Free Support and Outreach for Colorado's Filmmaking Community
I thought about posting this in the Writer's Corner, but since most of the folks who are serious about success in their career spend some time here, I thought this was more appropriate.
I had an important lesson underscored to me this weekend. I am developing a project that has some interest out west. It's a great concept, with franchise opportunities and it is getting some attention. Some of the folks I am working with out there sent me some notes on my treatment recently. They had a lot of good points, but they also had some suggestions that I thought were nuts.
Since the folks I am working with have a lot of experience at this, I reluctantly decided to implement what they suggested.
It didn't work. Want to know why?
Because I was reluctant!
I spent about 24 hours whining like a baby about how they didn't "get" what I was trying to do, dragging my feet about seeing any other possibility. I was hammering away at the keyboard, subconsciously looking for every roadblock I could to their strategy. What a waste of time.
But then I thought..."What if?" It was a crack in my armor, which led to a rapid, but still painfully incremental, chain of ideas that opened up some great new possibilities. I am guessing that I am going to give them some stuff that follows Haylar's advice: When you get notes, give them back something better than they were asking for. You CANNOT do that if you do not embrace their suggestions. If you do it half-assed it will never work. I completely threw myself behind their ideas, and I think the results of that enthusiasm will show.
Don't get me wrong, I still think my original idea is more interesting in many ways. But their way has become pretty damned good, and is without a doubt more marketable. I'm also not saying that you shouldn't stand up for your own ideas. I did that as well, and much of what I fought for they agreed with.
The point of all this is simply this: Ask yourself, when someone is giving you points or notes about your script or your film, do you really listen? No, I mean REALLY listen. I don't mean nod your head and walk away thinking "they don't get what I'm doing". Do you take their notes and really think them through, asking yourself what that would look like if you put all of your creative energies behind it to make it work? Do you do that?
If you do, I am guessing that not only you will be one of the ones that gets a nice paycheck someday, but you will also exponentially improve your ability to write and create.
If you don't (and most people never will...even if they think they do), you will always be one of those people who puts the blame on other people for not understanding their scripts or films.
Embrace the possibilities. It stings, but anything that helps you grow usually does.
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to have this "problem", but that's not my point.
My point is twofold:
1) The way you approach people's feedback can make or break your career. I have a feeling that the folks I am working with are just as interested to see how well I work with their notes as well as how good the writing is. They want to see if I am actually listening to what they are saying.
2) Taking something that you disagree with and getting completely behind it stretches you as a writer. It might not be the way you would have done it, but it could possibly make the piece better. It will definitely make you better because you will explore possibilities you hadn't thought of and will force you to examine the very core of why you made certain choices.
and always remember, that producers' notes are not always based on the furthering of the story. Why?
They are also tryiung to guide you based on what thei instcints and experiences tell them they can sell or get greenlit.
in certain situations, your given one especially now, it makes no sense to write it at all, if you don't have a producer who will walk into a room with it confidently.
they know full well that giving examples of how clever your story is in a pitch meeting, won't get the financiers all gushy.
like it or not,
marketability comes first
story comes second.
at least that is; if you want checks.
Very true Swann. But I think that getting in the habit of really thinking through even outrageous suggestions can be helpful. What have you got to lose? You don't have to keep it, but you can figure out why it helps, or why it doesn't if you really embrace it. That's a great way to get to know your story.
Once we think we "know", that's when we stop learning.
PARAGRAH 1: Whining is useless. Waste of time? Not necessarily… read on…
PARAGRAH 2: Haylar’s right.
PARAGRAPH 3: Compromise is good. Good for you.
PAARAGRAPH 4: YOU’RE GETTING IT.
PARAGRAPH 5: You’re still getting it.
PARAGRAPH 6: No comment…no question… No problem..
PARAGRAPH 7: YES, but don’t compromise too much to quickly… the business changes a lot, and so do the execs, and what one exec liked, the next may not. And based on how long it takes to make a big project, thee execs change too quickly. Be open, be realistic. Be rich.
All the best, my friend.
An open mind is truly a wonderful thing!
The definition of a camel,"a race horse built by committee." Or another one, The Golden Rule; "he who pays the gold gets to make the rules."
Obviously the source is critical. Everyone in Hollywood has an opinion and some of them are damn good but it tends to be their vision or best guess. Or maybe it is as Ben Franklin said, "free advice is worth every dime you paid for it."
When a property is optioned I now have a partner on the project that has every right to have their vision incorporated into the project, for better or worse.
When I see a movie with multiple writers I usually figure I'm getting ready to watch a mess. Occasionally I am wrong.
The vision is critical (it is the story).
All of the above is true, but again I am not necessarily talking about changing what you have written. I am talking about honestly exploring the options before you decide. 99.9% of people getting feedback write off what they are hearing if it doesn't agree with what they ALREADY think. That's no way to create.
As for writing credits, even though there may be one or two names up on the screen, one thing I have learned is that hardly any scripts that make it to the big screen are truly the work of one writer.
And camels...well they are actually a perfectly designed creature for what they do. If you choose to put a camel in a horse race, whose fault is it when the camel loses? :-)
what you have quickly learned Jim ( and it awesome that you did so, so quickly) is that when you are working at a level where people maight just pay you an obscene amount of money to write a screenplay, or to make your idea into a full flegde film....YOU NEVER ACTUALLY WRITE A SCREENPLAY BY YOURSELF.
your ability to work with and wrangle different opinions, seemingly odd combos of ideas, and things that would never have been your first choices, is what helps make you a viable option to them.
There are thousands of writers out there, but there are considerably less who truly understand that films are made by gigantic teams of people (of which the writer is only one).
Always understand that as a writer, you are a key member, but not the only member of the preproduction team.
and wait til you find yourself shit sandwiched between an author or creator and the producers, trying to make everyone happy... it's the worst brutha!
PS thanks for posting here.
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH:
A very good point.... Making a movie is a collaborative effort. Even FIXING TOM which had four actors, I wrote, directed and filmed most of it my self had over fifty people in the credits that all contributed to the project being made and there were probably another fifty that contibuted that weren't credited. And that's a tiny little project.
Different film, I remember meeting the producer from London in New York for a story conference. There were at least fourteen people in the hotel room. Each had an interest in how the script would be formed. The original screenplay had already been written and everyone agreed we loved it.... but! we agreed to making a few changes. Fast forward to the re-writes. After hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in options, more and different imput and all the frills the producer walked away from the project. As we set down in that hotel room we all meant to design and improve on a better, faster, sleeker race horse. What we had come up with was a camel and the argument still is he should have had two heads.
It is critical that "everyone is telling the same story" and holding the vision. It is the job of the writer, the director and producer to get on the same page. I know, we writers have the reputation of what is know as "killing our babies" or "what do you mean you want to change that period!" or thinking that we were given "the word" and they should have been chiseled in stone. As I am writing this I realize I have lost my argument. It all starts with the message we were taught in kindergarden, "play nice and have fun." I guess the question is how does the magic come together? I'm not sure that any of us has the answer or even those who have touched it once or several times has a clue how it happened. There is no formula... that's why it is called creativity.
Just wanted to add something to this. Getting in this habit doesn't only help you when other people are throwing ideas at you. It also can break down your own internal barriers.
I was sitting around rationalizing a challenge with a treatment.
"I really don't think it's a big deal"
"It can work like this"
"I've seen films that do this exact thing"
But the brief experience I have had working with Hollywood people has taught me that thinking that way is the first way to sink your script (and your chances). That kind of thinking NEVER flies.
But it has also taught me that if someone else can come up with a better idea, or solve a problem, than a better answer exists.
So I can think of something too.
I did that exact thing last night. A problem I did not even want to admit existed was obliterated, and the treatment was improved. I completely believe that I would not have been able to solve that problem as effectively (or even recognize its existence), if I had not started the habit of embracing the possibilities and to stop rationalizing my decisions.