You Want The Notes?! You Can't Handle The Notes!

We've all been there.

So you got back some bad notes on your script.   I'm not talking slap-dash notes that tell you nothing, or notes that make you wonder if the note-giver even read the script.  I'm talking about notes that are absolute shit, delivered with one sole purpose: to rape your spirit, rip out your intestines, and piss on your still-twitching corpse.  Notes that make you wanna kill.

You wanna rip the asshole egomaniac note-giver a new one, cut him down a peg, teach him a thing or two.  And that's if you go easy on him.

Well lucky for you, I have the perfect response when you're faced with notes like these.  I suggest you cut and paste.  You'll need to use it often.

Ready?

Dear {insert evil note-giver's name here},

Thank you so much for your notes on {insert your masterpiece of a script title here}.  I appreciate the time you took to read and critique it, and I'll give serious consideration to your notes as I tackle the next draft.

If I can ever return the favor, please let me know.

You're awesome.

{insert your name here}


Yeah, yeah.  Not what you were hoping for.  Too bad.  Suck it up.

I don't care how bad you think the notes are, if you're a professional (you are a professional, no?) there is NO OTHER ACCEPTABLE response.  Burn them in the privacy of your own home.  Buy a sex doll and dress it up as the reader, then beat the crap out of it behind closed doors.  I don't care what you do in private, but don't argue, justify, or tell off a note-giver for any reason whatsoever!

Are you always going to get good notes?  Hell no!  Too bad.  Be professional anyway.

There seems to be a plague of bad manners and an unbelievable lack of professionalism going around town that's reaching epidemic proportions.  Over and over again I see fellow writers and other industry peeps reeling from backlash over notes they gave.  These people aren't bad note givers or assholes out to get innocent little writers.  They are professionals who know their shit and took the time to do someone a solid.  I would be over-the-moon thrilled to get feedback from any one of them, even if it was, "Holy God! This was so bad, I stopped at page 10 and used the rest to wipe my ass."

And if I received the above note, my first reaction wouldn't be to label the note-giver an asshole. My first reaction would be to take a serious look at my script to figure out why they couldn't get past page ten.  Seriously, I sought out their opinion for a reason.  

If you're screaming, "BUT THE NOTES I GOT SUCK" at the screen, this post is for you.  If you assume all notes that suggest more work needs to be done are bad, you're not ready for notes.  Sure, the notes you received may very well be wrong, misguided, terrible, evil, or anything else you want to call them, but that is NEVER an excuse for unprofessional behavior.  Suck it up.  You'll get good notes and bad notes and everything in between for your entire career.  Get used to it. 

I give good notes.  I know that.  I wouldn't be shocked to find my note-giving prowess and contact info scribbled on bathroom walls.  I don't suck.  Contrary to the tone of this blog, I am actually quite gentle when giving notes, while being 100% honest.  I take the time to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the script with concrete examples, and my one focus is always what the script needs to make it better.  (And I've read some pretty god-awful scripts.  Hell, I deserve a medal for some of the notes I've given.)  Compared to some of the people I would kill to get notes from that I mentioned above, I am pretty much the Mother Teresa of note givers.  And even I run into this problem.  I'm more than willing to discuss notes I give, and am happy to offer suggestions. but...

If you think I, or anyone who gives you notes, is full of shit?  That I have no idea what I'm talking about?  Don't recognize your brilliance?  That's perfectly fine with me.  Just keep it to yourself.  Telling me just pisses me off and guarantees that I'll remember your name, and not in a good way.  Do you think anyone taking the time to read your script will EVER recommend you for anything, EVER want to work with you, or EVER consider hiring you, if you can't take simple notes with a little bit of class and some grace?

Grow up!  If you can't handle notes, don't ask for them. 



Note: I've already written about the different kinds of peer notes you can expect to get - the good, the bad, and the downright ugly -  and how to take what you need from them and ignore the rest.  (If you want to read that gem, it can be found here.)  Clearly the last bit about how to respond needed to be said again.




Appropriate pic by Evil Erin

7 comments:

  1. Career saving advice. And I'll add that your critiques are always thoughtful and insightful.

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  2. Great post. I've never understood the need to argue with a reader. What's the goal? "You know, I once thought your script was terrible, but after reading your point-by-point rebuttal of my note, I realize that I actually loved it all along."

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    1. Sean, the goal is a mystery to me, but the really disturbing thing about your comment is how eerily similar it is to every conversation I've ever had just after I dumped a guy. Makes me wanna try, 'It's not you, it's me...' the next time I critique a script. lol

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  3. I've come back to this post several times over the past few months, mostly because I think it's incredibly accurate, spot-on, and simply a fantastic read, as well as something to remind myself about after recently getting notes - some of their points have merit, but the rest…not so much.

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