Monday, December 18, 2006

Tell Me What I Already Know

Sometimes, it's impossible to tell what kind of advice you're getting. Is it good advice? Is it harmful advice? Here's the conundrum in screenwriting - you have to know what you're doing enough to not need a lot of advice but the only way you get there is by listening to people who've already been there and done that -- er, get their advice.

I don't ask for a lot of reviews on my work. I get SOME from a couple of places, but I'm not active on Triggerstreet or Zoetrope although I pop in now and then and read boards. That's just me. Please don't beat me up for it. I've heard it all before.

However, the reverse of that is a writer who DOES put his work up on boards for comments and gets some very constructive help only to.. well, here ya go. Courtesy of a post on Zoetrope:

This is the way I built this place
Bathroom and dinette face to face
I know that others think that's odd
But I'm the builder. I'm the god
I do ask others for advice
We study plans and act real nice
But when the hammer hits the nail
I do it my way without fail
My pals and I pore over prints
But I ignore most of their hints
Now the house is up for sale
People laugh and buyers quail
I don't know what's wrong with it
Except diners watch you when you shit
Last year, I read a screenplay that had been "workshopped" over and over. By the time I reviewed it, I figured it had been worked over so much that it was probably in pretty good shape. I was wrong. My detailed and time consuming notes pointed out some very fundamental and no-brainer type inconsistencies, primarily with character development and plot resolution.

The author replied with a long email that said, "yeah, so and so noticed this" and "so and so pointed out that". He'd given me the same ol' script he'd been "workshopping" for months but he hadn't made a single adjustment. Not one. Not even to correct typos.

I wonder if he typed his reply from his laptop while sitting on the toilet in his dining room.


Moviequill said...

"I wonder if he typed his reply from his laptop while sitting on the toilet in his dining room." I'd like to meet the architect who did his house... and shoot him

Mystery Man said...

It drives me crazy when a writer gets a gazillion comments, changes two commas, and resposts the script. Hello?

People should be fearless about rewrites, ya know? Am I the only one who loves to rewrite? I frickin' love to explore the possibilities, incorporate new ideas, and just see the results. What have you got to lose? It's called FILE / SAVE AS.

If it doesn't work, go back. It's no big deal. Besides, it's better to tell someone, "I already tried this and it didn't work because of X, Y, and Z," as opposed to being a pain-in-the-ass writer who REFUSES to change one syllable. How do you KNOW that this is the best scene for your spec?

Don't get me started.


ECHenry said...

Sorry you had such a bad experience with that writer. And you're right, some writers do have a tendancy to ignore critism. In past critiques of my work I've found most cristism vague, and non usefull. But I'll bet yours rocked! Don't give up the fight, Marry Ann. You never know when your two cents will make the difference and turn someone's writing arround.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

MaryAn Batchellor said...

I love to rewrite! It's almost like the first few drafts of a screenplay are "dating behavior" and with each subsequent rewrite, the walls come down.

ECHenry said...

Cool thought, Marry Ann, "the first few drafts of a screenplay are dating behavior." Just to think that, you show yourself to be rom/comer at heart.

I see the first few re-writes of a screenplay much more mechanical than you: setup and payoff, and making a table that can stand on its own.

"The walls coming down" with each subsequent draft is a great way of expressing the freedom a writer experiences when his (or her) vision becomes clear on the page.

By the way, great poetry on Billy's website. When you chose to express your thoughts, feelings and soul, beautiful things come out. Keep it up. You're quite the romantic.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA