Sunday, February 8, 2015

Taking script notes from strangers

Request for opening pages of script triggers rewriting rush

For an unpublished screenwriter: "Is it done?" is the question that looms, never quite answered.
I've spent months cautiously getting feedback from progressively critical/expert sources. In the last year,  to prepare "Pink" for the prime time its undergone four official rewrites, been table read with real actors twice and workshopped by my screenwriter's group.

But even as I shook a man's hand assuring him, "It's ready" during my time at AFM, I knew I wasn't sure.

Screenwriter Ed Fletcher
I don't think I'll ever be sure until a Hollywood player says: "I'll make that movie with you."

For those new to this blog, I'm talking about my feature length dramatic comedy "Pink," which is based on a 1969 strip club indecency trial.

In my fantasy version of my "How it Happened Story," I befriend a Hollywood white knight. My aging B-player would then introduce me to the right people -- an agent, a business-minded money guy and a gal to get me to all the right parties.

That hasn't happened yet. Instead, I've turned to strangers for screenwriting advice. Not street-corner strangers, rather the screenwriting contest feedback stranger.

For an extra fee, many screenwriting contests will provide detailed feedback. The catch is you're not given any information about the source of the feedback.

Script feedback emails are something you sit down for.

The words can send you into a funk or to the moon with excitement. Since January, I've received notes from the Screencraft Fellowship, Beverly Hill Screenplay Contest, BlueCat Screenwriting Contest and The Blacklist.

Three of the emails sent me into a full-day of happy dancing.

One, I could barely finish. I set it aside with the others for processing once there were time and enough data decide what needed to be done. I've considered hiring a script consultant, but kept putting it off out of a combination of poverty, pride, naivete and indecision.

The feedback notes come weeks or even months before the final decision on contest winners are announced. Awaiting the results of the contest was a good enough reason as any to procrastinate on addressing issues raised by the mysterious readers. If Pink placed, I'd soon have plenty of real people asking to read it, I had decided.

But then the email.

On Friday, a major independent film player, responding to my pitch submission, asked to read the first 10 pages. I didn't think much of For $30 a pop, film or television writers can send a video to Hollywood studios and talent management companies. I skeptically bought three submissions in late January. The first rejection came within three hours of submission. The third company has yet to respond.

The email asking for the pages was a lovely am inbox surprise. I sent off the pages as quick as my fingers could carry me. Then I promptly told the world. Each like of the facebook post was like a warm welcoming pat on my shoulder.

But then came Saturday. Saturday is when I decided as soon as Monday the company could ask for the full script and by the end of the day my script could be in the hands of the pre-screening intern.
My fate my soon by in the hands of a junior employee hoping to impress his or her boss with their keen discerning eye.

Suddenly, now was the time to settle into the chair and ignore social media long enough to re-acquire the characters voices, get back into screenwriter mode and fix any obvious issues. As I poured over each word of their analysis, I struggled to picture the author in my head. Are they old, young? Do I listen to the more critical voice or say forget her? Why do I even think it is her? (cus I'm sexist.)

Sunday, my wave of panicked self-doubt subsided.

No art is perfect and while surely the story and the script will continue to be refined, I'm confident it's close enough warrant collaboration toward a shared vision.

The Monday agenda: hire a script consultant.

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