A few months ago, I wrote about the necessity and the value of feedback; how crucial it can be to the writing process.
I listen intently to feedback given on my projects. I would hazard that I incorporate almost all of it in one form or another. It may take months, but eventually, that note sparks a little germ of an idea that finds its way in.
Sometimes, however, you will find some feedback that feels as if it comes out of left field. More often or not, this foul ball is laden with emotion. Something in your project has sparked a very primal memory, made a visceral connection to the person you are communicating with, and they find themselves unable to hold the comments back.
This happened with me a couple of months ago, as I was prepping my final final FINAL draft of a script for market. I selected five readers with an early draft. Then offered up some rewrites.
The feedback was universal – with the exception of one individual – who I adore. This reader became extremely upset, speaking with an amplified tone, using highly-charged words like “hate” in regard to the protagonist – who is a very conflicted character, that is certain. The reader went on, not even stopping for breath. I was very confused as not only my other readers but the analyst I use gave this character high marks in terms of depth of character, dialogue and journey.
I hung up the phone, a wee bit unsure of how to proceed. Is this feedback that I listen to? What to do?
I replayed the conversation in my mind as I shot a few emails out to the other readers, explaining the strong reaction to the protagonist, asking if that was a problem in their eyes… and then I remember hearing the reader saying, “He reminded me of my [family member]. I hated – HATED – my [family member].”
It’s like being an actress and walking into an audition room, nailing the audition and getting an icy cold glare from the producer because you could be a twin to the chick that she caught her husband in bed with two weeks ago. It’s the doppleganger effect.
I heard back from the other readers, and, unanimously, they strongly disagreed with this particular nugget of feedback; they all felt that it was borne of emotional transference, and the script was mired in the midst of a game show of life known as Dysfunctional Family Feud. So, I did release it, after some tweaks (the rewrite process never ends. ever. never-ever-never), to market. Now, I play at the waiting game of the unrepresented scribe, so I am filling my time with new projects, trying to organize my office (hahahaha) and immersing myself in production training.
I’ve had two rejections. One was so nice, that I practically wept tears of joy, for it praised the script, the characters, the story, my writing… but the producer did not feel that it was a project that he could attach to. He’s more into high-octane pieces. However, I was welcome to use his name… and we have started chatting about other projects.
I think that is kind of fabulous.
The other, well. He called it set in the “dismal and depressing dustbowl.” Which it is. It’s a transformation piece, and you have to start in the pits of hell before you can climb to the heights of heaven. That being said, he’s a nice, bright guy, and I’ll send him something more within his taste, now that I know what he connects to.
Producers, readers, reps…. I know it’s a tough business. I know you or your interns are standing neck deep in a stack of scripts. I know that even with a script that you adore, there can be things that simply eliminate it in regard to budget, attachments, etc.
I know you have to give feedback. I know that it is your job. I realize that every single time you say “Yes” to a project – or a writer – it’s your ass that is on the line if the project falls apart – or the writer turns out to be a living nightmare.
Just remember, before you utter a word, or type a letter, that we just might need yours as well. Play nice.
Now, go write.
HRH – Princess Scribe
What I am Reading: “Setting up Your Shots” by Jeremy Vineyard
What I am Watching: Settling down for a viewing of Audrey Welles’ “Guinvere” this evening.
A Royal Shout-Out: It’s a group hug kind of moment. Big hugs and smooches to all of you wordsmiths out there, working day in and day out on your stories, for moving forward, for your commitment to excellence and your desire to improve your stories. xoxoxo