Friday, January 14, 2011

Script Editors' Notes: A Writers' Guide

Whenever I finish the first draft of a thing, I always send it off, thinking 'This is the one! Finally the only note I will get back is an awed gasp followed by a whispered promise to rush this into production IMMEDIATELY because to deny the world such a heart-rending vision of beauty, hope and truth would be an act so grossly cruel as to be COMPLETELY UNTHINKABLE!'

In reality of course, what I get back are notes. And as you do more drafts, you get back more notes. And the more drafts you do on various projects, the more you start to recognize certain phrases, and learn to decipher what they really mean.

'We think this script has a lot of potential'.
Your script contains basically one good idea, and fifteen awful ones.

'We were a little confused by the ending'. You don't appear to have written an ending.

'We love the new whimsical quality of your writing.' We are concerned you might be drunk.

'We love the increasingly dark quality of your writing!' We are concerned you might be on crack.

'We love the bold new energy in your writing!' We are concerned you might be Russell T. Davies.

'Your script still seems to be running a little short.' Selecting 'Control-A' and changing font size from ten to twelve in order to up the page count has fooled precisely no-one, buddy boy.

'This latest rewrite is a big step forward, but there's still a lot of work to do!' I don't think changing one line of a dialogue makes this a new draft, do you?

'Although your new approach to structure is interesting, it isn't necessarily moving the story on.' You've just put the scenes in a different order and thought I wouldn't notice.

'I feel we may be losing the spirit of the original draft. Why have you set it in space now?

'We're very excited by your choice to introduce tropes from other genres, but a little worried this might be straying from the original remit slightly.' ... and why is the detective hero suddenly a werewolf?

'While scene 27 is a great addition, it might be familiar territory to some viewers' You totally stole that from Grandpa In My Pocket.

'We may have to trim a little of the dialogue for running time.' You don't have to start every conversation with 'Good morning/afternoon, Character (X)! How are you since I last saw you?! I have been well, thanks for asking.'

'We're pleased to see a more hard-nosed attitude to the practicalities of the story.' On the other hand, well done on that two page conversation about how great the main character's Toyota is.

On the other other hand, if the only note you get is 'Thanks (X) all looks fine, will pass on', that means 'Our production company is about to go under and I am about to use any time I have left to work on my CV', so then it's really time to worry.