOUT YOU and how you see this story working. However good or well-meaning feedback or notes are, you need to keep a hold of what you originally conceived - OR accept that actually, those notes offer an opportunity for that story's EVOLUTION. In other words, for every note given, it all boils down to these two questions:

What do I LOSE?

What do I GAIN?


Ask yourself these questions when you receive feedback or notes on your spec. Sometimes the gains are obvious: you kick yourself - "Why didn't I think of that??" Other times, the losses will simply be too high: ie. getting rid of *this character* may well improve the STRUCTURE, but does it kill off the HEART?

Only you can truly know. 'Cos you're the writer.

ON THIS BLOG BEFORE ABOUT FEEDBACK:

Characterisation: Preferences and Opinions - why readers & feedback-givers HATING your characters may actually be a *good* thing

Ten Things A Writer Should & Shouldn't Do - when rewriting/getting a script read, according to me

Rewriting & Feedback - various reactions to feedback and how all/none of them are "right"

Focus on Feedback - why readers and feedback-givers cannot be 100% objective and what to do about this

A Tale of Two Readers - should you send to more than one reader?

Power of Three - Adrian Mead's handout on how to get and use free feedback

Transcript of Scriptchat on using Script Readers (March 28, 2010) - Twitter & me plus Script Angel's Hayley McKenzie

The Feedback Exchange - a directory of Bang2writers all looking to swap scripts and peer review, add your name