Ah yes, the thorny subject of notes. Script Eds and Development Execs vary from show to show and company to company in their approach. Their brief, whether instructed or of their own volition can vary wildly in the detail of the notes given. From the broadest strokes on structure and tone to micro-managing every scene including their own take on dialogue.
How you deal with these notes, and note givers, goes a long way to determining your length of career.
Here's what not to do. Don't phone them up immediately after reading the notes and say -
''Who the fuck do you think you are? This is how I make my living. You've been in the job 2 minutes and you're telling me what to do? If you want to be a writer then fuck off and be one and stop ruining my script with your crap dialogue suggestions and take on character motivation. You wouldn't know motivation if it jumped up and bit your arse.''
Tempting I know, but it doesn't work for you as often as you might think. You see, it's all about the balance of power. If you want to move through the ranks it is not only a case of picking your battles, it is also a case of making them think it is an honourable draw when you win.
This months shavetail script ed is next months producer. Well, not quite but you get the drift. It's a small world and over the years I've seen a receptionist becoming a producer in eight years. And she likes me because I was always nice to her when she was a receptionist.
So, real life example. On Friday I got 2nd draft notes. I read them Friday night and to be honest wasn't overly impressed. 70% is suggested dialogue ''tweaks'' I.e ''this is what I would write if anyone would actually pay me to write.''
Damn I promised myself I wouldn't be sarky.
As a whole I reckon that about 15% of the notes help the script. 55% don't matter a damn to me either way as they are largely continuity issues arising from changes to previous episodes and 30% actively set the script back in my view.
Okay, what to do? Well the first thing to do is take a deep breath and not lift the phone. Think about what is being said and why. For example I know that several of the suggested dialogue changes I have been given are because the script ed has seen a line that looks jarring or out of context but hasn't recognised how it will play rather than read. Writers write with all the characters quirks, motivations and psychology in their head, and how that plays on screen, some script eds can't or don't read with the same viewpoint. A quick explanation on the phone and a ''wryly'' here and there will fix those.
The same related aspect goes for visual moments. A picture does paint a thousand words, but some script eds can't see past the words on the page. They read scripts like a novel, forgetting the potency of a visual. For a certain type of script ed, everything has to be explained in dialogue. Hopefully you won't come up against many of those but they are there, believe me. It is a writer 101 no -no, but they are not writers. Heck they are barely script eds.
I've identified the notes I have problems with. I've analysed why and come up with reasoned arguments or alternative suggestions. And on Monday I'll phone for a light hearted chat about it.
I'll be aiming for the honourable draw.
Don't get me wrong, I'm talking here about those times when problems arise. That isn't always the case.
Nice to end on a positive note!
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